Monday, December 20, 1999

Season's Greetings

Well, first I guess I owe you all an apology of sorts for a temporary lapse of reportage from this page over the last two months, but that would be totally out of character and I'm sure you're all by now aware that if I'd had something worthy of your attention, I'd have let you know.

Unbelievably, it's that time again, when the world goes into overdrive in a frenzy of guilt-ridden gift buying and seasonal swarming, preventing any sort of normal passage to and from the habits that support and comfort us through the other fifty-one weeks of the year, rendering people like me helplesss and cringing in a futile attempt to escape the maniacal fervour that seems to fuel the the entire season. Like Jack Nicholson's 'riddler' grin fixed, rigor mortis fashion, to cover the blatantly stressful foreplay to Christmas.....and this year's millennial New Year.

Now let's get this straight - next year will actually be the final year of the second thousand, because they didnít start counting with year zero. No, they started the whole thing at year one, so this brouhaha about upcoming New Year's Eve is just that....hype and tripe, because thereís another year to go before we technically enter the new era.

However we will buckle to popular pressure and drink the toast among you all, for fear of being seen as luddites and flat-earthers amidst a sea of bacchanalian revelry and wild gratuitous sex that will no doubt prevail on the appointed evening. I donít know which comes first, but weíll just have to wait and see how they do it in Dallas, Texas, since that's where we are performing this time around, along with the Pointer Sisters, among others, including some circus act (which may well turn out to be the pointed sisters, for all we know)

All I've seen of the 'holiday spirit' so far, however, is road-rage and competitive hustle to gain THAT parking space, or THIS shirt with the totem (last one in XXL, sir) and THOSE shoes for New know, the ones with the lizard tongue and the rhinoceros-scrotum uppers, when the guy that's really got it together is the wee fella' with the bald head and the saffron robe sitting crosslegged in the foyer chanting his mantra away all to himself, and anyone who has a spare nanosecond to listen, never mind make a donation to the spiritual tribes that sent him here in the first place on a fool's errand of timing and placement.

So, friends, be kind and patient and not pass him, or his buddy outside with the bell and the Starvation Army hat trying to gather a meagre pittance for the less fortunate among our fellows - you know, the ones who made a botch of their first year in day-trading and the legions who lost it all at the roulette table, for theirs is a world of self-loathing and furious recrimination that can only be assuaged by your personal donation. As for the poor and the needy........let them Cut Cake!

On a sad note going into this annual hullabaloo, I have to report the death of Jeannie Duncan, wife of Mollie, our original venerated sax player and pal who now lives in Majorca, Spain. Our heartfelt wishes go out to him and son Dan for this very unfair loss. She was someone who has been around this extended global 'family' since before the white band even started, and we all shared the best and craziest of times together. Mollie and Dan, however, are currently working on a recording project together which they hope to release in the new year and which, word has it, is sounding very good indeed, so there's hope and inspiration to balance their sadness.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to give my personal benediction to all who have helped make 1999 probably the most successful of our 'second-time-around' career in this business of show. Who could have imagined that we'd be included in two hit movies - "Bowfinger" and "Blue Streak" - plus a national car commercial in the United States, as well as having our first major-label record release in thousands of years with "Face To Face.....Live" being distributed by EMI Capitol back in August.

Quite apart from those lucky strikes, this has been the best touring year since the seventies and our heyday, not just because we managed to visit even more of the Globe than usual, but because audiences everywhere have been responsive beyond belief, and generous with their praise when we meet people after the show at the merchandise stall; this seems to have become a popular post-coital event that makes our evening as well, obviously, as yours. Thanks to you all, chums, for being a part of our re-surgence (and for willingly being part of a CIA experiment to see if we could still brainwash the general public into parting with its hard-earned pocket money).

Well, it remains only for me to relay the best of holiday wishes from everyone in the band......Onnie, Eliot, Fred, Adam and myself, and also from Matt, Phil and Ezrah (our doughty crew) who hope that you will find us somewhere in your neck of the woods next year, and, having survived whatever Y2K is going to throw at you, will be ready to join us in something WaY2funK for words, and Y not I say, when our continuing motto has always been that most positive of ancient Latin sayings, "Nil te illegitimae carborundum"..........roughly translated as "Don't let the bastards grind you down!"

Happy holidays to one and all, and may Santa fill your sheer nylon stockings with untold goodies.


Wednesday, September 22, 1999

Road Warriors' Guardian Angel Busy Again

At about four thirty yesterday afternoon, just off to the side of I-70 about three miles west of the Eisenhower Tunnel right on the roof of the Rocky Mountains, and aboard a very seriously broken down bus (whose brakes had failed, and with a six-mile downhill gradient facing us) and with the first snow of a coming winter starting to swirl about, things did not look at all good for us, starting out for San Diego on a run that would take us all the way through the Rockies, and then the canyons of the Colorado River, and finally all the way across the Mojave Desert. We had only done sixty-odd miles of a one thousand, one hundred - mile total, and here we were with all our cellphones getting no signal, and awfully, awfully stranded and vulnerable, as huge semi - articulated trucks thundered past us on their downhill runs, each one swaying our parked home - on - wheels sickeningly as they went, and nothing but two bits of 'fallen rock' under our wheels to keep us from hurtling on downwards into eternity.

