Sunday, December 2, 2001


On Thursday, on arriving from the airport, my son was playing the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album - yes, an LP - and we were marvelling at the duet with George and Eric Clapton trading licks just prior to “..and in the end....” and he said to me, “I guess poor old George is kinda’ on the way out,” and I agreed that it would be a sad day when finally he passed away, and that the finale we had just been listening to would be a fine epitaph for him, given his unselfish attitude to life and in particular toward Eric, with whom he managed to somehow ‘share’ a wife, in a manner of speaking.Little did we realise as we spoke, that George was already dead some hours, but not till Friday morning did we get the news and realise what an eery coincidence that had been on the previous evening.

Now, I can’t claim to have been a friend of George Harrison and I think only met him once, but it is like losing a family member somehow, in that The Beatles have been such a huge part of my growing up, and I grew up in their Britain and in their times. You could say I lost my virginity to The Beatles. While he was alive - well, until his illness became widely known, anyway - there was always the slight chance that they might just do something with, say, Julian in his dad’s place, and it would give all of us Beatle fans a tingle down the spine if they did. Alas, it’s all over now for real, and that thing that first made me really want to be a musician more than anything else is no more. Onnie and I have known a lot of the ‘Beatle’s people’ over the years - their assistants and Apple staff, etc., and our years in London were dominated by their presence; we used to play at and go to the clubs they frequented, like the Scotch of St. James, The Speakeasy, and The Revolution and one way or another we became close friends with one or two of their original Liverpool pals, lovers and associates. I even had the privilege of visiting George’s baronial pile near Henley-on-Thames one grey Sunday afternoon.

So it is as if a chunk of one’s time of passage is finally gone, and sad we are to see it go. By all accounts, George was a lovely bloke, very philosophical and courageous both, and it was clear that he was the stabilising force in the cauldron of genius that John and Paul stirred up. He was also one hell of a guitar player, and an underrated composer in his own right. We did quite a few recording sessions at Abbey Road in our youth (my first ‘big-time’ audition was there), and a few years back, after an early morning arrival from a cross-Channel ferry and with time to kill before our London hotel rooms were ready, I took Dave Brunetto, our then assistant and a huge Beatle fan, round to see the old place. He was kind enough to have the picture of us sitting on the hallowed steps framed and given to me, and I found that quite comforting to look at, along with my many books and other collectables from the Fab Four on Friday night. I even had a scotch and coke (THE fave Beatle drink of the sixties) to toast his passage.

See you around, George.

In a few days, it will be the 21st anniversary of John’s demise - another of those “where-were-you-when” moments in life - and that means it’s time to write cards to people you don’t even think about half the time (be honest, now), but that’s exactly what I was doing when Hamish phoned me with the news he’d been shot. Well, that quickly turned into the news he was dead, and a first piece of the Fab Four went missing.

Onnie & I found ourselves on the Gulf coast the following Sunday amid a really dreadful Florida tour,the only saving grace being that we were able to stop the bus, take a stick and write “Goodbye John” in the sand at the water’s edge, and watch the tide take it away. I was cleaning my bike in February 1963 when “Please Please Me” came on the radio and the world stopped turning for three minutes, and about thirty-three years now, for that matter. Thanks, John!
So, we’ll break out the cards anyway and communicate with absent friends - the full list this year, since this is no time to miss anybody you’ve ever cared about after the crap that’s gone down recently, and the damage done (and still going on) around the world.

Our touring year is finally finished, and I am happy to be off the road with a chance to write some music and enjoy some quality time with mates, so I will take this opportunity to wish all our fans and friends everywhere a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year when it arrives panting and wagging its tail. We’ll be back round your way in ‘02, and if we didn’t make it to your part of the world this year, then razz your local promoter(s), because we would have, had we been asked.

The Beatles, alas, won’t;..... but give peace a chance anyway, as George and John would have wished.


