Monday, 7th March 2005 in Road Trip U.K. 2005.
And on to Newark. We wonder what to do with the flowers. JJ suggests hanging them upside down so they will dry. Impractical to keep them in a jug of water. They add a little touch of femininity to what is fast becoming a male no-go area of blankets, beers, luggage, sweets and tobacco. An overcast day as we head down to the flatlands of Northamptonshire for the gig in Newark. This is fenland where the roads are higher than the surrounding fields -drained to make them agricultural. Fen land soil is dark brown and rich. We find the gig late having had difficulty finding the Travelodge. The roads are being resurfaced so every detour we take takes us frustratingly away from the motel which we can actually see. Eventually roll up to the gig to find the crew waiting at the door. All the gear is unpacked and set up in record time and the sound check is smoothly and professionally completed leaving Neil with time for forty winks. Slightly worried about his guitars. The ovation is still causing problems and the pick-up on the Taylor is misbehaving. Doesn’t seem to matter how many guitars he takes- it is never enough! To think Neil gigged for two months in the US last year with just the one guitar. He bought a piano he didn’t need as all the gigs had read the rider and provided one, but just one guitar. It was only when the guitar fell off the stand and detuned itself at B.B.Kings in New York that we realised how vunerable he was. The audience waited patiently as he tried to retune the guitar while telling one then two, then more of his short stories. Took ten minutes in the end. But Neil has nerves of iron and an endless supply of stories and the audience were brilliant. The only places I felt safe after that were gigs where there were guitar technicians or at places like McCabes in Los Angeles where there were not only technicians but a couple of hundred spare guitars as well.
Found out from the manager that only 28 had pre-booked but gradually about 120 people turn up. ‘They don’t like booking ahead in Newark’ says the manager ‘it happens with every show’. Some of Neil’s very loyal fans from years back come along, the first being Danny Barbour and his wife Janice. Danny runs a web site selling Neil’s CDs and he was instrumental in getting Recollections 1,2 and 3, off the ground. Samantha and Louise who ran the first fan club for Neil way back also turn up. As I set up the table at the various gigs I notice how many tribute bands are moving around the same circuits as Neil – Abbas, Stones, Creams, Jimi Hendrixes etc etc. Posters for Neil’s contemporaries – like Georgie Fame – always stress that they will be doing their old hit songs. Very difficult for someone like Neil who wants to move ahead in his writing but is always asked to do Bonzos, Python, Rutles etc etc. He does a lot of new songs in this show and has thankfully only had a few complaints about not doing enough of the old stuff. There was even one guy who said ‘Why does he seem to be afraid of doing Urban Spaceman.’!!!! He actually does do it, as an encore. A man who came with his wife, later told us that she had gone home feeling that it was like being at a club where she wasn’t a member. Obviously she knew nothing about the Bonzos or the Rutles so was surprised and isolated when the audience seemed to know all the words, understand all the references etc Wish she had been able to relax and enjoy it because the stories make it funny even if you have never heard of the bands. Thankfully most of the comments sent via e-mail are positive. After the gig Neil chats to Danny and the rest and then its back to the Travelodge.