Thank the Big Yin for falling rocks, I say, for without them we were surely doomed to suffer a very scary ride before careening off the highway into the void below. However, just as we were starting to recall bits of Piers Paul Read's book, "Alive", and tales of the Donner Party were filtering into everyone's psyche, a freak cloud clearance gave me a weak radio signal that allowed us to call an emergency dispatch centre, who in turn sent a Highway Patrol car to our rescue. Never have so many hooligans been so happy to see a policeman in their lives, as by now it was growing dark, and the snow was becoming a soon-to-be serious issue as well.

A good natured and thoroughly helpful chap he turned out to be, too, and in what seemed comparatively no time, he had a giant tow truck summoned from Denver to take our ailing vehicle off the mountain, and a warm passenger van en route to similarly rescue its weary, wary occupants. Meanwhile he had lent Matt, our fearless tour manager his own warm car to dial up all the hotels he could, in that city (all sold out due to a massive convention - except one - the most convenient and comfortable one for us, that miraculously had just five rooms suddenly open up due to late cancellations). I think Matt enjoyed his little power play from the cop car, for when I went up and lent in the window, pushing a pen towards him and intoning, "would you mind blowing into this, sir.." he immediately adopted a very stern and believable manner, and replied, "step away from the vehicle, sir" and followed it up with the classic TV drama words, "and kindly remove your hands, slowly, from your pockets!" Of course, by now the cop was pissing himself, and I think was totally pleased to be able to take part in our rescue.......we were his first band, I think, although he says they have several of these rescues every week up there.

As if all these 'lucky' coincidences weren't enough, we then heard from the driver who took us the sixty miles back to the hotel, that had we been five minutes later in getting through to his dispatcher, there would have been no more drivers on duty, and heaven knows what then could have happened to the chilled bodies of the average white (now a bit blue) men. Hence my 'guardian angel' headline to this piece - that's twice now in three months, if you recall the Memphis rescue on the fourth of July.

I think we have to review certain procedures thoroughly, as we're pushing our luck with that overworked heavenly intervenor, and I wouldn't want to test our fortunes a third time, any time soon. We shall set off in a few hours, in a brand new vehicle, currently speeding toward us across the plains from Kansas City, and we will surely achieve the fastest load-up known to man, as we have a scant eighteen hours to make the journey to the coast, so will take turns to sit up through the night, and day with our driver, chatting away about anything and nothing in particular, as that is the best way to keep someone from the eventual fatigue and loss of focus that inevitably sets in after about six or seven hundred miles of constant forward motion. So, you see, truth is...

How to be a successful musician........1) learn damage control 2) never 'diss' your band members or crew - your life may depend on them 3) know how to ingratiate yourself with fire, police and ambulance people, not to mention hotel managers and breakdown mechanics 4) NEVER leave the whisky on the bus if you are forced to abandon ship 5) NEVER start a journey without said refreshment in the first place - there are no St. Bernard dogs in the Rockies,
6) be at all times totally, totally positive that you're going to surmount ANY situation, and you surely will, and 7).....oh, yes - it might be an idea to learn an instrument, too.

Have fun, but, you know what.........don't try this at home. For a quiet life, see my forthcoming book about the Music business, tentatively entitled, "1001 Much Easier Ways To Earn a Living" - Part one: rocket science and brain surgery.

See you all on the other side of The Great Divide.


Thursday, July 29, 1999

A White Thang

Well, here we are at the end of the tunnel, with just two dates left before we split up and scatter in a bunch for our summer break. Surely the Gods are telling us it's time after last night's experience at Chester, Virginia, where we got blown away half way through the set, as a windgust of frightening proportions descended from a gathering thunderstorm and took out Adam's drumkit, the mikes that surround it, the roof over the mixing desk (with Phil surrounded by punters trying to hold it down by the stanchions) and an ominous, deafening roar that I really thought was the onset of a tornado. Very scary indeed, and then the lightning started, followed by the inevitable rain etc., but what was incredible was that, with all this going on, some woman backstage came up to me and said, and I quote.."Why don't you go back on - the lightning's finished..." I can only assume she's been sruck directly a few times, and has therefore incurred the lack of cerebral functioning that often ensues such trauma. People are amazing!

I suppose it had to happen eventually, but really we have been incredibly lucky over the years, never having had a rain-out, or cancellation (before last night) due to weather - and we do plenty of outdoor concerts each year. Actually, now that I start to think about it, a funny 'Python-esque' scenario springs to mind.....Adam staggering off with a crash cymbal embedded in his neck, Phil disappearing aloft tethered to the remains of his tent roof...feet flailing, and the rest of us fried where we stand (in a puddle onstage), our hair vertically 'charged' in best Don King style....... Yes, madam, the lightning may well be 'finished' for you, but for the rest of us...........

