Baz’s 50th Anniversary Tour Diary

It’s feels great to be doing this again. Since the hugely emotional tour of 2022, we’d been biding our time, keeping body and soul together with some writing, the odd gig here and there and gearing up to preparing for this tour.

Last year was a relatively quiet one overall for us, starting with three superb shows in Spain, following on with a nine date French tour in March, eight shows in New Zealand and Australia in April and a handful of festivals during the summer, mostly in France, and with stops in Italy and Portugal…but nothing in the UK.

I think they call it keeping your powder dry…

We had one eye very firmly fixed on the autumn during all this time, the plan being for rehearsals to start in mid October, then doing a week each in November, December, January, and a final top and tail in February. We didn’t rehearse in December as it turned out, so did double bubble in January, rehearsing for two weeks, and, diligent to the last, ended up doing more in February than we’d anticipated…more of which later.

JJ and I had talked quite extensively during the summer about doing two sets, with no special guests, with some fairly obscure fan favourites and longer pieces in the first section…stuff that’s rarely played…if ever…and getting more familiar in the second half, bringing the total evening’s running time to about two and a half hours, with a half hour break in the middle…ambitious.

We knew it would take a lot of time and planning…and playing…and playing…and playing…and it did. I can’t remember a time when we’ve ever rehearsed so much. We’re always tight, but by the time we’d got to the end of all this, we were incredibly together.

It was also decided that the stage set would be grander, and dare I say it, more stately than before, and that we’d even contemplate wearing suits…maybe just for some of it… I know…get us eh?

Suited & booted!

The fun we had measuring up for the suits and the picking and choosing of  ‘bling’ could fill a chapter on its own…but, suffice to say, getting four bleary eyed musicians down into the centre of Bath at 10am on a Sunday morning to get fitted up in a posh gents outfitters, an hour before it opened to the public, was a mission in itself…just another day for Gazza though. Our intrepid tour manager knows no bounds…as anyone who knows him will testify…as usual, he took it all in his stride.

A final word on the stage set. Jim has had a lot of experience in this field. He works a lot in his Stranglers down time with other artists in a variety of capacities, and the light show, particularly the three fantastic chandeliers, were all his vision. Luckily we have an excellent crew (you all know how much we love them) and, between them all, with Jim at the helm, the stage set was put together over the course of around five months or so.

He’s a man of many talents Jim…he sorts all of that out, then goes onstage and plays like he does, and you think “is there nothing he can’t do”? Unfortunately, he’ll never be able to do anything about looking like Prince Harry, but we all have our crosses to bear.

Nice one James…sterling work my liege…

He’ll also feature in our story in a different way later on…
We’d worked very hard, planned everything to the nth degree, and it was time to see what would happen…the most exciting part…

WEDNESDAY MARCH 6TH / TRAVEL DAY

It’s always a day of anticipation this…the first travel day. It takes me about a week to pack usually. I do a bit a day, just to make sure I don’t forget anything…then usually sit on the train to wherever I’m going, Stafford in this case, wondering if I’ve forgotten anything, or forgotten to remember something I was trying to forget…or…

Anyway, I get to the hotel, and on opening my suitcase am pleasantly surprised…got it all…I think. I’m first there as is usually the case, and I’m sitting reading in my room when I hear voices in the hallway. Toby has a very distinctive voice and I open my door to him right outside. He breaks into a big grin and says “hi Bazmeister…pint”? JJ is in the room next door and Gazza down the hall…and we convene in the bar five minutes later. It’s only ten days since we were together but this time it’s real, and we’re pleased to see each other and start getting on with it.

THURSDAY MARCH 7TH / PRE-PRODUCTION DAY

We’re doing our pre prod in an old venue in Stafford called The Octagon. This involves finding a suitable space where the crew can set up the entire stage set, backline, lights, everything and test it all to see if the whole thing actually works in real time. It’s taken months, as I say, to get everything together but, up until now, it’s all been virtual…on computer screens and in people’s heads. You never truly know what it’s all going to look like until you see it for real. We also need to play the entire two sets as a band, from start to finish, like a gig, to see that it all works and give our sound guys a chance to tweak stuff and get it to a good starting point for the first show in Glasgow tomorrow night.

Pre-production, Stafford (pic Baz)

We get many compliments about our sound at shows, and how smoothly we go through the gears during songs. It’s all down to Louie out front and Dave on the monitors at the side of the stage. You hear a Stranglers’ show out front in the auditorium, that’s Louie…what the band hears on stage, that’s Dave. He is entirely responsible for what the four of us have in our ears during the show…and, if you ever see any of us motioning to the side of the stage for sound adjustments, it’s him we’re talking to. He’s the absolute best in the business and I’ll personally call on him many times during the tour to help me with issues that’ll arise later on down the road and, as it turns out, there’ll be a few. We can’t do without any of our crew but Dave and Louie are utterly indispensable. There are also a couple of new guys that we haven’t worked with before, but we know they’ll be good…they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t…Louie sees to that…his vetting process is meticulous.

They’ve all been here for three days already and, when we walk in to see everything set up for the first time, it’s clear that all the planning has been worth it…it looks stunning, the chandeliers giving it that slightly faded regal vibe that we’ve been after. As the tour goes on, the stages vary in size of course and adjustments are made accordingly but, on the whole, this is what it’s going to look like every night…we’re made up.

Brendan gives Baz’s battered old number 1 Telecaster some TLC (pic Baz)

We run through the sets effortlessly, we’ve done it a few times now over the last few months it’d be fair to say and, after everyone is satisfied, myself, JJ, Toby and Gazza jump in our vehicle and we’re off up to Glasgow to try and get some dinner before the hotel restaurant closes. Jim stays with the crew for now, perfectionist that he is, making sure that everything comes down as easily (or not) as it went up. We’ll see them all tomorrow.

We get to the hotel in Glasgow with five minutes to spare before they close up but we’ve been staying here for many years now and they know us well…so we manage…thanks people.

Andy McCluskey from OMD is sitting across from us eating his steak with a bottle of wine, watching football on his phone. They’re on tour too, playing The Royal Concert Hall tomorrow night and, as it happens, we’ll leapfrog and follow each other around during the course of the next month.

