Day One: Rehearsal

I'm relieved to be escaping from reality for a fortnight. I am also afraid; I'm entering the twilight world of an ever accumulating hangover, which at some point will drive me insane. It always does.

 Rehearsals start at 12. At  5 o'clock we are, naturally, in the pub. Eddie, our percussionist points out that 'Lager' spelt backwards is 'Regal'. It appears the band has collapsed, and we're not even on the bus yet. Il Luce, our lighting man has succumbed to kidney failure as the result of a tropical disease…Larry Love and D. Wayne, our 'singers', have gone AWOL…Piers, our programmer and drummer Johnny are exchanging tips on medication for high blood pressure and Rock Freebase, guitarist, has 'fallen down stairs and hurt his nose'. Speculations abound as to what this obvious euphemism could possibly mean…

Day Two

A ghastly spectre enters, straight out of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The notoriously upright Rock Freebase has lost about 3 stone, and sprouted a scrofulous orange beard. He's visibly trembling, and there's a huge, ugly scab on the left side of his nose. In his dirty baseball cap he looks like Trailer Trash, a Texan Tom Gunn. In fact he looks a bit like a member of the Alabama 3.

We run through a couple of songs. Rock is all over the place. He fumbles with his guitar like a disembowelled man attempting to re-insert his own intestines. Incredulous glances are exchanged. Rock looks up at Davey, our Roadie. 'That was alright, wasn't it?'. 'er….yeah.'

Eddie and I lark about. 'Rolf Harris is going to turn up in a minute - he's going to do a guest slot on his wobble - board' he jokes. I giggle at this notion, although with our faux redneck buffoonery, I wouldn't be at all surprised. Rolf Harris walks in. Followed by a large man in a leather hat carrying an assortment of digeridoos. I briefly contemplate suicide. But Piers has triggered the opening samples for 'Shoot Me Up' and, hey, I'm a professional. Actually the wobble board kinda works. While Larry shamelessly sucks up to Sir Rolf, I get  my copy of ' World Orders Old and New' by Noam Chomsky personally signed by the great man, complete with Rolf-A-Roo and my name in big wobbly letters. In a sense, this sums up the Alabama 3 ideology.


The reviews are in for the new album, 'Outlaw'. Four stars from the Guardian, Five from the Sun. We're down with the chavs. Response is a little cooler to the single 'Hello, I'm Johnny Cash';('No you're not, you're a twat'- NME). The midweek chart position is 64. 'Is that good?' I ask…blank faces all round.The gig's ropy, but we get away with it. Back on the bus, time to tune into Pointless FM - the wavelength your brain automatically finds at 5 in the morning after three grams of chisel, it broadcasts a constant stream of impassioned garbage.


4pm, I wake up in the mobile coffin that is my bunk, covered in sweat and smelling like a pregnant badger. In the dressing room, Rock is laughing hysterically to himself, about what, nobody knows…Half an hour to showtime, and I'm shaking hands with Paddy Hill. Paddy was one of the Birmingham Six. It's hard to know what to say to a man who spent 17 years inside for something he didn't do. The man's eyes are wide open, and they seem to crackle with blue electricity. These days he runs the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation. He's trying to keep you out of prison. He needs your support, brothers and sisters.

One of Paddy's friends helpfully leaves a pint of skunk milk in the fridge; 4 ounces of premium grade hydroponic in a milkshake. It looks radioactive.
The Right Reverend D. Wayne is nervous; it’s his home town, a huge audience full of his friends, relations, and possibly enemies…

Paddy delivers a stirring speech to the huge crowd at the Academy, rousing the crowd to a state of high excitement. We take to the stage. We strike up the opening chords of the first song. The crowd roars. We suck. We're seriously out of practice. D Wayne shuffles onto the stage. With his beard and locks he looks like Charles I the first before the Assizes. If Charles I was a darts proffessional. With a Junk problem. To calm his nerves, he has downed the half remaining pint of skunk milk. He wanders around the stage mumbling like a disgruntled schizophrenic. The set ends, and everybody mercifully leaves the stage. Except for D. Wayne. He sits on one of the monitors and mutters incoherently to himself in front of  2,000 Glasweigans. He hasn't realised the band left the stage 10 minutes ago. 'Do you think someone should tell him?' 'nah.'


Up at 5pm, feral and zombified. Time for my first nervous breakdown. In the dressing room, Larry tells me Rock has left the band. Again. I can hardly talk. Inside my nostrils there is a bloody chemical residue like the result of some kind of nasal abortion. Just get through the gig. Just play the chords.  I stagger back to the bus. A lively young woman tells me there's a first aid kit in the back of her car. She opens a white plastic box with a red cross on it. Its full of drugs. She starts to recite some of her poetry. I run for the safety of my coffin and dose myself up with Nytol.


I've slept, I've had a shower, I've had breakfast. I am a normal person. Yes I am.