Monday, October 29, 2001


I know this is supposed to be a ‘road diary’ and we are not quite on the road yet this Monday - more sort of
at the side of the grassy verge waiting for our ride to come along with a comfy spare seat and a flask of coffee for the journey tomorrow. First stop, Pennsylvania - the depths thereof - and two cities almost side-by-side, York and Harrisburg who will be regaled by ourselves and Tower Of Power as a Halloween treat. Unless, of course, they have some trick up their sleeves that we don’t yet know about, in which case we’ll better be prepared to counter with some surprise of our own. I would personally prefer subtle means for starters - perhaps replace the M&Ms in their dressing room with my own Halloween candy recipe of vile originality - Brussel Sprouts dipped in Swiss chocolate. This is a fiendishly cunning concoction guaranteed to keep children away from your door forever (or get your mailbox tipped & sprayed next time around). Perhaps sackloads of these for the Taliban could be a little side diversion during this time of military uncertainty, and it would certainly give US a bit of a laugh in the interim while we decide exactly who we want to replace them with at some time in the future....perhaps Pat Robertson & Jerry Falwell leading a band of religious nutters from the Bible Belt wearing country-club golfbag towels on their heads. Discuss.

We are then headed for Rochester, N.Y. for our first visit there in quite a few years, at the Water Street Music Hall on Thursday. I seem to recall that’s the old brick building down in that funny little corner of warehouse buildings, restaurants etc. where a couple of on/offramps converge and diverge, making it difficult for anyone who doesn’t belong to the city to get the right turning and not have to re-circumnavigate the ring road to find it on the second pass. I remember a couple of great concerts there in the past, and always a really good atmosphere in the room. Hope to see all you Rochester funketeers there this week for your tri-annual dose of medicine. Then down the Thruway a piece, for Friday night at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona (again with T.O.P.) where Rocco Prestia and I had threatened each other with a game of golf on the day. It was 86 degrees in Fresno last month when we discussed it, never thinking ahead to the fact it’ll probably be 36 degrees by the time we all get there on Friday, so once more the interdenominational Bassists’ Classic will have to be put on hold for another season. Unless, of course, we can actually get to have them tour Scotland with us, where there would be no shortage of opportunities for such recreational comedy.

Finally, we will truck on down into The City for Saturday’s event at BB KING’S, where, as you know already, we are making our personal contribution to the disaster fund by donating the proceeds of the night to the Special Ops. Fire Company on Roosevelt Island, who took a huge hit on the 11th September, and who are Onnie’s neighbourhood firehouse. As I mentioned in the last bulletin, Brian Dunne’s family is also of the firefighting persuasion, and will be in attendance en masse to see business done, and lend moral support. Don’t forget,
Your AWB Needs YOU!! See you there.

After that we have finally some space and time to really get into the business of writing and/or scaring up material for a) the new CD, b) some new stage clothes, c) new curtains for the back lounge of the bus, and d) a much-needed bunch of stuff for this ailing page, I hear you say. I can say with certainty, however, that the DVD is to be released at the end of March, entitled "Tonight - Average White Band Live" and on the Image video label. Hopefully we can coincide our audio contribution with that time scale in order to give y’all the biggest bang for your Buick. Meanwhile, I’m off to look out my fur truss and thermal chassis for this week’s foray into the sub-Arctic wastes of the Northeast, so please do your level best to attend one of the concerts this week since a full room is a warm room, and I, for one, can’t play worth a toss when my hands are cold, and Fred’s sax sounds like a kid with a kazoo on a crowded night-flight. Just ‘peachy’. On that bent note, I will leave you to imagine other tortures we could inflict on all non-believers. Funk the lot of them, I say.


Friday, September 28, 2001


Well, it’s been hard to come up with anything to say that hasn’t already been said in the last two weeks by a host of columnists, sub editors, television commentators, and other shapers of opinion far more eloquent than I on the subject of the tragedy that hit New York and indeed the whole of the Western World to a degree, on September the eleventh. I have written this special piece for the website many times in my head, and have shredded it just as many times for one reason or another, as more aspects and appositions have come to light, and as my feelings on certain of the consequenses have shaped and reshaped themselves.