I’d love eight hours unbroken sleep tonight…

FRIDAY MARCH 8TH / GLASGOW ARMADILLO

Amazingly, considering it’s the first show tonight and sleep can sometimes be hard to come by on the eve of a tour for all the reasons you might expect…your mind going twenty to the dozen…I manage my eight hours…feel nicely rested and am ready to see what’s what…good start…

This is somewhere we haven’t played before in Glasgow. From the outside it looks like a sort of skewed cross between Sydney Opera House and Gateshead Sage. Inside, it’s sumptuous and massive and thoroughly modern. I go for a wander up into the gods and look down on the stage at the road crew who are scurrying around like ants…seemingly a quarter of a mile away. As I’m standing there, I hear a voice impossibly close to me…yet I know I’m the only one up here…I look around…nobody…then I realise, such are the immaculate, mathematical acoustics of this place, that it’s actually Louie talking to another member of the crew two whole tiers down. As I stand listening, I find I can actually hear most of what the crew on the stage are saying too…amazing…what design! Looking around, it dawns on me that this is no ordinary tour…that might sound like a bit of an obvious thing to say but, again, these things don’t hit you until you’re actually there.

Way up in the gods at the Armadillo (pic Baz)

Another change is our daily eating routine. We generally eat five hours before show time. I seem to remember this going back to the Paul Roberts days, and it being one of the regimes he was adamant about…for proper digestion, being able to move around, and breathe correctly whilst singing etc…and it just seems to be one of those things that’s stuck with us over the years. That would mean on tours gone by that we’d eat at 4pm in order to go onstage at 9. This tour, we’re going on at 8pm every night which means everything comes forward an hour so we eat at 3pm, which I know seems early, and it is, but we need that five hours to digest…it’s important. So, we find ourselves in the catering area and there’s nobody else there except our wonderful Bev, affectionately known as mum, who looks after us, Alex the chef who we’ve never worked with before but who turns out to be a revelation and Vicky, who’s running around like a headless chicken in her capacity as ‘everything else’ as she says. We sit down to eat, just the four of us, and it’s a little like the calm before the storm. We normally eat with the entire crew, and that’s great, seeing everyone and finding out how they are and how it’s all going etc…but I also like it when it’s just us in our bubble…laughing amongst ourselves and just ‘being’…before it all kicks off.

Upstairs, things are a little fraught, as they often are on the first night of anything but we’re given the message that they’re ready for us, so we go up and run through a pretty smooth sound check. The crew look a little stressed, as they had to drop everything from the day before in Stafford, load the truck and bus, schlep up to Glasgow, and set everything up in one day…something that had previously taken three. It’s a rhythm they’ll soon adapt to, they’re pros, but the first day is always the hardest. With that done, we head back to the solace of our hotel for a pre match chill…then it’s off to the races.

We’ve got our auld pal Jock the Box opening with the waltz for us tonight and there’s a huge roar from the crowd as they recognise him, and realise he’s going to reprise his act from the 2007 Glasgow O2 gig, when he played us on (it’s on Youtube, and yes, it really was seventeen years ago). He doesn’t disappoint and we walk on to a deafening roar…here it is…

I know the set lists appear on the internet almost as soon as the gigs are over these days, such is the geekery of our times, so I won’t go into the songs too much…if you were there, you know what we played, and if you weren’t, look it up.

We were very happy with how the first show went, suffice to say. The timings, segways, tempos and song choices were all good and we felt that, for such an ambitious undertaking, it all worked really well…and it’ll only get better.

None of us read reviews…they’re just one person’s opinion and, although you’re encouraged when someone tells you they’ve seen a good one, they’re not too important to us…we just do what we do, but they’re great for this show we hear and, although there’s the usual teething troubles of a first gig (I have some tuning troubles with the Telecaster I’m using for the first set) and a couple of other minor quibbles, the gig is a success, and we’re pleased with how it’s gone…

End of the first show-Glasgow (pic Gaz K)

Afterwards, back at the hotel, the relief is palpable, and we all go down to the bar for a nightcap or three, even JJ, who doesn’t usually partake too much. Paul Humphries from OMD comes in too…it seems their show was a big success and he wants a pint…fair enough. He and JJ are soon ensconced in conversation for quite a while, looking like they’re getting along very well. I toddle off to my room with a wee bit too much brandy swishing around inside me and drift off for another decent slumber.

Lovely end to a great first evening….
8/10

SATURDAY MARCH 9TH / EDINBURGH USHER HALL

Somewhere amongst the misty haze of last night, I seemed to remember us all arranging to meet for breakfast around 9.30 this morning. I’m not one for doing it too often but, this morning, I wake up bright and breezy, pull my togs on, and head down. No one…I know a couple of the boys stayed on in the bar last night after I bugged out so maybe that’s it…or maybe they’re just not used to me turning up for breakfast. Either way, I’m on my own. After I finish, I’m getting up to leave and spot Andy and Paul from OMD tucking into a big Scottish fry up (they don’t say English breakfast up here surprisingly), so I quickly nip over to say hello, and wish them the best for their forthcoming travels. They’re a couple of really nice fellas these two and, although I can’t claim to be their biggest fan musically, every time we run into them, they’re nothing short of lovely…and it’s clear that, after all these years, they’re still very good pals…just the two of them sitting nattering over breakfast…nice to see. There are a couple of their songs that seem to be locked into the soundtrack of my life though, like it or not. I know a lot of you can relate to that sentiment…something pivotal is going on with you, usually love and its early flourishes, and a song can resonate, and transport you back to that time and place every time you hear it.

Along with that, you realise just how long they’ve been around making music, OMD seem to have been around forever, and I suppose we’re seen like that too…

After heading back to bed for a cheeky hour (one of the best things about brekky in a hotel), we convene just before noon to head off to Edinburgh and then down to sound check. On arrival, my friend Tim is outside with his daughter Holly-Lisa and I nip over to say hello. He’s not been too well recently but he’s looking and feeling much better now thankfully and looking forward to the gig. I’m very pleased to see him.

The grandeur of the Usher Hall (pic Baz)

I’ve never been to the Usher Hall before, but I’ve been told it’s Scotland’s answer to the Albert Hall…don’t all shout at me for saying that…it’s just what they tell me.

And I can see why…what a stunning, stunning building…takes your breath away just to walk in and see its burnished beautiful splendour. We all just stand there gawping around during sound check, the intricacy of the architecture revealing something else you hadn’t noticed while you were looking for other things to notice…but hadn’t…

Jock The Box in soundcheck, Edinburgh (pic Baz)

I’ve got family here tonight too. My wife is Scots and her folks are coming to the gig. Her mum is a big music fan and we’ve talked a lot about music and the gigs she saw in her younger days. Her dad, however, has pointed out to me on many occasions that he simply doesn’t like music…or just doesn’t have any affinity with it at all…any of it…it’s just never been a part of his life…I know…I was shocked too. So, I’m wondering what he’s going to make of all of this…Just Like Nothing on Earth, Hallow to Our Men and other assorted weirdness…keep reading…

It’s not often we play such a spot on show this early in the tour…I don’t think any band does. There are always niggles and creases to iron out…but tonight there’s none of that…we’re almost perfect, not something any of us say lightly. Everything just goes right and, sitting here writing this now, it’s still probably one of the best shows we’ve ever played to my mind. The whole tour has sold out, this show was one of the first to go and the crowd just go absolutely nuts…a real triumph.

