From the green grass to the Mission UK Tour. In a moment of madness I agreed to become the Mission "Merch Bird" for the 3 UK dates in London, Nottingham and Manchester. My reason for accepting was a combination of loving the "Huss and the boys" a lot, and also a taste for all things �roadlike.� A creature of habit, I had predictably come full circle, to now, wanting to remain on tour, after initially wanting to stay at home! I was also secretly wanting to delay my return to the mountain of work at MPO and so this seemed like the ideal solution.
It was role reversal at the Astoria in London as I waved Mike goodbye. (He was in rehearsals with Eddie Macdonald for the upcoming �Flesh and Blood� sessions and �Big Country� dates). I had taken the liberty of enlisting a "Merch Bird" accomplice, the �Touring Beaver�, (Big Jim�s missus), and so, together, we reversed the roles upon James Stevenson also, as we clambered giggly onboard the Mish bus and into MishWorld.
As you know, rules of the bus dictate that I can�t really relate the "stories of the bus" as such, which is naturally a great shame. Wayne also does not like to be presented as the Goth who makes me laugh but I will divulge that the sides of the tourbus ached, such was the laughter spewing forth as we voyaged up the M1.
The Touring Beaver was liking this �merch bird� malarkey. Afterall, it enabled us to incorporate her favourite pastimes of shopping, sharpeners and chatting, in no particular order.
The �aftershow� was awash with red wine and Wayne�s infamous Blue Nun and by the time we arrived back at the hotel, accounted the merch dosh, chatted until dawn, we were regrettfully forced to abort our planned early shopping trip for the next day in favour of a lie-in and washing our hair.
To our horror, the next morning, thinking the rest of the boys would still be tucked up with their hangovers, we were actually the last to board the bus. "What time d�you call this? (pronounced with deep Yorkshire accent), demanded Ado as we tottered sheepishly on board, Kirstin�s hair still suspiciously wet.
The Huss didn�t look at all well, tucked away on his back row corner seat, but, hey, what do you expect, if you drink Blue Nun all night? Even yesterday�s meat and potato cold pasty failed to revive him (Wayne was enjoying revisiting English delights like Scotch eggs and Steak and Kidney Pie), after living in California for so long. The Huss was revived instead with laughter. Yes, he is indeed the Laughing Goth. All the way to Manchester. Ado, as most of you know, is always a hilarious accompaniment on tour and true to form he amused us to breaking point all the way �cross country�.
We were joined in Manchester by the Mikey Boy Peters, who had driven up from rehearsals and Eddie Macdonald to join The Mission on stage for �Like a Hurricane�. I missed Mike�s appearance sadly, such was the busy nature of the �Merch Birds�.
The Aftershow reconvened to a hotel overlooking Old Trafford much to Wayne and Ado�s disgust (Liverpool and Leeds fans) and Mike�s pleasure (Man U fan – yeah, as if you needed to be told) and it was with a heavy heart that I hugged and kissed the Mish camp goodbye to attend to MPO duties back in Wa-les (pronounced with fake South Walian accent).
Touring Beaver was off to Australia but she still had the unglamorous task of driving back to London �overnight� with Mish backline tech and coincidentally-named, Mr. Adam Stevenson (no relation). The sight of Kirstin Stevenson�s back tailights shimmering into the distance entertained and amused me for days afterwards. Kirst, you see, is a classic �rock chick�, normally found tottering about at MPO events when I�m usually found running about in my flatties. Instead, tonight, I was being chauffer-driven by my �Rock Star� (pronounced with a rolling r) after several Jack and Gingers(hint hint) a short distance down the M56. Role reversal at its best…
Blood and Flesh
I nearly handed in my notice when I walked in to MPO. The MPO staff had held the fort masterfully in my absence – it was just that with the looming of Mike�s UK Tour, the recording of �Flesh and Blood� and of course the monster formerly known as the �Gathering�, there was so much to do!
I was also still jetlagged/partylagged and had been knocking back the melatonin in an attempt to reinstate myself on UK time as fast and as furious as possible.
As you know, the MPO has evolved from the 687 original members of the Official Alarm Fan Club into a 10,000 membership Fan Club, record label, mailorder shop and management office.