The one thing that is unmoved, however, is my need to assure you all of the entire band’s shock and sadness at the scale of this atrocity, and its senseless waste of human life, most of it being young men and women in their prime and with young families here in the New York area, and a ghostly roster of missing victims whose families wait overseas (many in Britain) for news that will never arrive. I don’t think there has ever been a single more cataclysmic event perpetrated in peacetime on such an indiscriminate level, against people who were guilty of nothing more than going to work in a global marketplace which happened to be the great symbolic icon of capitalism most hated and despised by the enemies of freedom and democracy. Our hearts are heavy with their loss, and the grief is shared by us all - knowing, as we all of us here do, someone or other who never came home on that dreadful day.

It ocurred to us, when at the beginning of this week we finalised discussions for a performance at BB King’s club in New York on Saturday Nov.3rd., that we would now have an opportunity to make our own personal donation to the Twin Towers Fund set up by Mayor Giuliani in response to the extraordinary needs of the victims. Accordingly, we will donate our proceeds of the night to the fund, and we would ask ALL Average White Band friends and fans to come and help swell the coffers for this occasion, and join in our tribute to the victims, their families, and the heroes who lost their lives in unspeakable ways trying to rescue and relieve others. I refer of course to the firemen, police, ambulence and paramedic personnel who never made it out, and who have never before sustained such unprecidented losses in a single incident. Our drummer, Brian Dunne, comes from a firefighting family who have lost close brethren in this disaster, and in Onnie’s little neighborhood alone, ten firefighters have disappeared. It’s tough to finish this paragraph even now, two weeks afterwards.

There are lots of observations and opinions I have wanted to share with you over this - from how it could have happened and our unpreparedness, to what should or could be done to ease the pain of its happening - but they are, as I said earlier, still in flux and in respect for the victims’ families, perhaps in questionable taste at this time such are my frustrations, my hurt and my anger at various nonsenses. I will leave these weighty issues to those better qualified and better trained to air them, in their volumes of print and acres of screen.

I would like to remind people however that the sharpest tool of hate is ignorance, and ignorance of our true character is what spawned this awful deed, so please read and listen to every source of information that you can before condoning any vengeance of hate that Britain and America might be inclined to try, however seemingly justified at this time, and remember John Lennon’s "Imagine" instead, as an anthem for this passage. The wound will heal, the scar will be huge, but there is dignity and respect for a wounded soul who can proceed with humility rather than hubris.

For America, it’s the end of the innocence. For the rest of us, we reluctantly welcome a new neighbour to the trauma centre.

Friends, we’ll see you at BB King’s on Saturday Nov.3rd.


Monday, July 23, 2001


It's been an interesting month out here on the great American continent, with a series of first-time-ever catastrophes, dilemmas and anomalies which individually might seem little more than trifling annoyances, but when taken collectively make one wonder if perhaps we are going through a slightly skewed scene in an otherwise well-rehearsed play.

First, we had the frustration of being stranded by one of this nation's two largest air carriers in Denver airport on our way to Reno to perform that night in Caesar's Lake Tahoe - the first time there for us since the Seventies. It certainly is the first time in our career that we have had a date cancelled due to an airline foul-up, and a more helpless feeling I cannot imagine than having to allow a promoter to go dark that night, knowing that with just a tiny miracle, you just might be able to get there in time for a later show................NOT.

His decision was a wise one, but a great disappointment for us to know that fans turned up and had to be turned away due to lackaband.

Sorry, folks; you will be heartened to know, however, that the airline in question are so concerned about our loss, and so contrite, that they have promised to pass on my letter to their customer service department and that we might expect an answer from them within SIXTY DAYS!!!!

By then, I calculate conservatively, they will have made another eighteen to twenty million dollars out of other unwitting and trusting passengers.