For those of you who tune in - or should I say log on - to this almost-monthly ramble, from Britain, it may be hard to understand American weather in the months of July and August, and just what it is that everybody's going on about. I mean, you will know that by now some 120 or more people have died from heat this week, and storms have done for many more (and their belongings)..but yet, it doesn't quite seem real from that distance, given that "storms" around the UK are cold nasty windy things that blow your toupee off in winter, not summer, and surely, you must think, hype and exaggeration of the usual American TV-ad. style are at work here. Let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. You see, first, it's a great big motherf...... country - about 3,000 miles to the next bit of seaside, if you stand in New York and face west, and there's this huge steamer thingy that starts at the Gulf of Mexico and blows all this hot, hot air up the middle, and then it starts to see Canada, goes "f*#* that",turns around and wants to go east, toward civilisation and therefore New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, etc., etc., and, since it's got so far to go before getting to the seaside to get cooled off, it just keeps getting hotter and hotter daily, until it becomes one giant, explosive mass of unstable energy that simply has to vent its wrath on anyone who happens to be in its snarling, ugly path. Think of a drunk Scottish hooligan kept for a few days in an ever-warming sauna, only the alcohol is also continually topped up, too, and you might get the picture.

Now, however, we can rest our weary bus for a month or so, before resuming our rambling habits again in September. It's really been a super tour, and we have played to a lot of happy people, who have gone and told other people (who might not have been so happy, but will be when they come to the next one), and the reactions around the nation have been....well, stunning. It really is amazing to think that, after all these years, you never get jaded or tired of watching the slow, inexorable spread of wonder and pleasure on the faces of the hitherto sceptical and infidel. There's always the guy (yes, it's always a male - or two) who stands front and centre - usually a BIG guy - who wants to stare you down, and who will spend the first few tunes with his arms folded, and his jaw set in a defiant "come on then, see if you can impress ME" stance. Like the midget said, just before the nut in the bollocks, the bigger they come..........................

Fortunately, these are a tiny minority these days, but even they end up covered from head to toe in happy-happy-joy-joy, as Ren would say to Stimpy. Perhaps Shakespeare put it best when he wrote that....."Music hath charms, they say, to soothe the savage breast....." Well, certainly some music, and boy, do we see some savage breasts in our travels. Why just the other day - well, perhaps another time.............

What will we do with ourselves, you ask - well we won't be ringing each other up daily to see if we can all go to dinner together, and we will probably learn again how to do something for, and by ourselves, without having six or seven other opinions on just how it might have been done better, quicker, easier, different - I mean simple stuff, like......dressing, tying laces, feeding your face, ordering dinner, buying a paper, or going to the loo. Seriously, though (and we try not to be), it's a Looooove thing with us - I mean, we rib each other mercilessly and never resist an opportunity to mess with each other's shit, but it's never, ever with malice or disrespect. One merely finds it easier to deal with this itinerant busker's life if one can, sort of, adjust the circumstances for one's fellow-travellers a bit, lest boredom, fatigue, or disinterest set in, and then stagnation would surely follow. Only last night, after setting off on our usual overnight ride, we who were in the front lounge noticed an absence of a certain 'presence', and that absent presence, we realised, was none other than Onnie. On looking up the corridor, I noticed that his bunk was curtained tightly, meaning he was in bed, nighty-night, tucked up, and not joining the nightly post-mortem drinky-poos. "Ah," said Eliot, "it's only a matter of time before the sweaty foot pokes out from the curtain....." at which point, the drapes parted and McIntyre - fully clothed - swung himself out of his bunk, and straight across into the loo in one ballet-like jetee, much to the surprise of one and all. All at once, like a swarm of ants going into cohesive and coordinated endeavour without ANY visible signal or sound, his bunk was filled with: a case of Heineken, two pairs of shoes, a waste basket, and whatever sundry other things that came instantly to hand in a five-second burst. Now, even the army would admit that it's a certain kind of empathy that causes such spontaneous military action, and I use this little tale merely to illustrate the warmth, love, and understanding we have for each other. Needless to say, Onnie might not have felt the full glow of that 'love' as he parted his curtains in his bleary-eyed attempt to regain the sanctuary of his cosy bunk. In fact, as shoes, waste basket and other items came hurtling down the bus, I fear he may have missed the point entirely, now that I come to think of it. Ah, well, such is life in the Queen's own regular Average White Band. I think you'll agree, however, that we do indeed deserve a break, before gibbering lunacy sets in, and we start losing men one by one, like shipwrecked sailors on a shrinking desert island, whose food and time have all run out. As the song says, -See you in September.


Thursday, July 1, 1999

White Page Bulletin

It's amazing the things one discovers out here on Life's great highway. Had we not, for instance, stopped at this particular hotel in Indianapolis and had I not had time to kill (or at least maim horribly), I would not now know how to survive a hotel fire - in five different languages. I mean, who publishes these things?.........are these professional hacks who have fallen on hard times, or former pulitzer prizewinners who enjoy knocking out the odd macabre pamphlet and then travel round the country checking to see how many hotels have their gripping little piece of lifesaving literature waiting for the next potential "victim" to check in, and, having nothing else to read, pick up before retiring to bed, only to be then plagued with nightmares involving wet towels, alarm bells, forgetting how many exits, being unable to get the words (and I quote here) "Fire, Fire" out of their soundless mouths.......... The mind boggles.

