[Webmaster Note: Peter Brockbank originally posted "The Legends Of Brocklehurst" to the National Midday Sun as thirteen chapters in serial format from May through December, 2006, and are available here with Peter's permission. Peter is currently periodically publishing an revised/updated edition at http://brocklehusrtsroadiestories.blogspot.com/.]
When I was younger, London was like a magnet to me. Those days youngsters never looked for employment abroad, however London was one of the few places we would travel to. No one I knew went abroad to seek work. The world seemed so much bigger, and Spain was about as far as any of us went for holidays, and we never went even to Europe for employment.
I had visited the capital previously for a couple of "extended" stays, but in late 1970, a friend of mine called Robin Coulthard and I decided to see if the streets were really paved with gold. Robin was a guitarist and singer who had played with local Carlisle bands. He was also a very good goalkeeper and we had been in the same football team for a couple of seasons.
Robin quickly found work in Carnaby Street working in a souvenir shop. While Robin worked in this vibrant atmosphere, I found mundane work selling and servicing water softeners. However I would travel into Carnaby Street to see Robin at work, or to have a drink in a nearby pub when ever I could.
Any time day or night famous people could be seen walking about the Street. Many pop stars came there to buy the latest clothess, and I once got locked in Take Six, a fashion shop, because the singer from Sweet, Brian Connolly, wanted to purchase some clothes in peace. I also once saw Bob Dylan strolling about and being virtually ignored by the passing crowds.
After a few months, one night Robin came home to our flat in Hampstead (only a few minutes walk from both the Tube and the Heath) extremely excited. He had been asked to join a group. There were only two problems: they had no drummer, and no transport. However, Robin knew a drummer called Ellway who he had met in a pub near Carnaby Street, and I said I could solve the van problem. The company I worked for had just purchased a brand new Ford Transit van. The Transit was the favoured mode of travelling for most bands in those days, and this one was almost new, only 800 miles on the clock, and had double back wheels as well!
In those days all vehicles had one key, which opened and started them, with a number on each key. To get a new one all you had to do was tell the garage the key number and you could open, start, and drive away almost any vehicle. No proof of ownership was required. It cost me 12 pence to get a copy for the Transit. That night I calmly went to where the van was parked in Lyttenton Road, Hampstead Garden Suburb, opened the driver's door, started it up and drove off.
Through the night I drove the 300 miles to Carlisle, where I had the original colour of pale blue sprayed dark blue, and the back windows blacked out. (So no one with my criminal tendencies could see what was inside) I changed the number plates to match a stolen tax disc from a scrapped Ford Escort (the number was JHV 151K). The next day I insured it and returned to London in "my" new van.
Robin had persuaded the drummer to join the band, so the van and I had part time work driving the group.
Apart from Robin and Ellway, there was the singer Jimmy, bass guitarist Paul, and a keyboard player called Linton, whose claim to fame was that he had played with a pop group called Love Affair. They had a number one hit in 1968 called "Everlasting Love," as well as a couple of other smaller ones.
I am not sure of the first time I met the guys, probably in Carnaby Street or in one of the pubs near there. Like me, I think, that Ellway was a little overwhelmed by some of the other band members; outsize "personalities." Whatever the reason, we spent quite a lot of time together, and got on really well from day one. Whenever we travelled, he would ride "shotgun," as he called it, sitting up front while the others were in the back with the equipment (getting stoned and drinking). Then as now, if I like a person, their colour, creed, or country of origin doesn't matter to me. The person is the important thing. Ellway was a cool guy.
The band wasn't to be successful and didn't last very long. However we played quite a few gigs. The most memorable was a trip to my native Cumbria, where through my old employers, Cumberland Entertainment Services, we got some bookings.
I remember on our way back to London from the north of England, Ellway telling me the reasons he came to London and his hopes for recognition as a musician. I told him that it might make a good story for a music paper in the future.
The other abiding memory I have of this group was making a demo record. It was the first time I had been in a recording studio, and it was very small and cramped. I sat beside the drums believing I was witnessing a hit record being produced. Once it was completed, though, no one seemed to have much idea what to do next.
In one of the music magazines, I read that the manager of the Moody Blues lived in a village a few miles from Doncaster. It was decided I would deliver the demo in person. Having borrowed the train fare from Robin's girlfriend, Kaye, one freezing winter's day I travelled to Doncaster, then, hitchhiked through snow, fifteen miles to the village. Luckily the guy was in and agreed to see me. After telling him a potted history of the band, and giving him the demo tape, I left to return to London - convinced the big time beckoned.
We did receive a reply, but not what we hoped for.
A couple of weeks later a letter arrived along with the demo. Basically, it said the guy was sorry but couldn't help us. He did go on to say he wished the band all the best for the future, and that the band reminded him of a young Moody Blues. I think I still have that letter somewhere.
Not long after this, disappointed and disillusioned the group split up. Apart from Robin, Ellway was the only one I kept in touch with, mainly because I would see him in pubs round Carnaby Street when I popped in to see Robin.
At that time I used to supplement my income with the water softening company by stealing from petrol stations when they were closed, during the night. There would always be £30 or so float left in the cash box, so it was easy pickings with minimal risk. Ellway was now unemployed and running out of cash so he once asked if he could come with me on one of my night-time jaunts, but I said it was a bad idea. However, on a couple of occasions I did give him the odd fiver. Being the guy he is Ellway never forgot those friendly gestures. A short time later he left London to return home believing he wouldn't succeed in his chosen profession. We had exchanged addresses, but the likelihood of us ever meeting again was very remote
For some reason, each time I bought a new address book I continued to write Ellway's name and details in it. After a few years and several books, his name was at the top of the page for his initials. I am not sure why I continued to keep this out-of-date information - it was almost like I knew our paths would cross again in the future. But how could that happen, having lost contact as we had?
I guess that should have been the end of the story???
I know a few of you reading this are aware of some of this story. For those who aren't, the band in London back in 1971 was called English Rose. Also due to my criminal activities I have since spent a few "holidays", care of Her Majesty!
I am now going to fast forward many years.
It was Tuesday, 7th September 2004 around 8:00 pm and I was sitting in the foyer of the Savoy Hotel in London. I was very excited as I was there to meet an old friend I hadn't seen for over twelve years. As usual I was on time but my mate, untypical of him, was running late. I had received a call on my mobile from Ellway telling me he was held up, so I bought myself 20 ciggies and a vodka and tonic. I nearly collapsed when I saw the bill, £17-67, I handed the waiter a £20 note and mumbled "keep the change". Thank goodness I wasn't paying for tonight's meal and drinks!
I had sat in the foyer so I would be able to see Ellway coming in, and I was just wondering if we would recognise each other after such a long time, especially as I was dressed in a smart suit and tie, (the least I could do being in such salubrious surroundings) and my old friend had never seen me attired in my "court clothes", when a familiar tall figure walked through the entrance to the hotel. We saw each other simultaneously and I heard the words "that bonce looks familiar". I stood up and gave my old buddy, Neil Peart, a big hug.
(Ellway is a joke adaptation of his middle name "Ellwood" that we have used for some time. I, in, turn get many variations of "Brocklehurst"- from Brockbank, my surname- that goes back to those good old days in London. -----hence Neil's decision to entitle my roadie dairies and this tale, "Legend's of Brocklehurst".)
The last time I had seen Neil was at the end of Roll the Bones tour in 1992. I had dropped Neil, Jackie and Selena, (his wife and daughter), outside a hotel near Southampton as they were sailing back to New York on the QE2. My final memory of that day was watching the three of them waving goodbye as I drove off.
I could never have envisaged the tragedy that would over take them in such a short time.
In the intervening years both the ladies in Neil's life had died. Selena in a car crash and Jackie also died only ten months later from cancer. Neil says it was really a broken heart as Jackie never got over their daughter's tragic accident.
To say those first moments were emotional is an understatement, we just looked at each other, neither really knowing what to say. Then Neil, being the first to pull himself together, suggested we go up to his room and have a drink while he got changed. Rush had just finished their rehearsal at Wembley Arena, and Neil had come straight from the stage to the hotel. The next night, Wednesday 8th September, was the first date of the R30 European tour. This was their celebration for having been together for thirty years with no personnel changes, some achievement. Though I have never been the biggest of Rush fans, I was really looking forward to seeing them play, and in particular Neil drumming, again.
After our initial hesitancy and awkwardness we were soon into the old routine, laughing, joking, asking each other questions, and getting up to date with each other's lives. Even though we hadn't seen each other for a long time, it seemed like days rather than years since we last met. As usual the conversation revolved around our personal lives rather than how Rush were doing and stories about the current tour. Neil is an excellent host and the drink flowed. We ate and drank but I won't tell you the cost as I don't want to break a confidence. I will only repeat thank goodness I wasn't paying!
Neil's room had one wall that was almost completely made up of glass. We were on the fifth floor over looking the Thames and had a wonderful panoramic view from the House of Parliament on the right, along to the London Eye, the Festival Hall, all the way down the river. A marvellous sight with so many different coloured lights.
Those few hours flew by and early in the morning Neil, who seemed to be slightly less intoxicated than me, said it was time to ring Carrie, his wife. Knowing Ellway the way I do, I understood he was politely telling me the party was over. We said our goodbyes, hugged at the door and I said I would see him before the sound check at Wembley the next day.
Somehow I found my way to the lift and managed to hit the right button, so arrived on the ground floor. It was around 2-00 am and I decided to see if anyone was in the American Bar. I was really looking for Pegi Cecconi, one of the Anthem hierarchy who I really like and get on well with. I stumbled along the narrow room that is the bar, looked around but couldn't see that familiar face. Mind you I was under considerable pressure just to keep walking straight, so maybe that is why I had passed, without noticing, the four people sitting near the entrance to the bar. As I exited I saw the back of a familiar head, but there seemed to be less hair than last time, so I wasn't sure. I altered my angle so I would pass close but not too near to be intrusive. Then I saw that easily identifiable long dark hair and a voice said "I recognise that face". The blonde guy sat with his back to me, turned round, said "Peter", and got up and gave me a big hug. Geddy had seen me but it was Alex who gave me the warm welcome. They were sat with Ray Daniels and a girl from the production team (Shelley ?) who I didn't know. Luckily they had all been drinking too, so my alcoholic state wasn't so obvious. Some how I managed to sit down and join in the conversation. As usual they were very friendly and Alex outrageously funny. When ever I have met Alex he has always been very warm and with out fail, hilarious. Geddy usually was more restrained and had taken a while to accept me. Ray, as is normal for him, had a host of rock stories to tell. He is well connected in the music business, as not only does he manage Rush, John Bon Jovi is his brother-in-law [sic - Alex Van Halen]. I stayed for a couple of drinks, then bade my farewells and left. Somehow I found a taxi and managed to give the driver the address of my hotel. I can't remember arriving there or going to bed!
I think this is a good time to qualify exactly what my friendship with Neil is. I would never claim to be to be his best friend, or indeed, he mine. This is simply the story of two guys who liked each other from day one, and who having lost touch for many years were reunited by a stroke of fate. We have spent many years of not meeting by keeping in touch using various forms of mail, both the basic postal service and more recently via email, and somehow our friendship has lasted. We are totally different people and of course we have had our minor fallouts.
Exclusively down to me, may I add? It is very hard sometimes to understand exactly what being a rock super star is, and all it entails. There have been occasions when I hoped to spend more time with Neil, but because he was working, that wasn't possible, and I have felt let down. But letting his friends down is something Mr Peart never does. Each time I have been incarcerated, Neil has found time to write those wonderful letters, and each time was enclosed a few pounds to make life in a small cell more comfortable.
He has always been there to support me, to read my darkest writings, and always replied in a manner that gave me hope. Never slow to chide or criticise when deserved, but always with his irrepressible humour. Some times I wonder how Neil has put up with me.
A lot has been said about Neil's attitude to fans and his unwillingness to meet them. Basically he is a very, very shy guy who feels uncomfortable with adulation. If anyone reading this was to meet him socially, you would be most pleasantly surprised. He is warm, funny and very genuine. He can be amazingly silly, in a lovely humane way. He just doesn't understand why people would want to meet him. He doesn't seem to comprehend that concept any more than we can of being in the falsely elevated world of rock star royalty that he has to live in. But believe me, this is a wonderful human being and I am very lucky to have him as a friend. He has never judged me, and always accepted my criminal activities. I think the main reason we have remained mates for so long is that to me he is still that slightly naïve Canadian I met in London all those years ago, and not a super star rock drummer. Perhaps the fact that I am not a big fan of Rush also has helped. We both know that isn't the reason I keep in touch. Also I know my slightly unusual life style has kept NEP often amazed and frequently amused.
I would now like to return to the story of how Neil and I were reunited after he returned to Canada in 1972.