Then the same airline, on our return trip to the East, managed to lose our wardrobe bag containing a fair collection of hard-sought European stage clothes, and other vital sundries necessary to well-dressed public appearance, and causing us to scour the malls of northern Connecticut & southern Massachusetts for enough to get us through one show up in Enfield, and another outside Pittsburgh the following day. Let's just say it was an interesting sight - AWB in replacement garb!! Fortunately, this one was redeemed, and the missing item turned up two days later, crumpled and mangled, but with nothing more than a severe ironing session (or steaming, if our long-time readers can recall Fred's purchase a couple of years back, and his short sharp education in the use thereof) needed.

And so, back to the safety of our bus, or so we thought.
The second date of the next leg took us to what we assumed would be a nice, pleasant day by the seaside, at Ocean beach, Maryland, at a hitherto-unknown (to us, anyway) gig called Brewmaster's Pub, on the strip there. As we approached Ocean Beach the titillating thought of a house-brewed cold pint on tap was dancing in my head, and this state of euphoria lasted until we pulled into the carpark of what seemed a very small - but potentially pleasant - gig.
That's when the balloon burst.

We walked in to find an infinitessimal stage in a corner with ONE guitar amp, and ONE bass cabinet sitting there, all drums in sight, nor anything else that was promised us, as per every gig we do. To cut a long and harrowing story short, the neglectful Promoter had left procurement of same until the last minute, that had come and gone, and not until eight o'clock at night did some local heroism and much threatening provide a drum kit that would have been more at home in a scout hall than a professional gig.

After electing to try our best to do the gig so as not to disappoint fans who were making the trek to Ocean Beach (and mindful of the Tahoe fiasco a week earlier) we then learned that the promoter was trying to charge $25 entrance, after contracting with our agency to only take $15., and telling callers that it was $10. We protested that this was scandalous and wrong, but he refused to budge, and, as a result, many who came with families etc. were not able to afford this amount, and, after all, why should they when the circumstances that were provided to us prevented any chance of a grade A performance.

But it gets better.

Having played the show (full length plus encore, to a small but noisy crowd), Paul, our tour manager went to settle up with said promoter, who proceeded to storm out of his kitchen/office/den, swearing and knocking drinks out of Onnie & my hands, soaking us in beer and wasting some decent scotch (a capital crime where we come from), and then to have us bodily thrown out of his club! Un-frigging-believable, and yet another first in our recent history. I definitely got the impression that it's certainly not the first time he has done this, as his tantrum was carefully rehearsed and choreographed for maximum surprise element. So a word to the wise: Never, never be tempted to go there to see any band, no matter how attractive the prospect might seem. Let him rot in his little seashore swindlery, and may his toilet run had no soap in it anyway. So much for employees washing THEIR hands!

Never mind, it has been smooth sailing since then, and we have had great concerts in Omaha, St.Louis, Boulder and Silverthorne, Colorado, and Portland, Oregon since then, and we are about to finish up our Vegas dates and head for California.

But I'd like to leave you with one more 'first' in our experience, that being the thrust of this diary entry in the first place. As we came down the escalator in an airport the other day, we were all astounded to be confronted by a security person wearing a blond wig, tons of makeup, but with a voice like a cross between Jack Hawkins and Barry White, if you get my drift. Fortunately, the surprise was not all ours, for Fred and Brian had their 'teeth' in......a truly frightening and hilarious sight in and of itself.

Then, as if that were not strange enough, one of the 'stewardesses' on our plane was also a 'man-man', as Brian calls the great undecided.

I can now finally reveal the airline;

it is "Man-Man United"

See you down the trail, podnahs.


Saturday, May 26, 2001


Since the last bulletin to this organ of gossip, opinion, and insight into the ever-changing travel world of AWB, many miles and many hours of music have been tucked under our belts in, first, a 'northeast' tour of the United States, and now the second week of our UK run is almost over here in Ronnie Scott's, Birmingham.