It's an easy gig. D. Wayne has recovered from his psychotic episode, Rock has remembered how to play and it's a fluffy crowd; they jump up and down and shout and scream just like they're supposed to. Afterwards my wildchild friend Lucy - May appears, with her garrulous uncle Phil. He magics a bunch of bendy straws from his pocket, each one containing a small dose of racket. Ingenious…

Later, on the bus, me, Ed and Davey share some nose candy and  pontificate with great articulation on the state of the music industry. Then Ed and Davey draw faces on an apple and a tangerine and make them talk to me in funny voices. I love this business…


Tossing in my bunk, I dream I see the gates of hell creaking open. I wake to the sound of Larry Love retching. The foetid air on this bus breeds viruses faster than a Ukranian website. Rock and I spend half an hour trying to find the venue. When we get there Zoe, our petite, demure female vocalist is staggering around, farting and swearing. It's her first tour with us. 'I'm turning into a man!' she cries.

The stage is very small, and I'm wedged into a space the size of a shoebox. After the gig D. Wayne explodes. A small difficulty with a piece of technology is blown up into an international incident. When D.Wayne loses it, nobody is safe. He launches into a vicious and sustained personal attack on Piers, our laconic programmer. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that D.Wayne has upset Nick Reynolds, our harmonica player, barging past him on his way off stage. I'm hoping the situation will deteriorate into actual violence, which will be great material for my article for the independent. Unfortunately Nick calms down, and Piers doesn’t give a fuck, and soon everybody's friends again. Boo.


In the pub before the gig, Davey tells us a story about Fatty Malloy, legendary roadie for Primal Scream and class bona fide  Rock and Roll animal.  Fatty's inadvertently become involved in a disagreement with a Nasty Bastard who happens to be the owner of an equally Nasty Looking Rottweiller. Nasty Bloke describes in intricate detail what the animal can be expected to do to Fatty's face. Fatty is unimpressed. He drops his trousers, grabs the dogs head, forces its jaws apart, thrusts his cock down its throat, clamps its muzzle round his business, and punches the bemused animal three times in the head. Exit doggy and Nasty Bloke, end of argument. I hear Fatty still gets a Christmas card from the Rotweiller.

After the gig we troop down to a squat party round the corner, thrown by the hippie contingent that constitute our Norwich demographic. It's a groovy scene. There we are witness to the worst reggae band in History of the World; five white boys with woolly hats and beards and crumpled trumpets. They're the Dub equivalent of the Peruvian pan-pipe band in the Fast Show. I chat to Segs, our Bassist and a punk icon in his own right. He's excited about about his new project, producing  Madness' new album. Madness remind me of getting beaten up by skinheads at school. I suddenly become bitter and twisted. Somebody tries to cheer me up by shoving a balloon in my face. I burst it with my cigarette. I'm turning. I run to Lisa, the hippie queen of Norwich, who I know is holding. 'Wouldn't you like something more dreamy?' she asks. Two inches of horse tranquilliser later and I'm pushing the hippie Goddess on a swing chair, giggling inanely, Skanking to the best reggae band in the History of the World.


Animal sedatives are definitely the way forward. I sleep for 14 hours, rising at 7pm, and I feel GOOD.

Its Larry's turn to be nervous. He's from Merthyr Tydfil, which is an island off the east coast of Wales inhabited entirely by Mormons. Also, his girlfriend Samantha is here, a glamorous demoness of a woman descended from a long line of witches, with their adorable child, Nansi.

Word is that The Outlaws, a legendary biker firm, have got wind of the title of the album, and have sent representatives down to see if we're taking the piss. Yikes. Thank God for our ambassador, Bernie, a tattooed hulk who plays a mean Bodhran. He takes to the stage in a 'support your local Outlaws' T-shirt. Respect.

A young boy in a wheelchair announces the band: 'Ladies and gentlemen, the Alabama motherfucking three!' We Rock. Freebase plays like a God and Larry and D.Wayne banter like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.


I get a call from Samantha. 'Where's Larry? Who's he with?' She rings up the entire band and interrogates them individually. Larry's being stalked by his own girlfriend. Convinced that we are  besieged by ravenous groupies, partners of Boys in Bands sometimes become unhinged with suspicion. Unfortunately, our groupies tend to be balding 38 year old alcoholics who can't even get it up when you get them in the bunk.

Larry delivers his standard opening line: 'Hello Liverpool! This one's for all the Housebreakers in the room!'. The entire crowd roars.


'This ones for all the housebreakers in the room!'. No reaction. just the sound of 600 people collectively wondering if they've remembered to turn on their home security systems.

During the gig Segs does some Madness - style dance moves, snarling at me in a threatening way, which I find strangely arousing.

After the gig I get a £200 pound sub from Walshie, our tour manager. We've got a day off soon and I've got some vicious credit card bills to pay.My old friends Jenny and Will turn up. Jenny is a kind of punk Felicity Kendal and Will is a handsome rock guitarist turned blacksmith. I become extremely drunk and overexcited.