Many years later, in early December 1983 in Manchester, someone asked me if I knew a guy called Neil Peart from Canada. I told him I had done so years ago but hadn't seen or heard from Neil since 1972. I was told he had been touring England with a Canadian group called Rush. Neil had asked this guy if he knew Peter Brockbank and when he said he did, Neil asked him to inform me that he was trying to trace me. The strange thing is neither of us have a clue who this guy could have been. I wasn't in touch with anyone we both knew from the old days apart from Robin, and it definitely wasn't him.
I guess fate just lent a hand.
Not surprisingly I had never heard of Rush, but remembering my colonial friend with a great deal of affection, and always loving a challenge, I decided to try and track him down. First thing next day at work (a company fraud we were running), I rang a local record shop to see if Rush had released any records. I was fairly surprised to hear they had and was told their record label over here was Polydor. I then phoned Polydor in London to see how I could get to speak to my old mate.
A very snooty lady told me they were from Canada, and she couldn't possibly give any information out. Of course I had no idea it was the equivalent of trying to contact a rock star. I pleaded with her to help me in my quest and eventually I must have worn her down as she gave me a name and phone number in Canada. I think she was just pleased to get rid of me.
The name of the Canadian company was Anthem.
Impatiently waiting for the moments to pass so the five hour time difference would mean business in Canada had started, I reflected excitedly that I would soon be able to speak to Neil.
Shortly after two in the afternoon I dialled the number. I spoke to a girl called Linda but to my bitter disappointment I was informed Neil wasn't there. I left my details and asked Linda to pass them on to Neil.
Impatiently for the next few days I awaited in vain for a trans-Atlantic phone call. I repeated my call to Linda a few more times, all with no joy. What was wrong with my old friend? He was the one supposedly asking about me but when I contact his agency he can't be bothered to return my calls. I know he is in a band that has made a couple of records but I couldn't believe this had gone to his head, and he didn't want to speak to me. This all seemed very strange.
I was used to bands that popped into their agent's offices almost daily, either to collect money, to check what gigs were coming up, or just to chat to other groups. Surely he would have seen Linda and received my messages? I was to find out years later Neil has never been to Anthem's office.
Eventually after hearing nothing from Neil, a few days before Christmas, I sent him a greetings card care of Anthem. I must admit I was a bit childish and chose one of the smallest cards I could find. It only had room for a scribbled note. I think I wrote something like "You are the one trying to find me, don't you check your messages or has recording made you too big headed to contact your old friends"? Plus I added my address.
Early 1984 saw me on a short holiday care of Her Majesty. One lunchtime when I checked my mail, in an envelope, along with a letter from my girlfriend Jackie, I saw a postcard, which had been sent to my home address. Glancing at it briefly I saw a picture of three guy's heads. Turning it over I read a few words that made no sense. And as I couldn't make out who it was from, I quickly put it down. Well I did have an important letter from my lady to read!
A few moments later a prisoner knocked on my cell door, came in and asked if I had received a post card. I asked him what concern of his it was and told him to piss off. In prison you have to act a little tough or people will try to take advantage. He explained he worked in the office where the prisoner's mail was sorted and had seen the post card. Intrigued by his interest I showed it to him. Excitedly he asked me if I knew any of the three silhouetted faces on the card. I looked more carefully and realised that the one on the left, could, just might be, an old friend. When I informed him I thought it may be a guy I used to know in London called Neil Peart, he almost had a heart attack.
"He is the drummer for Rush" he gasped, "the best rock band in the world. This is a promotional post card for their Signals album", Fecking idiot, I thought. This lunatic was such a Rush fanatic he had changed his name to Alex, Geddy, Neil, Rush and named his three sons after his heroes.
I was now nearly excited as this new phenomenon in front of me, a Rush fan. I tried to act casually but hastily got rid of the guy so I could read over and over again the words. My old friend not only was well, and playing in a band, it would seem he was doing alright for himself.
I wrote a letter that night and posted it the next day. I explained where I was and why. (A small fraud that had gone wrong) The fact I knew the drummer from Rush had spread like wild fire round a certain section of the prison population and I was getting treated like royalty by some rather peculiar long hired types. I mentioned this to Neil in a second letter and asked for a few signed post cards knowing I could trade them for weed and other contraband. I also mentioned the guy who had changed his name.
A few weeks later I received a reply from Neil.
It was a long letter getting me up to date with his life since we had last met. My request for a few signed post cards was also answered. However when it came to the geezer who was such a fan that he changed his name, Neil wrote something along the lines of "I am glad my father never named me after one of his favourites like Frank or Bing. Remember fan is short for fanatic and a fanatic shot John Lennon. Keep this guy away from me" There was no signed post card for Mr. Rush!
For those who know of Neil's "letters to Brutus", another friend of his who also ended up in prison, you will realise what a wonderful writer of letters Neil is, and how this script cheered me up.
When I was released from prison I returned to Manchester and was able to write some longer letters to Neil. In prison I had been limited to four sides of fairly small paper. Neil's excellently written scripts, over a period of time, changed from being hand written to being printed on a word processor. I seem to recall some of the early ones being in a peculiar purple colour. I was slowly becoming aware that Rush were a very successful band. To quote Mr. Peart "We have been successful on our own terms, which is nice" I understood this to mean they only recorded material they had written. I had also discovered that my old mate was responsible for the lyrics to their music.
Some time the next year, I guess around May 1985, I heard from Neil that Rush were visiting England to do some recording at the Manor Studio in Oxford. (Power Windows ?) He also informed me that he would like to travel up to Manchester one Saturday and spend an evening with Jackie and me. At last I was to meet my old friend. I have to admit I was very excited, not that he was now a member of a recording band, but just the thought of seeing my lanky Canadian friend again.
The day eventually arrived. I stood in Piccadilly train station wondering if I would recognise him after all those years. Would he have all the trappings of a rock star? Adorned with long hair and wild clothes?
We recognised each other immediately. However Neil looked nothing like your typical rock musician. He had very short hair, baggy dark trousers and a light blue kagool. We hugged each other, smiled a little nervously, but within minutes it felt like we had never been apart. A situation that would manifest itself each time we were to meet, no matter how long it had been since we had last seen each other.
We drove back to my flat in an old van I had borrowed. Neil told me what a pleasure it had been to travel on a train and not be recognised. Something, he said, wouldn't be possible back home in Toronto. I couldn't help wondering if he was slightly over stating his band's popularity.
We arrived at my ground floor flat and Neil met my live in girl friend, Jackie. I had previously told him that the basement flat was inhabited by a 60's pop drummer. A guy called Bernie Dwyer who had played with Freddie and the Dreamers. After getting up to date with what had been happening in each other's lives, Neil announced he would like to take us for a meal that night. However he seemed to be very interested to meet Bernie. I suggested we popped down to my local pub, The Barleycorn, where I knew Bernie would be.
True to form Bernie was sat on his usual stool by the bar holding court. He was a lovely, lovely guy with a wicked sense of humour. Generous to a fault but not guy you would take liberties with. Bernie could look after himself. Sadly he passed away a few years ago.
Amazingly Neil seemed a little in awe of this 60's pop star, but Bernie soon made him very welcome and they got on like a house on fire, swapping tales of touring with bands. Once again Neil said how good it was to be able to have a drink and relax without being bothered by fans. Again I thought this was a little over the top. As far as I knew, no one in the pub had even heard of Rush, never mind knew what Neil looked like.
I couldn't have been more wrong! A very good friend of mine called Chris Lea was a massive fan. I had no idea at the time, and Chris, who was in The Barleycorn that evening hadn't a clue his hero was stood by the bar. I saw Chris a couple of times but thought maybe because I was in company he didn't come over. Chris remembers the situation rather differently. He says he can't recall seeing the four of us, but even if he had, the thought that Neil Peart could possibly be in his local, would never have crossed his mind.
I will tell more of that later in this story.
After an enjoyable meal, (we went to a small inexpensive local restaurant that I chose. I often wondered in later years when I realised just how wealthy Neil was, what he thought of my choice! ). We returned to our flat and had a drink as we reminisced. We had only one bed room but Neil insisted he would be alright sleeping on a single mattress in the living room. As Jackie and I went to bed we left this famous drummer reading a book. I was to find out later Neil was a prolific reader and very knowledgeable about all sorts of authors and their history.
I still wasn't aware that one of the best rock drummers in the world was curled up on my living room floor.
The next day after breakfast, rather than let Neil travel by train, I drove him back to Oxford in the borrowed van. It was just like the old days, my Canadian friend and I travelling along the motorways. Nothing had changed, we talked all the way there and Neil acted as navigator in the latter stages.
The Manor studio was a lot different to the tiny one English Rose had used back those days in London. It was set in its own grounds and was an impressive old building. Richard Branson owned it and it was interesting to hear the staff say when he visited the studio, he knew all their names and chatted with them. A story I was to hear many times over the years with his various companies.
Neil was recording that afternoon so he asked if I would like to hang around and watch. He also introduced me to the other two members of Rush, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, plus some people connected with the band. Just before he started recording Neil gave me a cheque as repayment for those odd fivers I had given in him London all those years ago. I won't say what the amount was but the rate of interest was much more than I would have got from a bank!
I stayed a while but as Neil was working I said my goodbyes and headed home to Manchester.
Later that year Rush came back over to London to, I think, mix the new album. I am not sure but maybe it was at a studio called Sarne Street East. I travelleld down to London and we had a wonderful meal in a little French restaurant. That was one occaision when I hoped to spend all evening with Neil but he had to back in the studio by around ten, so our evening ended a little early for me.
The telephone has never been Neil's favoured mode of contact, I have only spoken to him by phone a few times in all the years we have known each other, but we kept in touch regularly by post over the next few monrhs.. No internet in those days.
Later that year, probably in the summer, the Barleycorn social club went on a boozy weekend trip to the Isle of Man. There was around forty of us including regulars and staff.
On the Saturday evening I was sat in the hotel bar with the rest of our group. Chris Lea was beside me and Bernie Dwyer a couple of seats away. Chris's version is slightly different to mine, but I defer to his excellent memory. I knew Chris was a graphic designer and some how in the conversation I mentioned I knew someone who had got in trouble who designed album covers ( Neil had told me Hugh Syme, the guy responsible for their album artwork, had been jailed for fraud. Neil seems to have a few good friends who fell foul of the law! )
When Chris asked me who I was referring to, I told him. Immediately Chris's attitude changed. He seemed suspicious that I had even heard of Hugh Syme. Bernie, being the loveable rogue he was, caught on and started to wind Chris up by asking me who else I knew from Canada. By now Bernie was aware that Chris was into Rush but not to what degree.
Sensing there could be a laugh to be had but not sure why, I went on to tell Chris, I didn't know the unfortunate Mr. Syme but was an old friend of the group's drummer. Convinced now that this was a wind up, probably instigated by his work mates who knew of his love of all things Rush, and were on the trip. Chris started to ask me questions. Like what the drummer was called? "Neil Peart", I replied. What were the names of their albums etc? I couldn't name one but assured him I was telling the truth. More questions bombarded me but the clincher was when Chris asked me if Neil wrote to me and if so what was special about the writing paper. My reply floored him.
"The paper has from "The desk of Neil Peart" printed on the top", I answered. Apparently year's earlier, letters to a magazine from Neil, had shown this to be true.
Mr Lea totally bewildered but now convinced I really did know this god of rock, just sat there in disbelief, shaking his head Bernie, with perfect timing then went on to drop the bomb shell, not only had he met Neil in Manchester earlier that year, but they had had a drink in the Barleycorn. To make matters even worse he added that Chris had been in the pub on the night in question and had only been a few feet away from Neil. Chris's face was a picture.
Crestfallen, distraught, unbelieving and in a total state of shock the poor guy just kept repeating "Never, never, I can't believe it, Neil Peart was in my pub AND I was there without knowing?"
Ironically this bit of good natured leg pulling was to have profound effect on Chris's life in the future.
After a couple of stiff drinks and a little time Chris pulled himself together and went on to tell me just how brilliant and successful a band Rush were. He also told me my old mate was one of the best rock drummers in the world, if not the best.
Now it was my turn to be gob smacked. Chris reeled off album after album. The fact that Rush were extraordinarily highly regarded in rock circles the world over was beginning to sink in. We talked and drank into the early hours, oblivious to the rest of our party. I wanted to know every little detail about Neil and his band.
When Chris eventually went to bed that Sunday morning, he could be heard mumbling "Neil Peart was in my pub", shaking his head in disbelief. I in turn could hardly take in just what my colonial cousin had achieved.
Neil and I kept in touch over the next year or so. He sent me all sorts of printed matter about the band, a brochure of The Chalet Studio, where they recorded and kept me up to date with their progress. Copies of Drummer magazine, where not only was he a regular writer, but also had his picture on one of the covers. My friend really was a rock star.