Afterwards, we have a few guests to say hello to…my in laws being two of them. My wife’s mum absolutely loved it…her dad is ecstatic…I can’t believe his reaction…”that was fantastic Baz…can I come to another one?!!”
Of course you can…you’re never too old to appreciate good music when you hear it…

Special thanks again to Jock the Box for opening this show too…
Job done…
9 and a half/10

SUNDAY MARCH 10TH / DAY OFF

It’s not often I get to have a full on proper night out and drink with the crew these days. There’s a tremendous old landmark pub in Belfast called The Crown. If you’ve ever been to Belfast and like a drink, you’ll know it…it’s iconic and the Guinness, or vitamin G as we like to call it, is sublime. The crew all came in overnight on the ferry while we flew in this morning. By the time we get to our hotel, the word has gone out that they’re in The Crown…all of them…drivers, caterers, the lot. So, me, Toby and Gary walk the couple of hundred yards (coincidence? I think not) to the pub and there they all are…in very good spirits.

Drivers John & Lee in Belfast (pic Louie)

The first person I see is a lovely lady called Katina Elliott. She’s here on a kind of pilgrimage with her daughter and brother in law to see the band…the first Stranglers gig she’s ever attended without her husband Bill, who has very recently passed away, who was a huge fan of the band and very well known to the Family in Black. Their trip and tickets were all sorted in the hope that they’d all be able to come together…but very sadly, Bill didn’t make it. I’m very sorry to hear it and, as she’s explaining the circumstances to me, she gets upset…and so do I. I never knew the guy but the bravery they all showed by banding together and making the trip anyway in his honour is extremely touching and, very much out of habit, I give her my number and say that if she needs anything over the next couple of days, to call. As it turns out, we all meet her and her lovely family after the show the next day.

Katina, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re getting there…I know it’s early days, but we all wish you well.

We raise a glass in Bill’s honour then proceed to get to the magic gallon…which is very easy to do when the vitamin G is this pure. Continuing with the spontaneity of the evening and, breaking a self-imposed rule in the process, we all go around the corner for pizza, which I then take to my hotel room. Imagine my delight when I switch on the TV to find that Match of the Day 2 has just started and I can watch it in my pants whilst eating pizza and shouting at the referee between slugs of red wine…
You can take the boy out of Sunderland…….

MONDAY MARCH 11TH / BELFAST ULSTER HALL

You can always tell how well a pint of Guinness is kept by the thick head, or lack of it, you have the following morning. I feel terrific this morning, considering the excesses of last night, and am raring to get down to the venue, and see what we’ve got coming this evening. We’ve played here a few times before and, my memory tells me, it can be a tricky place for acoustics.

I think most bands that have played the Ulster Hall will tell you that it’s not a rock and roll venue. The room is very high, wide and handsome and full of hard reflective surfaces…a sound man’s nightmare.

After a comfort food warming spaghetti bolognese at 3pm, requested by us (and very much a band favourite), the sound check goes ok but we can tell it’s going to be a difficult night for all concerned…particularly Louie and Dave on sound and the four of us on stage. A room like this is full of bass traps, which will make the sound very boomy. It always improves with bodies in the hall to absorb a lot of the sound but not massively and we feel we’re going to have our work cut out for us.

View from the mixing desk, Belfast (pic Louie)

From the moment we take the stage it’s apparent that the 1500 souls who are here tonight are up for a good time. They spur us on and, for a cold, wet Monday night in Belfast, they do us proud and we’re very glad to be here for them…just brilliant.

They lean over the balconies a lot here and my heart is in my mouth a lot of the time when I look up at them. A tumble over the top would only be met by a very hard wood floor 40 or so feet down…ooyah. So I find myself telling them to be careful quite a lot…and do they listen? what do you think…not a chance…they’re way too into it to be concerned with personal safety…and yet, somehow, everyone comes out of it unscathed…a minor miracle to be sure…

Belfast (pic Gaz K)

Full marks to Louie and Dave for this one…well done lads…can’t have been easy.
8/10

TUESDAY MARCH 12TH / DUBLIN OLYMPIA

One of the most revered and lovely old venues you’ll ever play this one…and we love to come here. Again, it’s difficult for sound…rock bands not being what it was designed for but the lovely old balconies are rammed full of people and the stalls are bursting…there’s not a spare space to be had and that’ll help dampen the sound. Such are the lighting trusses here, pointing down at you from the front, as was the style of the day when venues like this were built, that when you walk on and face the room, it’s just a black void with the odd twinkle from exit signs and bar pumps. You’re only aware of the huge crowd when the lights shift, and you see the faces, hundreds of them, staring up at you.

One of the highlights of the first set this far has probably been Genetix…although, as the tour rolls on, there’ll be quite a few more. It’s been a very challenging one for Tobes to get his head around, the timing of the playing for one thing. This was all Dave live, no sequencing or jiggery pokery…he played it exactly as you hear on the record so Toby had his work cut out just learning that for starters. When we were rehearsing for all those months, you’d very often hear him across in the studio on his own, hours before we were scheduled to start, running through it…patiently taking it section by section, and building it up.

Toby in full flow (pic Kenny Barnes)

Then there was the vocal. Great as he is, and it was never in doubt that he’d conquer it, he won’t mind me telling you that this had his little ticker going ninety to the dozen every time we did it in rehearsals…but as the days rolled by you could hear him growing in confidence. He asked me “how do you learn all the words and own it like you do”? You just do it over and over again… and again… when you’re walking the dog, in the shower, driving…any time you’ve got time to fill…parrot fashion in your head… and it’ll stick…or at least it does for me. He knows how scrutinising and unforgiving our fans can be (nobody knows that better than me, they’re watching you…some of them actually wanting you to fuck up) and how under the microscope he’d be…but, after a while, he just took it in his stride and absolutely nailed it. He knew how weird it was for fans to see him up there in the first place in 2021/22… but for him to actually sing a ‘Dave’ song… that was something else. If he was nervous at gigs up until this song, and I know he was… he never let it get to him… and you could visibly see him relaxing after we’d done it…sipping his beer and the little imaginary monkey slipping off his back and scuttling off into the shadows…until tomorrow…

Tonight, once again, he gets it spot on…

Fair play Toby…fucking tremendous mate…

Another job done-Dublin (pic Gaz K)

We play very well again and the crowd let us know they appreciate it…the roar at the end is deafening and, again, there they are dangling over the balconies and leaping up and down in the most confined of spaces, dozens of feet up…there definitely must be an art to this…but, then again, drink a shit load of Guinness and fall, you won’t feel a thing…until tomorrow…but please don’t…we worry.