I wake up in total darkness. There's no electricity on the bus and I am alone. I don't know where I am, or what day it is. Eventually I realise I'm in an underground carpark two miles away from the venue. I stagger all the way to Shepherds Bush Empire, hallucinating. I have no memory of last night. What the fuck have I done with my life.

When I get to the venue I discover I've lost my pass, my sunglasses, my £200 sub and everybody hates me because last night I went mental and destroyed Ed's hairclippers, then forced the entire bus to listen to Miasma, my gothic prog - rock side project, at ear splitting volume. Apparently.

I  take it out on Pablo. He's our assistant Tour Manager, a loveable white Rasta. I make him run around finding clean shirts for me. But my amateur prima donna fit pales next to the incandescence of Samantha, who has been denied entry into the dressing room. The girl knows how to create a scene; she's read her Tennessee Williams. Larry gets a Gin and Tonic in the face…

Shane Mcgowan is billed to appear with us tonight, but he can't make it. It’s a pity to miss the opportunity to take a masterclass from the undisputed champion of alcoholic self - harm, but he's locked himself inside a toilet in Dublin airport, and can't find his way out.

Nick's dad, Bruce Reynolds, mastermind of the Great Train Robbery puts in a personal appearance of elegance and gravitas. 'Violence is inefficient' he once told his son. This gentleman should run for office.

Before we go on, Samantha takes to the stage in a Pocahontas outfit and performs a fabulous burlesque routine. If the original American Indians had all been like Sam, the face of modern America would be very different.


Before the gig Rock and me discuss concepts of time. The difference between Judeo - Christian, teleological time, as borne out in the Enlightenment Weltanshung and the works of Emerson Lake, and Palmer, and monumental time, as espoused by Julia Kristeva and ACDC. Rock is something of an autodidact, with a solid grasp of the Kantian Categorical Imperative.

He's been through a rough time recently; his dad died a while back and he's recently split up from his girlfriend. He talks about his young son, Jack, and tears come to his eyes. I try and console him. He smiles and says 'I'm crying cause I'm happy!'


Davey tells us about the time Mark E Smith got into an amphetamine fuelled argument with a promoter. Promoter bloke pins Mark E to the wall by the throat. Mark E cries 'You can't hit me! look!' and pulls out his false teeth. Promoter bloke pulls out his glass eye and holds it aloft. It'd make a great children's TV show.

Larry tells me that in July, for T in the Park, we're going to be ferried to the festival site in helicopters. What larks. I may be in a band that will never make me any money,  that’s destroying my health and my artistic integrity, but hey, I get to go in a helicopter! That's alright then.

I am gripped by persistent desire to smack Larry Love in the face. It's like an automatic nervous reaction, like tears in the face of a particularly strong onion. Everything he says, everything he does, makes me want to hit him. It's not his wild exaggerations, it's not his narcissism . It's not even his stupid  cowboy hat. Actually it might be the hat. But this whole festival of degeneracy  is his idea, the product of his delusion…trouble is, I quite like him. I settle for drinking and snorting him under the table. Pointless FM is broadcasting loud and clear till Two O'clock the next afternoon, when I'm left alone, talking to a tangerine with a funny face  on it.


I'm dying. I try to eat a piece of tinned tuna but it revolts me. I try to focus on the TV but Dr Who is making my head melt. I turn to Ed.
'Ed, mate, I feel terrible. I'm a fucking nervous wreck.'

'I know, O. I feel exactly the same.'

Simultaneously we burst out laughing. Then we hug, like two survivors of a natural disaster, clinging on to each other for dear life. It's a  proper, strong  hug, like an infusion of plasma. At once I feel better than I've felt for two weeks. Thanks Ed.

I look out at the audience. They're all so happy and excited by our bizarre, contrived  pop band. It's moving, and its hilarious and its fun. Larry's milking the crowd, in kinky leather gloves, and a biker jacket with DEATH on the back. He looks fantastic.  

Afterwards we're introduced to a poetic looking Irish guy with bad teeth and his good - looking girlfriend. They've won the dubious pleasure of meeting the band in a competition on the website. We invite them on the bus, then feed them E's till they throw up.


3 am.  The bus hurtles through the night…I have an audience with D.Wayne. He talks to me about The Absurd, and the Myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up to the top of a hill, then watch it roll all the way down again. For eternity. Camus uses it as a figure for the purgatory of modern man's existence… "put it another way, if you ever get good at something, if you finally manage to do something right, They'll make you do it over and over again till you puke. We're all one - hit wonders trying to pay our alimony…existentially speaking."I'm having trouble with my tour diary for the Independent. All the   interesting stuff  is either going to get me into trouble or piss someone off. And I can't decide whether to make it a joyous, epiphanic rock ' n' roll rollercoaster, or a dark, disaffected tract of spleen. Kerouac or Celine?'Celine. Every time' says D.Wayne. "He's a better writer…And don't worry about hurting anybody's feelings…Fuck 'em."…his huge white belly shines thru the dark… like the hulk of Moby Dick in the moonlight

……Fat C**t. 

© Orlando Harrison 2005