In the meantime on arrival home from The Isle of Man, Chris came round to my flat laden with Rush albums and over a period of weeks we listened to them with Chris explaining all he could about each song. To be honest, the music wasn't my cup of tea and I found a lot of it very heavy going. But my friend was playing the drums and had written the words, so I had an avid interest from that point of view.
Each time Neil wrote he always finished by writing "say hello to Bernie". In my letters I told of this guy in Manchester who was a big fan and was kindly leading me through their music. Also knowing Neil's wonderful sense of humour, I related the story of that night in The Isle of Man when Bernie and I had wound Chris up, and his reaction to realising Neil had been in the Barleycorn without Chris knowing.
With typical Peart humour and loving the story, Neil in one of his missives added to his usual "hello to Bernie," "and say hi to Chris."
When I showed this to Chris, his reaction was priceless. I could never have believed those few words could have meant so much. I suspect Neil did, and typical of the man, that was probably why he wrote them.
Neil and Chris are very similar in many ways. Both have artistic ability and interest in most things connected to art. Both have excellent recall. Very funny guys who once they have decided you are a friend, then it is for life. Unlike many people I know they also accept my many mistakes in life and are not judgemental about my criminal past. I gauge my friends by how I feel when we meet. Whether I saw them last week or many months or even years ago, I always get a warm feeling meeting certain people. These two are very high on that particular list.
Oh, and did I forget to say they both play the drums?
Also they were to have a very tragic time in their lives within a few months of each other.
The trans Atlantic mail continued to flow. I felt very sorry for Neil having to try and decipher my atrocious hand writing, but he seemed to do so without too much complaint. No word processor for me in those days
One morning sometime in 1987, I received a telegram from Neill. Rush were touring Canada and North America and he wanted me to ring him in America. The person I had to ask for was called, I think, Hank Kimble.
I made the call, asked for Mr. Kimble and was put through. Not really knowing what to say I sort of mumbled that Neil Peart had asked me to speak to this guy Kimble. A recognisable laugh boomed down the phone as Neil announced he was Mr. Kimble. This was the name he was using on the tour as not to be bothered by fans. A ploy I was to find out was used by all three members of Rush while on the road.
After a little small talk ( I said Neil wasn't one for talking on the phone ), he announced that Rush were to tour Great Britain and Europe the coming spring and would I be interested in some work? I said "yes" and with no more ado Neil told me the details would be posted to me, bade farewell and hung up.
As I sat there reflecting what I may have let myself in for, I felt sure I was too old for humping gear around, I thought of Chris. We arranged to meet in the Barleycorn that evening and I told him of my news. Understandably his first reaction was he would see his favourite band again. Then he got excited for me as well. We sat drinking and trying to guess what my duties would be, where they would play and a hundred other thoughts on this news.
Over the next few weeks Chris and I spent a lot of time trying to work out where Rush would play, how many shows and how long "my tour" would be.
I then had a letter from Neil telling me my job in fact was to drive him independently of the rest of the band. While Alex, Geddy, and the main players of the Rush entourage would either travel by limo, train or fly, we were to do the whole trip by road. Neil and I would be travelling together in a car. The financial arrangements were Neil could spend half of Alex and Geddy's expenses on his travel expenses. This was to be the first time Neil had travelled independently of the others while touring anywhere.
Now I got really excited, the thought of us driving possibly thousands of miles together would just be like an improved version of those old days. Mr Peart's thinking was we could travel in a "smallish saloon", while Alex and Geddy were chauffeur driven in a limo, and thus avoid the attention of the fans. I knew a guy who had a fairly new Audi. I suggested to Neil we could maybe hire it for the duration of the tour. For some reason that idea received no reply in the next letter I received.
I was soon to find out why.
A few days later a package arrived in the post. It had a booklet in with all the tour locations, which hotels we would stay in. All the information was there about each venue, and when Neil and I ( and the others ) would be travelling and how.
On the front it said
Rush Hold Your Fire Tour '88 Europe & UK
The dates were as follows.
Thurs. 21st NEC Birmingham
Sat, 23rd NEC Birmingham
Sun. 24th NEC Birmingham
Tues, 26th SEC Glasgow
Thur. 28th Wembley Arena, London
Fri. 29th Wembley Arena, London
Sat. 30th, Wembley Arena, London
Mon. 2nd Ahoy Sportshall Rotterdam
Wed 4th Festhalle, Frankfurt
Thur. 5th Hans Martin Schleyer Hall, Stuttgart.
Three nights in the NEC, three nights at Wembley arena, just how big are these guys?
I would find out in April.
After some time, a few letters from Neil and endless talks with Chris, the next part of the adventure was to be revealed. I was to fly to Munich a few days before the tour started to pick up the tour car.
It was to be a 750i BMW!
I have stated in my roadie stories that logistics have always interested me and when I am working, I like to think I am professional. Armed with the information of which car we would be travelling in, I immediately visited my local BMW dealer. I explained to the head salesman ( always go to the top when you require help! ), the up coming tour and that I needed assistance acquainting myself with this model of BMW. I was amaazed when I was told, not only did they not have one there, but there were only eight in the UK. Then I was told the car cost a cool £55 grand to buy. ( No wonder Neil hadn't been interested in my friend's second hand Audi! ) However they did have a 730i in the showroom, and I was shown the salient features. The guy also said when I got back to Manchester; I should bring it to his showroom. For two reasons, one, the instructions would be in German and he could help me work them out. The second reason was to show him the car as he had never seen one!
I was now getting very excited and not a little scared. What had I let myself in for? The responsibility was beginning to become apparent. If Neil were to get injured due to one little mistake by me while driving, the tour could be cancelled. What would the Rush hierarchy and other members think of Neil's choice of driver? Apart from a few hours during his visit to Manchester and my flying visit to London, I hadn't seen Mr Peart for over fifteen years.
For a few days I seriously doubted my ability to do such a challenging job. Then with Chris's help, common sense prevailed. It was only driving, and in a wonderful motor car with a valued friend. I had always enjoyed every mile we had driven together in the old days, why should it be any different now?
Neil had suggested that I get a route organised so I contacted the AA. Although I wasn't a member I talked the young lady into preparing one and sending it to me. I already knew we would be mainly driving at night after the shows. This meant that although there were some fairly long trips the roads would be quieter. I have always loved driving long distances at night and this would only add to the adventure.
As the time to collect the car got closer I was instructed to attend the offices of an accountant to collect a £1000 expenses for our trip. I was quite surprised to see the company was located less than a mile from where I lived in Didsbury. I went at the allotted time and was handed the money in an envelope. Did the powers that be at Anthem know what they were doing? I was an inveterate gambler and I could see a Ladbrokes betting shop as I came out of the accountant's office. Wouldn't be the best of starts if I blew some or all the readies on a couple of slow horses!
Somehow I resisted the temptation. The thought of letting Neil down plus losing the exciting prospect of working on the tour overcame my natural tendency to gamble. Funnily enough it made me realise, for the first time for ages, I didn't have to throw away my money as soon as I got it. Although I was still to bet in the years to come, this was the beginning of some control in the gambling stakes. Something I have under reasonable restraint these days. Another thing to thank Neil for, I guess.
The next to arrive by post was my flight tickets and a letter letting me know which hotel I would stay at and telling me the car would be delivered there the next morning.
On Thursday 14th April, 1988, I flew from Manchester to Munich and settled in at my hotel. I must confess I didn't sleep much that night. Even to this day, I am still like a little kid the day before any exciting event. It can never come quickly enough. I was up bright and early, breakfasted and sitting in the foyer awaiting the delivery of the BMW.
The car should have been there for 9-30 am, but by eleven o'clock nothing had happened. I rang the number in Munich given to me by Anthem in case of emergencies, and explained the car hadn't been delivered. I was told they would chase it up for me. About thirty minutes later a guy came in. I heard him asking for me by name at reception so I introduced myself. He just sort of grunted and walked back out of the hotel, gesturing me to follow him. He led me to a beautiful large, sleek, black BMW, pointed to the keys in the ignition and promptly disappeared.
£55 grand worth of motor and I didn't even have to sign for it..
I found out later that the German promoters had bought the car to rent to Anthem just for the tour. It was brand new and only had nine kilometres on the clock.
I slowly got into the drivers seat and marvelled at the leather interior and dashboard that resembled the cock pit of a plane rather than a car. This was a serious tool.
I thought I had already worked out how to get out of Munich so I started the engine, fiddled with seat controls, and slowly moved away. It had an automatic gear box so all I had to do was steer it and ease into the traffic. After only a short while I was lost, not seeing any recognisable signs, I parked the car got out and asked directions. Immediately I restarted the car, a message appeared on the dash. I had been told by the guy at the BMW dealership in Manchester, if this happened to stop the car straight away. Of course it was in German so I hadn't a clue what it said. As I started to panic I saw a sign for a BMW garage. I pulled onto the fore court and explained my problem to a mechanic. The guy looked into the car, started to laugh and told me the message said "Your door is open". Relief just poured over me. I thought the tour was over after just a couple of miles. Then I saw the funny side and burst out laughing.
The rest of the journey back to England was fairly routine, if that is how I can describe driving the car of my dreams at high speeds across Europe. The BMW 750i is a remarkable car. I loved every mile I was to travel in it.
The only slight hitch came after driving off the ferry at Dover. My seat started to get warmer and warmer. I realised the seat heater had been switched on, but had no idea how to knock it off. I stopped and looked at the manual but as it was written in German it was of no help. I had to suffer the trip to Manchester with me getting hotter and hotter. Even with all the windows open it was almost unbearable. Eventually I arrived in Didsbury with sweat running down my back and my shirt wringing wet, stuck to me.
I now had a few days with the BMW before I was due at Heathrow on Wednesday to pick Neil up. I felt like a king driving round Manchester. Everywhere I went people looked at the car. After taking it to the BMW dealership where all the staff and mechanics came out to inspect it and getting as much info as I could ( the troublesome heated seat was soon switched off ), I made arrangements to pick Chris up at his home that Friday night.
Chris has no interest what so ever in cars but even he couldn't fail to be impressed. After showing off to the evening revellers in Didsbury ( I think Chris had a Rush tape blaring from the stereo ) we headed for the M62 ( now the M60 ) and I opened the beast up. It was governed at 155 mph, but would sit at that speed all day. Of course I was aware of the up coming tour and the need to be careful, so drove with control. It was so safe at high speeds it was a pleasure to put my foot down. We came off the motorway and headed to a pub in Whalley Range where my old friend Rodney Warr, ( mentioned in the roadie stories ) drank. As I showed the car to Rodney, all the guys from the boozer came out. Almost like magic there was a crowd that increased to around fifty as people came to look at it, asking all kinds of technical questions and requesting the bonnet be opened so the engine could be seen in all its glory.
On Sunday I decided to drive the 120 miles to Carlisle in order to show the car to my friends and family there. At the slipway to the motorway there were three people hitchhiking. I have done a lot of hitching myself over the years, and though I probably shouldn't, even to this day I still give lifts when possible. To their amazement this large BMW slowed to a stop and I offered them a lift. There were two boys and a girl. They were travelling to Glasgow. During the journey I found out one of the reasons they were going there was to see Rush at the SEC ( now the SECC ). I couldn't help myself, I had to tell them this was the car that Neil would be travelling in for the duration of the tour. At first they were incredulous and very sceptical, but soon saw I was serious. It transpired they didn't have tickets but were hoping to buy some at the venue. Apparently this was unlikely as it was sell-out. I had been told by Neil if I needed any tickets, for friends, or for staff from the various hotels, then there would be some available. Being the flash git that I am, I told them I may be able to arrange something. When I dropped them at the Carlisle turn off, I said I would meet them outside the main entrance of the SEC two hours before the show. A promise I kept along with their free tickets, much to the amazement of those three Rush fans.
Like everyone else who I showed the 750i to, my friends in Carlisle were astounded. It was such a beautiful, stunning vehicle I had to pinch myself every time I saw it, to believe I was really driving such a class car.
I returned to Manchester early the next morning, revelling in the almost deserted motorway and doing the trip in record time for me.
I was due to meet Neil off his flight from Toronto on the morning of Wednesday 20th April. I travelled to London the night before and stayed at a hotel near to Heathrow. I arrived in plenty of time and parked the car in the short term parking. Enquiring at the information desk, I was told which gate to go to. ( Don't ask me why I didn't just check with the TV screens for the arrival gate? ). I watched and waited as several plane loads of travellers arrived. No Mr Peart. After half an hour or so, I began to get worried. There were no mobile phones in those days, and the Anthem offices wouldn't be open for hours. Panic set in. I ran back to the information desk where I was told I had been given the wrong gate. With a sinking heart I rushed to the new location and in vain searched for my colonial cousin. How could I have been so stupid? My first assignment of the tour and I had failed miserably. Then, to my relief, I saw Neil pushing a trolley, nervously puffing on a ciggie, looking around for his driver.
