There was a week off back there somewhere, about a month ago. Simon and Nick stayed on in Costa Rica for a vacation, Roger, Dom, Simon and Anna went back to London, and yours truly went to L.A.
I got the best deal in a way. I got the California sun, and I got to work through any jet lag I might have before the US leg of the tour begins in Vancouver the following Tuesday.
Weeks at home in between road trips are inevitably spent in a blur; catching up on family business, seeing friends and running mates, and most importantly, getting my system ship-shape ready for the next run. I think of my body like a machine, often limping back into LAX from particularly grueling trips with an engine out, or the undercarriage refusing to go down, thinking how much better I will feel after I have had a couple of yoga sessions, or gym workouts, or just simply a few night’s sleep in my own bed.
Anyway, you don’t want to know about my week off do you? And besides, it’s private… All you need to know is that by Monday, the day before the Vancouver show, the suitcase is back out on the bed and I’m weighing serious choices about what to pack; namely what books and DVD’s I’m taking. Crucial this stuff is, with the amount of down time one spends on the road. Twenty-two hours between each show means a lot of travel time and/or sitting around time. It is particularly important for me that I have something that I am excited by, a book usually, that gets me back to my room after the show. It doesn’t work for me to be cruising the bars in strange towns after midnight, not good for my head or my body. Telling my friend Harold recently how much I had enjoyed reading Richard Price’s latest novel he said, ‘Oh yes, he writes for ‘The Wire’, that’s the best show on television’. I had never gotten into that show, but I respect Harold so I went down to my favourite LA outlet and bought series one and two. Writing this a month later, up in the air between Nassau and Baltimore (the setting for ‘The Wire’ as it happens) I declare that I have completed both series and am now on series three episode two. That’s a lot of TV!
So that got packed on the Monday. My reading list suffered, (not yet being able to read and watch TV at the same time) so I have been stuck on a biography of Charlie Parker for the same length of time. Got to get that finished by the end of this week. (it’s still not, Ed.)
Clothes are pretty easy to pack. You can imagine that JT has a considerable wardrobe, and you’d be right, but generally speaking at any one time there are only a half dozen pieces of gear that I really am into wearing. Thank god I’m in a rock band, because I’ve never been a suit and tie guy, even less so a shiny shoe sort of guy, I’m sure y’all have noticed that about me. Hey! What’s going on? This is supposed to be about the tour, not me…
Vancouver is our only Canadian stop on this run, much to Nick’s and my disgust. We’ve asked our agent Jeff a number of times about Toronto and Montreal but he just throws logistical information at us, maps, numbers… the bastard. Don’t worry Canada, we shall return. The great thing about the Vancouver show is how it draws fans from across Western Canada, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton… thanks for making the trip guys.
The show is at the PNE amphitheatre, a venue we must have played five or six times over the years. It’s a solid start to the run, and we are all well pleased. Often after a rest period the wheels are a little creaky, but we’re getting more consistent lately, and my feeling is that this year our performances have been for the most part pretty sharp, as good as any we have done these last post-reunion years. In large part that is due to the crew we have now, which is the best team of individuals I can ever remember having on a tour with us. It has taken years to get right but I honestly hope these guys all stay with us. Our onstage crew: (their names are all in the tour program) you see them handing us guitars (Beet and Stig) or fixing Nick’s keyboard programs (Ossie), getting the sound in the venue just right (Snake, Chopper), handing us clothes or cups of tea (Jeffrey, Davey), paying the hotel bill (Craig) or getting 2 tons of gear into a space big enough to hold half that (Wob). Our lights are really rocking this time out too, I’m finally happy that our light show has the same energy as the music, after a few years of over-programmed crap. That’s thanks to Vince and now Junior, who has taken over. If I’m missing anyone I’m truly sorry, I’ll catch you next time…
Shit, where was I? Oh yeah, now we’re in an SUV crossing the border back into the US on our way to this evening’s engagement in Seattle. Why is it whenever we go through border control I start to think I have some cocaine in my trouser pocket? Is it the way those guys in the uniforms look at you? Or years of crossing border controls with cocaine in my pocket, and the feeling doesn’t go easily?
Brothers and sisters, you know that is not the case with me today, although I may have twice the legal limit for chocolate in my blood stream, were I to be tested. Seattle venue is kinda soulless, but the people there are welcoming. It’s a better show than the night before, which it damn well oughta be, so no surprise there. After the performance we are flying to San Francisco. We seem to be doing that a lot these days, flying on to the next town right after the show. In fact it has been pointed out (by those with more flexible emotional lives than mine), that it is an utter certainty (sods law) that on the evenings we take off from the venue right after the performance bound for an airplane and the next town, there are many many beautiful girls in the audience that were we staying in said town, they would all be most certainly seduced and made love to that very night, most likely at the band’s hotel (not by me though, I must stress that...)