Flesh and Blood was my first mission and after many phonecalls and e-mails with the BBC, arranging the studio, organising the radio programme and the TV programme… we felt ready to go…
The event was sold out and all laminates and tickets had been posted. Mike had been rehearsing all week with Eddie and it was a vicious countdown to Friday 3rd December as we frantically crammed all the planning and organisation whilst also keeping one eye on the spinning plates of Mike Acoustic dates, Mike Big Country dates and �The Gath�…
The day before the Flesh and Blood Sessions, I received a phonecall from �BBC Wales Today�, our national �News at 6 programme, requesting for Mike to appear live on air to respond to Cerys from Catatonia�s recent heroin-related comments in the Melody Maker. Mike was naturally reluctant to cast aspersions upon Cerys, as each to their own, but was happy to lend his support by voicing his anti-stance on heroin.
Mike was in London at the time of the phone call but was due to arrive in Cardiff by mid afternoon. After a quick run-through with Gill (arranger), Eddie (Alarm bass player), David Watkins Clark (former Poets of Justice bassist), Tom Homewood (new drummer from Brighton whom Mike had never met before this session!) MP extracted himself to the BBC News studios in Llandaff. When I called Mike on his mobile to check his whereabouts, about ten minutes to six, Mike was, get this, calmly purchasing a new shirt (slate grey)!Ha! I tuned in at 6pm from MPO HQ in North Wales and agreed that it was an excellent purchase, whilst privately wondering where Mike was planning to hang his new aquisition/s… (black black/ink blue)…
I joined Mike in Cardiff on Friday the 3rd of December and set about the task of preparing for the arrival of the fifty laminate holders who were to be given free rein to roam amongst the leads and microphones, back and forth from the control room to the live room.
The weekend passed in a blur and was a blazing success on both counts of performance and recording. It was quite brave of Mike really, to attempt such a project, in so short a time, on the back of an American tour, in advance of an intense string of UK dates and all with a group of musicians, most of whom he had never even met before. Mike however thrives under such pressure and set to his mission with the passion and committment we have all come to love…
Flesh and Blood began after Mike�s appearance at a benefit concert at the Blackwood Institute, Wales, in Autumn of 1998. Patrick Jones, the brother of Manic St.Preacher�s Nicky Wire had organised a benefit concert for Kosovo and had invited Mike to perform. (The Manics are Alarm fans and used to take the train to watch The Alarm play at St. David�s Hall, Cardiff). Patrick is a playwright and so, extracts of his play, were also being performed that night. Watching in the wings was a man called Phil Clarke, Artistic Director of the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff. Phil, a lifelong admirer of Mr. Peters�s works, approached Mike and asked him if he would be interested in writing some music for a new Welsh play, following on from Phil�s successful collaboration with Patrick�s play, �Everything Must Go� which first opened at the Sherman (with music written by the Manics).
Mike said he would like to, and that was that. A few days later, a large bundle arrived on Mike�s doorstep. I was out shopping (James feared the worst!) and upon my return, Mike was sat, exhausted and elated at the kitchen table, having written 12 songs. He proceeded to perform the entire sequence of songs, one on one for me and I fell in love, there and then. I just couldn�t release the melodies from my head and to this day, fall asleep to the haunting lullaby of St. Davids Day…
From there, in between various other Mike Peters� happenings, like the recording of the Coloursound album, Mike performing at the Welsh Assembly Concert, Coloursound Day, Mike in America, Phil and Mike managed to remaine in close contact and the idea of Flesh and Blood continued to thrive…
Just as we left for America, Mike decided he should record �Flesh and Blood� upon his return, before the UK Tour began, as his diary was already crammed through to the Summer of 2000. Consequently, the �blurb� on Flesh and Blood was hurriedly squeezed onto the artwork for the MPO postcard, whilst we boarded the plane to Boston, as were the Big Country dates, which replaced Mike�s original planned Interactive Acoustic Dates. As always, in the wonderful organised world of the music industry, the Big Country dates were confirmed just as we were going to press with the poster and postcard artwork. Saved by the bell. Poor Mike�s Solo Acoustic Tour cut in half.
After all that planning, it�s quite surreal to actually arrive at the point of an event which has existed for so long on paper and in one�s mind.