The first stop over here, though, was in the glorious homeland of Scotland, where I reckon we had the best four concerts there since the old heyday, an opinion seemingly shared, for once, by press and media alike, not to mention the reaction of the fans and our good friends - who are at times also our fiercest critics, such is their determination to see us as good as they think we can be. It's always nice to be able to live up to those high makes all the hours of preparation, travel, meditation (yeah, right!) and concentration seem worthwhile when the music comes out of the machine exactly as you planned it.

I should begin by commending all the guys for their unbelievable stamina and determination to perform better than ever. They had the unenviable task of flying overnight to London, then, after a 3-hour wait in London airport, another flight to the very north of Scotland - Aberdeen - for the first gig that same night. Onnie and I, who had been in Scotland for a few days prior, to take care of newspaper interviews and radio stuff for our home press & broadcasters, had a leisurely drive through the bucolic Scottish countryside to meet this dishevelled bunch lurching through arrivals at Aberdeen airport, while we sat sipping cups of tea with our pinkies raised in traditional 'proper' manner - just to remind them that they were in Scotland now, and they play by our rules!

Anyway after a couple of hours of communal power nap, a fine gig to a packed house ensued, and of course it was the first time Aberdeen had seen this particular line-up in action. The last time we played there was, I am reliably informed, 1994. How time flies when you're doing the same. Edinburgh (The Capital) was next, for two absolutely hammering nights with our home crowd baying for blood, and we obliged them by opening every vein we had. I think I'm right in saying that it's the first time in our careers that we have actually been given a five-star review in Scotland. There was always something missing for every critic who ever covered us in the past...sometimes they just wanted to have a go at us for daring to leave Scotland.......but this time they had to say it was all as right as rain - and in Scotland they know a thing or two about rain, let me tell you.

A pleasant Sunday night in Ayr, on the south west coast saw the end of the Scottish gigs, the end of the brilliant heatwave that had miraculously engulfed Britain for the previous ten days, and the end of our collective battery power, as jetlag and anticlimax finally kicked in as soon as the show was over. Sitting at the hotel bar afterwards, it was all we could do to sink a pint, never mind hold a conversation. Someone would start by saying, "I was just thinking............." and then tail off into silence, which in turn would be broken by a sigh or a belch from another, quickly followed by a 'useful' question such as, "What time tomorrow do we..................zzzzzz" A thoroughly depleted bunch and a funny end to what had been a marathon of sorts. It reminded me of the old joke about the two guys that stagger into a Scottish pub, carrying their sozzled pal between them. They deposit the drunk at a small table, whereupon he proceeds to put his head down and go to sleep. Undeterred, the two mates who are in no great shape themselves go to the bar and one orders three pints. The other one looks at him, they both look over at the sleeping figure at the table, and the barman says, "Nah, he'll never manage a pint." "Aye you're right," says our drinks orderer, "Make that two pints an' a large whisky instead."

Forgive me if I have said nothing so far about the US gigs we did in the three weeks before all this stuff, but somehow it all seems like months ago in the scheme of things. That, too, was some stretch of work, and in the middle period there we actually did thirteen shows in ten consecutive nights - an all-time record for this band, and not something
to try too often as the tolerances for Murphy's law to kick in are pretty tight with that kind of schedule. Nevertheless, we had some great shows with Tower Of Power, in theatres and casinos around Michigan, New York Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Hampshire, and a bunch of our own headliner shows in Ohio, Indianapolis, and quite spectacularly in Louisville Kentucky, home of Muhammed Ali, and the subject of one of my last WhitePage entries, as I recall. What a great gig that turned out to be.