Black Velvet in Dublin (pic Baz)

A special thanks also to Adam Clayton for sending us the Black Velvet drinking pack. Of course we’ve heard of it but none of us had experienced the “proper’ one with champagne and chilled vitamin G… I think you’ve introduced us to something very special there mate…very quaffable indeed and even part of your five a day…cheers!
9/10

WEDNESDAY MARCH 13TH / DAY OFF

Not really too much to say about today other than Dublin traffic has to be some of the worst ever. It takes a mad frantic dash to get to the airport for our flight to Newcastle, even though we’ve left in plenty of time…but we get there and manage to squeeze in a pint before we go. There’s something mystical about a breakfast Guinness at 11am.

We get to Newcastle in decent time and after our routine drink at the bar on arrival, go our separate ways for a few hours before heading out into the city centre later on to meet friends and have an outstanding curry.

THURSDAY MARCH 14TH / NEWCASTLE CITY HALL

I always relish this one, one way or another. I look forward to the joust and there usually is one here…sometimes bad, mostly good. The last time we played here it was all standing but, because of the nature of the show tonight, we had the seats put back in and now it reminds me of many years gone by coming to see all the bands of my youth here. One thing that always strikes me about NCH is the size of the stage…really quite small. Looking down onto the front row of seats, there’s only a very small walkway between them and the lip of the stage and the seats at the side come right up to the front in a sort of gentle curve…tonight again is sold out so I know the crowd are going to be right on top of us.

I’ve got family here again tonight too, two of my brothers with some of their kids coming through, as well as some old mates who I’ve known for decades…and a couple of old band mates too. I don’t know where they’re sitting but I always look out for them. There are an awful lot of familiar faces too and it’s becoming apparent that there are fans who’ll be doing the whole tour…there always is. As we take the stage the roar is deafening and, even after a night off (which is always welcome but can upset any momentum that you’re building up), we go smoothly through both sets and play very well.

Dave Monitors in full concentration mode (pic Kenny Barnes)

The seats are becoming a bit of an issue as the night rolls on however, a lot of fans disapproving of the idea, and the security are becoming a little heavy handed. You can see little pockets of ‘conversation’ happening around the crowd and, halfway through the second set a proper conflab erupts right in front of Louie at the sound desk, resulting in some of his equipment being knocked over. He tells me later that he’s amazed the front of house PA didn’t go off. The culprit is a big guy who’s been dancing, told to get back or sit down or something, he’s protested, lashed out and has been knocked over by security and can’t get up from between the seats. They all lean in to pull him out and he bites one of them apparently, resulting in a huge ruck, full on red mist descending, from both sides, everyone swinging, after which he gets hauled out and he is seen on his knees outside the venue on the pavement, his hands cable tied behind his back, before being bundled into the back of a police van which just happens to be passing the venue…completely by coincidence…surely they weren’t expecting trouble at a Stranglers gig…

The decision was taken many months ago to put seats in and try to give the evening a different feel and vibe…sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Fans don’t complain in all standing venues that there aren’t any seats…it’s not the same the other way round and we get a few whingers. Maybe I would have too…I don’t know.

Newcastle finale (pic John Dewhirst)

All in all though, a cracking gig and the people of Newcastle and its surrounding boroughs were kind to me again…ha…

Later on Jim will declare this as possibly his favourite gig of the tour…let’s see.
9/10

FRIDAY MARCH 15TH / MANCHESTER APOLLO

It’s a very rushed day today, a lot of traffic on the M1 and delays everywhere so we go straight to the venue to eat and sound check before getting back to the hotel for some rest. We get downstairs to catering and notice a new face in the team. Vicky has been called away and we’ve got Michael, a very sweet Geordie lad from Newcastle, who turns out to be a great bloke. I think I recall seeing him in Newcastle yesterday, but it was fraught as always, and I’m not certain. As I come down the stairs, he’s talking to someone on the phone, who turns out to be his Uncle Brian…the lead singer of AC/DC no less. I express my admiration…most of you will know I was a bit of a fan in my youth, and Michael says he’ll call him back, in Miami, so I can talk to him. I’m saying no, don’t be daft and disturb him, when the phone is swiftly handed to me and I end up having a crack with one of the loveliest blokes on the planet seemingly…Brian Johnson. We shoot the breeze easily like long lost old pals, even though I’ve never met him…our north east roots a bond from the start and, after 10 minutes I take my leave, although I could’ve talked to him for hours… and he’s inviting me to dinner and to see the band in the summer at Wembley…I say I’ll try to make it if I’m around…what a lovely fella.

I sit having my dinner thinking “fuck me, that was surreal”.

Manchester O2 Apollo (pic John Dewhirst)

This is the biggest venue so far and again has been sold out for months…it’s always a blinding gig and we’re looking forward to it, as always, but, towards the end of the first set, my in ear monitors are playing up…again. I had new moulds taken earlier in the evening (thanks Roger) and am contemplating getting new pieces made…but I won’t be able to get them before the end of the tour and I’m starting to worry…’cos that’s what I do. It started becoming a minor issue earlier in the tour, in Ireland I think, and I was complaining to Dave Monitors about it, who said he was getting some moulds taken today and I should too. It’s only on the 2022 tour I had some taken and I shouldn’t really have needed new ones quite so soon, so I was mildly stressing. Toby has reverted to using some far cheaper, generic off the shelf jobs, not moulds, that he’s swearing by and suggested I try them…and what a revelation…problem solved…but that’s for later…not tonight…oh no…

Baz getting ear moulds fitted (pic Toby)

We get to Relentless in the second set and I’m really struggling by this time. This is a huge, cavernous venue and, if the seals in your in ears aren’t tight, the sound swirls around and you get a lot of the house bleeding through into your mix, it just sounds like a wash…and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. We start the song and I’ve no idea if I’m singing in tune…I suspect not and, when I turn to JJ, he’s visibly wincing…shit…it’s that bad…my colleagues have got it loud and proud in their ears and I’m the only one who can’t hear it…christ knows what the audience must have thought. We get to the end of the song and I’m demoralised…I know it’s bad.

