# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Flatmates - Part 15

  by Martin Whitehead

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Flatmates - Part 15


Chapter 28: Heaven Knows tour, autumn 1988 In October 1998 we played our first gigs with Jackie. From 14th - 28th October we had a tour of the UK booked, but a week before that started, on 7th Octo

Chapter 28: Heaven Knows tour, autumn 1988 In October 1998 we played our first gigs with Jackie. From 14th - 28th October we had a tour of the UK booked, but a week before that started, on 7th October, we played a warm up gig in Bournemouth at The Academy. Jackie caught the train from London to Bournemouth and we met her at the station. We took her equipment down in the van. Tim drove, but before we’d got out of Bristol he managed to put a dent in the van which ended up costing us what we were getting paid for the gig. Jackie’s first gig with us went well, although I’m sure there were one or two shouts of "where’s Sarah?". A week later we started the tour proper. We took the American band, Choo Choo Train (who later became Velvet Crush) with us on tour. Choo Choo Train had just released their first single for Subway and had recorded the follow up. They had to enter the country as tourists so we leant them our guitars and amps, which at least made soundchecking easier. Our agent managed to get every promoter to agree to take Choo Choo Train as the support band and got them £50 a gig which he took no commission for. We hired a 20 seater minibus rather than the usual transit van and had the back 2 rows of seats taken out to make space for equipment and luggage. We also leant Choo Choo Train the money to make up a batch of T-shirts which Paul Roberts sold on the tour along with our T-shirts. We knew they had had to scrape together the money for the air tickets so we helped them out in every way we could. We learned that since we’d last seen Paul he’d got involved in a spot of bother, so to speak. Every morning on his way to work he walked down the same streets and as he reached the end of the street helped himself to a pint of milk left sitting on the doorstep, which served as breakfast. One morning he helped himself to the milk and before he could pop his pint of silvertop, a bunch of the finest officers the Cheshire Constabulary could muster had leapt out on him, caught him pint in hand and snared him bang to rights. We all kept our dairy products under lock and key after learning that. If you were scripting a TV series you couldn’t have come up with the characters that made up the 4 members of Choo Choo Train. Drummer, Ric Menck, tall, skinny, neurotic and obsessive. Bassist and main vocalist Paul Chastain, small, laid back, and a talented mimic of accents. Darren Cooper (Big D. Coop), midwestern boy taking time out from practising guitar behind the check in desk of his folks motel, a mountain of a man who would carry Jackies’s speaker cabinet in one hand like it was a 1x12 practice amp, Paul could walk underneath his mike stand. Robb Moore, the other guitarist (Disco Bob, Wrong Way Robb), the anglophile and blond bobbed Pete Tork of Choo Choo Train, the only member of the tour to get lost walking the 10 yards from a public lavatory to the tourbus. The tour started in Middlesborough, ideally situated for a band from Bristol to kick off a tour in, Bristol being in the south west, Middlesborough being in the north east. We’d heard and loved Choo Choo Train’s records but when we saw them live it was breathtaking. It may be a massive generalisation but it also tends to be true, that whilst American bands when compared to their British contemporaries are often conservative and steeped in a rock tradition, they can bloody well play the pants off the Brits. Choo Choo Train were tight and could play, without being into musicianship for its own sake. Choo Choo Train played a form of melodic powerpop that owes a lot to the Raspberries, Badfinger, Cheap Trick and even The Beatles. In addition to their own songs they played covers of Iggy Pop’s ‘Pumpin’ For Jill’, The Beatles ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ and a nod to punk rock in the form of The Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’. On the first night of the tour the strap of the bass drum pedal broke halfway through Choo Choo Train’s set. The Flatmates played their set with Ric Menck crouching over the floor tom and beating out the bass drum rhythm all through our set. Despite initial teething troubles with the gear the 2 bands formed a mutual admiration society which lasted throughout the tour. The following morning we tracked down Middlesborough’s best, and possibly only, drum shop and purchased a new drum pedal. One that’s pedal was linked to its beater by a metal chain rather than leather strap and would stand up to the thrashing that Ric gave it every night. From Middlesborough we headed north to Edinburgh and crossed the border for the first of only 2 gigs we ever played in Scotland. As in Middlesborough we had to appeal from the stage for some kindly souls to look after Choo Choo Train for the night. We picked them up the next morning before heading to Glasgow and heard all about the girl students whose floor they had slept on. Darren having slept in the hallway had the best view of the traffic to and from the bathroom and was the last to leave his sleeping bag that morning. The conversation carried on all the way to Loch Lomond where we made one of our tourist breaks. From Glasgow the tour rolled on to York. It was on the way from Glasgow to York that we made a toilet break. Howard pulled the minibus up at the kerbside, where right on the edge of a park or playing field there was a public lavatory. Half a dozen of us ran in, and 5 of us came out and got straight back on the minibus. Robb came out last and instead of turning left out the door of the lavatories, turned right and walked for about 50 yards, much to the bemusement of everyone else on the bus. Finally he stopped and turned around to see a busload of people staring at him in utter disbelief. It was after this event that we discovered that Robb rarely ever wore his glasses, and it was in honour of this event that he was named "Wrong Way Robb" and described as "Discombobulated" giving way to the nickname "Disco Bob". After we played the gig in York we had a day off for which we stayed in York and spent half of the day looking for a launderette and doing our washing. From York we travelled on to Manchester University. In Manchester we stayed with a friend of mine who despite his academic brilliance was working as a cab driver in the city. I was fortunate enough to be offered the bed for the night, but took the precaution of sleeping in my sleeping bag on top of the bed. The others had to clear a space in the cigarette butts and beercans on the floor. In 150 gigs it was the dirtiest place we ever stayed. From Manchester we travelled back up to Newcastle. Joel had been experiencing some pain in his wrist and after the Newcastle gig it was giving everyone a lot of concern. We had a band conference in the minibus and decided on the way to the gig in Leicester that Joel should return to Bristol, rest for a few days and, assuming his wrist had recovered, rejoin the tour in Bristol. In the meantime Ric Menck would become an honorary member of The Flatmates. The gig at Leicester, or as it was known to the Americans on the tour "Lie-chester", was at the Princess Charlotte, a venue we’d played previously. The Princess Charlotte is an unassuming covered courtyard at the back of the pub, but one of the mainstays of the indie circuit. Ric had seen us play 6 times on the tour and had several of the records. We soundchecked with as much of the set as we could, and relying on a number of prompts Ric did a sterling job of standing in for Joel. There were one or two fluffed cues and the odd ragged ending, but over the following 3 nights at Sheffield, Birmingham and Norwich, much of these were ironed out and shortly the join became seamless. The one thing that was immediately apparent to me was the force that Ric hit the drums with. The air around the kit moved when he played. Having played with him it’s easy to see why he’s since got to play on records by the likes of Matthew Sweet and The Lilac Time.

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