I suppose you're getting the idea here that things are going pretty well all round and that I'm simply blowing our collective trumpet a bit too much, and if that's the impression I give, then I suppose it's fair do's.
How many bands at this stage of their career get the opportunities we have had recently, and then go on to maximise them and turn them into even more ambitious undertakings. Not too many, I think. We may not be able to chase a football as fast as we once could - with the possible exception of Adam, of course - but the grit is all there, and the fire is very definitely well-lit within everyone here at the A. W.of B., a publicly-registered band of gypsies, wiseacres, and erstwhile buskers who have neither the will nor the wit to know when to quit!

Once again, the Tom Joyner Morning Show was another little milestone for us in that it was the first week of the show's being broadcast in New York, and therefore we were the first act to appear on the show there, albeit we were actually broadcasting from Cleveland Ohio, where that week aired from. So there we are onstage, in the second of our three mini-sets that we do on the show, we're in the middle of "Pieces," and I look round to see Tom (who dances & sweats his way through four hours of a 'revival meeting' of a show) advancing across the stage towards me shouting, above the band,"Dig in, man......WE'RE IN NEW YORK" What a completely happy moment, as I'd failed to grasp until then what it meant to him, after all these years, to finally get syndicated into the biggest music city of them all - and one that has steadfastly refused to air the biggest urban morning programme in American history. It made the 4.30 am departure to the gig all worth it.

Well, it's now the 8.30 pm departure to a sold-out Ronnie Scott's here in the middle of England, where you see a different slice of urban life to that of middle USA. The streets here are heaving with revellers every evening, young women tottering along on impossibly high heels, barely dressed at all, screaming and laughing their way to the next disco-bar, pub, or club, while their maurauding bands of boyfriends become more pissed as the night wears on, and are to be found, by the time we make our way home from our gig, arguing futilely with doormen and bouncers who are trying to stop them gettin in to the 'honeypot' inside. It's a hilarious mess of seething humanity, blaring mm-tsss, mm-tsss tecno-disco-retro-metro music that comes out of every establishment, and street bars & cafes where everyone sits to be seen and, hopefully, clocked by some worthwhile 'pull' or other.

Who said youth is wasted on the young? they seem to be doing just fine, thank you very much. I only wonder where they get all the money for these eight-hour nights of drink and other stimuli...cos none of it comes cheap round these parts. Ah, well, that's what larceny is for, I suppose.

On that philosophical (our Irish soundman - Phil O' Sophical) note, I will leave you to go and put on my impossibly high heels and skimpy dress another night on the town. I'll write again when I've growed up.


Sunday, April 8, 2001


A shorter than usual entry for this month, due to an overload of artistic shenanigans here in the AWB camp; between writing, rehearsals, video production, and the vetting of arrangements for the upcoming tour, there isn't a lot of time to sit down and put my thoughts together for your edification.
Needless to say, we are all looking forward to being out on the road again beginning with a double show at BB King's in New York City, on the 18th, and then packing in another sixteen gigs inside twenty days, taking us up to the first week in May. Some new territories, too, with Louisville and Lexington in Kentucky, then Sault Ste Marie way up in the North of Michigan where Lake Superior tumbles into some other great big puddle (Lake Inferior maybe?).

The last time I was in Louisville was in the seventies, and unfortunately a death occurred at the concert, which seemed to 'unhinge' a certain member of our party to the extent that he threw all, or most, of his hotel room furniture into the swimming pool late that night. What he didn't know was that in the dining room there were two large windows in the wall which gave an underwater view of the pool. Imagine, if you will, all these people - families with small kids, etc. - wandering in for breakfast, to see lampshades, chairs, cushions and the like bobbing past the windows.
It got worse, too.

Molly, our legendary tenor player came in, sat down and placed his saxophone case beside his chair, and joined the rest of us who by now were weak with laughter at the aforementioned scene. Almost at once, a waitress with a large tray of breakfasts for a family behind us, tripped over his sax case and launched an array of eggs, bacon, mixed fruits, teas, coffees and sundry toasts into eternity. I'm sure you all know the feeling when you're trying your hardest NOT to laugh, but it's just no good; the fuse is lit, and the powder is ready to go..............