Which takes us to… San Francisco. Is there a more beautiful American town? So much romance, from Kerouac to Hitchcock, Ken Kesey to even Altamont. I love it.
We arrive at our hotel about three am. There is something intriguing about arriving at a city during the sleeping hours. There’s no traffic for one thing, and a skeleton staff on the hotel door. Often it seems someone has had to stay up just to make sure the Duffy party gets situated comfortably, but I am probably being self-centred.
We have a day off scheduled here, and I take a walk up through Chinatown around lunchtime, which is when I wake up. There is some family business that is calling me back to LA, so at the end of the afternoon I drive out to SFO for a 5.30 flight to Burbank… which gets delayed until 6… and then, until 9… Fuck it. I drive back into the city and go see ‘Iron Man’ with Charlie instead.
It’s Friday and the venue, the Shoreline Amphitheatre, is waaaaay out of the city. Roger, Dom and I leave for sound check around 4 and it takes almost two hours to get there. Tonight is the first night I really notice the band we have opening for us on this run, Your Vegas. I really don’t like that name unfortunately, and as you know we are a band that judges books by their covers… but having said that… they’ve really grown on me over the last few weeks and have found myself enjoying their music more and more every evening. I’m looking forward to their album.
The Shoreline’s ticket sales aren’t so hot, so Nick and I are obsessing over that, and yet, by the time the lights go down, as if by magic, the house is jumping. It’s a great show, as San Francisco shows must be. We are really settling into a groove now, perhaps because we have stopped messing with the show’s running order, which we love to do.
Next day I have lunch with Jerry Harrison, erstwhile Talking Head and producer of Neurotic Outsiders, who lives in Marin County. It’s great to see him, and it turns out his daughter is at the same college as Travis, same year, different major, and we resolve to hook the two of them up some time soon.
After lunch the band flies down to Santa Barbara for a Saturday show at the Santa Barbara Bowl, which is an American Classic in it’s own way. How can I explain? Imagine an audience of Jack Nicholson look-alikes, more botox than the rest of the tour put together, Lord, you gotta love it… They partied hard those Tommy Bahama cigar smoking mofos… I guess that’s what it’s like being in The Eagles…
Onwards to LA baby…
Can I just say at this point that…I LOVE LOS ANGELES…okay? You have a problem with that? Mister Rhodes??? Anyone? Boy am I sick of defending this town against all and sundry. This town has given me so much… a new life, quite honestly. Great friends, and a new wife for chrissakes… and her kids... We got the best cinema in the world, the best record store… the best …hmm… what else?…Basketball team?… Well yes, even I am beginning to believe that. (Lost to Celtics though, Ed.)
The show that Sunday is a beauty. A friend said to me the following day, ‘You have the happiest audience I have seen at any show’. I loved that. And we do. In our crowd today we have the most beautiful mix of folk; all age/gender/ethnicity and I fucking love it. If party music can’t bring people together, what the hell can?
It’s cool to have friends backstage, and Atlanta and Zoe, with their friends. I was proud to have that rag-tag brigade sitting stage-side. They’re crazy kids, looking like kool-aid acid test renegades.
I was proud of my wife Gela, who looked so beautiful that night, the most gorgeous gal in the house, which is as it should be, right? My friends Jason and Vernon, and their boys, Nick Egan and his boys, great to have the next generation fully present. Got to keep them hip to this live music thing, this full blooded, wood string and drum variety. By the time the family got home that night we were all pretty wasted, but in a tasty way. Sleep was delicious that night, in my own bed.
Next day is off but we all end up at Juicy HQ deep in the Valley discussing wardrobe for the next leg of the tour. What we have currently is working for me, but we have to let it expand a little, or else we’ll get bored. There’s a tendency for each of us to want to go off on our own style track, which is natural, but at the same time we got to keep it cohesive. I guess you’ll notice small changes over the next few months.
Next day band flies to Phoenix, and wifey flies to London. At the Phoenix venue I see Dave Ellefson from Peavey who has come to interview me for their website. Dave is a great guy who really was responsible for drawing me into Peavey. I had no idea of his history until I saw live Megadeth footage on a ‘History Of Hard Rock’ documentary back in the UK. I couldn’t believe it! I called him up, I said ‘Man, you are a motherfucker!…’ Now when I see him I try and give him as much respect as is his due. He still plays, doesn’t just do the Peavey ‘desk’ job as it were, and we both know how important that is. It’s nice to meet his wife too.
It’s another good show (do you think I would tell you if it wasn’t?), and afterwards we do a salty runner, as we call ‘em, which signifies that we are all still sweating when we get into the car, and fly back to LA for another much needed day off.
