Monday 10th March 2008
First rehearsal day. LM, HJ, BM & CC meet Terminal Studios 11am. Run through Thunder set (Loser, River Of Pain, Low Life In High Places, ILYMTR+R).
DB arrives 12pm. Run Loser, ROP and ILYMTR+R again but we decide to leave ‘Low Life’ until production rehearsal at the venue on 12/03.
Looking forward to playing a couple of Who songs with Roger Daltrey who’s due in today @ 3pm. I spoke with Bob Pridden (Roger Daltrey’s right hand man) a few days before and agreed we would routine three Who songs; ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘5.15’ and ‘Substitute’. Bob calls me at 1pm to say Roger wants to do ‘Kids Are Alright’. I dash home to collect my Who collection then back to the studio and we quickly learn ‘Kids’ with Danny singing Roger’s part.
Bob arrives @ Terminal 2pm. Bob has been sent on ahead by Roger, presumably to make sure we’re not crap! By the time Roger arrives we’ve also re-learnt ‘Behind Blue Eyes’. We run through ‘Kids’ and Roger adds an ad-libbed section to the end of the song that works well. He is quite nervous which is I suppose understandable considering he doesn’t know us from Adam but, slight awkwardness notwithstanding we get through ‘Kids’ and ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ before jamming the old Elvis song ‘Train, Train’. He says we should do it on the night. I’m not convinced. He leaves a lot less tense then when he arrived which is a relief.
Tuesday 11th March 2008
Arrive Terminal 10.30am. Quick update conversation with our production manager Adrian Basketfield. He and I have been speaking several times a day for the last few weeks. He is dealing with all logistical aspects of the gig and I’m in charge of co-ordinating the musical content. Everything is running smoothly so stress levels remain thankfully low.
Check guitars. I’m using more than usual due to the varied styles of the artists involved.
Ian Paice arrives @ 12pm and begins to set his own kit up which is not what I expected! I’d met Ian before albeit quite briefly, when we’ve worked with Deep Purple and he’s a really genuine and funny guy. He explains that 26 hours earlier he’d left Venezuela where Purple had just finished a South American tour. He’s obviously a bit spaced out so we ply him with strong coffee. It’s really good of him to have volunteered to do the gig and he doesn’t stop cracking jokes all day. Nice man!
Glenn Hughes arrives @ 1pm. He hasn’t played with Ian for 30-odd years and it’s 34 years since I saw them playing together in Deep Purple at Lewisham Odeon on the tour to promote ‘Burn’…….. weird!
We run through ‘Mistreated’ and Glenn finishes the song with an ad-libbed vocal work out as only he can! He sings so high that most of the dogs in London SE1 must have been very confused for a while. We then take on ‘Might Just Take Your Life’ and Danny assumes the David Coverdale role. It all goes so well that we only need to run the two songs once. Very strange how I get to be Pete Townshend and Ritchie Blackmore in the same 24 hours!!
Russ Ballard arrives @ 3pm. Russ has written so many hits that it must have been difficult for him to decide what to play but he plumps for ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’. I’m sure the irony of playing a song most people associate with Rainbow wasn’t lost on Ian but you’d never have known. Chris takes over bass duties for Russ’s song along with the legendary Steve Smith on keyboards and the lovely (and currently brunette) Tara McDonald gives us a backing vocal boost as well as lending some much-needed glamour to the proceedings.
We rattle through ‘SYBG’ a couple of times and it all sounds lovely.
Ian, Chris and I run through an instrumental version of ‘Faith Healer’ which we’re going to be playing with Fish. He can’t make rehearsal as he’s in the middle of a tour so we have to try and imagine a very tall Scottish man singing!
Ian heads off home for some much-needed kip and Harry takes over behind the drums for the rest of the day.
Lulu arrives @ 4pm along with her MD (musical director) Mark Taylor. Mark is a great piano player. Danny and I worked with him on ‘Mo’s Barbeque’ (he plays the beautiful solo at the end of ‘On A Day Like Today’).
Lulu has an amazing energy about her. She has all the men in the room eating out of her hand in minutes. It really is quite something to observe. She’s instantly likeable and very funny with a wicked sense of humour. She also, it must be said, has a lovely bottom!
We successfully negotiate the newish arrangement of ‘To Sir With Love’ then ‘Shout’, which is great fun to play. Lulu seems to enjoy herself and dances around while flirting with everyone at the same time. She really is great fun. We finish around 5.30pm and head off for a well-earned pint.
Wednesday 12th March 2008
Set up day at the Indigo2. The crew are still tweaking things when we arrive just before 4pm for Thunder soundcheck. The venue is very impressive and nicely designed. We run through our set, then the Roger Daltrey songs before ending with the two Lulu tunes.
Thursday 13th March
Show day. We arrive at the gig 3pm. Marillion are soundchecking. There are only three of them today as they’re performing a short acoustic set.
Pop into the production office to see Adrian and it’s a hive of activity. Trudi Harris (Bob Harris’s wife) is a very important part of the team and she and her girls are sorting out the grizzly business of the guest list, which is never a pleasant task at a gig like this! Say hi to Bob who’s his usual, amiable self.
We start to soundcheck the ‘all star band’ around 3.45pm. Ian checks his kit before Russ, Glenn, Fish and finally Lulu (who arrives late after being stuck in traffic in the Blackwall Tunnel; funny that!) all run through their songs. We then attempt to rehearse the finale ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. I chose the song for a number of reasons; i) the sentiment of the song seemed to fit a charitable occasion like this; ii) everybody knows it; iii) there are enough lyrics in the song for all the singers to be able to sing a couple of lines each. I even printed off several lyric sheets to pass amongst the vocalists in a schoolteacherly way in the vain hope that it might promote a hint of organisation….ha ha ha!! After a fairly shambolic run through we huddled around the drum riser and I allotted specific lines to specific vocalists. Everyone got into the spirit of ‘organised chaos’ with the exception of Colin Blunstone of The Zombies who simply ran away! Somebody remarked that I might have frightened him with my school-masterly manner!
All the artists were then gathered together for a five-minute photo call and then it was dinner time.
I retired to the Thunder dressing room and slipped into my sparkly boob tube in preparation for the show. After Bob Harris’s opening words we took to the stage and did what Thunder do. It went very well bar an exploding guitar string and the four songs flew past. Fish followed us on to the stage although I didn’t get to see any of his set.
I watched The Zombies who were terrific and a bit of Marillion’s well received set before it was time to get up again for the ‘all star band’ section of the evening. Everything went very smoothly and every artist raised their game. As is always the way with these things it flew past. I did however look around the stage several times during the evening and take it all in. Let’s face it it’s not everyday you get to play with so many great musicians and I didn’t want to not enjoy the moment.