We were escorted out of town by the police, and invited never to return - well at least not any time soon! I think you could say we've kept our part of the bargain, but it's time to see the old place again, so we're looking forward to that very much. See you at Jim Porter's then.

Sculler's jazz club in Boston should be fun, too, and we plan a little 'looser' kind of gig there, where we can stretch the playing aspect a little more than in the usual concert scene. It'll be more like playing at Ronnie Scott's in England - much more intimate. No, don't worry, we'll all use deodorant.

Hope you've found copies of the new "Goldmine" magazine, featuring your trulys on the cover and a lengthy article within about the band in its various incarnations, and a potted history of our long and chequered career. I've yet to read it myself - it looks pretty daunting, I must say - but if nothing else it'll probably assure you of a good night's sleep after a few hundred paragraphs. Basically, all you really need to know is that we all got together once upon a Saturday in July 1972, wrote some stuff, liked it a lot, decided this might be a good way to avoid work for the rest of our lives, came up with a daft name, eventually made an album that did the business, toured like Billy-Oh for about ten years, got fed up of each other, broke up for a while, and then started the whole stupid game all over again with a couple of better-looking young guys to stir it up a bit, and here we are now - older, no wiser, but still able to dress ourselves and stand up to pee.

And Fred has yet to sabotage anyone's breakfast with HIS sax case.

So go and air out your dancin' shoes, and press your best zoot suit, we's a- comin' to town any day now, and Heaven knows we need to see YOU. No absences will be tolerated unless accompanied by a valid note of excuse written on hundred-dollar bills only, and hand delivered by beautiful young ladies in each case. We'll be bringing some new stuff for you as well - caps, ball gowns, new pictures of our ugly mugs, etc. - so will get your opinions and critique at the table after the show, no doubt.Until then, keep an eye out for us....we'll be the ones in the big bus with the highlander in the front. Bet you didn't know that A.W.B. stands for "A Wet Bagpipe", now, did you?

Till then, Och aye the noo' an' dinna lose yer sporran wi' the porridge in it!
(a cheap and tacky bogus Scottish saying with no meaning whatsoever)


Monday, January 29, 2001


A very happy new (well, slightly used) year to all our friends & supporters.

It seems I’m back again after a very welcome break over the holidays in which nothing much happened anywhere at all. No peace was achieved in the Middle East, no improvement was seen in British railway performances, no new wars were declared and none were won or lost.

Our agent in Britain is bemused at the suggestion that we might do interviews as a means of publicising our impending visit there in May. Apparently this is a novel (or unusual) idea. When I pointed out that promoters must be somewhat foolish to refuse such assistance, she replied that it’s British bands who are generally unwilling to participate, and thus the marriage of convenience between press, artist, and promoter is no longer a working arrangement. Oh, well....I guess it’s ‘uncool’ (the worst media offense in the UK...........we are always guilty). Anyway, I know there are some of you out there who don’t mind hearing us quizzed and grilled on-air or in your local paper about our preferences & peccadilloes. Wake up, UK, there’s a lot to be said for artist participation in the furtherance of audience attendance!

I see the new American president hasn’t wasted any time in gittin’ jiggy wid it. His promise of centrism, co-sponsorship and bipartisanship has got off to a wonderful start with his nominations for certain major stewardships in the US government. If you have Christie Todd Whitman in charge of the environment and John Ashcroft in charge of the law, then why not invite Robert Mugabe to come over and run agriculture? It’s about the same thing, don’t you think? Why do I smell a rat here? This seems - to this casual observer at least - like ‘middle finger’ politics at work and I sense that the liberally- minded of the country’s citizens are in for a ride like a twin -engined turboprop in a Texas that may last four years, unless common sense or civil disobedience prevails.

