Every morning on tour, our hard working and dedicated crew get up early to set up our entire rig. They are the first to go in; usually starting at 8 am in the morning and sometimes not finishing until nearly 2 in the morning. The hours are long and tiring; the work is physical and demands thought, care and attention. There are times, at the end of a night, when I have watched our crew pack down the equipment and lug out the heavy boxes and as I view the room, now empty and eerily quiet where only a few hours before it was full of noisy and exuberant people, I reminisce about the times when, as a band, we used to set up our own equipment; getting up at the crack of dawn to go to a gig and play for hours and then pack down everything; sometimes not getting to bed until the next dawn…
Back in 1993 we set off on our first ‘proper’ month long tour. Starting off in Adelaide we travelled to Geelong and Melbourne in Victoria, driving right up the east coast of Australia, stopping and playing in isolated ‘one man and his dog’ towns in New South Wales and travelling into far north Queensland in the back of a little ‘bongo’ van. We thought it was a bright idea to put a sofa in the back of the van but it was an uncomfortable sofa and a really stupid idea and for a month we travelled around odd little towns, trying to sleep on this uncomfortable sofa, to finally get as far as Cairns in Queensland. We stayed in Cairns for 3 days and played at the well known ‘Johnno’s Blues Bar’. It was a delightful 3 days and I remember walking around the town, checking out the markets and buying an genuine Australian ‘Arkubra’ hat (which I still have, albeit a little crushed) and thinking that I could have been at the far ends of the earth. I had never been so far away from home before.
We had about 4 tons of equipment to carry in a truck - and in addition to all this equipment we thought it was a good idea to bring with us a large, heavy, wooden wardrobe (supposedly to carry our stage clothes) which took four of us to lift. And so every night we would huff and puff and nearly kill ourselves trying to place this wardrobe flat on top of the speaker stacks in the truck. Then we’d drive hours to our next destination, grab a couple of hours kip in the car then lug it all out again. Out would come the wardrobe first… four of us …huffing and wheezing to lug out the thing and take it into the venue. We'd set up, do a set of originals and then a two hour Floyd set. Finally we’d pack everything away, put 4 tons of equipment into the truck and when the gear had been packed, four of us, huffing and wheezing, would lift the wooden wardrobe flat onto the speaker stacks again and head off to our next destination. We did this for a month and we never used the wardrobe. Not once. Now whose bright idea was it to use this flaming wardrobe? Dunno. I can’t remember.
On the way back home, the van broke down. It broke down in the middle of the night as we were driving to Rockhampton and we were stranded somewhere about 3 hours’ drive from civilisation. We had no mobile phones in those days and there were no passing cars to flag down to help us out. We were stranded in the middle of the outback. We decided to walk to see if we could find a service station. We must have walked for nearly two hours in the dark, surrounded by nothing but the Australian scrubland and its venomous critters, when we finally encountered a small outpost - a really strange little place consisting of a shack which was home to just one craggy old man and his dog. To think of it, it looked like something out of the Australian horror movie ‘Wolf Creek’. We asked for help and the old man eyed us suspiciously but he let us use his phone and Steve and Lee had to ring for a pick-up truck to go collect the van and then drive two hours to Rockhampton to hire a van and then drive all the way back to this place in the middle of nowhere to collect the rest of us stranded here .It was about 6 am in the morning when we finally left the strange little outpost to get to the gig. We finally arrived at the venue, hungry and exhausted and once once again the lugging of 4 tons of equipment began, starting with... the wardrobe.
For this tour we happened to employ a certain, rather obnoxious sound engineer and his side kick - I won’t mention their names, I’ll just call them Laurel and Hardy as one was short and fat and the other tall and thin. Among Hardy’s talents was the remarkable ability to clear the stage with a single, pungent fart. Crude, rude and lewd, one of the band complained that he always smelt of sweaty nappies. One day, while we were staying at a motel near the Gold Coast, Laurel and Hardy, thinking that we weren’t going to pay them, decided to run off with our truck and drive back to South Australia leaving us stranded with a dodgy bongo van with and an uncomfortable sofa in the back. We called the police but the daring duo, of their own accord, decided to return and looked rather sheepish the next day. After a worrisome day we had all of our equipment and the truck back.
The last show of that tour was in a pub on the outskirts of Brisbane. At the back of the pub was a pool table surrounded by a bunch of poodle haired Bon Jovi heads that completely ignored what we were doing. About 5 people sat on the floor and really got into the music, apart from that it was a somewhat inglorious end to the tour but we were thankful that it had finally come to an end. One last load out and utterly exhausted, almost collapsing with fatigue, we packed the truck as usual and then it came to the wardrobe and we just thought…-“why don’t we just piss this f***ing thing off?”. So we dumped the wardrobe in a skip and I remember Lee kicking and breaking it up with such vehemence that I thought he would have a heart attack. But it was done. We were rid of the bloody thing.
It took us nearly three days of driving to get back to Adelaide, going back through Queensland and central New South Wales to our home state. It was an adventure and although tiring and exhausting it was full of funny memories, of which I cannot mention all here. For many years after that we still lugged our own equipment, even for years in the UK. A few years back we decided to acquire a couple of proper tour wardrobes but this time we actually use them, often as a repository for shoes of assorted kinds. Naturally, we let the road crew lug them in and out of the venue!