We get to the end of the show and I’m off the stage, up into the dressing room and very pissed off. The boys, though, know this can happen to anyone, and are sweet about it…or as sweet as The Stranglers can be and, after a drink or two, you relax, realise it’s ancient history now, grow a pair and think about resolutions for the rest of the shows.

The crowd though, as always here, were magnificent and there’s a huge throng outside the stage door afterwards patting us all on the back and saying how much they enjoyed it…thanks guys…
I just hope that song is not up online somewhere…although it probably is…
8/10

SATURDAY MARCH 16TH / WOLVERHAMPTON CIVIC HALL

I’ve never headlined here in my time in the band, although we’ve played Wolves many times over the years. I played here in the support band to them in ‘95 however and, a distant little memory tells me, it was a sonically horrible, big draughty old hall.

It was and had dropped off the touring radar over the years, into disrepair, with a bad reputation for sound and amenities and, with nearby Birmingham boasting quite a few decent venues, had just fallen away pretty much altogether.

Thankfully it isn’t any more. They’ve spent a huge amount of money on it recently, many millions I’m told, to bring it up to scratch and attract bands again.

Wolves Civic Hall (pic John Dewhirst)

We wander into the hall to sound check and it looks like a different place to the one I remember. I’m not entirely certain if there were even balconies back in the day, but there are now and the place is sumptuous and very well appointed. Yesterday in Manchester, Louie, bless him, had run out into town and bought me a pair of the in ear monitors that Toby uses. I use them for the first time today during sound check, and the difference is astounding…I actually can’t believe it…everything is crystal clear. Hopefully my issues will be sorted…there’s only one way to find out.

I don’t know if it’s through sheer relief, the fact that the sound in my ears was so good, we play tremendously well (this is the third gig in a row, so we should) or that the crowd were fantastic here tonight…I suspect it’s a mixture of all of them…but this is my favourite gig of the tour so far…shading Edinburgh by a whisker…that whisker being my relief, I’m now certain. We absolutely smash it and, afterwards, there are big drinks all round. Earlier during the show, as I’m talking to the crowd, I refer to the old Wolves Civic as a shit hole and get a huge cheer…but I still wonder if I’ve overstepped the mark. After the show, we’ve got a few guests come back to see us, including Jim’s mum, who was a singer of some repute back in the day, very well respected, and who sang in some very prestigious concerts in some very prestigious places…including here. She comes up to me, takes me by the hand and whispers “you were spot on about this place Baz, it was a shit hole”…

End of the show-Wolves (pic Gaz K)

But not anymore…lovely venue, lovely crowd, fantastic gig.
10/10

SUNDAY MARCH 17TH / MONDAY MARCH 18TH /TWO DAYS OFF

This is relatively unheard of…we never usually have two days off on tour.

We decide to stay reasonably in the locale and go somewhere that we’ve never been to, Stratford upon Avon. I’ve always wanted to go, JJ too, but life, in all its travels, glories and distractions, has just never brought either of us this way before. Toby has been here before with his missus, and he says it’s worth visiting, for the culture don’t you know, to soak up the birthplace of The Bard, and all the associated bling that goes along with it…but it’s just not all that…and he’s right. I’m disappointed. I don’t know what I was expecting. It’s extremely touristy, as you’d expect, but also a bit tacky and chintzy, with pubs and restaurants named after Shakespeare characters and plays, and just…faded. My apologies if you’re from Stratford but I’m sure you get what I mean. This is the town centre I’m talking about of course…I’m sure there are some lovely spots in the ‘burbs…it’s in a beautiful part of England after all but it just…underwhelmed me…sorry.

Baz meets Hamlet (pic Toby)

As you’d imagine, there are a number of ‘tat’ shops and Toby and I, fridge magnet nerds that we are (our fridge has them from all over the world…cheesy…but I’ve got some real humdingers) go into one and I buy possibly the worst one I’ve ever seen of old Will S…it had to be done…it’s so bad it’s positively genius…

We have a few pints, a meal, then head back to our hotel which is a lovely country manor in the sticks…have a few more beers, then sleep for what seems like days. We’ve purposely come well off the beaten track to recover before the next attack…and take full advantage of the situation.

I don’t see any of my colleagues for a day until we gather for dinner early in the evening of Monday, eat, then go to JJ’s room to watch a Stranglers fan on Mastermind answering questions about, you guessed it, The Stranglers 1974 to 1990. I think we all did ok…we were all a bit worse for wear by then…

TUESDAY MARCH 19TH / NOTTINGHAM ROYAL CONCERT HALL

I actually thought we’d be very refreshed and be on fire after a two day rest tonight but JJ declares us a bit ‘ring rusty’, and he’s right, we’re not at our best…but we still turn in a good performance I’d say. The crowd are fantastic for a Tuesday night and the place is jumping.

Baz & JJ share a moment, Nottingham (pic John Dewhirst)

This is a beautiful old building with a very long, rich history. It’s stunning inside and has obviously been renovated and updated in the room itself many times. The outside is all pillars and grandeur…the inside looks quite 1960’s to me…purple velvet seats and a sort of sci fi Star Trek feel to it…(you can visualise Morecambe and Wise playing here) or maybe that’s just me…anyway, it wasn’t what I expected. I did think it would be a bit of a struggle sound wise however…it’s cavernous…is it a rock venue? It turns out to be not as much trouble as we thought. My new in ears are serving me very well and the show goes off without any aural aggro…I’m pleased.

Star Trek! Nottingham (pic Gaz K)

Not really too much to report on this one to be honest. A good show in a great place to a brilliant crowd…nuff said.
8/10

WEDNESDAY MARCH 20TH / CAMBRIDGE CORN EXCHANGE

I absolutely love playing here. It’s very rich in Stranglers folklore as I’m sure most of you know, and the band have been playing here almost from the start. I’ve been here with them well into double figures, and have supported them here too, as well as with other bands when I was still with Smalltown Heroes…we go back.

I’m sure too that you’ll know how much reverence this gig is held in because of Dave G. He loved holding court here after shows and most of his village would make the journey here to see him and us back in the day…and there a lot of them here tonight too…the place is absolutely bouncing.

This is another almost flawless gig in my mind. We played last night so we’re loosened up personally, tightened up musically, and we soar through it, playing again as well as we ever have. There are so many familiar and smiling faces in the front row, it’s difficult not to be simply swept away…there’s a lot of love in the room.

