I decided to include this album or the touring of this album because, even though I didn't actually play on it, this album and my life with and around Mike Oldfield, professionally and privately, pretty much consumed the whole of 1984. This is another story that could easily merit a book of it's own …
After the 'Crises' tour of Europe in the summer of 1983 I'd joined my old friend from the Original Mirrors Jonathan Perkins on his 'solo' project 'The Silver Spurs' and I'd recorded and toured with him in what became a cocaine and cannabis induced alcoholic haze for the last six months of that year. Sadly there's no album I can write about here as the recordings I participated in didn't go towards an album at that time BUT Perky did use some tracks for a compilation he put together many years later. Anyway it got to the point in Perky's band that I wasn't really eating any solid food at all. I generally used to start the day with stiff bloody marys (after a minimum of sleep if any), hot and spicy to disguise the taste of the amount of vodka in them, the tomato juice being my 'nod' to food. Jon had coke dealers hanging around us the whole time (as well as my own coke dealers) and I just ended up on another planet completely by Christmas 1983. We, ironically, supported Toyah on that band's tour of the UK at the end of 1983 and I dutifully, in my turn, dealt coke to that lot too. Of course the 'dealing' was only to finance my own use of the drug to which by now I was thoroughly addicted. There's lots more from around this particular time which I'll write about in due course but the main thing that happened to me was that me and my partner of over seven years, Amanda, got married. I can't say that I can remember having much to do with this decision; looking back it seems that she had decided we were to get married and I just went along with it in my own stoned way. She told me on the phone that she'd got a marriage license on the very night we had a night off in Manchester. I remember that specifically because we'd all been to see Paul Young, who was playing in town on the evening in question, and we were staying in the same hotel as him and his band too. I got so drunk that Joel got the hotel to let him into my room next morning because he was worried I'd died or something after getting no response on my room telephone. Nothing unusual there !!! The upshot was that me and Amanda got married on January 3rd 1984, all my 'friends' came to a wedding party, we all got totally out of it and Amanda and I went to Brazil the next day for our honeymoon, somewhere I'd always dreamt of going. Tellingly, at the airport, I'd tried to eat a big ham roll and nearly choked on it because I wasn't used to solid food; that's how bad I'd become at that time and I remember feeling relieved at getting on a plane and 'escaping' to Brazil for three weeks. Anyway. more about all that later …
MIke Oldfield had, by early 1984, relocated to Switzerland as a 'tax exile' having got a new deal with Virgin Records after some legal wrangling involving past, present and future royalties which had left him far better off financially. In April of that year Amanda and I were invited to Villars-sur-Ollon to visit MO and family and there we were introduced to the delights of life in the mountains of Switzerland, particularly skiing. I remember very clearly Mike giving me my first skiing lesson on the little snow covered 'rise' out of the back of his house there; teaching me to 'plough' the snow to regulate me stopping and starting. We bought or borrowed all the recommended skiing clothing and then had lessons with the official ski instructor too. From what I remember there weren't any drugs around (yet!!!) and, for a short while at this particular time, I was probably the happiest and certainly healthiest I'd been since I was playing football when I was 14 or 15. Our first child Holly was conceived in Villars too so there must've have been something about the healthier lifestyle and mountain air !!! Unfortunately as usual it didn't last long …
There are some great stories about Mike getting his studio hauled up and down the mountainous terrain to his Swiss house so he could get on with recording Discovery. This memory from Richard Barrie who was MO's studio and technical manager at this time:
My memory kind of becomes a bit hazy round about then. I had fallen out with Ozzie Hoppe, Mike's manager, a little while before then and I think it was December 1983 or January 84 that Mike had me tracked down and asked if I could go out to Switzerland to get the 'portable¹ studio up and running as other people had failed to get it to work.
Pete Edmonds (Mike's storage and equipment manager) and co had shipped all of the gear out and when I got there Mike was waiting for me to get rid of all of the hums and buzzes and I think I came back to the UK once this was done. I don¹t remember being there for any of the recordings. The portable studio back then was in essence the same that was used from the recording of Five Miles Out through until we did TB2 where we used the Harrison desk. The studio was based around some of Mike¹s live equipment. There was a Rebis 30 into 24 that was used as the front end which fed the Studer A800. Mike had an Ampex ATR124 at home, which is the best ever 24 track analogue machine, but it was a monster and it was just not possible to move around. The A800 was a bit easier to move so this was used for the portable studios. Basically the portable studio was quite a simple system and would all fit into the back of a 7.5 tonne truck which we used to be allowed to hire and drive on a normal driving license (I don¹t think we would be allowed to do that nowadays !!!).