I hurried over, said "hello" and explained what had happened. The poor guy was so confused by my non appearance he had bought some cigarettes and started smoking again. Of course I wasn't aware then that some of the Anthem bosses had questioned Neil's sanity in employing an ex-criminal for this very important post. Poor Neil must have thought his worst night-mare had occurred. Had his old mate sold the car before the tour had even started,? Or had I been arrested again and even as he waited, was I languishing in some jail? I think he was so relieved that I had eventually turned up, he forgot to give me the bollocking I truly deserved.
We loaded Neil's cases into the car and prepared to set off. Neil had recently been on holiday in Africa, and he told me, in a letter, their driver had only one tape which had been played continuously. Paul Simon's "Graceland" As I started the engine that familiar sound came from the stereo. I had bought it as a joke. Neil looked at me and smiled. He realised straight away what I had done and why. However from then on all the music played on our travels would be his choice!
We were going to Manchester for the night and then back down to the NEC the next day. The rest of the band was staying at the Mayfair Inter Continental Hotel in London. We were soon into our usual routine of talking and travelling. As we past the M6 turn off from the M1, Neil asked if we should have taken that exit. Without any hesitation I replied "No, we are taking the scenic route", and went on to explain we would cut across from the M1 to Manchester via Snakehead Pass. In fact I was so busy chatting, I had missed it all together!
As we started to climb at the bottom of the pass, there was an articulated lorry in front of us. When we reached a straight piece of road, I pulled out to overtake but the driver had different ideas. He swerved across in front of us, and I was just able to stop before we were slammed into a stone wall. Neil was up, out of the open sun roof, hurling obscenities and giving the errant driver the finger before the car was stationary. Once again I was aware that one little accident, which didn't need to be my fault, and the whole European leg of the tour could be off.
We arrived safely in Manchester and checked into the Ramada Renaissance Hotel on Deansgate. Neil, tired after his long flight and car journey, said he was going to have an early night. I popped out for something to eat ( I was on a daily wage and expenses but this didn't, apart from breakfast, include eating in the four and five star hotels we would be staying at ). When I returned I rang Chris and invited him to come for a drink. We met in the hotel bar. I think he was hoping Neil would make an appearance, so when I told him Neil was already in bed, he was a little disappointed. Once again Chris was in the same building as Neil but didn't get to see him.
We only had a couple of drinks as the next day my job would start in earnest. I was about to find out what touring with a big rock band was really like, just what a Rush tour entailed. I couldn't have envisaged this in my wildest dreams.
Neil gave me a couple of bits of good advice before the tour started. Bring plenty of reading material as there would be a lot of time spent hanging about hotels and venues. The second was to make sure I had a watch that kept good time. As previously stated, when I am working I consider myself to be a punctual person. I found out on this tour I had to be! If Mr Peart said we would check out of a hotel at a certain time it had to be within a minute. That meant I had to be at reception checked out, when Neil arrived. The next morning I turned up at the allotted time to find him there, waiting for me. I wasn't late, just not prepared for the boss to have already checked out, and expecting the same of me.
There has been a lot written about Neil feeling uncomfortable around fans. I found out on this first day he didn't like to be kept waiting one second more than was necessary at a hotel reception as it left him vulnerable to the public.
We drove to Birmingham and found the NEC. Not an easy task as every turn off seemed to be for that place. We arrived in plenty of time for the 1-00 pm dead line ( sound check was at 2-00 pm ). We drove through the security check point showing our passes and then along a small road up to the rear doors. I now saw for the first time what a Rush tour meant in terms of vehicles and personnel. Remember the last tine I had been involved with a band, all the gear and members plus the roadie, were able to travel in a Ford Transit van.
There were three tour buses, six articulated lorries, and all sorts of people milling around. Add to this to several vehicles for the film crew as the shows at the NEC were to be filmed, and you can imagine my amazement at this scene
I drove the BMW through the large open roller doors and into the back stage area. There seemed to be organised chaos every where. People like so many ants, swarming all over the place. Wide eyed I watched as this seemingly disorganised crowd went about their individual business. I was soon to realise each and everyone had a purpose and knew exactly what they and each other were doing.
Neil took me to the production office, the heartbeat of the shows, and introduced me to various members of the Rush hierarchy. Howard Ungerleider, tour manager and lighting director. Liam Birt, stage manager. Pegi Cecconi, a senior executive with Anthem and others. We then went into the stage area where I met more people involved with the tour. Larry Allen, Neil's drum technician, Don Collins, head rigger, Tony Geranios, keyboard technician and George Steinert who was the stage carpenter. I also learned George worked for Neil while not touring, responsible for the maintenance at his house.
By now I had already forgotten the names of most of these folk. How was I ever going to learn who they all were and what their function was within this enormous operation? However one thing was already very clear. Neil was a very important and major player within this mass of humanity. When he spoke they listened and it was obvious there was a lot of respect for my boss.
I was soon left to my own devices as Neil had things to do. If I had expected to just hang out with my old mate when he wasn't actually working then I was in for a big surprise!
Neil in working mode is a totally different being to the guy I knew in London. He is ultra professional and expects those around him to be the same. I guess the only time he is comfortable on a tour is when he is on stage playing. I know that also applied as we travelled together between shows. Being very comfortable in each other's company, and me not being very knowledgeable about music in general, and about Rush in particular, made it easier for Neil to relax. Once we were driving it was like the old days, two friends chatting and the pressure of the tour forgotten. ( We rarely discussed the shows as we travelled. ) I guess this was why I was offered the job in the first place.
I am not going to go into the NEC shows in detail as I am going to quote Chris Lea's version. Not only is Chris's memory of that time so much clearer than mine but he has much more awareness about Rush and their equipment.
Until Chris told me I couldn't even recall that Neil and I stayed in a different hotel to the others while in Birmingham. Those first few days of the '88 tour really are just a blur. There was so much going on, so much new stuff to take in and always at the back of my mind, once false move while driving, and the tour could be cancelled. I didn't really start to enjoy it until we reached mainland Europe and I began to relax.
The first night of the HYF tour at the NEC is still a blur. All I can really remember is Neil's solo. It reminded me of the times when I used to watch Stan Bowles play football. Can that be a friend of mine? In both cases while on their respective stages, it was like they were two different people to the guys I knew. Not the mates who I would be talking to and in Stan's case drinking with when they had finished "working". I watched, open mouthed, as Mr Peart did all these unbelievable things with two pieces of wood and two feet. Could that really be only one man? Every time I have seen Rush play, whether working or not, I have never missed his wonderful solo.
With Chris Lea's permission I have adapted part of his "Amazing Story" to cover the Saturday night's show. His recall and descriptive powers and knowledge of all things Rush are far superior to mine and I know he captures the scene so much better than my failing memory. Chris, Bernie Dwyer and my girl Jackie travelled down from Manchester in her car for the show that night, Neil had invited them as his guests.
Thank you Chris.
"Whilst Pete was ahead of us 'working', he had sussed out where to come and meet us. Which at the precise roundabout, he did. The Car looked even bigger as he was already at the rendezvous point. We waved and he indicated to Jackie to follow him.
It was our mini motorcade, as we weaved around the small linking roads of the complex. In front was the almost gliding, black, behemoth. As we approached a security post, with the barrier lowered, Pete stopped and flashed a special, band transport pass, then, we saw him indicate towards us, the guard looked and disappeared into the hut, to raise the barrier. Cool! Checkpoint Charlie, we're in...I think. As we neared our destination, I thought we were just going to be first in the car park, the people activity increased. Then Pete slowed as we approached what I now realized was the main concert hall. We had taken a 'secret route' and came in the back way.
The cars were dwarfed by the huge artics parked up. We moved past six trucks and three crew buses. Roadies, techs and other assorted essential personnel, were all scurrying around. To say a 'hive of activity', would sell it short. There were also the trucks for the film crew and their various techs, busying themselves. To be fair the actual 'air' was relaxed, as all the gear had been in the building since Wednesday. So we weren't dodging large, boxes of vital equipment, as they were wheeled into the hall. Still following Pete, we carried on into the large opened doorway and into a cavernous backstage area. We swung around and Pete parked the BM next to one of two tour busses. We stopped right behind Pete. We finally parked. Now we were in!
As I stretched outside the car, I turned three-sixty. We were inside the NEC, it looked like a huge underground car park. Pillars supporting the roof would make a great slalom course. Then as I continued to rotate, into view came the black sheeting and scaffolding that formed the stage area. There were silver tubular metal lighting rigs, criss-crossed across the top and length of the stage. Bern and Jackie were now out and Pete also had left the BM and was walking ahead of us. 'Follow that Man'!
The closer we got to the stage area, the bigger it got. Flight cases were piled and stacked underneath the stage. Crew guys milled around. Pete was letting on to a few as we approached the very backstage. Knowing Pete he's already probably introduced them to the great old British institution - the Bookies! Now Pete slowed down, so too us. I imagined that we would find a door and exit into the arena. We carried on through a makeshift doorway, built into the black-drape-covered staging construction.
Through the door we were now in 'Backstage Central', at the very heart. Immediately in front of us and almost dominating the actual space, was a huge piece of hi-tech looking kit. When I looked closely I thought it looked like a cinema film projector, only very streamlined, futuristic and very big. It was the back-screen 'film projector'. Set against the very back wall of the NEC, furthest away from the stage, was the Production Office. As I looked towards the back, in the far left corner was the door that leads to the...Dressing Rooms! The band are actually through those doors now! Pete is scanning left and right, then when he spots who he is looking for, he heads over. I believe it was Nick Kotos, who apart from being the tallest man in the world, was the, then Production Manager. Pete said something to him, Nick 'bent down' to hear, then they both turned and plodded towards us.
Like the stage as Nick approached, he got even bigger! He had a walkie-talkie, stapled almost to his hand, it was always crackling and 'talking'. Pete and Nick walked towards a ramp that ran upwards. They stopped, Nick moved to one side, then Pete began up the ramp! He then stopped and gestured to us, in the 'follow me' way! Holy shit, this is the ramp to the actual stage. We were 'Entering Stage Left'!!
Akin to Richard Dreyfuss as he, gingerly entered the Mothership. I too slowly moved up the ramp. As we hit the level, I stopped. I had to take it all in. The whole, completely empty, almost silently eerie NEC arena, opened up in front of me. Wow. Of course I tried to visualize every seat filled with, smiling, happy, cheering, singing people. Then I moved to my right, as I walked off the ramp and onto the stage proper, a huge flight case was positioned. It was split into racks, most of the racks held bass guitars. Geddy's basses. Then as I passed them, to my left was Ged's keyboard set up. Complete with funny 'toys', as adornment. I noticed that my feet felt cushioned. Of course the Rush 'Axminster Shag Pile'. I always thought the 'carpet' was a nice touch. Then as I journeyed to Stage Centre, I passed Geddy's back-line. What no domestic white-goods?
My pace, even though slow enough, slowed further as I reached, for me, the 'piece de resistance'. The Professor's Office. I'm glad Bernie could join me. All he kept saying, quietly was 'how the feck does he play all this'? It took up about the size of a small office too. Of course I embarrassingly drooled over this drum and cymbal fest! But of course I didn't need to identify every piece, but it was the 'pinky'(??) white, Ludwig double-kick set up. I remember that even then Neil's hardware was brass plated and up this close, it looked like pure gold. Then I did it...I played Neil's kit! Well not technically, I did very gently tap my fingertips on the heads of some of his toms. But hey that's as close as you can get...Isn't it????
Across the back, panoramically spread was the electronic pads of his second kit. Dazzling, shiny cymbals hung silent. Looking like discs of gold. Everything was bolted onto his famous spinning riser. As I stood between the bass drums, I turned around towards the vast, eerily quiet arena to gauge Neil's viewpoint. It was then I noticed the cameras, lots of them. I was particularly fascinated with a piece of equipment; I found out was called a Louma Crane Cam. Oooohhh! This is the camera fixed to a massive crane (again I think the clue's in the name) that gives those swooping high to low, ariel shots. They kept testing it swooping over the stage. Strange I know sod all about cars, but plenty about camera cranes, hmmm. As I looked to the roof I saw a huge white net, fastened to the ceiling girders. Inside were what looked like hundreds of red balloons.
Bidding 'farewell to things'...percussion, I approached Stage Right. Big Al's domain. Not being that knowledgeable about 'guitar stuff', his pedal board alone looked like it had been built by NASA! Then as Big Nick appeared we realised that this 'once in a lifetime' moment was up! So we exited stage right!! I heartily thanked Nick and we walked past Alex's guitars, loads of them, all standing to attention, ready for battle. I had a final quick look around, reaffirming that, yes, I am standing on Rush's stage. And all is still!
