“What’s with all the cocks?”

So, let’s see if I can remember what’s been going on for the past week. We camped out in Hull for two gig-less days, quartered in the city centre Travelodge. It was most tranquil, apart from the sirens outside every now and then. Hull looks really different to the last time I was there and we basically contented ourselves moseying around and sampling the occasional pub. One evening, after some excellent fish and ships at the Minerva  on the waterfront, most of Alcatrazz as well as esteemed Tour Manager Danny bumbled to another pub called the Big Blue Bell, or something like that. There, as well as finding an especially fine brew to drink, Danny suggested that we engage in that evil pastime; the game of darts. Now, it’s not that I’m against darts, I’m not, but if you have mediocre dartists then it is the kind of game than that can drag on to the end of the world with nobody able to score the required ‘out’. I always greet it with the same horror that the dreaded Monopoly used to strike in my heart when it emerged to be played with the family.

The Minerva

Anyway, as I suspected, nobody was what you could call a crack shot, although Jimmy did nearly manage to hit his own foot, which was indeed impressive! Our sheep-loving keyboardist was teamed with Associate Professor Stump, and this all-American crew seemed adverse to actually hitting anything as planned. Seconds became minutes, minutes became hours, hours became days… weeks… years……. millennia…. and yet the game dragged ever on.  Finally, as Jimmy calculated what angle he would best employ to achieve his required double, factoring in visibility, air movement and potential arm fatigue, the imperturbable Stump finally cracked

“Hey Jimmy. It’s dawts, not chess. Just throw the fucking dawt!”

Jimmy missed. The entire board. Ha ha ha!

However, after we had all aged considerably waiting for the damn game to end, bugger me if Jimmy didn’t eventually throw the winning dart.

Showing Jimmy where the board actually is.

Anyway, we enjoyed the brief lull in Hull, Gary almost becoming unwittingly embroiled in a fight between a very pissed man, the pissed man’s shoes and a rubbish bin, at 10.30 in the morning. I think the rubbish bin won.     

From Hull we had a string of five gigs in a row: Chesterfield, Edinburgh, Bradford, Troon (Winterstorm Festival) and Newcastle. For the Real Time Live gig in Chesterfield we relocated to a Sheffield Travelodge and arrived without particular incident to a city which seemed perceptibly angry. Everywhere, people were shouting and scrapping and just being dicks, so I have no idea what that was all about. The drivers were almost Italian in their complete disregard for anybody else on the road. It was most puzzling.

Of course, being winter I was starting to develop the dreaded ‘tour cold’. This particular bastard was becoming a bit savage quite quickly (covid tests proving reliably negative throughout). So, that was a shame. Oddly enough, I think part of the problem is the widespread use of LED stage lights. Now, these are great, as they draw little energy for superb lighting effect. However, they generate no heat at all. On stage I tend to shake my furry head a little and flail about so much that I begin to perspire freely.  Combined with that delightful UK habit of unheated dressing rooms and unheated venues, on stage you can actually get very cold in a wet shirt unless you are moving a lot, i.e. between songs etc. And then back to the fridge that is the dresssing room, and voila! La cold arrives! I’ll never let Udo Dirkschneider and his band off the hook for denying I.C.O.N. the use of dressing rooms  and giving me fucking pneumonia, so at least we weren’t in that position. But nonetheless, the dreaded cold arrived.

From Chesterfield we were headed north, over Hadrian’s Wall to the wilds of Scotland, and Captain Doogie took the helm of the van as we raced for Edinburgh and the gig at Bannerman’s. En-route we stopped at chez-White and met Mrs Doogie as well as their handsome little hound that they had rescued. Mrs Doogie had even made two delicious pumpkin pies in honour of our Yankee contingent and we wiled away some time eating pie and having some tea and coffee. And very nice it was too.

I always enjoy Bannerman’s. Guv’nor Christian runs a good ship and we were in the flat upstairs for the night while Girlschool blitzed a nearby hotel. It was a predictably great gig and the first one that Doogie had actually played there with his own band, as opposed to being a guest of somebody else’s.

Doogie continued racking up the frequent driver miles while I slept off my cold and we retraced our steps to Bradford before re-retracing our steps to Troon. At the Night Train in Bradford, Mister Stump spent some time marvelling at the knobs who spend their time drawing knobs on the walls of an otherwise nice dressing room. There was a dubious array of ‘bus stop cocks’ all over one wall; ranging from the clearly diseased, to the clearly wishful. Why? No idea. Never really got the compulsion to do that.

“This is a cool dressing room.”
“Nice sofas, freshly painted, cool.”
“Let’s draw limp cocks all over it!”

I assume it’s all autobiographical.   

In Bradford we debuted a new track (which went well) and were then put into the Midland Hotel, just a few minutes walk away, and which was most triumphant indeed. Apparently Laurel and Hardy, Laurence Olivier and the like had all stayed there (not recently though). There was a wedding going on at the hotel which did create a slightly surreal moment when one member of the Alcatrazz/Girlschool touring party wandered in there looking for the bar. Errr…sorry, wrong room.

In Troon we played the mighty Winter Storm Festival which was really well run by very helpful cool people. Ironically, we probably didn’t play at 100% at this show. Nothing thoroughly debilitating, just not quite on all cylinders. But hey-ho, we got through and crowd were great and people happy. What was even more splendid was that the guitar that Doogie supplied – signed by us, Girlschool and King King – was put up for auction. The money raised was to be split 50/50 between dementia and stroke charities very close to Doogie and Girlschool’s Kim’s hearts, and the winning bid by a spectacular man named Douglas raised £2008 for these charities. Well done that man!!!!

Getting chilly at the motorway services

At the festival I had my first plate of haggis, neaps and tatties with gravy, for quite a while and it was the bollocks! In fact, I can’t remember what is in haggis, so it may actually have been the bollocks, but regardless, it was very tasty.

The back of my cold was now broken and I was eating medication like candy to chase it successfully away.  Once again we were in a truly pukka hotel, The Riverside Lodge, so it was only polite to have a debriefing beer or two there afterwards. Marvellous.

Now we re-re-retraced our steps back down into England to the familiar stomping ground of Trillian’s in Newcastle. We got stuck behind the slowest driver on Earth, amongst the shittiest road works around, in truly dire weather which meant we were late arriving. Danny and Girlschool had got set up underway and we arrived in time to get it done with minutes to spare before soundcheck.

This time the band were definitely firing on all cylinders and I loved every minute of it. The crowd were great, and the gig rocketed by in no time. Day off tomorrow. Time to recharge before the final assault on the capital and then Wolverhampton. Bring it on!   

Gratuitous Scottish photobomb of otherwise splendid drummer portrait.