The nerve wracking bit was always driving up and down the mountains in the snow with snow chains. I can remember driving back from Villars after packing up the studio, presumably to get back to the UK to mix and then prepare for the tour (I was back in the fold then as Ozzie had been sacked !!). I distinctly remember sitting alone in the truck, probably a bitoverladen with the snow chains on the wheels, waiting for my nerves to settle before setting off, probably not getting out of first or second gear until I got to the bottom of the mountain, much to the annoyance of any following traffic.
The studio monitor mix was done by Mike's front of house Midas desk. The monitor speakers were two of the Eastlake speakers we used for the live PA system. These had been 'ruggedised' for touring and a PA amplifier rack was used to power these. For the live shows Mike also used the Rebis on stage to mix monitor sub-groups that then fed individual ten channel mixers for each band member.
All my different trips tend to blend together in my memory as, other than the Ozzie years when I was not around, I used to set up the portable studio, or a variation of it, every year.
As much as I was around Mike at this time and become good friends with him he didn't need me to do anything on the record. I mean … Mike was primarily a bass player, and obviously a cracking one at that, and didn't particularly need me for anything like that at all. Something I subsequently developed, recording with Mike, was helping him to create and arrange backing vocals and then sing them for him. This album didn't feature backing vocal arrangements as such so I didn't get on the record. When it came to rehearsing for the tour though I was in for a big surprise … MO intended to use me to play some of the bass parts but also to help out with guitar parts, both electric and acoustic. I had to be taught by him and learn and practice a lot of things I'd never considered I'd be able to play before. In fact I remember questioning his wisdom (I was scared as usual !!!) over him expecting me to be able to do this and he just said … 'You'll be fine … I'll teach you' … And … teach me he did, all sorts of things, giving me his valuable time and having endless patience with me too. Unusual chords and more unusual inversions, harmonics, lead lines, harmony lead lines … in fact a lot of what I carry in my guitar playing today came from all those lessons and learning to play Mike's music from a guitarists standpoint. During the Discovery show I had exactly TWENTY TWO guitar changes to make; from bass guitar, to electric guitar, to acoustic guitar and back and forth AND Mike could also ask me for the bass without warning saying onstage in the middle of a piece of music … 'GIMME THE BASS … I WANNA PLAY BASS !!!'. That one really terrified me !!! Thankfully he didn't do it at anytime his guitar part was too technical or complicated so I could 'hack' my way through it.
Jeremy P had also told me, leading up to rehearsals, about a mysterious fellow they'd met, when they were doing pre-tour promotion, named 'B' who worked at artist relations for Puma Sports who were part sponsoring the tour. This guy apparently was able to get a non-stop supply of cocaine 'right off the block' i.e.. 'not cut' too much before it got to him. 'B' was actually in my life for five years after this tour, in fact right up until I started the B.E.F album at Touchdown Studios in Kranzberg just outside Munich in 1989. This ducker and diver, wheeler dealer, coke supplier who drove a red Porsche, lived in the shadows.