This is the end, Cambridge (pic John Dewhirst)

Earlier in the day, JJ and I wander out front to meet some fans and say hello…they’ve been out there for hours. Hands are shaken and pictures taken, including one with my old mate Neal from New York City…I haven’t seen him in five years but he looks just the same and it’s nice to catch up…I know he’s been in the UK for a few shows on the tour but our paths haven’t crossed until now. He’s a fellow bird geek, the feathered variety, so it’s amusing to see fans looking at us while we talk about all things twitcher. I shake his hand and tell him I hope to see him again soon.

It would’ve been nice to hang around Cambridge for another day but we’re straight out of the venue after the gig (known as doing a ‘runner’) and back to the hotel for tomorrow’s journey up to Sheffield. Toby has never done a runner with us before, a proper runner, and it catches him out and flusters him…especially as me and him had planned to get a late pint at the hotel bar before bed…but to no avail…we forget it’s Wednesday and the bar is firmly shut. I get texts from him and Gazza about fifteen minutes later saying that a drink can in fact be had downstairs if I’m up for it…but it’s too late, I’m showered and in my jamas with a mug of cocoa…ha…

Great night…one of the best. We’re racking up a lot of ten out of ten gigs on this tour for me…
Rare…
10/10

THURSDAY MARCH 21ST / SHEFFIELD CITY HALL

This is another beautiful old venue, a sort of sister to Newcastle City Hall in my mind…they always remind me of each other. Another all seated venue, with a beautiful domed glass roof high above the auditorium, the backstage area and dressing rooms are beautifully appointed, and the whole place is very redolent of history and tradition…it’s posh.

This is the last show of another three in a row run before we make the long drive down to Portsmouth tomorrow for a well-deserved night off and we’re all pretty tired…which usually makes for a great gig…the adrenalin kicks in to maximum effect and you always play out of your skin…another strange touring side effect, one of many.

The crowd are up and on their feet from the get go and, as the show progresses, they creep forward little by little, until they’re right on top of us. The security don’t seem to mind too much, are a lot more relaxed than some of the other places we’ve been to, and just let things be…but that’s Sheffield for you…it’s always been a chilled place to come to and I’ve had a lot of good times here over the years. It wouldn’t be fair to say that we’re in auto pilot…you never want to forget that folk have waited a long time to see us and deserve the full treatment…of course they do…but we’re well into our stride now, this being the tenth show, and we coast along smooth and easy, thoroughly enjoying the riotous scene before us, and drinking it all in.

After the encore is over and we’re leaving the stage, I spot an old mate in the front, stoop down to give him a hug and bellow a hello in his ear as I pass…he’s absolutely soaked to the skin with sweat, as is everyone around him…
There you have it…
9/10

FRIDAY MARCH 22ND / DAY OFF

We’re all feeling it now. It’s a fairly long drive down to Portsmouth from Sheffield and, by the time we arrive, we’re jaded, tired, in need of a beer…and snuffly…I can feel something rattling around way down in my chest and I’m starting to get a bit of a sore throat. I put it down to coming off three shows in a row, which is fairly common. We call it ‘tour flu’, and it’s just little bugs and sniffles and coughs that come from being around such huge numbers of people constantly and moving in and out of hot and cold environments…sweating, cooling down, damp clothes…the works. I know that when I get home after the tour, I’ll probably get worse before I get better…my immune system finally relaxing and succumbing to everything I’ve been exposed to over the last month or so. It always happens…JJ suffers from it too, as do many other musicians I know, and the first week at home is usually spent feeling rough and sleeping a lot.

So I’m not feeling at my best but know that a good meal, the company of my mates, and a really good kip is usually the cure…or at least helps you to fight another day. So, we go off down to the docks in Portsmouth which are a hive of activity with restaurants, bars and shops, and have a lovely relaxed meal, a few glasses of wine and a good unwind. During the meal we’re made aware of the vicious machine gun attacks in Moscow and also the statement from the Princess of Wales regarding all the speculation over her health…(we raise a glass to her…and hope the slavering hordes of the British press will just leave her alone with her family to get through whatever she’s going through…she’s got dignity…shame they haven’t) and here we are, eating dinner in our little bubble, away from all the trials and tribulations of life…at least for a little while. It puts things firmly into perspective.
It all catches up with us. We’re all very tired, and mood around the table becomes sombre. We decide to head back to the hotel for a nightcap and our beds.

SATURDAY MARCH 23RD / PORTSMOUTH GUILDHALL

Another beautiful old venue, we’ve played here many times, and it’s always great. Arriving for the sound check, there are a few fans outside who’ve been waiting in the cold for what seems to them like forever. One in particular is shivering so badly we bring her into catering with us, give her some hot soup and she sits hugging the radiator for twenty minutes, trying to thaw out…you’re more than welcome Anna.

We go down to sound check and I can feel this thing in my throat starting to tighten, so I don’t sing much and, inside, I’m slowly starting to worry. I’m used to this…it happens all the time during tours and you just shake it off, look after yourself, which we do so much more now as the years are starting to stack up, and get on with it. But I know this is different…I’ve fucking got something…I know I have.

We have a routine before we go on stage, have had for decades. About fifteen minutes before showtime JJ and myself pop a Vocalzone…a strong throat lozenge mostly designed for singers. They used to be quite hard to find but are more popular now and you can even get them over the counter these days. We’ve had them for years. I brought them to the band from my Smalltown Heroes days. Ten minutes before the stage, we have a rum and blackcurrant, which we call our ‘medicine’. This is an old singers’ thing from my youngest days, doing the workingmen’s club circuit in the north east of England. The idea is that the rum heats up your vocal chords and the blackcurrant coats your throat…it’s probably second hand knowledge, but it seems to really work…and we don’t go on stage without one.

So we do this, and I’m feeling better. I think I can get through the show… we have another night off in Bristol tomorrow to rest, and I’ll be fine…done it before, many times…it’ll be fine…

It isn’t…

He’s behind you! Portsmouth (pic John Dewhirst)

The gig is a blinder. We fire through the sets and play very well, and, after coming off, I’m pretty confident that a rest, another good night’s sleep and no talking will do me good. The occasion has got the better of me though…sometimes gigs do. I give it everything at the show…probably too much…howling into the mic and just going for it, having too much of a good time, with no real thought of preserving my voice or energy for what’s to come. You just don’t…that’s not what being in a band is about. Old habits die hard, and when you’re in the moment…well, tomorrow is another day and you’ll get through it because you always do…

Baz backstage post Pompey gig, feeling rough

The meet and greet we had afterwards probably didn’t help too much either…the Guildhall may be grand out front but there’s very little space backstage and there were so many folk packed into that little room to say hi, it was actually very uncomfortable, hot and sweaty, and probably packed with more germs and cultures than a pathology lab…
9/10

SUNDAY MARCH 24TH / DAY OFF

The phone rings about ten in the morning. I reach over to answer it, and nothing much comes out of my mouth…uh oh.