Looking back on the first quarter of the summer tour, we seem to be blessed with good fortune, great gigs - one, in particular, at the Hampton Jazz Festival last Saturday was a bit of a triumph all round and we were able to meet a lot of the audience next day and bask in their acclaim and general bonhomie - and a fairly seamless transition from Catfish, on drums, who is moving to Los Angeles with his wife and young family, to young Adam Deitch from Boston's Berklee music school, who is stirring up audiences already with his fiery groove, and his appealing personality. This has never been an easy gig for any but the best of drummers, but Adam stepped into the first one without any rehearsal and had almost all of it down solid. To say he was nervous on that first gig would be an understatement. He flopped down on the dressing room couch for about four minutes of congratulatory babble from the rest of us, then got up to grab a soda from the ice bucket, leaving behind him - and we have a photo to prove it - a complete "shadow" of himself in sweat! He still sweats, all right, but no longer from the nervous energy of that very first night - it's a kinder, gentler sweat, generated by funk, not fear. Otherwise, things seem to be fairly quiet out here in the Midwest and that's just fine by us. Nobody needs the thrill-a-minute stuff while touring, save for the actual performances themselves, as it's always hazardous enough travelling around with lots of night driving and the nutcase factor that seems to pervade so many road users the minute they assume control (I use the term loosely) of an automobile.

I think the word "point" would be more apt than "drive" in describing the haphazard and downright negligent use of vehicular transport that we see daily - you know, the left arm hanging out the window, the other arm straight in front with the wrist dangling over the top of the steering wheel, barely making any kind of contact whatsoever with that particular organ of captaincy - one good bump, and they're all over the place, usually right in front of our coach which is basically a four-ton projectile hurtling along behind them (they don't know - the mirror's just for checking the 'do') with a stopping range of about half a mile. Kind of like an ocean liner trying to heave-to for an errant rowing boat. Anyway, we keep our fingers crossed for Divine protection through the rest of our travels. Think of it as a kind of quid pro quo spiritual insurance policy ("Almighty Insurance Inc"?) where the premium is a whole lotta' good vibes and musical input, and in return we get a maximum-coverage heavenly policy to speed us safe on our way. It all helps ease the mind when you crawl into your bunk of a night.

We are now set to undertake the most arduous section of the tour, and possibly the most rewarding, too, with first Milwaukee's Summerfest, then New Orleans' Essence Festival, and thirdly Memphis's Fourth of July celebrations coming up one after another. We will also cover two thousand miles in the completion of those events, and all in the next four days! Yikes.......maybe I should have stuck in at school and become an accountant. Nah, it'd never work, would it.......I mean, who in the world needs a singing accountant, regaling his clients with chanted variations of their tax return, or an arithmetical aria for an expense account topped off with, for an encore, a soulful spreadsheet........ Let's not go there.

Sorry, I digress. That's what the endless flatlands of Indiana will do to you - where there is nothing, the mind must fill in the blanks, and so mine tends to wander to the horizons of the ridiculous - and there is plenty of fodder for that, let me assure you. Just last night the hotel concierge was telling me about a decommisioned army base which had been turned into a large new golf course. He went on to say that it was "real interesting place, where you get to play around all kinds of things........" At that point my mind went a-wandering to this vision of attempting to thread a skilful nine iron onto the green, avoiding the tank-trap which has snagged so many of today's competitors, and I could just hear Peter Allis' voice saying, "Oh, dear he won't be happy with that one; the last chap who went into that bunker came up with six months' rations of tinned food and a glowing sandwedge......"

Lastly, a bulletin: Fred's doing quite well after his thermal brush with disaster, and has been taken off the critical list and is now in stable condition. You see, in the quest of a solution for the eternal dilemma of keeping stage clothes in presentable condition, Fred (our resident Einstein) decided that a portable steamer would be the answer, and so had a friend of ours in DC take him to a nearby mall. As a result the events unfolded thus: Fred buys steamer, Fred LOVES steamer, and talks about steamer daily..........Fred wonders, just as he's about to go onstage, if, in the interest of speed and elegance, Fred could use steamer while pants are on. As I say, his knee is doing fine, now.

Trouble is, this same friend wants to take ME golfing, next time.

Maybe that army base.........................................?


Thursday, June 3, 1999


Now that the dust has settled from the British tour, the Philly and New Haven dates immediately prior, and of course the Tokyo turnout, it is time to assess the results and review the audiences one by one, and maybe give you all term grades for a) enthusiasm, b) attendance, and c) generosity at the merchandise table.

Well, taking the last first, it would seem that the New World wins hands down with their unmatched speed at putting hands in pockets and fetching out wads of green folding stuff in return for all the offered souvenirs - CDs, posters, T-shirts, caps, ball gowns, odd socks, and used underwear (signed, or soiled by the band, of course). Japanese souvenir-seekers were a close second, and we came back from there with a bare minimum of supplies to take to no. three...........England, where the paucity of charitable spirit in the merchandise department is in no danger of being challenged around the globe. Yes, folks, once again "South Britain" redefines the term stingy, the further South, the stingier with the almighty pound.