We walked down the ramp back to the backstage area. I was pointing out various crew members to Bern, when he turned to Jackie laughing, 'he even knows the crew's names'! But I just did!! We just do! This was all too surreal. Pete then suggested we might want to get something to eat, we had ages to kill. Like ducklings we once again all followed Pete, as we moved to catering. We had something to eat which I recall as being very good indeed and there were some bottled beers that we could enjoy. Well apart from the show, it can't get any better...can it????
As I further drank in the strange atmosphere, (and beer) the vendors and bars were opening. Then the doors were opened and the volume was slowly being turned up, as fans streamed in. Pete had gone off briefly and then returned with our tickets. Bern asked why we needed them, because we were in already. So I asked him which seats were ours? 'Oh yeah', he realised. Then Pete also gave us a stick on adhesive pass. It was red, with the three floating spheres from HYF. It had the date on and the initials NP!
Our seats were great. Geddy's side, but very close. I presumed that those sat around us were, friends and guests too. As we took our seats I looked around, now it was a gig atmosphere. The fans were in good spirits and good voice. I tried to imagine how it looked a couple of hours ago, vast, empty, silent.
The house lights were cut, the audience rose as one. Then the huge projector I had seen, standing silent suddenly kicked into life and light, we were off! It seemed to me somehow even more special, as it was not just being recorded, but filmed as well. So when I watch 'A Show Of Hands', the whole day comes back to me. Realising that I was on that very stage, I 'played' those very drums.
Of course the gig was just stunning. They were on it! And I sang (out of tune) and drummed (out of time), to every song. Bernie particularly enjoyed it and now realised that Pete's 'Buddy', was damned good. Jackie too enjoyed the show. Rock is not her favourite, but I think she appreciated what was going on and liked it visually.
Well the show came and went. We waited in our seats for Pete, who was going to come back for us, so he could get us to the car. Pete subsequently turned up and again made like the Pied Piper, we followed him. As I left the arena I glanced back, to see it, as it was when we arrived, empty?. We followed 'our leader', along the perimeter corridor that surrounds the arena. Then we walked along to the 'checkpoint' at the backstage area. Pete had his All Access Areas Pass and as we each went through, we 'flashed our passes'! Pete told us to wait a minute. As we stood there watching this calm, frenzy go on around us. Bernie started smiling and gesturing to someone.
It turns out this 'someone' was the British promoter, Danny Betesh, who runs Kennedy Street Promotions, who were promoting the HYF tour. They also promoted R30. Kennedy and certainly, specifically Danny, used to book Freddie and the Dreamers, back in the '60's. Bern introduced us to him, just as Pete returned. Pete and Danny knew each other as well. Quelle surprise! After some social intercourse!! Danny asked Pete and us where we were going now. Pete answered, and boy did he answer. 'We're going to see Neil'!!
What? We're off to see the Wizard/Professor! Lead on Dorothy er, Pete! We are not following the yellow brick road, just the back of Pete's balding head! Through the doors backstage to a sign that reads 'Dressing Rooms'. Bern is beaming as much as me, as we head down the corridor. Apart from some crew huddled by a door, it is deserted. They move forward as Pete nears, he shows his 'Triple A Pass'. We show our, further-down-the-ranks passes. But something's worked and the guy's part and the door that has RUSH on, opens and in we go.
The room is fair sized, but not overly big. It is very bright. Unsurprisingly there are no brownless M&M's, no midgets wandering around, with bowls of 'class A's' on their heads. Or stilt-walkers or fire-eaters! Pete scuttles off. I can see Geddy talking to some guy with long hair and a moustache. It turns out he is the video director. Further left in the corner, there is a large table covered with a white tablecloth. There is Chinese food laid out as a buffet. There are some people I didn't recognise, apart from the blond guy sat on the edge of the table with a bowl of noodles. Alex was tucking in but was also talking to someone. Always smiling! A few recognisable crew members were also there, suddenly Pete was walking back, with a tall dude following him.
Before I go on I quickly want to show how preconceptions of someone can come unstuck. We all know too well Neil's views on his privacy. We know (of) Neil's persona. Every time I have 'met' him, he was smiling and always courteous. No look of when is this shit finishing. Neil though is very much a 'player', he is tremendously respected in the Rush organization. Even when Pete was 'working', he demanded (in a nice way), that the schedules be kept. Why? To give us his best performance! Pete used to say that people on the periphery were always asking if he (Neil) was OK, how his mood was? As if they had some fear or trepidation. Well with this all on my mind or shoulders, I too had some trepidation. Will he just politely say 'hi', and make some excuse to leave? Will this be the Neil we know and...Fear?!!
Pete stopped in front of the three of us, the tall, familiar guy stood next to him. He immediately hugged Jackie then, vigorously shook Bernie's hand. 'Bern', Neil boomed. Then, 'You must be Chris, Hi', still shaking hands. 'How's the football going'? ( During my younger, fitter, wilder days, I had joined a Manchester based, American Football team. Pete had mentioned this to Neil ). Shit! In my head I was on my knees 'I'm not worthy'. But maybe I was worthy! From the first hug of Jackie, Neil's face never lost his smile. His eyes disappear to slits as he, at times roared with laughter. How wrong can our preconceptions be?
The man will give us his every ounce in his performance. He doesn't owe us. In fact he rewards us! So let him have his peace. If anyone met him he will be charming and friendly. He doesn't want, Wayne's World 'adulation'. And after meeting him you wouldn't want to. Because he suddenly became that other Joe!
Pete also told me weeks before now, that if I 'ever met Neil', that if he introduced me to someone else, then he would introduce me as a 'friend'! 'Come on I'll introduce you to the other guys'. No way! Oh yes! We are advancing towards Geddy. He was still talking to the video director guy. When Neil approached Geddy turned towards him. Neil politely asked to briefly interrupt, and said to Geddy. 'Can I introduce you to a friend of mine, Chris he's a good Northern lad'. 'Hi Chris', Geddy, yes Geddy, offered back as we shook hands. I think I mumbled some gobbledeegook, like great show, nice shoes. I forget now! But he had his big glasses on!
Then off on 'NeilTours', we headed to the buffet. Alex still bowl in hand, still smiling. He jumped to his feet as Neil approached. 'Meet a friend of mine, Chris, a Manchester lad'. Now all the stories about Alex are true. A nicer guy you couldn't meet. Pete would share some 'memorable' nights with Al. His smile beamed as I appeared from behind Neil. 'Hey hi Chris, want something to eat'? I kid you not! I declined, ( but I could have murdered some ribs )! He almost cartoon-like shook hands and some grip. I was much calmer now and I chatted with Neil and Alex for sometime. I noticed that their and some crew member's pass laminates were different from the 'normal' ones ie: Pete's. He had the Edward G Robinson, type mobster guy, juggling the three flaming spheres, from HYF. The band's however had different images on. They were 'stills' from the David Lynch (classic) film 'Blue Velvet'. Neil said it was their favourite current film. It was also that I witnessed first hand, the now famous laminate set lists. Neil showed me his, his picture was the Dean Stockwell character singing 'In dreams', into the lit up mike. Neil suggested that we should head back to Pete and our 'gang', as 'we' should get going???
I bid Alex a final goodbye. Then I quickly moved to Geddy, not wishing to interrupt I waved; he waved back and gave me a thumbs up! Cool! So back I went to the 'party'. I was planning a farewell and good luck to Neil, when he moved off into the background. Pete told us quickly that we were going to follow, him and Neil back to their hotel!!! I thought this night finished with, 'thank you Birmingham, good night'. Never mind being admitted to the inner sanctum. Wrong!
Neil reappeared with jacket, baseball cap and a smallish shoulder bag, no doubt containing his 'note books'. He quickly said some goodbyes and waved at various points in the room. Then like a shepherd he guided/ushered us out the door. Down the corridor into the backstage area, that had calmed down now. Past the big rewound projector, and out through the makeshift door. As we got through Neil asked me if I wanted any t-shirts???!! Without waiting for the ( obvious ) reply he called to someone to bring some t-shirts. In seconds a crew member returned with armfuls of black t and sweat shirts. So perhaps a career move when he gets fed up of this drumming, rock star malarkey, he can go on the 'merch' desk! Now my arms are full as we once again are in the columned parking area. Neil and Pete got into the BM, we got into Jackie's car immediately behind. The huge door that was closed began to rise silently until it was fully open. As we pulled away, even though I was still in quite some daze, due to these 'events' I wasn't prepared for what was waiting as we cleared the doorway.
I of course presumed everyone would be gone, but of course none of the band had left yet! So suddenly we saw all these faces as they 'rushed' towards us, trying to see who we were. They picked the wrong car. Bernie smiled and gave them the 'Queen's Wave'! The one's who guessed right were pointing and waving frantically at the BM's window. I still bet they wonder who was in the other car.
As part of traveling separately the band were staying apart too. Geddy and Alex were staying at the Metropole Hotel near the NEC. Neil however was staying at a small hotel in Dudley. It wasn't too far as we 'tailgated' the BM. The hotel was a charming, 'olde worlde' building, set in a vast rural setting, off the beaten track.
We parked the cars up, then set off inside through two big, thick glass doors. No one batted an eyelid as we swept through the reception. Just as Neil would like it I guessed. We reached our destination, the bar lounge. Christ, did I need a drink! I did actually feel drained. Neil was sprightly as we found some chairs and a table. Then after removing layers and making the 'toilet run', we all settled down. A waiter brought our drinks to the table and we enjoyed a thoroughly enjoyable, relaxing, 'liquid', funny, couple of hours.
Pete and Neil had anecdotes from their 'old days'. We all listened to some of Bernie's, humorous adventures, with the 'Dreamers'. This was amazing; I was in the wonderful company of two generations of drummers. The longer it went on the more relaxed I felt. I wasn't in the company of the 'great drum rock god' just Neil. There was one point where Neil went to the bar, after asking me if I wanted another drink. Asking if he was sure, and not wanting to go and wreck a hotel room. He duly returned with my drink. 'Oh my god, Neil Peart has just bought me a drink', I over-acted in mock astonishment. He laughed and put it on the table. I think Neil really liked Bernie's company, but then a lot of people did, he was a lovely bloke.
Well all good things must come to an end. Neil had finished his brandy and was signing for the bill!!! I suggested all chucking a tenner in, but Neil insisted we were 'his guests'! As we went into reception, the lump of skin gathered on the back of my hand, from my earlier pinching, had receded. I had realized long ago that, this wasn't one of those 'too real' dreams; this was for (very) real! Variously there were hugs, kisses and handshakes. Then followed our farewells and most definitely thank-yous. We set off out the door waving as Pete and Neil waved back. Then they turned around and headed off, possibly to find some dynamite to blow up the toilet, before cocoa and bed!"
As previously stated the early days of the HYF tour are a blur. As much as I know some of you will want to know in depth, details of Rush during the tour, this is Neil and my story so the things that I still recall are more to do with the travelling between venues rather than the shows themselves. I really enjoyed the long night drives between gigs. All the miles we have travelled together over the years, Neil has never slept for one second.
After the shows Neil would either spend some time in the inner sanctum, if he had to see someone, or leave straight from the stage. When that was the case he would run directly to the car and we would drive away before most people even realized he was no longer on the stage.
"Peart has left the building"!
Having quickly changed into fresh clothes he would start to relax by drinking a small single malt whiskey, and smoking a cigarette. One of my jobs was to make sure there were always some of both in the BMW for this purpose. As I said, Neil never slept for a second during any of these long drives, often acting as navigator when required.
After the SEC show in Glasgow, Neil had to run down an adjacent hall, around 200 yards, to reach the car. This hall was covered in carpet tiles and no matter how hard I tried or what financial inducement I offered, the supervisor wouldn't allow me to drive the car over them. I even made the suggestion of removing one tile each side of the car, all the way to the back, so I could reverse without doing any damage. I told the guy I would take up the tiles myself, and pay to have them replaced, after we left, with no joy. Having just finished a two hour set and that sprint, Neil arrived at the car and was hardly out of breath. I guess you have to be super fit to be rock drummer!
Before leaving Danny Betesh, the GB promoter had asked me how long it would take to drive the 400 plus miles to central London. I said if we got away as expected at eleven, we would be there around three thirty in the morning. Danny was very sceptical and bet me a hundred pounds we couldn't do it. It was agreed when we reached the reception of the hotel I would call him at home. Danny would then ring the hotel to verify I was in fact there. Neil was very amused by the wager and though I needed no encouragement, urged me to go for it. The traffic was light and I booted that marvellous car all the way down the M74 ( partially the A74 in those days ), into England and down the M6. We took the M40 route to London and as I was traveling along it at 120 mph plus, I saw a flashing blue light in my mirror.