The next show day is Thursday. We leave Van Nuys airport late afternoon for a short hop across the OC down to San Diego. It’s a new venue we are playing for the first time, at a Casino on one of the native reservations down there. The guys that drive us are clearly proud of their new venue and excited to have us there. It’s not quite what I expected, being outside for one thing, and it’s a cold night, but the thing that really brought this gig down was the vile smell that drifted across the stage during ‘Come Undone’ and sat there, immovable as an unwanted guest, for the rest of the show. There are worse things that could happen during a Duran Duran show of course, don’t think I don’t know that, but this vile smell, which turned out to be a chicken farm less than a mile away, was a serious buzz kill. Hard to keep the sexy poses up, either on stage or in the audience with that going on. I was sorry for our driver, as everyone moaned on + on during the drive back to the plane post show. I just thought ‘poor fuckers, duped again…’.
And onto Las Vegas, where even the chicken farms smell of cologne. Once again arriving at night like a gang of Howard Hughes we awake to the dazzlingly bright light of the midday Nevada desert. I get to see my old rhythm partner Larry Aberman, who has made Vegas his home for several years now and whose wife Marcella is now pregnant. Go Larry! (Ella has arrived today! Congratulations! Ed.)
We have two shows Friday and Saturday at the Hard Rock, a venue we go back to again + again (we were there opening night). It’s a fun place to play made way more fun tonight by Brandon and Dave from The Killers who join us onstage for ‘Planet Earth’. They are super nice people and we all end the evening quaffing huge quantities of kobe beef at Nobu! Wifey has flown in from her ultra-quick trip to the UK, she’s a bit spaced understandably but she is up to party down…
But nothing compared to MOTHER-IN LAW who flies in next day, from San Antonio, where she resides on her own cattle ranch I tell you! Does anyone out there know who Les Dawson is? A British comedian whose specialty was mother-in-law jokes. Man, he’d be stumped with my Sarah. What an extraordinary piece of work. I’m tempted to launch into her life story but I really don’t have the time or space. She left Israel as a teenager to marry Ed Jacobson, who had proposed to her whilst on his first trip out of the US as a young man just out of college. She didn’t speak much English and came to New York knowing not one soul other than Ed (who she really didn’t know all that well). She’s a beauty though, that I’ll tell ya. They had three girls, Sarah and Ed, and I now have one of them for a wife. Unfortunately we lost Ed last year and Sarah has been stuck in her Texan abode without too much contact with the outside world. When Gela suggested we have her come join us in Vegas for Mother’s Day weekend I think it’s a terrific idea, and as it happens, so does Sarah.
She’s never met the band before, introducing them gave me quite a kick. See, she’s short and vibrant, really bright and funny when she wants to be, and of course very happy to be around so much energy. After the show Gela’s and my plan was to take her back to the hotel, tuck her up in bed, and then go on ourselves to a party at Body English, the disco downstairs at the Hard Rock. But Sarah is having none of it. She wants to party on Wayne, with zero interest in going to bed.
Roger is guest DJ-ing tonight and the club is a fucking madhouse. It’s times like this I honestly think without Davey Casillas I’d be a dead man, torn limb from limb by the raging out-of-control hordes of crazy Duran-chillun. I don’t even know why I am here, it must be some masochistic urge. Anyone who was there will tell you, it was ridiculous. When Roger comes on I snatch a few minutes on the dance floor (was that Dennis Rodman?) but then I resolve to get the hell out of Dodge. Now, where’s the little Mother-in law? She was there a second ago… Where the hell… Gela goes from happy to blind panic in a nano second. Before a minute all the club security has torch lights out looking for a little lady. This is it, I’m thinking, I am now officially going all the way to hell. What were we thinking, bringing her here? A thought does cross my mind which gives you an insight into what a sicko I am, and that is: In my autobiography this chapter will be entitled ‘My Own Private Altamont’. Sick!
And just as Gela is about to hyper-ventilate herself into the upper reaches of the stratosphere up she turns the monkey, with a grin on her face wondering what all the fuss is about. She was with a friend (a friend? What friend? When did she have time to make a friend?) dancing if you don’t mind and having a good time… Me saved from the brink of hell once again.
We drive back to the hotel with Nick and Meredith by which time Nick has come to fully appreciate the value of this new star in our universe, and we laugh like madmen all the way down the strip. And Grandma did end up getting tucked safely in bed that night, Lord have mercy.
And where did we go from there? Denver, Chicago (which was cool when Billy Corgan joined us onstage for ‘The Chauffeur’) and Detroit. Detroit show day was a long-ass day which began in Chi-town, saw us flying to Detroit Rock City for the show, then back onto the plane for a night flight down to Atlanta. By the time we arrived there I was starting to think, ‘I’m getting sick…’