However, that was more than offset in the first category, when the strength of the reaction to the gigs, the new additions to the set (and to the band) were wholeheartedly endorsed by all whom we met, and who wrote to the website with their various critiques and compliments. Thanks, makes it all worthwhile to know that you're digging what we're doing, and that, just sometimes, we seem to get it right for you. Phew!!! Philly and New Haven were revelatory nights, too, with packed houses for the two-band show with Tower of Power, and the sweat, especially at Toads in New Haven, was collecting in pools all over the place. Shouldn't be surprised if there's a sudden outbreak of malarial mosquitoes with all that standing water about, and, hey Toads...... how about cleaning that place someday, or is there an official mandate that decrees all clubs be stinky, dirty, and imbued with the subtle fragrance of a decade of stale beer and human lather? (actually, Jazz Cafe can heed that too)

As for attendance, well the Western civilisations are going to pass the year with no problems - you were all in your seats (or on the floor) in the UK and the USA, but our Oriental students may have to repeat the year on that score, though we did find that we were there during "Golden Week" (a national holiday) so I suppose that, and the fact that we hadn't been there for four or so years, had some definite impact on the overall numbers. Still, the enthusiasm was there, and once Catfish and Matt, our tour manager, had visited a couple of other clubs to spread the word, everything picked up for the end of the week and we were rockin' by then. All things considered, it's been a very enjoyable and fulfilling month out there on the high seas, even if not all plain sailing - but what do you expect doing this as a way of life?..............Grief, mate, I'll tell you - and if you don't get much, then you're dead lucky. So far we seem to have had our share of the good side of that particular caprice, and long may it continue.

Now we begin the HOT work of the year, beginning Saturday in Dallas, at the Tom Joyner Festival down there at the Starplex amphitheatre - I spoke to radio just this morning, and they warned us that it would be 95 degrees (F) for us this weekend. I may be reduced to a blob of pink foam by the end of that one, so do be kind and sweep me up, put me in the fridge to cool off, and then reshape into a bass player for continuing hours of use and abuse through the rest of the summer. A summer which, incidentally, takes us to the Essence Magazine Festival in New Orleans, The Hampton Jazz Festival in coastal Virginia, the Milwaukee Summerfest in - yes, you've guessed it, and several other riverfests, waterfests, including a Memphis Soul "Stew" on the fourth of July, and otherfests of various size and sort to keep us continually enlightened and amazed at the never-ending permutations of human leisure activity under the summer sun. Hot Fun In The Summertime, was how Sly and The Family Stone put it, and hot fun is what we intend to have on this next cruise. Shorts have been cleaned, sandals dusted off, parasols repaired and at the ready, and air-cooled underwear brought out of cold (excuse the pun) storage to better ease the heat resistance. No doubt hotel pools will now be open, and a fine array of swimming and diving skills will be on display from the AWB Aquatic Team (we specialise in synchronised sinking) and we will try our best not to frighten the children and intimidate the parents with our ribald cries and blood-curdling waterfowl imitations while playing our own particular brand of Marco Polo, or Marco Pierre White (the well known English Chef) as we prefer to ridicule it.

All in all a cornucopia of Cancerian carnival connections coming up, and we are looking forward mightily to seeing you all again out there with limbs bared (Phowar), and other parts scantily enough clad (..ladies) to reduce us to quivering wrecks for the next six weeks. See you round the back of the bike sheds, then.

Seriously, come and meet and greet by the souvenir stall and we'll do our best to sign all your bits & pieces, and don't forget to clap on "two" and "four" while we're up there on stage (Nancy Reagan can ignore that of course). See you at the soda fountain..........mine's a KnockerBacker Glory, with a splash of Macallan!!


Thursday, April 29, 1999


Goziamas, and Stomu Yamashta from the ancient Samurai village of Edo, now probably better known to you all as Tokyo, the venture capital of this thronging island nation just off the coast of Asia, where w.o.r.k. is the religion of the masses and p.l.a.y. is a dirty four - letter word, unless when used to describe what we are here to do by way of amusing the locals in their nocturnal hours of need. And what needs they have.

This may be the only place on Earth where you can see four well - dressed businessmen, who were earnestly and vociferously discussing some very important matter relating to the day's business, suddenly all rise from the table and proceed to perform what I can only describe as a "starburst" of synchronised falling backwards on their arses, due to copious amounts of alcohol having reached the parts of their beings which control all large motor activities, then pick themselves up in ragged fashion and proceed to continue the addled ritual of bowing and making all the proper motions of necessary Japanese protocol in ending an evening with each other, before bouncing their separate ways into the night. Fascinating culture, and all due to the quest to relieve the six - letter word, s.t.r.e.s.s, which seems to be their other accompaniing deity permanently attached to the first one we mentioned.

No matter, a liberal dose of funk n' soul seems to work wonders too, and we have been getting a warm and wonderful reception to our particular brand here at the new "Sweet Basil" club in the heart of Roppongi, which is the equivalent of London's West End, or New York's Times Square, or maybe Sydney's King's Cross even. Feel free to add your own local analogies to this short list of examples, and submit them to me personally, written on
crisp new banknotes - only one entry per note, please - but make as many entries as you feel necessary. All will be treated in the strictest confidence, reserved usually for the accused and his lawyer, or the sinner and his confessor - after all, we wouldn't want people to know that you're all so rich (or so bored and friendless) that you'd be spending your time and money on things such as this, now - would we?

