Well, here we go on our second tour of the United States of America. Rendezvous with Tony, Mark and Ian at the Concorde suite at Heathrow, London. Destination Los Angeles. Object of trip: Grammy awards and six week tour. Concorde only takes three hours to get across the Atlantic. We travelled at 1350mph - twice the speed of sound!
Big Country nominated for two Grammy Awards. The categories were "Best New Group" and "Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Rock Group With Vocals", otherwise known as a bunch of tubes singing a song.
We were really chuffed to appear on the Grammys, but the whole production was very shoddy and unprofessional. So much money was spent on limos for the artists and families, and so on, yet the backstage facilities and sound were diabolical and embarrasing. Anyway, we didn't win, but it was a good laugh appearing on what could be called "The Michael Jackson Show".
After the Grammys, we had a few days off, with the exception of a few interviews about bagpipes and haggis with the press. Stuart, Sandra, Callum and Joe (personal assistant) went down to Disneyland for the day. Mark and Tony went to Laguna beach with friends. I decided to explore Universal Studios, where most of the big movies and TV shows were made. The trip involved an alien attack from Battlestar Galactica and a shark attack by Bruce the Wonder Shark, star of such movies as Jaws, Jaws 2 and Jaws 3D. A good day was had by all, well all except for Dave (Tour Manager) - today was account day.
From one extreme to another, Los Angeles to New York. Flying through snow storms at 33,000 feet is about as funny as a poke in the eye with a sharp ferret. Spent two days in New York rehearsing and doing interviews. Our guitar roadie Les's wife Pepe gave birth to a daughter. Heavy drinking all round tonight!
Now the tour starts.
2nd March - Pennsylvania
Spent all day looking for Dracula, but couldn't find him. Must be the wrong town, or maybe I was looking during the day.
3rd March - Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia was a laugh. Stayed at a haunted hotel on the edge of town. Outside in the driveway was a black truck bearing the name "Peter Poltergeist & Son. Furniture Removals". Tonight I would not sleep alone.
Mark and I went out to explore the local watering holes. The first bar had a rock band playing on stage. Their whole set consisted of badly-played Rolling Stones songs. The local country & western bar refused us because they said our haircuts would cause trouble. We eventually found a small college type bar with students twisting and jiving to the sounds of the local jukebox-type college band. Mark and I were the only people not consuming soft drinks.
What a strange town. What strange people. Talking about strange people, Dave Wernham, our tour manager, is a complete eccentric. He is also a keen bird-watcher. When trying to doze in the tour bus the next day, Dave would jump out of seat, smack you round the head and shout "My God, look up in the sky. There's two buzzards!".
Headlines in this morning's local paper read:
4th March - Fredericksburg
Played at an all-girls college, which was fun!
5th March - Winston Salem
Going further sounth now. I think we're in witch hunting territory - everbody keeps making secret signs at each other, and my haircut is definitely not going down well with the locals.
Had card games and domino tournament on bus.
Mark and I ended up jamming with a reggae group called "Quasar" in Indiannapolis. We played a version "No Woman No Cry" - Quasar played the reggae parts, Mark played the jazz parts and I played the heavy metal parts! It sounded pish but we had a good laugh! Decided to cut my hair due to dirty looks from the locals in different towns. Decided to buy a hat to hide new haircut.
The roadcrew bus got raided by three state troopers looking for two escaped convicts today. Les nearly got arrested!
8th March - Champaign, Illinois
Stayed at a haunted hotel. Sandra stiched up Mark's hotel room by making a dummy out of Stuart's clothes and strategically placing it at the side of Mark's bed. A luminous skull was added, and the trap was set. Unfortunately, someone else in the party walked into Mark's room by mistake, and a huge scream could be heard all the way down the hallway, but it wasn't Mark!
Phoned home to mother, and found out that my newly-purchased house is ready for occupancy at the end of the tour.
Arrived at our hotel in Madison to be greeted by an all-girl basketball team. Why do all young American girls wear braces on their teeth?
Played "Wonderland" for the first time on the tour. Problems plagued tonight's gig due to electrical faults, so we had to cut the set short.
10th March - Ann Arbour
Just a normal day.
My Birthday! Celebrated the event with everyone in my hotel room. Champagne and beer all round!
Sandra had a motorcycle crash in which she injured her foot. She was riding Callum's toy motorbike, which crashed into the side of the stage! Why don't some American states have helmet laws?
Off to Nashville Tennessee, the home of country music y'all. Mark and I went out clubbing with Don William's band, Danny, Pat and Dave. Don couldn't make it.
