Side two opens like ‘Waiting For The Nightboat’. A slow peeling back of the eyelids. A close and unhurried acknowledgment that this is to be a fleeting moment.
In my own bed.
With my own wife.
There are no curtains on the windows of our Hollywood home. Why go all that way for the bright lights of Southern California and then hide from them? Brightness is all. It impales one from the moment of morning consciousness! (I do feel like a deadbeat Dracula- and probably look like one..) There is nowhere to hide, ever, in LA…
For a Brit who is used to sullen days of dullness, providing all sorts of cover for all sorts of lethargies and neuroses, this can be a tonic. ‘Every day is like a summer’s day’ we say, on arrival, or on spending our first month or two, or even year there. But soon enough, tension takes hold, and a trip must be made to the dark depressive slate grey states of Britain, or New York, or Washington State… Clouds are chased, rainfall is prayed for, snowfall purchased. Like Alex in ‘Clockwork Orange’, eyes pinned open, unable to turn away from the terrifying, appalling images of war and deprivation.. well.. it’s not quite like that, not always, but it feels like it this morning.
I always organize little family ‘happenings’ on days I am going away. Which means I’m always trying to organize family happenings! This has gotten easier of late. All the kids are here, in town, so they don’t have that excuse, and usually I offer to cook favourite foods. In the case of today, I offer Gela to cook, who complains, ‘We don’t have enough food, because we didn’t plan for it..’
But we do get to spend some family time around the lunch table, before I leave for the airport. And it’s good for me, this check in, with all my to-ing and fro-ing…
By the time the car arrives to take me to the airport I’m ready. This is what I must do. And once I am in the car all frustration and sadness at having to leave, the kids, the wife, the house.. peel away. I’m on the road, I’m in a band, I love my job, I love my guys, etc etc… and from the sanctity of the airport lounge I can call those whom I need to call; say hello, and wave goodbye.
The flight is long if you consider twelve hours on a plane to be long. There are longer, but I appreciate it being long enough to actually sleep. Maybe six hours or more I get, which is convenient for arrival at London Heathrow where it is already almost midday. It’s gloomy and raining in England as it always is on arrival from Los Angeles. I believe that is part of the package, that it comes with the ticket, like a complimentary Disneyland ride, and I’m glad, I’m happy for it. It’s so distinctively British after all that Western American brightness.
I’m extremely fortunate to have somewhere to call home not only in Hollywood, but also in England. After spending month upon month sleeping in Simon’s basement or in West London hotels, Gela and I decided to purchase an old house in the English countryside, a hour or so from Heathrow, close to two hours from London. It means I can commute into the city to work with the band on our recordings or tour rehearsals, but I get to sleep in a bed I can call my own. Met at the airport by the friendly and reliable Bob who has lived in our house here far longer than we have, I love the drive west away from Heathrow, away from the city.
I used to love London, and still do, but I hate waking up there. Far too much stimulation! I love my patch of country life. The smells, the sights and the sounds, which all conspire to nourish and nurture me. I feel much closer to God here.
It’s Monday afternoon and we have until Thursday to relax, basically, and get over our jetlag. We have all flown over on various flights, but only Nick, nursing his fractured foot, elected to leave on Monday. So all across Southern England, our touring party is showing up back home. Dom has the most extraordinary return, finding his new baby daughter waiting for him!…
How do I relax, you may be interested to know? Movies and DVD’s are the most obvious way. Since San Francisco I am watching the ‘Dirty Harry’ series so tonight I have ‘Magnum Force’ scheduled. Also taking walks and listening to music, although music usually winds me up, and the next thing you know, I’m trying to master some riff on the bass or piano, or giving myself a vocal warm-up. I do yoga when I’m in Los Angeles, and I miss Rebecca my gorgeous yogi, when I’m away. I cobble together a home-made imitation of yoga on the road and in England, but it’s mostly just stretching out my lengthy limbs with some meditation thrown in. So, ‘Magnum Force’ and lengthy meditation- over espresso- that’s me!
Tuesday and Wednesday I take five mile walks.
I also practice for an hour or so, playing along with the Motown sides I listed in part one. I find that more fun that going over scales, which I have never really got into the habit of doing. It feels like I’m playing with others, as opposed to being alone. I don’t like playing the bass alone, as I have said before, that it has to be one of the least fun instruments to play solo. Ideally there’s a drummer to jam with rhythmically, or musically a guitarist or pianist to play off, but I have to play for some while on days like this, whether I like it or not, if I want to be sharp at our next performance- Thursday evening in Edinburgh.
There are one or two interviews to do over these days. Tickets are selling well for Edinburgh and Lovebox, so the feeling is, do some promotion and we may have sellouts. It’s been a long time since selling out concerts has been a certainty for Duran Duran. It doesn’t really matter. The extraordinary success we had when we were all so young was exactly what I say- extra-ordinary. So far from typical that it will really fuck you up if you spend the rest of your career comparing against it. We don’t really concern ourselves with ticket sales usually, our job is to be the best band we can be, today, and it’s the job of management and promoter to pick the right gigs, the right sized audience, so that we can play it comfortably without getting egg on our faces. The first few tours after the mania-years, they were difficult. Our egos had come to expect sellouts, night after night, and people around us would lie to us about ticket sales, not wanting to disappoint or anger us. Some nights we would come offstage raging. ‘There were at least twelve empty seats at the back of the balcony, you said it was a sellout!!!’.. but that was just the beginning. Then rows and rows of empty seats began to appear, entire tiers curtained off, balconies not even opened.. ah.. the humiliation of it all!!..
But we survived. We stuck around, stuck together and here we are, having fun, still growing and still learning. About music, about ourselves, and each other. Loving our playing and performing more than before. Those humiliations have given us now a sense of gratitude, and dare I say, humility. Of not taking ourselves, or any kind of success, for granted. Never do we expect to sellout, so like I say, I am well happy with the sales of this summer’s only two British shows.
Thursday we fly up to Edinburgh. We take a private jet out of RAF Northolt. Taking off from the small London airfields, such as Northolt, or Biggin Hill, my thoughts always turn to the RAF pilots who flew during the Battle Of Britain, what, almost seventy years ago? Taking off into the great cloudy blue yonder, in our twenty-first century state-of-the-art jet is one thing, but those guys in their single engine wooden built war machines, looking to hunt down a Messerschmit or a Heinkel bomber, without getting shot down themselves, those guys were the heroes to me as a young boy and they still are. The sound of a single engine propeller aircraft moving through a summer’s sky always sets a tingle down my spine. It must be my generation. I am forever grateful to all the men and women who fought against Hitler in the Second World War. Feeling as I do about that, it is impossible to be an absolute pacifist, for there are ‘just wars’. I know that. The trick is figuring on when they are just or not, but that’s another story.
On the plane to Edinburgh, we are joined by Mark Ronson, who is going to perform the encore medley with us on both the British shows. Mark is just one of the loveliest and easiest guys to be around that I’ve ever met. But I’ve written about him at length before, and would not want you to think I had an obsession with the boy, however healthy!
When we take the stage for ‘A View To A Kill’ that night in Edinburgh it feels like a new, turbo-charged Duran taking the stage, with the relative youth of Mark and Dom, and the musical power of our four-piece string section, a trumpeter and a trombone player, augmenting the sound we had on the US dates. The setting in Edinburgh is awesome, the stage being set amidst the Castle walls. No amount of torrential rainfall can deter band or audience from an enthusiastic exchange of love and affection.