The plan today is to drive to Bristol, check into the hotel, and have a nice big dinner with everyone, a dozen or more of us. I’ve got a bit of a landmark birthday tomorrow but, because it’s a show day, we can’t really celebrate too much, so we’re doing it tonight…

Except we’re not…

I call Gaz to croak to him what’s going on. He doesn’t sound too thrilled with me and, suddenly, I’m thinking today isn’t going to work out, I just know it. Twenty minutes later he calls me back, and with a no nonsense tone to his voice, tells me we’re postponing the Bristol show, driving to London and finding me a doctor…ah shit…I’ve pissed everybody off…I know I have…even though it’s not my fault. If it was someone else I’d probably be a bit pissed off too truth be told…but what can you do…?

All of a sudden I’m feeling very bad…for everyone…

In the lobby, everyone is as sympathetic as The Stranglers can be and I start to feel a little better about things…but not much. Tomorrow is sold out. There are already fans in Bristol filling up the bars, and the gig is still more than twenty four hours away. There’s a statement being posted online at 4pm informing everyone of the change and so now, we have to concentrate on getting to London, finding me some antibiotics, and trying to stay fit for the Royal Albert Hall gig on Tuesday.

I’m not filled with confidence at this moment in time.

We drive to London, check into our hotel two days earlier than expected and wait for the doctor to come. He arrives around five o’clock and has a remarkable resemblance to the actor David Suchet. Gazza remarks on this, the doctor breaking into a big smile “I get that a lot”. He ends up prescribing me three antibiotics and eight anti-inflammatory tablets a day and says that if it’s still bad by Tuesday evening, he’ll come to the show two hours before stage time and give me an injection which will completely relax my vocal chords. I’m hoping it won’t come to that. He insists on me taking the first lot of tablets while he’s there “to ensure they’re in your system and I’ve done my job” and, a brisk handshake and hefty bill later, he’s gone.

Normally around this time on a day off, I’d be out having a pint with Tobes and Gaz but they go without me, as they should, and I’m left staring at the walls thinking…”bollocks’…

Eleven tablets a day…

Toby texts a few hours later to say they’re heading out for a curry if I’m interested, and it’s then I realise I haven’t eaten much at all today. I meet them in a pub across the road for a lime and soda (bah) and we go off and have a lovely meal. They’re both a bit squiffy, I’m sober and keeping absolutely schtumm…and this just serves to make me feel worse but I appreciate them inviting me out. I leave them outside the hotel as they wander off for one last beer and head up to my room…It’s 9.30…I’m dead to the world by 10…

MONDAY MARCH 25TH / ENFORCED DAY OFF

I wake up to dozens and dozens of birthday greetings but also messages to ‘get well soon’…they really cheer me up…If you’re reading this and did that…thanks very much, I really appreciated it…

I’m under instructions to stay in my room, so I do. My missus has come down on the train from Yorkshire and she’s a sight for sore eyes. Everyone calls me from their rooms but I don’t see anyone at all for the day.

Nice quiet day…not what I was expecting…but lovely all the same.

TUESDAY MARCH 26TH / LONDON ROYAL ALBERT HALL

D-Day…

I wake up feeling pretty good. I’m not convinced by a long chalk that I’ll be able to sing tonight but all I can do is give it a go…I’ve done everything I can.

I stay out of the way for the day until we meet in the lobby to go to sound check at 2.45. There’s a quiet, muted atmosphere in the car, everyone is feeling the pressure, and nobody speaks until we get to the venue.What can be said about this place that hasn’t already been said so many times over the decades?

The iconic splendour and history of the Royal Albert Hall is so tangible, you can almost reach out and touch it…woven into the very fabric of London, and of England. The band have, of course, headlined here before, back in 1997 with MK2, and we played two numbers here with Jet and Dave in 2014 as part of the BBC Proms celebrations of that year…but this is the first time that Jim, Toby and I have headlined here.

We have three Japanese taiko drummers with us this evening known as Fugu. They’re opening the show and are known to JJ through his martial arts connections. We watch them at sound check, and for three very slight Japanese lasses, they really make a glorious noise…pounding the drums mercilessly, a whirlwind of tiny muscular arms and legs, perfectly in time and syncopation and it’s amazing to see the energy they use. They’re going to play at the very top of the second set with us too, for the first few moments of Who Wants the World, so we run through that with them and, content everything is as it should be, we finish a pretty quick sound check. I don’t sing at all, save for a few lines of Golden Brown, just to get the keyboard level right for me and we’re off back to the hotel.

I’m starting to feel a little more confident of my chances tonight, and decide to have a very hot, Olbas oil bath, one last time. I’m laying there in the silence and, all of a sudden, I can feel everything starting to lift…literally just like that. In the last three days I’ve had nine antibiotics, twenty four anti- inflammatories and so much Manuka honey, lemon and ginger that I’m fit to burst…but I’m starting believe they’ve all given me enough to get through the show. A bit of positive mental energy always helps too…come on baldy…you can do it…

There’s another ominous silence in the car going back to the gig later, and I can feel everyone’s tension. We walk to the dressing room, again with very few words, and start to get dressed. I say something like “wow, it’s tense in here” and the atmosphere just lifts…and in a heartbeat, we’re all suddenly back to normal…it’s just another gig after all, or should be. I’m dressed in my suit with a scarf around my neck, so strap on a guitar and wander out into the labyrinth of corridors to be by myself, not talk, and play a bit of warm up guitar. There are a lot of ‘business’ people around, and Gazza is doing his usual admirable job of keeping them away from us, at least until after the show…but Sil our manager and Rad our agent come in to wish us luck…they look more nervous than we do.

Welcome to the Royal Albert Hall (pic Heidi Wallace)

In no time at all, we’re on stage and into it, and I have to say, I’m feeling good.

We get to The Raven, and JJ takes to the mic…

All tour long at this point, he’s been dedicating this song to Dave and Jet…a lovely thing to do…and it’s been taking the roof off. Tonight, it seems to have a special reverence…maybe it’s the surroundings and occasion, maybe it’s because we’ve got to the end of the tour, I don’t know…but, as he says it this evening, I see the look on his face, and I know how much it really means to him. He’d have you believe that he’s not given to much emotion…true to a degree…but I know different and when things get to him, you can easily tell. Tonight, looking at him standing over there in his suit, he cuts a slightly lonely figure, the last original member of the band he joined fifty years ago, when he was just a spotty kid, living in a squat with his mates, living from day to day and gig to gig as if it could be his last.