Which brings me to the subject of our next adventure after this Oriental week of noodles, rice, and raw fish n' chips. Pretty soon we'll be on that long flight back to the land of the setting sun (I refer to the Americas) for a brief "hit" in Philadelphia, and New Haven, where we get a chance to trade war tales with our buddies Tower Of Power for two nights, before getting the next available intercontinental airbus for England, and some throbbing nights in
London (four), Manchester, and Birmingham (six there). I think the guys were a bit taken aback by the tightly - packed itinerary at first, but the thought of all those frequent-flyer miles going virtually round the globe had them all salivating into their cocktails..........or in Fred's case, his lemonade. (As you are no doubt aware, we do this strictly and purely for the love of music and the joy of travel..............and pigs can, in fact fly) However, since Heathrow doesn't as yet allow our porky little friends, unless as rashers of bacon in the terminal caff, we won't be flying any over with us.

So do come and visit us at the Jazz Cafe in London, or Ronnie Scotts in Birming-ham, or the Band-On-The-Wall in Manchester (where we even get a night off to play cards or read) and we guarantee to play some new and different things from last visit, and hopefully you'll furnish us in return with some new jokes or other tokens of appreciation in lieu of the filthy lucre which only the young and greedy, or the old and over-knighted accept for this vocational endeavour. Yes, we really DO do this for you - and to keep fit. Otherwise, we'd be pub - owners, or food critics, run a young ladies' finishing school, be film censors, or something absolutely riveting such as that, and obviously be thoroughly over - weight and underachieved.

Still, there's always that option if YOU don't show up.................................................

Sayonara from the East
(To be continued some time soon)


Saturday, March 20, 1999


Spring is sprung at last, although we got an early sampler down in the bayou country last week which ill-prepared us for the return to winter on our arrival back up north. After a few days in deepest Louisiana, assisting the honest denizens of Baton Rouge to celebrate their 300th birthday (well, the city's tricentennial anyway - none of them looked that old frankly, though a steady, heady diet of file gumbo etoufee and jambalaya could possibly prolong life beyond our accepted northern norms) we were becoming suitably laid back, and humid with it.

The Saturday skies were clear and blue and we were all cursing our lack of foresight in having neglected to bring shorts with us - not that we'd have performed in them, although some of us have fairly kilt-worthy legs, you know; but then there's Fred..................... Anyway we had about 25,000 singin' dancin' fools in front of us by the banks of the Mississippi River, in full carnival mood. WAR played immediately before us, and got the whole place swaying to their groove which set the stage for us to go on and be as funky as we wanted to - and with Gap Band., and Kool and The Gang to follow, we had to be some kinda' funky to please this crowd.

It's occasions like this that make one glad to have some powerful items on the menu, and once again Schoolboy Crush, Pieces, I'm The One, and A Love Of Your Own proved to be everyone's favourites, dropped on the plate at exactly the right moments.

Thanks to Phil who pulled the sound together without the benefit of any warm-up or preamble from us - I sometimes think he just sticks a wet finger in the air and lets his instincts do the rest - the quality left nothing to be desired, either. Oh, and talking of instincts, he had to use all his native ones the next evening when he walked to the corner store for some cigarettes, and a local punk suggested that Phil should make a voluntary monetary contribution to his cause. Our boy, in true generous Brooklyn form, begged to differ, when the guy suddenly decided to up the ante by telling Phil that he was ready to enforce his demands with the knife he was carrying. Without missing a beat, Phil drew himself up to his full 5'4" and as casual as you like replied, "Oh, really...........a knife, eh?...... well, that's tough 'cos I gotta gun!!"

End of Mexican standoff, and proof positive that imaginary gun beats imaginary knife any day. As I said in the last bulletin, you can't make this s*** up.

Life imitates farce.

So we moved on into New Orleans for our annual visit to the famous House Of Blues, and another heaving, sold-out-an'-sweaty show there. They decided to can the opening act on the night, so we really got a chance to stretch, and play for a good couple of hours which afforded us the chance to air just about all the tunes we love to play - even some we had almost forgotten, it's been so long since we played them. Anyway, we needn't have worried with the crowd we had there. As we were going over "If I ever Lose This Heaven" (badly) at the afternoon rehearsal, we kind of ground to a halt feeling that all was just not right with the feel, or the tempo, or something, and said let's not do this one tonight, when the house's monitor engineer came onstage and said, "Man, y'all could do that mother****** any tempo you like, an' they gonna give it up to y'all. Now, come ON!!" Needless to say it was brilliant on the night, and the entire audience sang the 'mother' for us, too.

The only downside to the whole visit was having to go straight from there to the airport for a dawn flight back to New York, which we were literally poured on to, and which went via Memphis for a stop en route. I don't think anyone was even aware of takeoff, and the first thing I knew, we were parked on the tarmac in Memphis on what appeared to me to now be a completely empty plane. As I looked around, however, there were the seven other, barely-visible, snoring heads of our sleepy gang, and one cleaner furiously doing his thing before the new arrivals came aboard in all their disgustingly bubbly, bright-eyed, bushy tailed clamour to remind us of the fact that, no matter how much WE stick our heads in the sand, reality is an ugly business that can suck you into its turgid grasp the minute you're not vigilant............and it's all around!