I pulled over and the policeman got out of his car and approached us. Seeing the German plates he asked in broken English if I understood the speed limit. I replied that I was English, and the car was rented in Munich for my Canadian friend and me to tour Great Britain and then the continent. Of course no mention was made of a rock band! I added I was driving on a Jersey, Channel Islands, driving license which I produced. ( I had kept it up to date from those years I lived there in the 70's. ) Totally confused and obviously not wanting all the paper work, he warned me to drive slower and let us go. Before he was back in his car I was up to a 100mph, well, we did have a dead line to meet! We arrived at the hotel in Grafton Street, Mayfair with minutes to spare. I made the call to Danny, and even though he rang back to confirm I was actually there, he never did pay the £100. Still it was great fun achieving the time schedule, and a very enjoyable drive.
I had only ever been to Wembley to see football matches so being so close to the twin towers at the Arena was a bit special. It was very strange to see those familiar walk ways bereft of people. My cousin's son Matt was living in London and I got him and some mates tickets for the second of the three shows. He wanted some pictures so with permission, I stood in with the professional photographers, right in front of the stage, and took my shots with Matt's camera. The only difference was after the rest had to leave, ( three numbers later ), I was allowed to remain.
Though useless with a camera I managed to get some good pictures, especially of Alex who deliberately came real close and made all sorts of lunatic faces. Matt still treasures those old photos. I had also obtained some tickets for the night manager of the hotel, a big Rush fan. This was on the understanding that he looked after me, each evening, on my return to my room with a small buffet and a half bottle of champagne. After the Friday show I took Matt and a couple of his friends back and there was a wonderful choice of drinks and snacks waiting for us. I felt like I was a rock star. Marvellous what a couple of freebies can achieve! Needless to say Matt and company were well impressed!
After the last London show on Sat. 30th of May we had a night's rest and set off for mainland Europe on the Sunday morning. We arrived in Calais and headed for Amsterdam. Surprisingly, to me, Neil was amazed how easily I adapted to driving on the "wrong side" of the road. In fact being a left hand drive car it was actually easier on the continent. The next gig was at the Ahoy stadium in Rotterdam but we were staying in the 'Dam. That has to be the worst place I have ever driven as it is almost impossible to get parked, especially in such a large car, so much traffic, and so many narrow streets. No wonder people choose to travel by boats on the wonderful canals.
I had wondered just how much of a party this tour would be. The truth was up to now it was all driving or sitting about venues and hotels. Exactly what my boss Mr Peart had told me to expect. But as this was a major rock band, surely there had to be some wild times? I did have an excellent night in Amsterdam, but that was with Dutch friends of mine and with no one from the tour. The closest to having a ball I had got by then was a couple of joints with the road crew on nights I wasn't driving! The Ahoy gig sticks in my memory for two reasons.
My best mate from Holland, Dick and his wife Yvonne came to the show. So did the parents of a friend of my son Mark, who were working there at the time. The other reason was the reception of the crowd. Although all the gigs had been sell outs up to now, this was by far the loudest and most receptive. Young kids at the front who strummed air guitar to every note Alex and Geddy played and kept up with all the movements of Neil's arms. An incredible sight, but not so for my Dutch friends, who excused themselves after an hour complaining it was all much too loud.
After the show we travelled over night to Frankfurt and as the next day was a day off, Neil wanted to have an afternoon in the Black Forest. This was the only time he drove during HYF tour although initially he had said he may do some of the driving. He put the BMW into sports mode which dropped the suspension and enabled it to be driven manually. Then he drove it like a rally car round the narrow winding roads. As with everything NEP does his driving was excellent. He had taken racing car lessons in Canada and it showed. It was a very beautiful area and we took a couple of photos posing in front of that wonderful BMW with the Black Forest as a back drop.
On the autobahn returning to Frankfurt as I passed a turn off, Neil said we should have exited there. I was sure he was wrong but 47 kilometers at the next exit I had to concur he was right. I guess in some ways Frankfurt just wasn't my lucky place. A view which will be proved later in this tale If the HYF tour was a let down from the partying front there was one occasion when being involved with Rush did enable me to meet an attractive German lady. On the day of the Frankfurt show, 4th May, I was filling the car up at a petrol station. A very sexy young lady, who worked there, no doubt attracted much more by the BMW than me, asked what I was doing in Frankfurt.
Naturally I told her the story and when she didn't look too disinterested I asked if she would like to come to the show that night. She said she would love to. After dropping Neil off at the rear of the Festhalle, I parked the car outside as I wasn't allowed to leave it, as I normally would at most venues, in the hall. Eagerly looking forward to my date, I obtained two tickets from the production office. For once I would be watching Rush from a punters viewpoint, instead of wandering around various venues trying to look important wearing my triple access pass, or if we had a night drive, sleeping part of the gig in the back of the car. ( On those occasions I always had someone wake me in time for Neil's solo! ) We met as arranged and took our seats in plenty of time to see the performance start.
We were in the upper circle and the only entrance was from outside. Because of this, during the interval I just stayed in my seat. At the end of the show having made arrangements to meet my fraulein at the Gravenbruch Kempenski Hotel, where we were staying, I wandered back stage. There was no hurry as I knew Neil was having a couple of drinks before we left. As I passed the place where I had parked the car I realized it wasn't there. Total panic immediately set in. I had been playing the "I am the drummer's personal assistant" role, and the car had been stolen.
I found a security guard and managed to explain the problem. I showed him the empty space and he explained I had parked over a sign written on the ground which said, in German, "parking for emergency vehicles only". It had been towed to a compound. Not only was it over a mile away, there was a hundred marks fine to pay. As we were staying that night in Frankfurt I had left most of my money in the hotel. I quickly found Liam Birt and borrowed the necessary marks without telling him what it was for. As the concert had just finished the road was full of people and I couldn't find a taxi anywhere. I ran to the compound and after a lengthy argument, was it my car etc?
I paid the fine and drove it back to the hall being very careful where I parked! I was still out of breath and no doubt totally disheveled, as I tried to casually walk into the inner sanctum. I entered everyone looked at me, then Neil came over and asked if I had found the car. The whole room burst out clapping, and laughing. I thought I had got away with it but one of the security guards had asked for the driver, and when I couldn't be found, told Liam Birt it had to be removed because it was illegally parked. Everyone from the band to all of the crew knew about it and they were highly amused. That wasn't the only time I would "lose" a car on a Rush tour but more of that later in the story. No need to say there were car jokes aimed in my direction for the rest of the tour.
However the young lady was waiting for me in the hotel bar. Alex, Geddy and some of the others came in later and seemed suitably impressed with my companion. There was a happy ending to the night as she stayed over and once again I was out of breath and sweating, but this time for a much more enjoyable reason! So I guess I had some luck in Frankfurt after all, but what was to happen on the next tour in 1992 proved it was to be an unlucky, yet in some ways a very lucky city, for me.
The next day, when I asked Neil, why they didn't just announce over the sound system that I was needed before the car was removed, he replied, "we couldn't do that". Something I don't understand to this day. The whole episode did keep a lot of people amused for a while, so I guess some good came out of it.
I said earlier that Neil had chosen all the music after that first Paul Simon tape I played when I picked him up at Heathrow. For those of you who have read Neil's book, "Traveling Music", you will be aware of his musical tastes. They are very varied from Sinatra to modern day recordings, jazz, many other types of music and artists. Neil had recorded numerous tapes ( no CD's then ) with all his current and old favourites. As the car was started until the engine switched off, a tape was always playing. I knew some of the tracks, but there were plenty that were new to me. Of those, the ones I got to like best were the small unknown Toronto bands that had been recorded live in various local clubs. In some cases Neil had jammed with the band. Although mainly they were groups who hadn't achieved a recording contract, they all sounded pretty good. I think Mr. Peart got tired of me continually asking, "and who is that?". There were so many different ones I just couldn't remember them. One band that was never heard was Rush. Neil said, apart from while they were recording, final mixing, and choosing songs for touring, he never listens to his own trio. I told him I could understand that .
The last venue of the HYF tour was in the Hans Martin Schleyer Hall, Stuttgart. As usual we arrived early, in plenty of time for the sound check. When we got to the hall we were stopped entering the back stage area by a barrier and an attendant. The barrier was partially up. I explained who we were and we both showed our passes. However, we needed another pass to get the car beyond this rather officious gentleman, and that pass had to be obtained from inside the building. I tried to tell him that I couldn't leave the car and Neil while I went for the pass, nor could I expect my boss to collect it.
While I discussed this dilemma with our very own "little Hitler", Neil became aware of two coach loads of Italian fans who had disembarked a couple of hundred yards away to our left. As they walked closer to the check point, a few saw who was sitting in the BMW. Excitedly they started pointing at Rush's trapped drummer and ran towards us. Neil immediately asked me if I could drive through the barrier without hurting the guard. "Don't worry about the car or the barrier", he said in an agitated state, "I will pay for any damage, just miss that guy but get me out of here". I put my foot down and at speed manoeuvered through the very narrow gap, succeeding without touching anything. Once again I was acutely aware how the thought of being cornered by fans made Neil feel very uncomfortable.
As I later walked around the back stage area I saw Neil with his bow and arrow. At all of the venues prior to sound check I had seen this familiar sight. I watched as the quiet, lonely figure took aim and fired at a target a few yards away. In the States Neil would tell me he took his bicycle and went for long rides on days off and before shows but in Europe he spent some of his time practicing his archery skills.
On reflection Neil spent a lot of time on his own during the tour. I could spend two or three days in the same hotel, and never see NEP once. This wasn't him being unsociable, just the way he likes it. I think, as I am, Mr. Peart is very comfortable with his own company. While Alex and Geddy may have a game of tennis, or in years to come, a round of golf for Alex, Neil spent his spare moments pursuing his own interests.
Even before a gig Neil would often be in "solitary confinement." He would be honing his archery skills, reading, getting his journal up to date, or just warming up on his practice kit. I think he preferred this way to prepare for the show to mixing with others. It may sound like he is very anti social but nothing could be further from the truth. When he is working, he is ultra professional, but when he is socializing, then he is the very warm, funny, friendly, generous guy that I first met all those years ago in London
Throughout the tour during the last number of every show dozens of red balloons were released from their netting to fall down on the audience. One of the crew told me to watch the final song but wouldn't tell me why. I did find out that something was always arranged as a surprise for the band on the last night of a tour. As all those balloons were released they fell onto the stage rather than the audience, much to the huge amusement of Alex, Geddy and Neil. Apparently the riggers had spent hours moving the netting back to achieve this goal. In no time the stage was covered in balloons with the guys all laughing. Alex threw himself on top of a load of them. It was almost a bouncy castle situation. Insanely grinning, he continued playing as he bounced horizontally across the stage. An amazing and hilarious sight
After the show we left straight away and headed back to our hotel in Frankfurt.
If I was expecting an end of tour party, then I was to be disappointed. This tour really hadn't been the "rock and roll" experience I had hoped for. I did have a few drinks in the hotel bar with Alex, Pegi and a couple of others. All they could talk about was going home the next day. Of course I had only been involved in the last small part of a very long tour. These people had been on the road for months, and it showed in their desire just to be allowed to return to their respective cities and towns. I just wished I could have relaxed early on and enjoyed the experience so much more. I did, however, enjoy every minute traveling in that great car with my friend.
Throughout the tour, another of my duties had been to organize any interviews Neil did. It was quite bizarre the way it was handled. Even Pegi seemed a little unsure of whether Neil would want to do an interview, so she would approach me, asking how Neil was feeling, and did I think he may want to do one that or the next day? I then approached Neil to check if this was OK. I never understood the trepidation over Neil's participation in these interviews as he always agreed when I asked him. The powers that be from Anthem were equally amazed that he never refused, to the extent that Pegi actually said, it was a great idea having me travel with Neil, as it made him much more amenable.
This cemented a trust between Pegi and I that is still there to this day. The format was always the same. I would book a room have reception ring me when the interviewer arrived. I then took them to the room, rang Neil, waited for him outside, entered with him and introduced the two, and left. After half an hour I had to ring Neil. He would answer the phone and if the things were going well, he would say, "I will see you when I am finished here". That meant he was comfortable and would continue the interview. However if he thought the person was incompetent, badly prepared or just a jerk, then his answer would be, "OK, I will be there right away". This method of being able to escape from an awkward situation amused me, as when I worked company frauds, I had used a similar ruse, but in reverse. When I had a sales person in my office, I would have my secretary ring every five minutes or so, to make it appear that we were a very busy company!
Out of the five or six interviews Neil did on the HYF tour, only one was terminated prematurely. Again I was aware Neil always expected a high level of professionalism even from journalists.
