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GOD BLESS THE ALABAMA 3
GOD BLESS THE ALABAMA 3
If God Exists, and he's as besotted with America as Americans think he is, then he must hate the Alabama 3. Our every attempt to ingratiate ourselves into the beautiful country has been so ill-starred you'd have to suspect divine intervention. This in unfair, because we've always been very nice to God; Larry name-checks him at every opportunity. In fact he's had his tongue up God's arse for so long you’d think He'd give us a break.
But then, most of Larry's references are from the New Testament, so maybe God's Jewish. But so was our first manager, Stuart Green, the man who advised us to submit our criminal records to the American Embassy, resulting in the deportation of several members of the band, including himself. A Zionist conspiracy? But the man who tried so hard to get us there in the first place, David Geffen, was a Jew too. By elimination, it seems God must be a Muslim. But then wouldn't the Alabama 3 be the perfect weapon of cultural jihad, a dirty bomb of pop infecting the infidel with songs like 'Mao Tse Tung said' and 'Power in the blood'? Hm... maybe God's a Christian after all...
Or maybe he's as confused as we are. As confused as the 115 people at our first New York show ten years ago, as they gamely cheered a bunch of British Cokeheads singing about the redemptive powers of bestiality in cod- Louisiana accents. On that tour we opened up for shouty anarchist agitators Chumbuwumba, who had, much to their own surprise, just had a hit over there with 'I Get knocked Down.' When you get a song in the charts over there you find Dads and Moms start coming to your gigs with their children. I found myself in Denver giving the Red Army salute in the faces of a row of thirteen year old girls, sucking lollipops while their mothers covered their ears with their hands. I don't mind telling you, it felt a bit wrong.
When 'Woke Up This Morning' was picked up by HBO for 'The Sopranos' it looked for five minutes like everything was going to be different. Then Columbia withdrew all their promotional support over a row with Geffen over the rights to the song.* When we played it in a series of steak -houses across the U.S. bemused yanks would come up to us and congratulate on our convincing cover version of 'That Sopranos tune'. We were famous the world over. There was just the small problem of nobody knew who the fuck we were.
Every time we went to the U.S. we lost money. After the Soprano's debacle One Little Indian decided we were a liability. Fans and Promoters would call, begging us to come over, and even our own management would tell them not to bother. Good eh?
So ten years later, I’m surprised to find myself in a taxi on the way to Heathrow terminal 5 to catch the 10:10 to New York. I'm so surprised I hardly register the cabby’s tedious monologue:
'Oh you in a band then I love music me I seen em all the greats Mott the Oople Umble Pie saw them at now where was it Earls Court I think Led Zep that was now were was it Shepherds bush course I only listen to country now funny how your taste mellows as you get older zzzzzzz'
A short series of dates in the U.S. has been booked for months now, but at no point did I really believe they would happen; we had enough trouble getting our visas for the first two tours, and that was before the tragiocious events of 9-11. Before that, if you had any kind of criminal record, you had to get squadrons of lawyers on the case. Since the Twin Towers you'll get refused entry just for having looked at a policeman in a funny way. After a tortuous bureaucratic process, our visas turned up two days before the flight, but as I turn into terminal 5, an hour after the band call, I still don't believe we're going to make it. When the plane takes off, I'm sure it's going to crash.
My incredulity extends across 2,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean, and peaks as we file through immigration at JFK. I try and find the correct posture to adopt in front of the female immigration officer as she anxiously types the details of my recidivism into a computer. I settle for a sort of relaxed put respectful hands-clasped-in-front stance, a bit like a man who needs the toilet but is secure enough in himself not to worry about anyone seeing his cock. After a whispered consultation with her colleagues, I'm directed to a separate office. Everything could still go wrong. There, sitting on a row of plastic chairs under a poster trumpeting the good works of 'Homeland Security', are D.Wayne, Peers and Ed. Ed's sweating profusely; his criminal record reads like a short story by Irving Welsh. A laconic female officer with bright red nail varnish addresses him:
'Mr Edwards? You've entered the United states twice since your initial deportation, in 2001 and 2006 is that correct?'
'Why yes Madam! Indeed! I believe that to be the case!' For some reason he's started talking like a Dickensian manservant.
D.Wayne's called up next, and he launches into a lengthy and vivid disquisition on exactly how and why he got caught fiddling his electricity meter in 1989. The officer clearly can't understand a word he's saying and lets him go. I'm getting ready to do my blameless posh-boy act but for some reason they just wave me through and suddenly I'm in the blazing sunshine outside JFK arrivals slurping a Triple Caramel Frappachinno to Go. Allah Akkbar!
Our new management have done it; what they lack in experience and competence they've made up for in determination. Heading out onto the freeway, Walshie, our tour manager turns round in the front seat of our people carrier:
'Listen up everybody...when we get into the city I'll give you $20 walking around money. Go for a beer, chill out, whatever, while I find us a hotel. I need everybody to be responsible for themselves on this tour, cos' we're kind of...er...making it up as we go along...'
God Help Us.
*see Pretty Woman part 2
(c) Orlando Harrison 2008