LTW presents extracts from Gary Whelan’s Happy Mondays‘ tour diaries. Honest, insightful and of course a bloody good laugh! We share a few snippets from his on-the-road memoirs as he right now releases the new tune with The Magic Village – Say Who You Are.
Teaming up with old mates Magic Village is Johnny Evans (vocals) Wayne Edwards (bass, guitar, keys) and Whelan on guitar/vocals… a tight and like-minded trio who played together in Gaz’s former band/project Hippy Mafia. MV’s first release is an acoustic cover of The Stone Roses’ Ten Storey Love Song, out just a couple of months ago.
To this their latest, Say Who You Are, is a number which struts out true to form with that well known Manchester confidence and ‘one love’ mindset, but yet with a real presence of mind and a kinda half yearning for some transcendence. It’s a summer tune we could all do with a bit of right now.
Running along with its strong calming chorus and captivating hook SWYA also diverts from the norm with an awesome set of bars and slick rhyming in the middle eight performed by John Orpheus (the rap artist who also worked on Whelan’s Hippy Mafia project). Look out for the single on Bandcamp and all the usual platforms.. and keep up to date with MV on Twitter.
So, with dates out there now, Happy Mondays are set to go on tour once again, this time with James in Nov/Dec tour as well as appearing at The Isle Of Wight Fest this coming September. In fact, it’s well over 30 odd years of touring now for the Mondays, playing to almost all continents from S, America to the Far East & Australia, then back again.
And it’s during such times as Gaz Whelan would watch the world go by from a tour bus or hotel window, the Mondays drummer would also take a moment to write down his thoughts and feelings while on the road. All based around the usual tour activities of airports, coaches, venues and hotels he’d sometimes take to recording some of his everyday random tour experiences (i.e – just as he did when LTW shared an early draft and short story taken from his still in progress bio & Happy Mondays’ memoirs – All My Friends Are Junkies, check it out below)
And though these entries are written some years after the days of the Mondays’ riotous and celebratory acid-House era-inspired tour schedules, and maybe just as well, it’s perhaps a slightly older/wiser and just as humorous perspective which Whelan displays in these entries following the band on the road in and around both the UK and Europe, enjoy.
Happy Mondays on the road, Gary Whelan’s tour diaries/Thurs, 19 April 2007 (Bristol and Nottingham)
We meet late morning at the rehearsal room in the Cheshire satellite town of Stockport. We are greeted by our new Tour manager ‘Gus the bus’ as he is commonly known, although we have already adopted two new names for him. A pleasant man with lots of bon ‘homie’ and geniality. A man from the old school style of tour managing, which suits us, hence nickname number one ‘SAXENDALE’. He has in his possession the most tranquil whisper accompanied by a husky hoarse, smokes-3-packs-a-day voice. Think a heavily sedated Lois Armstrong with flu crossed with a condescending, psychiatrist (is there any other type?) and you’re halfway there. Hence name number two, ‘The HOARSE WHISPERER’. We love him!
The bus driver can only be described as ‘Textbook’. He looks like a retired ‘ultimate fighter’ fervently abiding by ‘the blue-collar male code of behaviour’ as well as being the proud unabashed owner of the largest collection of Gentlemen’s Revue in the north of England…. He turns out to be a lovely bloke!
We spend a mellow uneventful journey to Bristol passing time watching DVD’s, Bill Hicks, (an old favourite) and a documentary on The Band, which I’ve personally seen 20 times. Having said that, this was the first time I had noticed (due to extremely tight 70’s trousers) that the late great music god that is Rick Danko tends to keep all ‘his eggs in one basket’ so to speak, and that he dresses to the left (somewhat un-orthodox). This was something I hadn’t notice on the previous 19 viewings. Unbelievable.
We arrive at the venue for ‘pre-production’ (rehearsal in an empty room) and duly notice that situated next door is an Indian restaurant….result. Also next door to that was a Chinese Shaun’s favourite….double, double good!!
We finish rehearsing somewhat prematurely and ‘bounce’ next door for our curry fix only to be informed it was closed due to a private function, the out-of-towner’s worst nightmare. To add insult to injury the Chinese restaurant was a Karaoke buffet…very annoying. In the past we have struggled through wasteland, frozen wilderness and burning deserts to find a good curry house and this one looked like a ‘no-brainer’. It felt like winning a gold medal only to fail the drugs test. Intoxicated with failure and weakened by despair (a bit much I know, but we LOVE curry) we head back to the hotel for a nightcap and bed.