Before the tour itself rehearsals were scheduled to take place over a period, which I believe was six weeks, at a country hotel in a small Bavarian town, Neunkirchen Am Brand, close to Nuremburg, where everything we ate, drank or had use of was paid for; HEAVEN … We had an endless bar tab and 'B' was already living up to his reputation as a supplier of first class 'beak' !!! The return for the hotel was that our first concert was to be performed in their ballroom before we went on to the first dates proper starting in San Sebastian. The whole rehearsal period was a complete scream before we'd even got away on tour … I think every available female employee in this establishment had an affair of some kind with one or another member of the entourage …
Mentioning the use of drugs again (sorry … I know it's becoming a bit repetitive) is quite crucial to this particular story I feel because, apart from my own need and use of coke (AND my subsequent five year relationship with 'B' and ongoing habit), those who chose so at this time were supplied for virtually the whole of the tour with top quality 'charlie'. I'd like to say it was fun … Well it sort of was at the beginning of the tour but by the end it had helped turn a lot of people into quite paranoid and generally unfriendly people. I, as always, thought everyone else was messed up except me but that's what using drugs did to me. You lie to yourself and, on tour, you kind of withdraw into yourself only coming out to do the show then get high, drunk and stoned all night because that's all you're ultimately capable of. I repeated this process day after day, ad nauseum, with no thought as to the consequences for myself or anyone else. Out of everyone in the band I think Harald Zuschrader was the one person who was able to make his way through this messy process primarily because he was a really straight, well adjusted nice guy who, I think, must have often regarded the rest of us as completely mad. He must have thought he was in the middle of a traveling circus cum insane asylum at times. Really, really nice man …
In Germany we had a full 56 litre barrel of beer in the dressing room every night too. It appears that each locality, being proud of their local brew, was happy to provide us with a barrel of beer so as to promote THEIR beer. Each barrel was dutifully drained every night before we left the venue … that's hell of a lot of beer !!! I think the road crew, God bless them, helped out with this where and when they could too … Hahaha …
Some nights, during the gig, MO would call Jeremy on his walkie-talkie (they had bought walkie-talkies like some kind of comedic secret service which was actually a good laugh in itself !!!) and ask him to pour a few 'steins' for us and bring them onstage during the show. That was very funny because, of course, the local audience would applaud like crazy seeing Jeremy arrive on stage struggling with two hands full of steins, and the band then enjoying their local brew live on stage during the set, beer drinking all over Germany being seen as a vital part of German culture. You couldn't be seen to do anything better for public relations than drink their beer !!! What better endorsement could one have as a reason to drink oneself insensible every night … Yeah !!!
On a more serious note this tour, whilst being a spectacular presentation of MO's music, was most certainly incredibly arduous and pressurising especially for MO considering the workload he had taken upon himself. He had written all of the music, taught everybody the various parts, ran rehearsals, oversaw the sound system and the incredible hanging and moving lighting rig, did all the promo, all the TV shows, photos and interviews, did the deals with the promoters and had to 'schmooze' them too; he also did the monitors onstage during the show and STILL THEN had to perform every night as a guitarist. What he managed to do as one human being was quite phenomenal on reflection and I've never seen anyone before or since take on and largely cope with such a workload in this business. Oh … and he partied with us when he could too … PHEW !!! Since I've cleaned my own life up and can look at this all retrospectively with a modicum of objectivity I can see now that this kind of life, while appearing from the outside to be very exciting and glamorous, is maybe exciting but certainly NOT very glamorous. It's a very 'abnormal' way for any human being to live and it's not a surprise to me now that people feel they have to resort to very extreme ways of behaving just to survive from day to day. I'd also say that snorting, smoking, drinking and sleeping around to excess certainly DOESN'T help; it just kind of numbs everything emotionally and slowly destroys you physically but when you're younger you can, unfortunately, tolerate it all quite well so there's nothing or no one telling you it's bad for you or wrong in any way. How mad is that ??? I continued to live like that the whole time I was on the road (which was another ELEVEN years !!!) until I ultimately, all those years later, I wasn't able to travel very easily because of my heroin addiction.
Now please don't get the wrong idea because even with all the highs, lows, laughs, rows, pressure and madness these shows were very, very special every night; different every night but nonetheless special …
Here's a list of the dates, venues and the towns and cities we visited …
|Discovery - Tour 1984||Poster|
|Spain||1984/08/23||San Sebastián||Velódromo de Anoeta|
|1984/08/25||Barcelona||Estadio de San Andrés|
|1984/09/01||Nice||Parc de l'Ouest|
|Norway||1984/09/21||Ekeberghallen, Oslo||Ekeberg Idrettshall||article|
|Switzerland||1984/09/29||Basel||Sporthalle St. Jakobs|
|Germany||1984/10/03||Stuttgart||Schleyer - Halle|
|1984/10/13||Würzburg||Carl - Diehm - Halle|
|Switzerland||1984/10/19||Lausanne||Palais de Beaulieu|
|France||1984/11/04||Brest||Parc de Penfeld|
|1984/11/05||Paris||Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy|
|1984/11/06||Lyon||Palais des Sports|
|1984/11/07||Toulouse||Complexe Compans Casarelli|
|1984/11/08||Bordeaux||Patinoire de Meriadeck|
|1984/11/09||Clermont Ferrand||Maison des Sports|
The landmark thing about the Discovery show was the presence onstage of the Fairlight CMI's that were used to create and then play tracks that we then played along to with the aid of a 'click track'. MO and the Austrian Fairlight 'wizard' Harald had worked for some weeks before rehearsals at MO's studio in Denham creating tracks on the 'Page R' sequencer which came as part of the Fairlight CMI operational software. Harald also became part of the touring band operating the TWO Fairlights onstage and playing acoustic guitar. It seems strange now that something that was apparently so advanced at that time is now taken for granted and is probably used and run onstage by so many singers and bands, certainly with most modern pop acts. My God … a lot of singers don't even have to sing anymore when they can easily use their own studio tracks to either mime to or sing along to onstage these days. I believe MO's idea was to have the 'body' of a lot of his works running 'live' on the Fairlights and we the band would then augment the tracks and, one could say, the tracks could augment us in return. The machines were more like another musician or instrument being used as opposed to the machines actually running the show. MO had bought a second Fairlight for the tour because as one was being used for one piece of music another had to be in the process of loading the tracks and samples for the next piece of music. Having said all that there were plenty of whole songs and pieces of music AND pieces of music within bigger and longer pieces of music that we faithfully played 'live'.
