Tom's Tour Journal
I just got back from a tour of Scotland and England and it was great seeing old friends and meeting new ones. It was my 15th Anniversary of playing in the U.K. and even though I moved to Ireland in 1987, it wasn't until 1990 that I got over that short expanse of water from Dublin to Liverpool.
Big Jim, my trusty road manager in the USA (former tour manager and security guard for Blue Oyster Cult and Steppenwolf) drove me to Newark Airport where I took the jet plane straight to Glasgow, Scotland. The plane touched down at 7:20 am and my U.K. tour manager was waiting for me with his usual smile. His name is Graeme Livingston and he hails from Ulverston in Cumbria. Ulverston is famous as the birthplace of Stan Laurel and to my American ears he sounds just like Stan and has a great sense of humor too. Whenever we are in some kind of jam on the road I always say, "Another fine mess you got me into!"
Every year he rents a new car for the tour and this year it was a Ford Fiesta, colored silver. It seems every other car in the UK is silver this year. In past years it has been either red or black. We drove straight to Falkirk, famous as the battle site in the film Braveheart, and stayed with Andy McKean, a gentle and wonderful man who hired me to sing that night at the Falkirk Folk Club. The room was so crowded that we had to move to a larger room downstairs. Andy is a former policeman who served many years on the force and is also an accomplished folksinger himself. Probably the worst experience of his life was responding to the killing of 22 young children a decade or so ago in Dunblane where a man with a grudge against the town, shot and killed or wounded many of its' innocent children in a gymnasium before killing himself. Andy has the wise eyes of a man who has seen a lot. (Bob Dylan was playing 40 miles away)
The next day we drove west to one of my favorite clubs in the world. The Bein Inn in Glen Farg. The place is one of the coziest scottish club/restaurant/hotel centers you will ever see. A roaring fire greets you as you come in --and that day was cold and damp with an early layer of ice on the sidewalk. It felt great to feel that fire!!! The place is owned by David Mundell and a more kindly soul you could not meet. I always look forward to seeing him and his dog Charlie. This year he had a second dog named Billy and they look like twins. As usual the food and rooms were great and we had a nice turnout at the show. Again, new and old friends showed up with names like Ian, Brian, John, Kareal, Ken, Jill, Mary and many others. After the show I love to sit and chat with some of the folks with a glass of beer and a shot of good Scottish whiskey by that blazing fire. There is always great cheer and laughter.
The following day Graeme and I said goodbye to David and headed south thru the beautiful scottish countryside to northeast England to a factory and fishing city named Hartlepool. Ian Dalton and his wife Val put the show on and it was sold out. A wild crowd!! Harlepool is famous for once trying and hanging a monkey during the Napoleonic wars. The townsfolk at that time in history had never seen a Frenchman and thought that the monkey who came in with the tide was a French spy!
That night we stayed at a clean, but cold B&B--however, the english breakfast the next morning was good. As I was eating that breakfast I thought of some of the people I met the night before, a great bass player named "Ghost" and a girl named Jill who worked in a bookie parlor taking bets on horse and dog races. She seemed ashamed to say that's what she did to earn a living, but to me it seemed like a real cool job! I have been known to flutter on the ponies myself!
We headed south to London and I played at the Twickenham Folk Club. I saw my friends Willie and Pete there. It's a nice room with a quiet almost too respectful crowd considering the wild place I played the night before! In the room next door a soccer game was playing on the tele and the crowd watching was dressed in the same harlequin shirts their team was wearing. They sure were loud and excited. Sports have become big business and so many people vicariously live their lives through their teams. It's all about winning these days. A couple of times I thought, "Get a life!"
The next morning we headed to the "deep south" of England, to beautiful Brighton to play at "The Greys" a well established club for Americana and English Folk and Roots music. It was the last night Mike Lance would be booking the club he once owned. I love Mike. He is a bit of a chancer, part saint -- part rogue. You got the feeling he loved the music part of his job so much that he might have not put as much attention into running the bar and restaurant which is now owned by a couple of nice people named Chris and Jill. Mike will be booking acts at a place called "The Hadbury Ballroom," a former mausoleum that feels like not all the ghosts have been shaken out yet. Like the hotel in "The Shining." I wish Mike the best because without people like him, music venues would be filled with American Idol type acts or Karaoke.
We stayed that night with Paul and Ashley, friends of Mike and now friends of mine. They served us great coffee and toast and marmalade after the gig and I had a good nights sleep after reading a book Mike had on the life of Graham Parsons. After being in that former mausoleum and reading that book, I had dreams of burning caskets and Joshua trees. I discovered that Graham Parsons and I were born one day apart the same year.
The following morning Paul so kindly took us the 1/2 hour from Brighton to Lewis to the home of one of my greatest heroes, Tom Paine. It was the last house that Paine lived in before he came to the colonies in America. Paine's writings helped to inspire the ragged American "army" to drive England from its' shores during the American Revolution.
Graeme and I said farewell to Paul who took photos of me in front of Paine's house. Onward and upward Graeme and I drove to a city named Luton to play at an arts center called "The Hat Factory." The gig was put on by a fine musician named Paul aided by his ladyfriend Rachel. Paul plays great alternative and punk rock and he has a CD out that I like a lot. Rachel is a historian and told me that Luton is well over 1000 years old and in in the "Doomsday Book," a book William the Conqueror put together to count everything he owned in England. Every sheep, pig and henm were counted for taxes after the 1066 invasion. We stayed with Paul and Rachel and chatted with them for a few hours and they were most hospitable to us. Knowing that Paul played such hard, cutting edge music on his bass, I was astonished to see that he had the complete collection of Doris Day's music on CD's in his house. Talk about eclectic.
----To be continued----
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