FRIDAY 20TH APRIL (gig day)
We arrive at the venue around 8pm to find Bez ‘Hermes’ like wearing ‘golden’ footwear having his own party in the dressing room whilst a small CD player almost apologetically played the Trojan Reggae Collection. I say apologetically not because it was bad, it wasn’t, in fact it was great, it was just that it was so low in volume even a Jack Russell dog would have had difficulty hearing it.
The gig was reminiscent of Mondays gig’s back in the day, loud, frantic and chaotic. We over-run the strict curfew (another of our old tricks) so without any sound on stage because the venue killed the power, we re-played Angels and whores, one of the new songs. But without stage sound it’s almost impossible so we declared halfway through. Good crowd, good buzz.
It was the first time Bez had heard the new tunes and he loved them, is important for us to get his seal of approval as he knows his music.
SATURDAY 21ST NOTTINGHAM
En-route we watch Ike and Tina’s 1973 tour of Ghana, West Africa. A country I am personally familiar with as my father-in-law is from Ghana and I have visited several times. We discuss the previous evening’s shenanigans and the last two days spent in Bristol which we really enjoyed. ‘X’, Shaun’s nickname for the past 20 yrs (I will explain more at a later date) exclaiming that he liked Bristol especially the ‘middle class pigeons’. He had a good point, the ones we saw were sporting very impressive plumage and cooing with almost regal overtones…….seriously!
We arrive in Nottingham and sound check then head out to the nearest restaurant. We find a small establishment that appears to have potential. As we enter we are greeted by two, not one but two of the ‘skinniest’ waitress’s I have ever seen, who were both obviously and sadly suffering from chronic eating disorders. This didn’t exactly fill us with confidence regarding the menu…think a leper selling moisturiser?? We were fittingly seated right next to the toilets and our initial fears were soon realised as the food didn’t match the inflated price. But to be fair, the place was busy and 12 sweaty, hung-over post-sound check musicians wasn’t their usual or ideal customer.
We returned to the venue which was a great little place. The kind of venue I would imagine Ronnie Wood to have in his back garden so he could perform as well as go to gigs without leaving home.
The gig itself was again a quantum leap back to the good old days. There is something about a cramped, sweaty gig that fuels onstage energy and attitude. Maybe it’s the ‘cornered fighter’, nowhere to escape analogy and all that bullshit? The gig turns out to be one we all really enjoyed. Some of us even discard certain items of clothing for the encore! Umm classy.
After the show I join X for an extended interview with UNCUT magazine, extended because some lunatic has parked their car directly behind the tour bus blocking us in. The Guinness flowed and subsequently loosened our tongues, not sure if this is a good or bad thing, only time will tell?
After about an hour Bez joins us for a short time and sums up with a few carefully placed profanities pretty much what X and I have been tentatively pontificating for the past hour or so (yes, yes I know it’s an oxymoron).
Bez then announces that he had better ‘get off’ as he had parked directly behind the tour bus and was blocking us in, unbelievable….yet priceless!
Three days off then ‘Coachella’.
Until then…love, light and all that hippie shit…
We finally depart Edinburgh around 4 a.m. and begin our overnight journey to Belgium. Fortunately, we are travelling in extreme comfort and style. Tour buses are incredible machines, some containing every luxury possible for a hard working touring musician or even the most pampered Roman emperor. But due to the late addition of the Belgium and Croatia gigs coupled with the fact that it’s festival season very few buses are available and our destiny is again in the lap of the gods. But like Athena looking down upon Odysseus and his troops a certain god unbeknown to us is smiling in our direction.
The Chilli peppers cancel last minute and decide to fly during their U.K. tour leaving a magnificent and luxurious bus available for our leisure, pleasure, travel…. and oh work as well. Parquet flooring, plasma TV’s, 2 lounges, 2 bathrooms, queen size bunks with individual TV’s and Bang & Olufsen music systems, and a state of the art kitchen all of which wouldn’t be out of place in a Manhattan loft apartment. Suddenly the 30-hour drive back from Croatia doesn’t seem so daunting?