As far as the music we played for this show is concerned I don't really know where to start … Platinum, Crises, Tubular Bells One side two, bits from Taurus One and Two, Five Miles Out, the Discovery album in it's entirety, Moonlight Shadow, Shadow On The Wall, In High Places, Mount Teide … The list goes on and on … It's impossible for me to pick out any favourite as such because I loved every minute I was on stage 'surrounded' by this wonderful music and standing next to a man playing guitar who positively burned with spiritual presence. The pieces I always remember the most to this day are The Lake and Mount Teide and almost anything on which I played harmony guitar lines with Mike …
Mike told me that parts of the The Lake represented some of our antics up and down (mostly down !!!) the ski slopes in Villars. In fact when you hear the beginning of The Lake, of course, it all makes sense … it's SOUNDS like it's snowing or whatever you can imagine 'snowing' sounding like in a musical sense; well it does to me anyway. Then into the shuffle part which Mike told me he intended to have a feel like Status Quo and that's why he loved playing the rhythm guitar on that part AND of course that's US careering down the slopes on toboggans in Villars!!! I very much felt like a 'part of' Crises too as I'd been around during the recording and had also played a part in the first performances of it in 1983. Also Simon's solo drum section nearing the end of the symphonic piece was truly magnificent to behold and to actually stand next to and watch every night so close to him … AMAZING !!! I love Mount Teide because the melody over the chords in the second section just cuts me to the core emotionally and when Mike entered playing that melody on the guitar, with his distinct sound, it always took me to another world, another place. As for the poly-rhythmic music, particularly during this piece, I never really understood it or had a feel for it having come from a musical background which had always been strictly 4/4 or 3/4 at it's most complicated. Simon was an expert with these time signature principles and could count several of them along simultaneously the whole time he was playing. I would have to stick to my part, with a time signature of my own going along in my head and hope that I'd end up in the same place at the same time as the others as and when required. When the music was all ticking along, like a well engineered clock, with everybody playing their own part contributing to the whole, it was a wonderful feeling to be right in the middle of it all. I would watch Mike next to me, sometimes not playing anything at all, completely lost in a musical world that he'd created; like he was in a dream or something … he loved it especially when it was really working to the optimum. Right now writing this piece I still feel the same; the memory is incredibly vivid and powerful in spite of all the stuff that went on outside of and around the actual shows and everything I've been through since.