All too soon my tour with Rush was over. That was my last night as the next day I had to return the car to Munich and fly home to Manchester. The British part of my job had passed so quickly, with me not really able to enjoy it. The three gigs in Europe had been much more enjoyable but had just flown in. And I had only been away for nineteen days.
After arriving in Manchester, where Jackie met me at the airport, we went to the Barleycorn for a meal. Chris Lea came in after work and I told him all I could remember about the tour and gave him a couple of presents. A tour book signed by all three of his Rush heroes and a couple of Neil's drum sticks. Not new ones but some Larry had given me that Neil had used during that final Stuttgart show. Neil had organized this without any prompting from me. Chris was totally made up and amazed by his gifts.
Of course I kept several mementoes from the tour, stuff from various hotels, my triple A pass etc. As I had emptied the car in Munich I found a letter from my probation officer saying that although I was on probation, I had her permission to leave the country to work for Neil. All those borders crossed and not once had I been asked for this document. In fact I could have smuggled anything I wanted into England as the customs never even stopped me, though I don't suppose Neil would have been amused if I had used his tour car to bring in some contraband!
Jackie was just pleased to have me back safe and sound.
With the Rush tour over I soon returned to my usual life style of getting a few quid and spending it as soon as possible. I have only scant memories of contact with Neil over the next few years as there were some very important personal matters on the horizon. Of course there was still no internet, at least not for me, so all mail relied on our respective postal services. Naturally I still have all NEP's letters and various items sent to me over the decades, but I am writing this without reference to those whenever possible.
In late 1989 two very important events occurred, one of which was to change my life for ever. First Jackie and I split up after months of drifting apart. The only real decision was who would move out of our small but well appointed flat. In the end I did the gentlemanly thing and got another place. I let Jackie keep everything she wanted as I could replace them a lot easier than she could. Finding accommodation in Didsbury has always been a nightmare, but I found a small, dingy one bed roomed place about a hundred yards from my local pub, the Barleycorn.
Then just before Christmas I heard from my son's mother. I knew about Mark but had only seen him once. Margaret, his mum, had been engaged when we met, and when she became pregnant back in February 1972, had finished the affair and married her boy friend. She had always maintained Mark was mine, and after seeing him briefly in 1978, I had no doubts.
Mark, now sixteen, had got in trouble with the police, a family trait I guess. His mum wanted me to have a word to try and help him. I attempted to find him in Carlisle that Christmas with no luck. I couldn't go to his home as no one knew I was his dad and Margaret's new boyfriend had always hated me, plus I had no idea what Mark looked like. The only help I had, from his mum, had been where he might be and what he was wearing. On Friday 6th January 1989, I drove up to Carlisle, determined to finally meet up with him.
That short drive of 120 miles was to be most bizarre. I had a suit bag hanging in the back of the hire car, and as I reached the Lancaster turn off the M6, about half way home, I thought I was being followed. Though I was never a major league villain, over the years, I had worked with some very tasty guys, so the police would, now and again, spend a day seeing what I was up to. This was usually done by one CID officer, who would be up to date with me and my habits, and I was fairly used to it. I just couldn't believe that they would waste time doing this, when anyone who knew anything about me, must know where I was going. Friday afternoon, M6 north, suit bag in full view, could only mean I was going home to Carlisle for the weekend, plus the next day Carlisle United were playing Liverpool in the third round of the FA cup.
Where else would I be going?
To make sure I did the usual anti surveillance moves which were a natural habit in those days when being followed on motorways. I increased speed to over 100 mph, slowed down again. The offending car kept the same distance behind me. I passed an artic at speed, then braked, and pulled in front of it, the car stayed behind the lorry, so I did the final check, drove into a service station and straight out again without stopping. Once more I was followed at a distance of around two hundred yards. I knew the driver should be aware by now I had realized that he was tailing me and I expected him to stop the surveillance. Basic tactics if the police think they have been spotted. But he stayed right behind me.
Totally amused, as I was doing nothing illegal, I sped up the M6 to junction 43 and without signaling exited at around 110 mph with the result my tail almost missed the turn off. At the roundabout I slowed right down leaving the other driver no option but to close up. He had two choices, either sit behind me as I waited to turn left for Carlisle pretending to read a map, or draw level as if he was turning right away from Carlisle. This is what he did, hoping, no doubt, to make a complete circle of the roundabout and get behind me again. I waited until he was out of sight and followed him. As we both joined the A69 into Carlisle I was now was behind my pursuer. This is something that should obviously never be allowed to happen. I noted the registration number and over took him, went the wrong way down a one way street, and pulled up on the pavement outside the Crown and Mitre Hotel where I was staying. ( He was hardly likely to report me for motoring offences as I wasn't supposed to know he was there!)
Unbelievably the guy had remained right behind me.
I ran to a pay phone in the foyer and rang the Carlisle police to report the strange happenings of the last hour, saying I was in fear for my life, and quoted the number plate. I was told to ring back in twenty minutes and they would see if they could discover who the driver was. I went to my vehicle to get my things and saw the other car parked across the road a few yards away, the driver standing on the pavement, talking to a Carlisle CID officer. I grinned at them and waved. When I rang the police station later, they told me they didn't know who the driver was, but said it was a hire car from Manchester airport. I just laughed and told them I knew exactly who he was, added he was fecking useless, and hung up.
Funnily enough a few weeks later when I was arrested in Manchester over an inquiry about a stolen container load of coffee, I was taken to an inspector's office instead of the usual detention area. The inspector, after getting me a cup of tea, asked me about that trip to Carlisle. When he heard the full story and how I how I had got behind the car that was following me, he said "Fecking idiot, he will never be allowed to do surveillance work again" shook my hand and told me I was free to go!
The next day, the 7th January, Carlisle United lost their cup tie but that evening I was hoping to meet Mark properly for the first time. I had been told, by his mum, he would be in Anabels night club. I got there early, around 9-00 pm, looking completely out of place in a suit and tie. I asked a couple of teenagers if he was about with negative replies, and stood by the bar awaiting developments. After a few minutes a young guy approached me and said Mark would be in later. Somehow I knew he was already there and had no doubt this was a move to show Mark just who was asking about him. Moments later a group of six or seven youths ambled over and stood about ten yards away from me. I realized they were protecting Mark in case there was some trouble attached to him meeting me. It was reassuring to know his friends were willing to do this, and he was street wise enough to take precautions.
Then a youngster walked slowly across the dance floor in my direction. Even in those darkened conditions, I knew who he was, I was about to meet my son at last!
Although we had never met properly, I had on the odd occasion spoken to Mark on the phone when I rang his mum to check how he was doing. Something I did at least once a month. Mark knew I was an old friend of Margaret's but obviously didn't know I was his dad.
I explained I was the "Peter" who had spoken to him on the phone as we shook hands and I could see him visibly relax. ( I learned later that he and a couple of mates had ripped a guy off over some watches and they thought that was what I wanted to see him about ). I bought him a pint and thought even if he only stayed a few minutes, at least we had finally made contact. However halfway through that first drink Mark suggested we sat down away from the music so we could talk more easily. When the club closed around two thirty am, we were still chatting away. There was a strong bond from the beginning and as I left him to walk the short distance to my hotel Mark ran after me to ask if we could meet again the next day. I don't know if it was the thought of more free drinks but whatever the reason I readily agreed.
I was adopted and until I met Mark I had never known a blood relative. I had spent years feeling alone, even when in the company of friends, but not understanding why. For the first time in my life I really felt I was truly alive, felt like I belonged in this world, just an incredible feeling.
I returned to Manchester on the Monday morning having spent most of Sunday with Mark. He had made a tape of his favourite songs and given it to me before I left. The first track was Paul Simon's "Call Me Al". The words seemed so appropriate and I grinned like a Cheshire cat all the way home.
The next couple of weeks I drove to Carlisle several times to see Mark, sometimes for only half an hour or so. One problem was already becoming obvious, we were getting on so well and Mark was quickly becoming very fond of me. How could I justify a forty four year old man spending so much time with a teenager? What was going on in Mark's head? Why did he think I was going to such lengths to see him and why was he so keen to meet me?
The next weekend I took the bull by the horns and told him exactly who I was even though I had promised his mum I wouldn't. When I said I was his natural father, Mark just looked me straight in the eyes, and replied. "You would never tell me a lie about something as important as that" then hugged me. It was an extremely emotional moment.
From there it seemed a natural progression to move back to Carlisle to really get to know Mark. I was single and living in a horrible little flat, so it was no contest. Funny how things turn out, if Jackie and I had still been together, it would have been very difficult to leave Manchester. I guess some things are just meant to be.
I have generally been lucky when renting a home. The first place I have really wanted, I normally got. This was to be no exception. Mark was still going to live with his mum, but I wanted him to have some say in my choice of home, as I was hoping he would spend a lot of time with me. We had looked at a couple of houses but the third one we viewed was ideal. It was a semi- detached cottage just off a side road which was off a main road, a few minutes drive from the edge of Carlisle where Mark's house was. The road was a cul-de-sac, which led to a farm, where the landlord lived. It was so peaceful and such beautiful countryside, so different to the hurly burly of a big city. I fell in love with it immediately and within an hour had done the deal with the farmer. Cash always works as the best references in my experience.
Whenever I move into a new property I always feel like I am home in a short time. This was no exception except it felt so right, so familiar, so quickly. I found out months later that the two cottages had been built using stone from the old Carlisle prison when it was demolished in the mid twenties. No wonder it felt right from the outset!
Even though I had a few grand saved, I still needed to earn money as having a sixteen year old son is not cheap. That caused a problem. Most of my "working" contacts were in Manchester which meant travelling there if I was to make money, often with over night stays. This was at odds with my intention to spend time with Mark. Neither could I start to "graft" in Carlisle, which is like a village, with everyone knowing other people's business. Not a situation I was willing to risk.
Then a solution presented itself. It was the era of copy clothing but when it was still legal to sell copies as long as you told the buyer they weren't originals.
A relation of Stan Bowles was heavily involved in this business so I approached him and bought a few hundred pounds worth of clothes. My idea was, through Mark, I would have a ready made outlet to the youngsters of Carlisle. It was a total disaster. My choice was so far out of sync with those I hoped to sell to. Then Mark suggested he came with me on the next trip to pick up clothing, and help me choose the styles and colours. Luckily my supplier took back my unsold items. The new clothes which I bought were sold quickly. Within a few months, I was hiring a van, going twice a week to Manchester with Mark, and replenishing my stock. Shortly after that I was earning £1000 a week. Almost better than my usual clandestine operations and no laws were being broken! Mark was also getting a good wage being on a percentage.
I was still gambling and one day Mark came with me to the bookies when I had a tip. I put on £500 at 3/1. Although the horse won I have never been so nervous watching a race. The chance of my son seeing me throw away so much money on a bet made me cut back on my gambling in the future. Shortly after that, I actually went two years without having a bet.
There was one complication to my new business which nearly got out of hand. There was another guy selling copies in Carlisle, and had been doing so before me. With me being in competition, it hit him hard as he wasn't getting his supplies direct. I found out they came from my guy via a third party. I suggested me arranging to supply him at a cheaper rate than he was paying and both of us keeping our prices the same. He refused so a price war broke out. Obviously he wasn't happy and couldn't compete so he asked a local heavy called Paddy to get involved. After receiving a drunken threatening phone call from this would be villain one Sunday afternoon, I arranged to see him at his home early the next day. I knew the guy and he was a big drinker. It is always a good time to visit people after a heavy weekend.
Just as I entered Paddy's living room that Monday morning his phone rang. His face drained of colour as he listened without replying. He put the phone down, and said he no longer wanted to get involved in this arguement. I had arranged a known "face" in Manchester to ring him at exactly the time I arrived at his home. He had been told what to expect if he became involved in my business.
That was the end of that, and the other guy stopped selling copies so my sales improved even more. Maybe he should have taken me up on my offer.
Time flew in, things with Mark progressed well, and I was very happy living back in Carlisle. Then in November 1991 I heard from Neil. Rush were to tour Europe in early 1992 and he wanted me to resume my duties as his driver. There was no hesitation and I replied, by letter, that I would be delighted.
As soon as I heard about the tour I phoned Chris Lea in Manchester and once again we spent hours talking about where Rush would play. Having done one tour and knowing what my duties would entail, I was really looking forward to this one. There was no nervousness or trepidation, only a tremendous feeling of anticipation.
Early January 1992 I received a package from Anthem in Toronto containing all the information about the Roll the Bones tour. Although the itinerary booklet was smaller than the Hold Your Fire one, it was much better produced and looked so much more professional. I quickly checked the dates and found out there were to be six shows in Britain and eight on mainland Europe.
The places Rush were to play are as follows.
Friday, April 10th Sheffield Arena.
Sunday April 12th NEC Birmingham.
Monday April 13th NEC Birmingham.
Wednesday April 15th SECC Glasgow.