One of the nicest things about being away in the West Indies recently was the fact that you could go grocery shopping without being assailed by piped music or other acoustical placebos for the weak of mind. My kids and I wrote at least three great supermarket spoof songs while tearing up the isles, merely by drawing inspiration from daft slogans on soap packets or noodle boxes, and having no interrupted thought train to contend with. Come to think of it, now that the USA has done away with the annual (tiny) stipend that retailers & restauranteurs used to pay to the Performing Rights societies to pass on to the writers of those songs, I advocate banning the use of background music in public places. It’s bad enough that a deluded senator from Wisconsin, a state that has no songwriters anyway, should have been able to put this poisonous appendage to a copyright-extension bill and thus deny songwriters of a hard-earned portion of their income, without then having to suffer the ignominy of being forced to listen to non-stop muzak while furiously trying to write new stuff in one’s head. Just try it sometime; think of, say, an obscure track you know by T.O.P or an old E.W.F. fave, while The Carpenters are singing "We’ve Only Just Begun" out of a speaker above your head, and you’ll get an idea of our dilemma. Of course, we could volunteer for self-imposed house arrest, and insist that our better halves or significant others do all the shopping. But then that rules out going into restaurants, bars, elevators, toilets...everything.

We are under siege.

I read in the English papers that fox hunting has finally been banned by law. Not that the Prime Minister, Tony Blair was there for the vote, of course - he never is these days. Well, that will protect about twenty foxes annually, since the huntsmen rarely catch a fox anyway...they’re all half sozzled, and the dogs are dopey creatures for chrissake. What it will do, however, is put thousands of countryside workers out of jobs which have been there for centuries - and expose the sly old fox to a new and worse threat, that of being shot or trapped (a much more hideous demise than being cornered by other animals, as all creatures in the wild are on a daily basis, with or without mankind’s meddling). Come to think of it, the entire policy of the current British regime as regards the countryside is one of ignorance and convenience. Ignorance of the plight of farmers, villagers and land-stewards, and convenience to those city slickers in power. As John Mortimer, the creator of "Rumpole" points out in his book "Summer Of A Dormouse", the Labour government is standing by while agronomy collapses just as Margaret Thatcher presided over the death of British industry. As always, it is the pets, whims and peeves of the Londoners that dictate what the rest of the country must suffer. (witness the Millenium Dome).

To turn briefly to farce, I was amused but disappointed to find on my return that my local small-town football team (soccer, to you Yanks) had gained national notoriety for the first time..... not for their sporting achievements however, but for their antics off the field: two of its star players had been seen inhaling portions of the sidelines in a well-known watering hole-cum-disco in the town. A right couple of geniuses, I must say, and a credit to their Colombian sponsors! They wonder why they’re fired mid-season.

Which brings me to A.W.B.’s own season; although we don’t officially get under way until April, we are going to be appearing in the Washington DC area for a couple of nights at the beginning of next month, Fri.2nd and Sat.3rd of Feb. in Annapolis, and Alexandria respectively. The Ram’s Head in Annapolis is apparently sold out already, so I would urge you to direct yourselves to the Birchmere in Alexandria for the Saturday show there. It’s a great room to play in, and to watch from, and I hear the food ain’t bad either. They do dinner before the show. That’s the only live work we’ll be doing till we start up again in mid April with a bunch of dates, both on our own and with our buddies, Tower Of Power - all in the Northeast quadrant of the United States. Then we go directly to the UK and Europe for the rest of May and the beginning of June, to a Scottish mini-tour followed (so far) by dates in England and Holland.

All that seems a long way off right now, though, as we continue to dig ourselves out of the snow and cut fishing holes in the ice. I used to think Minnesotans were barking mad but now I’m not so sure there isn’t a wonderful logic to sitting out there dangling a line through the frozen lake, safe from politics, media and muzak. Provided you can avoid frostbite and divorce from ‘ice widowship’ this might be the only solution to winter, other than going straight back to the Caribbean on the next cargo plane.

We look forward to seeing all you stalwart and faithful, around the DC area this coming weekend.

Ha-wan, two, three, four.........changalangalangalangalangalanga