We arrive in Belgium around 10pm (stage time 12.15) and are greeted with a friendly-looking ’boutique’ hotel tentatively balancing on the banks of an unnatural but very picturesque looking river. The cobbled streets are littered with families riding bikes that look older than the small unassuming Gothic-style church that is gently ringing its bells to announce our arrival (…as if!). The mist is mischievously hovering over the river like a seasoned mugger in a doorway that gives the whole town a feeling that it’s harbouring some kind of secret. All suggestions and accusations come spewing out from every member of our party at a flattering pace (mostly connected to WW2), but this was just releasing tension after the long journey. Though my mind did wonder for a minute to someone putting their finger in a dyke (ooh Mrs) but that was a different country.
Once our paranoia had lapsed we all notice just how beautiful the town is. We are received at the hotel reception by a man aged around 40, a lithe like character stretching to around 6ft tall sporting short hair that proudly displayed blonde highlights and a suggestive camp demeanour, which could only be described as resembling a SS officer who had been a successful provincial hairdresser prior to the war. Someone behind me whispers, “fuckin’ ‘ell it’s a Belgium Gaz Whelan”, which I choose to ignore.
On my way up to my room I think…why is it that as soon as we Brits hit mainland Europe we resort to WW2 gags… pathetic really.
We meet in the bar for a ‘cheeky one’ before the gig. Behind the bar is the same man from reception but this time he’s sporting a bright white barman’s apron and balancing a striped tea towel over his left forearm. Whilst he pours our drinks he commentates in a somewhat stern like manner on how Belgium beer is the best in the world and that English ale is shit. This couldn’t be the polite individual who checked us in 10 minutes earlier could it? Or was it his alpha twin brother, Basil van faulty. Either way we race to finish our beers (Rob, soundman and scouser always wins) and we jump in the awaiting vehicles to take us to the festival site 200 yards away!
The show goes well but not as electric as the previous show in Edinburgh, though many do fail to match up to Scottish shows. We all head back for an early night as the hotel bar is closed and all the staff are asleep…..OR ARE THEY???
After a welcomed night’s rest, I descend to the dining room for breakfast and I’m greeted by a full turnout from our crew, very unusual. All are present and fully refreshed and ready for the 19-hour journey to Croatia. However, joy soon turns to sadness as I’m audibly assaulted by the sound of the Pet Shop Boys escaping out of the kitchen like a tooled-up prisoner of war escaping to freedom with a promise of vengeance. Sorry, at it again.
As I park my boney butt at a vacant table I notice that there was only cold fare on offer…the old ‘continental breakfast blag’. But before I could moan (and I am an Olympic champion at this) I’m confronted by the breakfast waiter….tall, blond, camp…shit, identical triplets?…can’t be? No it was the same man as last night, but this time with tailored fitting jeans buckled just below his chest so as the shortest route to his back pocket would be over either shoulder. He made Simon Cowell look like a gangsta rapper.
In all my semi-comatose state and with all innocence, although some would disagree. I politely enquire, “anything hot on offer?” A pleasant smile invaded the face I thought unable of any vertical expressions. “Only me”, he replied whilst tilting his head to one side and loosely biting on his pencil. As I struggled for a response his manner rapidly returned to a man void of any humour. “I’ll send over the waitress”. Well that’s more like it I think.
A PLEASANT SMILE INVADED THE FACE I THOUGHT UNABLE OF ANY VERTICAL EXPRESSIONS
The waitress is in her late 80’s and probably harboured more war stories than a seaman’s mission. I instantly like her, no nonsense get on with it kind of attitude who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, the kind of woman I admire. She is also a lot more mobile than any of us. With much more caution I enquire, “do you serve anything hot? “Yes, tea and coffee, “food” I plead, “no.” She responded, cutting me short mid sentence “Then tea it is”, I say. So much for a sturdy meal to help me on my way but a pleasant and business like overnight stay.
As we settle down on-board our cruise ship on wheels and start our journey to Scandinavia we pass festival goers leaving the site and heading home in long lines down each side of the road. Most are head to toe in mud and are carrying rucksacks. I can’t help but think that they look like a defeated army returning from days of battle. My conscience gets the better of me and I start to think about the huge dept we owe Belgium for what they sacrificed for us during the war in Europe. But I stop myself before this all starts getting too fuckin’ Hollywood.
We hit the motorway and I return to the present and happily join in with the orchestra of flatulence that is playing amongst the cold breakfast/Belgium ale club sitting around me.
It’s going to be a long drive.