I still own a cassette tape with an entire show recorded from the Stuttgart concert, straight from the sound console, and the sound, balance and performances are all quite phenomenal. This particular show in Stuttgart also takes up the best part of three hours so I'm proud to say for MO (and for us) that he always gave the paying audience a show well worth the ticket price. Stuttgart was extra special to me too because Jack Bruce the legendary singer and bassist, a friend of Simon Phillips', was in town that day and watched the whole show standing at the sound desk. I remember back at our hotel after the gig Jack and Simon coming to my room and Jack asking me if I minded him having a drink from my minibar. 'Of course' …. I said … 'go ahead' … Well … JB then proceeded to take ALL of the whisky miniatures from the minibar bar, all EIGHT of them, unscrew them one by one, line them up on the TV and then knock them ALL back in succession without so much as stopping for breath in between bottles !!! I think I was more in awe of his drinking 'ability' than talking to him about being a musician; that was eight DOUBLES in one go !!! Me and Simon subsequently went to see JB at a Frankfurt Jazz Festival, on one of our nights off, where he was playing in a trio with Tony Williams and David Sancious. That was one of the most memorable and powerful performances I've ever seen … Thank God I got to see him play and sing that one time … An amazing musician and soulful singer who, sadly, is no longer with us but has left with us a very special legacy and body of work …
Looking at the gig list above there are quite a lot of circumstances and events I can recall right from the very beginning of the tour, not just the rehearsal period, but even from the start in San Sebastian. It would be too long and detailed right now for me to get into EVERYTHING I can recall on this tour there were so many 'incidents' and I don't mean just the partying. I can say that by the time we got to Scandinavia relations between me and Mike had become a bit tense culminating in a furious row we had in a restaurant on a night off in Gothenburg. I mean a proper shouting match, largely alcohol fuelled, in public, face to face across a table in a high class restaurant. In retrospect I think I was really pushing my luck in these situations but I would NEVER back down if I was challenged. I was still small, angry and inadequate inside, devoid of any kind of humility and driven by an alcohol and drug fuelled misguided sense of my own importance. That was MY way of trying to cope with this abnormal and unusual existence and, of course, my dysfunctional childhood. I believe a lot of this was because Mike was under incredible pressure and needed to let off some steam and I was close to him; I supposed I should feel honoured that he chose me to argue with !!! I remember Mike having a REAL go at me for singing along to some of the high vocal parts near the end of 'Crises' telling me, in no uncertain terms, that he thought my singing was awful !!! Hahaha … how dare he FFS !!! I countered by shouting at him if we were going to run these vocal parts off the Fairlight then we should at least attempt to make it APPEAR like they were being sung live but, of course, I couldn't keep my mouth shut, wouldn't mime them and doubled them up anyway then became absolutely bullish about singing them. Funnily enough after all these years they do sound great on the recording I have in my possession and they're in tune … hahaha … it must have been a particularly good night !!! That was an example of the nature of a high level, pressurising and, at the same time, successful tour like this. MO and me were essentially friends after all and I believe we'd never have behaved in this way under more stable circumstances and generally never did. We did have a little fight on the squash court once a couple of years later (back in the UK away from the touring environment), when I returned a ball straight into his eye at full strength and he reacted by immediately walloping me and I in turn walloped him straight back !!! That was under highly competitive and adrenalised circumstances on the squash court when we'd be desperate to beat each other. But, for many years, we did try and take care of our relationship not just as musicians but as friends and I believe I probably got as close to Mike as anyone has ever been able to.
By the end of this tour though nobody was really talking to each other very much unless it was absolutely necessary. I remember in Lyon, nearer to the end of the tour, getting shit-faced drunk after the show, feeling really sorry for myself and taking to my hotel room and laying there just crying. Was it me ??? Was I the 'problem' ??? I can't really say now even with hindsight. I know that my behaviour had become generally quite extreme with the drinking and drug taking and, moreover, often unacceptable but it was more the behaviour of an out of control child NOT the behaviour of someone with a black heart. There were certainly far more skilful, experienced and older 'manipulators' around on this tour who I could certainly say, with hindsight and certainty, were very selfish kinds of people that you'd ever be likely to meet with or without the booze or mind altering substances. Still, at the same time, that was their way of coping with it all. On the last night of the tour in Strasbourg after the show there was a presentation made by MO and the promoters to everyone and we were all given little solid gold charms made exactly in the shape of the Tubular Bells logo. I remember people going through the presentation with gritted teeth as MO handed the little gold souvenirs out … SEE POST SCRIPT …
Still as an overview of the Discovery tour of 1984 … That's what made that band and tour crew; all sorts of people who had their own particular skills along with their own particular flaws and defects who came together and delivered a top class show every night. I think this band and crew largely succeeded with that principle but it's a shame that we finished the tour not really talking to each other. Maybe it was just me not talking to anybody else ?? That was my impression at the time and still is to this day … maybe one of my old band 'mates' can oneday put me right or tell me otherwise …
I would certainly give almost anything to be able to participate in playing a show like this again although I reckon there's more chance of me becoming Prime Minister !!! Overall … for me a fantastic experience, with all the mixed memories, and I'm proud to have been part of something I believe was and still is known as a legendary tour …
POST SCRIPT …
To my eternal shame I traded that gold charm into a jewellery shop in Camden Town for cash when I needed heroin about 20 years later. That's a horrible memory of the desperation of where my drug addiction ultimately took me that fills me with regret and remorse. I so wish I still had that gold charm …