Friday 17th April Wembley Arena London.
Saturday 18th April Wembley Arena London.
Tuesday 21st April Music Hall Hannover.
Thursday 23rd April Sporthalle Koln.
Friday 24th April Festhalle Frankhurt.
Monday 27th April Eissporthalle Berlin.
Tuesday 28th April Frankenhalle Nurenberg.
Wednesday 29th April Scheylerhalle Stuttgart.
Friday 1st May Zenith Paris.
Sunday 3rd May Ahoy Rotterdam.
Monday 4th May Travel Home.
One thing was apparent straight away, as well as more shows, there were also many more days off between venues. Some wonderful European cities I had never visited before. I had always wanted to see Paris but Berlin was the place which really excited me. The Berlin wall had only been down for a short while and I knew Berlin was becoming a new vibrant city that people from the west could now see fully for the first time. This wasn't just going to be a tour with a rock band but hopefully a very educational trip as well. I couldn't wait for it to start.
Later in January I booked a last minute holiday to Thailand. I need a break before the tour and had always fancied visiting there. As was the norm I went on my own but as usual soon found like minded people and had a wonderful time. One guy I met was called Dave. Although he was originally from Leeds, he now lived in Amsterdam so I arranged to meet up with Dave while I was there with Mr. Peart. Like most people, when I mentioned the tour, Dave hadn't heard of Rush, but said he would come to the Ahoy gig. Also I had been told that as Jackie, Neil's partner, and Selena, his daughter, were coming to Paris, Neil was spending three days showing them around. This would give me a mini holiday, all expenses paid. A trip to Amsterdam seemed the perfect idea.
I had to go to Manchester, to the same accountants as before, to pick up the expenses for the tour. I used the visit to catch up with my friends in the Barleycorn pub. We had a great night over indulging in alcohol and Chris and I enthusing about Rush's latest European tour, even if Chris was more interested in the music side of things than me.
This time I was to fly to Frankfurt to pick up the tour car. Neil had chosen a Mercedes 350 sports coupe for the first part of the tour but we were going to change it for a Mercedes estate car later on, for when Jackie and Selena came to Paris, as we would need more room in the car to drive the Peart family back to Southampton at the end of the tour, from where they would be sailing to New York on the QE 2.
I thought it would be a good idea to take Mark with me to pick up the car, and having cleared it with Neil, on Saturday 5th April, we flew from Manchester to Frankfurt. After an enjoyable evening sampling the delights of Frankfurt, bright and early Sunday morning, we picked up the Mercedes from Budget hire car at the airport. Even if it wasn't in the same class as the 750i BMW which we had used on the previous tour, it was still a great car to drive. I drove as fast as was safe and was possible in the traffic and made good time to Calais to catch our ferry. On board we had an excellent meal, and bought twelve cases of cheap beer and of course some cigarettes. The trip home to Carlisle was done non stop except for visits to services for petrol and other necessities. I wanted to get home in good time as I had a few final arrangements to make before I was due to pick up Neil at Heathrow on Tuesday morning.
We arrived at the cottage about 11-00 pm. We had done the trip in less than fourteen hours including the ferry journey. Mind you I did have a break from driving when I let Mark drive for an over an hour on the M6. The fact he was in control at all, never mind touching speeds of around 150mph, wouldn't have gone down well with NEP or those at Anthem, but I knew Mark was a good driver and had no worries on that front. Although I didn't tell Neil until well into the tour!
I took a case of those imported beers into the cottage and we both had a couple of bottles. I also took a sleeping tablet as my mind was still in overdrive from the long journey. I can't remember Mark going home or even me going to bed. The next thing I knew the phone was ringing just after 9-00 am. It was my bank telling me my various foreign currencies were ready for collection. Even before I opened the curtains I felt something was wrong. As I looked out of the window at the empty drive and lane, I realized the Mercedes wasn't there.
I was due to pick Neil up the next morning and the tour car was missing!
I sat down on the bed trying clear my sleepy head. I checked the spare bedroom and Mark wasn't there. How had Mark got home? Had I let him take the car? Surely not? For the life of me I couldn't remember. I rang his number and his mum told me Mark was in bed. I asked her to look outside and see if there was a Mercedes parked nearby. My sinking heart fell even further when Margaret told me it wasn't and that Mark said I had dropped him off when he got in early that morning. I also rang a mate who lived near Mark and asked him. He checked as well with the same result. No car.
I dashed down stairs and searched for the car keys to no avail. Totally distraught I sat down and tried to work out what could have happened. I decided to walk to Mark's, about a mile or so, to see if I could find the missing vehicle. Had I driven Mark home and broken down or worse had an accident? But where were my keys and how had I got back in the cottage? Nothing about this made any sense.
Taking my spare house keys I traced the route I would have driven. As I reached the main road I turned left to head into Carlisle. For some reason I glanced back and there about eighty yards away in the ditch on my side was a burnt out shell. Even when I reached it I couldn't tell what make of car it was. Neither could I tell if it was a left hand drive, so total was the fire damage. I opened the boot and there were the remaining charred cases of beer. Without doubt it was the tour car.
As I stood shattered, working out the connotations of this discovery, a police car pulled up and asked me what I was doing. I explained the situation and they said a CID officer would visit me to take a statement within an hour.
I walked back home and searched once more for those keys. Again I failed to find them. Now I had a serious problem re: the insurance. If I said I had left them in the car I wouldn't be covered. As Mark was still in bed I didn't know if he had the keys. I went round to the back of the cottage and booted the locked rear door in. I was going to have to tell the police that someone had broken in and stolen the Mercedes keys. When the police came I explained I had taken a sleeping tablet after the trip from Frankfurt and the first I knew of the break in was when I woke up to a phone call telling me there was a wrecked car not far from my house. I had covered my story by ringing the guy who lived near Mark and asking him to ring me back. I said he was inquiring about how my trip had gone, and laughingly said at least my car wasn't lying burnt out in a ditch. I don't think the police believed a word of what I said, but what could they do?
By now it was almost midday. I still couldn't ring Pegi at Anthem so I went to the bank and collected the currency for the tour. But how could there be a tour for me now?
At 2:00 pm promptly ( nine o'clock in Canada ) I rang Anthem. I was almost stammering as I told Pegi my news. Whatever response I was expecting, it wasn't the one I received. She just started laughing and shouted to others in her office what had happened. I could hear all sorts of comments amongst the cheering and just felt relieved that the reaction was a good one. Once Pegi was able to talk sensibly she told me to travel to London by train that evening and Anthem would arrange for me to pick up another rental car at Heathrow in plenty of time to meet Neil.
Although I was relieved, I was still no nearer to solving the mystery. Mark was adamant I had driven him home.
To this day I still don't know the truth. After the tour I even went to a hypnotist to see if anything could be revealed with no success. Over the years Mark has "fessed up" various things he has been guilty of, sometimes long afterwards, but still says he knows nothing about this, and I believe him. The only possibility I can think of is that I did drive Mark home and must have left the keys in the cottage door when I returned. The car key was on the same key ring and if anyone was skulking about later the car would have been easily stolen. If that was the case I can only believe it was some friends of Mark's who had called round to see if we were still up. We had stopped briefly to show some of his mates the car in Carlisle as we passed them. The skid marks by the burnt out Merc suggested it had missed my turning and may have been on the way back to mine. And of course nothing was missing from the cottage. If I had crashed the car I couldn't have set fire to it if I had wanted, I didn't smoke anything but joints in those day, and then only at home so never carried a lighter with me.
The sum total before the fire damage was a busted front bumper estimated at eighty pounds!
Later in the day Pegi rang me and told me a top of the range Ford Scorpio had been rented and I was to collect it from Budget car hire at Heathrow prior to meeting Neil off his flight. I couldn't believe the lack of worry about the Mercedes, but I suppose in the grand scheme of a Rush tour, one burnt out hire car, didn't rate too highly. However there was one small draw back. I would have to fly to Frankfurt from London on a day off to pick up the Mercedes estate car for the European leg of the tour. It was a small price to pay all things considered.
That evening when my taxi picked me up, to take me to the railway station, the driver started laughing, and showed me the local evening paper. There on the front page was my picture along with one of the burnt out wreck, and the full story. There was also a quote from me, which was strange as I hadn't spoken to any journalists. The picture was one taken of me when they did a story about the tour a month or so earlier. It had been a double page feature with pictures of me complete with my Rush albums and that first Signal's post card. What the article didn't say was I hardly ever listened to them! The taxi driver gave me the paper, still very amused I was his passenger.
I was able to relax for the first time all day on the train to London. A meal and a few glasses of wine certainly helped. By the time I arrived at my hotel I was very tired and went straight to bed and fell asleep immediately.
The next morning, totally refreshed, I had a full English breakfast and went to pick up the Scorpio. Having parked the car I was in plenty of time to meet Neil off his flight. I was holding a hand written sign which said "Chauffeur in a Rush", which Neil found amusing. We quickly headed for the short term parking area and drove away from Heathrow. All Neil could talk about was the ill fated Mercedes. Apparently everyone in Anthem and connected to the tour were talking about nothing else. When I showed Mr. Peart the news paper article, he laughed out loud and said he would have to have copies made so they could be faxed to friends. For the first few days copies were faxed by all senior members of the tour to their friends and relatives all over the world. Once again, unintentionally, I had given a Rush tour some amusement, and this one hadn't started yet.
We headed up the M1 towards Sheffield, talking and catching up. The trip was uneventful and we arrived at the Sheffield Moat House Hotel mid afternoon. The next day was production load in day, and the Thursday rehearsal day, so apart from taking Neil to the Sheffield Arena and back, once, I had two days off.
After having a bath and a change of clothes I went to a nearby restaurant for a steak and a glass or two of red wine. Again as during the HYF tour I was on a daily wage plus expenses. On returning to the hotel I headed for the bar. I fancied a few drinks knowing I had the next day off. As I ordered a vodka and tonic, I could see a few of the crew at the opposite side of the bar. Although I was completely at ease regarding meeting them all again, I decided to stay where I was. Then that familiar blonde head turned round and spotted me. Alex walked over, gave me a big hug, and invited me to join them. Most of the usual suspects were there but all anyone wanted to talk about was Mercedes. No sooner had I told my story than someone else joined the company and I had to start all over again. Alex in particular found it hilarious and made up various reasons why it had been set on fire. One suggestion was Mark and I had imported a load of drugs and we had torched the car to get rid of forensic evidence. That idea was deemed the most likely and variations of this were offered throughout the tour. Funnily enough when I returned home this was also the consensus of opinion. The truth was however as I have told it, and I am still not sure exactly what happened,
Later in the evening Pegi Cecconi came in the bar. We had got on very well during the previous tour and I was delighted to see her again. Pegi has a wonderful sense of humour and a great deep throated laugh which booms out when ever she is amused. She introduced me to a guy she was with. He was a well known photographer called Fin Costello who had taken pictures of all the well known bands in the 60's and also many of Rush in their early days. Pegi is a massive Coronation Street fan, and during the conversation asked me if I had ever been to the Coronation Street studio in Manchester. She knew about the tours open to the public there and wondered if Neil's car could be commandeered to take her the next day. Now the car was only for us and on the HYF tour no-one, and I mean, no-one, was allowed to use it. Neil's typical reply on the couple of times a tentative request had been made to give some one a lift was.
"Feck off, you have limos, trains and planes, the car is mine and Peter's." No one inquired further after that answer.
Understandably Pegi was loath to ask Neil direct, so full of alcohol, I said I would sort it. I rang Neil's room and surprisingly he agreed right away and told me to enjoy myself. I relayed his answer to Pegi who was delighted. We arranged a time to set off the next day and then Fin asked if he could join us. It was agreed and he said he would take some pictures of us on set. I was slightly less impressed than Pegi who was over the moon however I didn't have to buy another drink all night. Alex kept making comments about drugs in the boot and told Pegi to make sure she got out of the car before it was set alight. "Peter used to live in Manchester, Pegi, he has many criminal contacts there", he said with a big grin on his face.
After breakfast the next morning the three of us set off for Manchester. I drove via Snakehead Pass to show Pegi and Fin the beautiful countryside. Arriving at the Granada Studios we bought tickets and joined the tour. For me it wasn't very impressive but Pegi was like a kid in a sweet factory. Fin took dozens of snaps, some of Pegi and me, and some of just her. We had great fun posing in front of various places and inside The Rovers Return. ( The pub in Coronation Street. ) We came back via the M62 so they could see the desolate but strangely beautiful moors. On the way Fin asked me if I could get him a forged driving license for a friend. I said if he gave me all the details it would be no problem, and if he sent me any photos that I was on from our trip to Manchester, I wouldn't charge him. After the tour I posted the license to him but never received my pictures. I have often wondered if his friend is still driving on that forged license!