That�s where I find myself today. Suspended in �Flesh and Blood�, a bit like a character in a play. It�s like the whole world is twirling by in �slo mo�as the events unfold from the page. That�s where I�d like to leave it. All in �slo mo�, twirling by. I�ll leave you to make your own discovery…
Pre- Millennium Gathering
It�s late on Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning, and the Gathering lies only a few days away. All seems calm. It has been a while since I recounted and I apologise for that. Since the �slo-mo� of that special Flesh and Blood weekend it has been a blur of �fast-mo�, as the Mike Peters� Tour and Big Country dates sped by.
The Big Country dates were undoubtedly a huge success for Mike. Together with Eddie Macdonald, the boys, (being James, Steve and Craig) played their best shows to date and so �welcome� to all you new Big Country converted MP fans who have since changed your lives by joining MPO.
We were a pretty riotous party once again on the Big Country dates. In fact, I�m sure Eddie was horrified the first night on the tour to discover the rest of us fighting, shouting and marauding in the back of the tourbus in manner of fighting, shouting, marauding rock band. No wonder he remained sat up front the whole time.
The rest of us (apart from Mike, who has to look after the �voice�) were getting too used to our regular �sharpeners�. It was this, I suspect, which was making us a tad rowdy and misbehaved. In fact, it was becoming a bit of a habit. Soundcheck: �D�ya fancy a sharpener?� (pronounced with strong London James Stevenesque accent), was the routine of the day. James, Craig, Mike and myself had been on the road together since October 15th. The camararderie between us was pretty damn special by this point and I think you could certainly feel the rock-solid nature of the relationship coming through in the band�s performance, especially with the welcomed addition of drummer Steve Grantley from SLF who is an integral part of the friendship.
We were all pretty knackered and �toured out� and Craig especially was ready for home. Too many sharpeners.
Stuart Adamson from Big Country seemed like a really nice bloke and not at all �disturbed� as the media reports led people to believe. He discussed with Mike the idea of them both meeting up in Nashville at some point to see what they could come up with.
Met up with The Huss on the M62 to do a little �merch� business en route to Newcastle. I didn�t recognise him at first because I didn�t realise that Goths wore plae blue jeans. I hadn�t seen him since Manchester as he had been �playing� in Portugal. It was good to see Mr. Happy Goth again. Hugs, kisses and a few mid- afternoon sharpeners all round.
Our Coloursound guitarist and Rock God, Mr. William Duffy joined our happy little camp for his hometown gig in Manchester, fresh from his time spent in America with Mr. Ian Astbury and Cult World. All was well and Mike and Billy made plans to spend time over Christmas together to develop fledgling ideas for the next Coloursound record.
Manchester was the last night of the Big Country dates but there were still more MP dates to go! Big Jim left for Australia whilst �Mike Squared� (Mike Peters and Mike Jones, the sound Engineer) and myself headed up north. By the time we arrived in Glasgow, at the rather spendid Cottier Theatre (a converted church) I was beginning to feel desperate to reach home and the green grass. I wanted to watch Coronation St., wear a dressing gown, eat hot buttered toast, put my toothbrush down in the same place, you know the kind of thing.
Christmas Eve, and influenza decided to grab me by the throat. Bugger! (I had already ducked out of Mike�s last concert of the 20th Century in York, regretfully) whilst Mike marched on, towards the 21st Century, with the constitution of a horse!
The holidays were a mixture of influenza (for me) and pre-Gathering worry (for me)… waking up in the middle of the night worrying whether I had booked the barrier? Did I book in that bloke into a hotel coming from Texas, USA for the first time? Did I mailout the Gathering press release in time? How are the merchandise designs coming along? Questions, questions… Fingers crossed and touch wood.
As the Gathering looms and Flesh and Blood plays in the background, I�d just like to thank you all for being such good friends and making the MPO possible. We�re all extremely excited at the thought of welcoming you to the green green grass of Wales, for this, the Extra Special Premium Millennium Gathering. We�re all here: all assembled in readiness… the band, the crew… all of us… racing furiously against the �fast mo� and looking forward to the �slo mo� of the weekend ahead. We�ll be welcoming people from all over and so to each and everyone of you, safe trip and see you soon…
Jules and the Gang X