Still, it could be much worse. Just imagine, all those businessmen that have to do that day in, day out, wrestling with each other to fill the overhead bins with their overstuffed garment bags, then vying for the last remaining ounce of elbow room to outdo each other for laptop computer endurance tests the minute the doors are closed, pausing only to breathe occasionally or eye the flight attendants (should they be under fifty - a sight seldom seen anymore in the USA) and of course to siphon the drinks trolley as soon as it's within three rows of wherever they might be. We simply carry our own.

Till next time,

Au Reservoir, Dogs.

Sunday, February 28, 1999


Fellow funkarians,

How is the winter of our discotheque?, as Shakespear never said. I feel that Spring is about to be sprung on us at any moment, and may have already for you, depending on which climate you live in. For those of you living at the foot of Kilimanjaro, you can ignore all of this completely, and for the rest of you, it's what someone who has little to say fills up an entire paragraph with in the absence of matters of real import and excitement.

Actually I did have some excitement last week, but I've forgotten what it was now that excited me. Oh, YES!! It was our little trip to Washington DC to take part in our friend Tom Joyner's morning radio show. This is one of those incredible American phenomena that could never happen anywhere else on earth, except maybe Mombasa or Maputu for a free food giveaway.

Imagine, if you will, arriving at a theatre at four forty five (Yes, 4.45) in the cold dark morning, to find people lined up around the block for this once-weekly live on-location radio show, which seems to be a loose mix of a gospel meeting, an interactive talk (and scream) show, and then add a guest Soul artist - last week us, this week James Brown, and so on - and you start to get a picture of what it's like to be a part of this extravaganza.

As the curtain went up (at 6am) and the entire cast, and Tom, and us went forward to the front of the stage, while twelve hundred people went out of their tiny minds, I said to Fred, "can you imagine this in Leeds?" He lost it completely, needless to say. AND we stayed at the Mayflower Hotel, where just two weeks previously the one and only Monica Lewinsky (I guess everyone has heard of her??) was esconced for her little chat with the US version of the Spanish Inquisition. Although no finger nails were pulled, nor thumbs screwed in the ceasless quest for someone's idea of the truth, it nevertheless needed Monica to appear in front of all those salivating old Southern Republican (read American version of an arch-Tory) congressmen, and it was the Mayflower that it happened in. No, I didn't get the room she stayed in - mine was FAR nicer.

Elsewhere, things were much as normal, and we've now confirmed our two week visit to England in May, following on the heels of our Japan trip. We should either have blistering jet-lag, or invincible stamina by the time we get there, as we will have done 12 shows in Japan, and then, having returned to New York to pick up some clean underwear and some fresh guitar and sax polish, we'll set off across the Atlantic for our UK pals and eighteen sets in fourteen days. Suckers for punishment, you might well say, and you would be one hundred percent right. Still, it's the only way to get to so many people in a short space of time, unless you all can persuade the Royal Albert hall, and the NEC to book us for 2 nights each.

We were in the studio last week, putting the finishing touches to the Japanese, and so the British version, of "Face To Face", with a live version of "Let's Go Round Again" which Phil, our intrepid engineer mixed and edited on to the existing American version, which I believe debuts on July 1st on the EMI/Capitol label. Obviously, since "Let's Go Round" was such a hit in the UK and Japan (and was again last year in Britain, by Louise) it makes much more sense to have it on those issues rather than in the States, where hardly anyone knows the tune - except, that is, those of you who go out of your way to explore some of our different foreign issues.

On Friday we will set off down South for a trio of dates, including the Bonne Fete 300 - Baton Rouge's celebration of its tricentennial - and our home-from-home in New Orleans, The House Of Blues. We open with a show at Sam's Town, outside Memphis, on Friday, with our old pals WAR. They looked great when I saw them at Phoenix last October, so we're really looking forward to that, as we've had some terrific shows together over the years. Working in tandem with people like them and our other good mates, Tower Of Power, is such a gas, as it takes all the pressure off any one of us to "do it all", but gives fans such a broad range of soul and R&B performance in one sitting. The only problem we've had, though, when all three of us played together was best illustrated at Phoenix last year. The giant marquee that graces the car park of the Celebrity Theatre had run out of 'W's, and so as we drove by at nine in the morning, after an all - night drive from Santa Fe, New Mexico, we were greeted with the sight of..



You can't make this stuff up!

More news after the next cool, and stay funky.


Tuesday, February 2, 1999


Subject: London Diary

Date: Fri, 2 Feb 1999

From: Freddy V

Upon returning home this past week, and catching up with all my e-mail correspondence (including several offers to earn millions of dollars while never leaving my house, and invitations to check out some "Hot Chix"), I have noticed a number of requests (O.K., I think there were 2, but that's a number isn't it?) for me to write a bit about the musical portion of my recent holiday in the UK.

There's not much I can say about Hamish's gig that hasn't been said by Mark or Chris. In the 3 years I've been with AWB, I've heard Alan and Onnie tell me many times what a great soul singer Hamish was. I've also been reading Mark and Chris' reviews of Hamish's 606 gigs for the past year, so I had to see for myself if all of it was true. I was not disappointed. It was a great night of soul music. The man sounds better than I remember, and hearing a great band like Hamish's in an intimate club is always real pleasure. I almost didn't mind the feedback, the uncomfortable chairs and that, for some reason, they didn't serve Coke or Pepsi (what kind of bar doesn't serve cola?).