In the last near twenty five years, him and I have been through a great deal together…and here he is, a full half century later…the only original member of the band to still be a Strangler…still standing…remarkable

I love the old curmudgeon…I really do.

I know he’s feeling this, in this most amazing of settings. The roar he receives is truly thunderous and I think, even from that early point in the show, we know everything is going to be ok…and it is.

When you’re truly lost in the moment and enjoying yourself in anything you do, it all seems so fleeting, and there can be no better example of that than tonight. In no time at all, it’s over, and the four of us are standing there, soaking wet and probably wanting this moment to last forever.

Made it through…and relax! (pic Gaz K)

Backstage all is chaos. There are people dropping by, dropping gifts and drinks off, patting us on the back, and telling us that we’ll be back…somehow somewhere…

We will…we’re not going anywhere.
10/10

One last thing I must do here, while I’ve got the opportunity, is thank our wonderful road crew, without whom, as you all know, and are probably sick to fucking death of me telling you, nothing rolls, rigs, twangs, clangs, bangs, crashes or flashes…

In the melee’ of the Albert Hall, I didn’t get the chance to thank them from the stage, as I usually do…so here goes:

Gaz Knighton / tour manager
Louie Nicastro / FOH sound
Dave Hall / Onstage Monitors
Brendan Riley / guitar tech
Ricky McMillan / drum tech
Joe Noonan / keyboard tech
Luke Welch / Lights
Pete Waite / Lights
Will Bailey / Lights
Dom Chiswell / sound tech
Bev Kelleher / mum
Alex Patterson / chef
Vicky Northall / mum 2
Michael Johnson / catering
Lee Carver / Bus driver
John Lawrence / Truck driver

Thanks so much as always people…see you next time…

Side view, RAH (pic John Dewhirst)

NOTES AND HONOURABLE MENTIONS

During the last rehearsals, or what we thought were the last rehearsals in February, Jim developed a potentially serious problem with his left hand. He came to me and JJ at the start of the last week and said he’d like to sort of ease himself into things and not get too strenuous too soon. By that time we’d been rehearsing for a good while, and were into what we call the ‘top and tail’ part of things…just going over and over it until you can do it in your sleep…so we said ok, no need to get too busy with things.

Come Wednesday morning of that week we came downstairs to breakfast to find him sitting in the kitchen with a troubled look on his face…it wasn’t getting better but, in fact he felt, worse. He’d been to see a specialist just before we’d all come back, and had been given a cortisone injection, but was worried that it wasn’t taking effect…at all. The problem had been explained to him in some detail, and in actual fact was a relatively easy fix, after which he’d been told it would never bother him again. The trouble was, it required a three week recovery period, and we were only just over two weeks away from the tour…no time.

Jim being Jim, he called the management to discuss the problem, and they decided between them that we’d probably need to get a standby drummer in to rehearse with us in case the worst should happen. Something nobody wanted, but we didn’t want to risk jeopardising the tour. JJ pointed out that The Stranglers have had a lot of ‘dep’ drummers in over the years when Jet was indisposed for whatever reason…eight or nine I think he’d counted…one more wouldn’t make any difference.

Enter Steve ‘Smiley’ Barnard. Those of you who saw the Black and White tour in 2016 will remember him as drumming with The Alarm…but he’s got a lot more than that in his cupboard. He’s been behind the kit for many, many people. He drummed for years with Robbie Williams and can be seen on many You Tube clips playing along in the background to ‘Angels’, and other such pop classics. We decided not to hold that against him and give him a whirl. Toby knew him too from a project they’d been involved with together a few years ago, and vouched for how good a drummer he was. Jim had already sent him everything he needed material wise (we record all our rehearsals) , so he was ahead of the game and playing along at home, learning, using every hour god gave him, around the clock. He did this for a few days, then came down to play with us at the farm.

The band with Smiley (pic Gaz K)

He’s well named is Smiley, and a lovelier bloke you’d have to go a long way to meet. I got there and he was already in the studio playing along to a recording of Peaches…not an easy song to play by any stretch. I stood outside listening, didn’t want to interrupt him and he had it down. There are nuances to songs that take musicians many years to find and master, and he’d be the first to admit that but, as a whole, arrangement and feel wise…he’d got it. I let him finish and walked in, and he gave me a massive hug and smile…getting on well with someone is a huge start, and as a person he fit right in. Over the course of the next four days, we absolutely battered it…five or six hours a day in a smallish room at reasonable volume…and he’s like Jim…he really hits the drums. By the end, we were astounded that he’d learned absolutely everything almost to perfection and we were confident that should the need arise, the show would be able to go on. He’s a professional drummer, so you’d expect him to be good, but he blew us away with his diligence and approach, and the time we had with him was great fun.

Of course, twats that we are, we made a bit of a show of telling him that we hoped we wouldn’t need him…but that was the gig, and he understood. He wanted to play with us of course, but he knew he probably wouldn’t…a strange situation to be in. Not only that, but he put himself on stand by for the whole tour, waiting for a call that he knew probably wouldn’t come.

He was at the Portsmouth and Royal Albert Hall gigs and it was great to see him there with his addictive smile.
So, on behalf of us all Smiley, a massive thank you mate…a new friend made and another great contact secured.
He’ll be behind the kit for The Alarm when we play with them again, amongst others, in Pasadena in America in May.
See you soon mate…

SUNDAY MAY 5TH / BRISTOL BEACON

We’ll see you all there folks…really sorry about what happened, but it couldn’t be helped.
You know we don’t pull gigs lightly…if we can do it…we will…but I couldn’t.
We’ll make it up to you…

And lastly, thank you all for coming out to see us in such huge numbers…to say we appreciate it would be the biggest understatement imaginable…and especially to the folks who made it their business to follow us all over the UK, and attend every single show…you know who you are…thank you.

And finally lastly…I received a giant birthday card that probably had well over 100 signatures and best wishes on it…must have taken ages to get all those, not to mention the ball ache of simply carrying it around everywhere…plus invaluable information on obtaining a third off rail travel card, which I’m informed I’m now eligible for…fuck… If you were one of the signers, thank you so much…it really made my day…

Right, that’s it…now bugger off the lot of you…x

BAZ / APRIL ’24

Thanks to all the photographers whose images were used in this blog