My second musical treat of my holiday was the chance to play with Jim Mullen, one of the U.K.'s best jazz guitarists. Jim was an original member of "Kokomo," another Scottish soul/R&B band that got its start in the 70's. Jim & I had met backstage a couple of years ago at my first AWB gig in London where we immediately began arguing about music. Jim is very passionate man (he is Scottish, after all), and is not afraid to express his opinions about music or anything else. I've been a fan of his funk/R&B playing with saxophonist Dick Morrissey for years, so I was looking forward to the chance to play with him in a little impromptu jam, along with London pianist Mike Gorman.

Since there was no rehearsing, and none of us had ever played together before, we found some common ground in soul/jazz standards like "Put It Where You Want It" and "Cantaloupe Island" and R&B chestnuts like "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "Boogie On Reggae Woman." Folks don't get to hear Jim play much other than straight-ahead jazz lately, so there were quite a few people to see the jjam. Jim is a very fiery player who means every note, and it was extremely inspiring to play with him. The evening's festivities were taken up a step when Jim invited his old Kokomo bandmate, keyboardist/vocalist, Tony O'Malley to sing a couple of tunes. I felt so comfortable it was as if I had been playing with these guys for years.

After the set, Jim and I had a chance to hang out and talk about music. Jim and Kokomo toured with AWB in the 70's, and we shared some road stories, as well as Jim's recollections of working with Robbie Macintosh, the late AWB drummer, with whom Jim had played in Brian Auger's band.

I had a great time playing with Jim, and the two of us talked about the possibility of getting together again and doing a real gig when AWB tours the U. K this spring. We'd get a chance to play some of the old Mullen/Morrissey arrangements, and that would certainly be a thrill for me.

Thanks to all the fans and friends who made that evening so enjoyable. I hope to see you all again the next time AWB comes over to the U.K.


Saturday, January 30, 1999


I suppose there may be some of you who are moved to wonder what, if anything, is going on with the intricate web that is the day to day life of the band, and, more specifically, why almost nothing has been heard from them since the end of the English (and a wee bit of Welsh Wales) tour last December. Well, you're probably right.

The answer is.....................nothing!!!

I am sitting here in my winter lair looking over a chilled New England landscape, counting squirrels, deer and other wild beasts who have to spend their miserable unquestioning lives scrambling for scraps of food and vying for nooks and crannies of shelter.......... sounds uncannily like musicians, actually. No, this is a time of rest from the road - a time to recharge the creative batteries in the hope that some glimmer of an original idea will somehow attach itself to a part of the brain which will allow for germination, fertilisation, and then maybe fruition - in short, write a song again!

I know Eliot has been hard at work developing some of his new ideas and he is revelling in playing with his new keyboard which we're all going to see (and touch, and fondle) next week at rehearsals, our first of the year. This will serve two useful purposes - one to see if we can remember how to play anything at all, and secondly, assuming the results of no.1 are positive, to try and shed some of the accumulated rust from a season of overindulgence in the bacchanalian delights of the holiday season just passed. You see, the Tom Joyner Radio show called a couple of weeks ago, and reminded us that it was that time again (you may recall we did their program last year at this time, from Florida, at a festival to celebrate the first historic black township in the USA) only this time we'll be at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington DC for their Valentine's show, on the morning of Friday Feb. 12th. That can only mean all the LOOOOOVE songs will be trotted out ( you have to say that with a Barry White voice to get the true meaning ) so let the page know what you think we should do, and we'll try to whittle it down to the five that we'll have time for.

Fabulous, Flying, Funky Freddy V returns from London in a day or two, where he has been for the last two weeks - putting himself about a bit at the local gigs, I hear, and hanging out with Hamish Stuart, some of the guys (and gals) from Kokomo, and himself doing a jazz thing with our old buddy Jim Mullen, the Scottish guitarist who won last year's UK jazz poll as top player. Of course, we've all known for years just how good Jim is, and for those of you who followed his fortunes with Dick Morrisey in the years with the Morrisey-Mullen Band, that news, if news it is, will come as no surprise. Let's hope somebody rolled tape of Fred's gig with him, as there's been precious little of inspirational value this season in the musical department. All these wannabe R&B merchants' CDs that almost, but not quite, get you know, you want to get on the floor - the groove sounds like it's going to develop into something more than a dry tickle - you turn round, gulp down another mouthful, grab the bird, and as you do the best sliiiide into the fray, it all just seems to stagnate into another turgid bit of so-called "Oldskool" with a few loops and samples that we made 20 years ago thrown in to fuel the track. It is sooooooo frustrating. So, it's been back to digging out the LPs again and getting down with our bad selves to the real thing.

Still, there are signs of life out there, and it seems the hibernation period is about to come to an end, if it hasn't already, and the phone seems to be affirming that awakening after a month of merciful silence. Oh, well, if people continue to want doses of unmitigated funk and soul music, and insist that the words average, white, and band should feature somewhere in their year's supply of same, then who are we to refuse to answer the call of the soul-starved multitudes..........who are probably running around out there right now like those squirrels and deer I was talking about earlier.

Now, where's my gun