Next stop Atlanta. Took scuba diving gear with me, thinking we would have to swim underwater to get there. We did and "in-store" at the local record shop, signing autographs, having our pictures taken, etc. Also did a TV interview with a stupid woman who just kept saying "Gee, I love your accent - you've got a cute haircut". I just told her that her head was all mince, and she just smiled saying "I love yoo guyz".
14th March - Daytona, Florida
Home of the motorcycle race. Daytona is hotter than the hottest thing you can think of...spent most of the day swimming, bodysurfing and looking for sharks. It was really funny, because all the members of the group were wearing Budweiser caps and short trousers becasue of the sun. It gave the impression of three nude guitarists on stage. We're beginning to get suntanned now, and my haircut is growing in well now - well, at least it's blending in with the scenery.
St. Petersburg, and the circus comes to town. We played next door to the circus, which was run entirely by Egyptian masons playing drums. TRUE.
17th March - Miami, Florida
We are a bit worried, because we're travelling to Miami, and there's riots there just now. Ian, our manager, is staying at a hotel in the middle of it! Today we packed our bags, kidnapped Little John (onstage sound), and went down to the beach at Fort Myer. It was a scorching hot day, perfect really. Well, except for the flies. I've never seen so many flies in my life. Anyway, getting into the spirit of things, Mark and I bought these hideous Hawaiian shirts that looked like skin complaints. At least they kept the flies away! Suntans are looking good now!
Travel down to Coconut Grove, right in the centre of the Miami riots. Whilst asking directions to the hotel we were told to avoid certain streets because of trouble. Spotted two large road blocks, one bomb squad truck and numerous police cars and ambulances. What also worries me is that we're travelling in a large black bus with blacked-out windows. Also, in white letters on the front of our bus is the name "MARIAH". Various journalists and photographers from the British press are here to join the tour for a few days.
We went down to Fort Lauderdale beach for the day. Fort Lauderdale has been the subject of many films because it's famous for students who come here during the spring to let off steam. Spent most of the evening at the hotel bar, where after a few bevvies Mark and I tried our hand at break-dancing. Instant rupture!
Played and open-gig in Miami which turned out really well.
Went down to Disneyworld in Orlando with Joe, Mark, Stuart, Sandra and Callum, and went on a thing called Space Mountain, which is like a cross between a big dipper and the corkscrew, only fifty times faster. Bought a Davy Crockett hat and saw Mickey Mouse, who's looking no bad for his age.
Mark met one of his heroes today, none other than the famous drag queen, Danny La Rue. Only kidding, he bumped into Stewart Copeland, the Police's drummer, at Miami airport!
Arrived in New Orleans at around 10pm. We're staying in the French Quarter, just three blocks away from the infamous Bourbon Street, where they have the Mardis Gras. Bourbon Street is full of life. Every second building is either a transvestite strip joint or a club with a band playing. You can get in anywhere free, and the streets are full of transvestites and transexuals, and has the same sort of atmosphere as some streets in Berlin.
Typical interview with college tabloid:
RB: Hi I'm Ralph Blowtorchski, and I'm damn glad to meet you.
BW: Hello, I'm Bruce Watson, and I'm, ahem, damn glad to meet you too.
RB: How do you get your guitars to sound like bagpipes?
BW: Well, goodbye.
RB: Hey, wait a minute guys, don't you guys really kick ass?
TB: Do what!?
RB: Hey, Mark, I really dig your Australian accent.
MB: Do what?!
RB: Hey Stuart, is it true you guys wear nothing but plaid?
Tonight we are playing on a riverboat on the Mississippi river. Soundcheck was a bit dodgy, because of water dripping down from the upper deck onto our amplifiers. Spent most of the day hanging around Bourbon Street with Mark and Joe. We had our pictures taken wearing some old style cowboy clothes.
As it goes, the riverboat gig was a complete success, although I thought the boat was going to sink. After the gig, Mark and I went down to Pat O'Brien's bar just off Bourbon Street to sample New Orleans' most deadly cocktail, the dreaded HURRICANE. Now the trouble begins....
After a few hurricanes, we went back to the hotel to find two dodgy women arguing outside our bedroom. Next minute, this guy comes up saying we were making too much noise. We told him it was nothing to do with us, and Mark closed the door in his face. He informed us that he was a policeman, so we asked to see his ID. Next minute, he kicked the door in, shouting and swearing and saying he didn't have to use his ID because he had a gun and would use it!! One of the girls in the corridor fainted, and Mark was arrested for assault and battery of a policeman. Dave, Joe and myself had to go down to the central lock-up section of the police department to bail Mark out. Once inside the lock-up, policemen and newly released prisoners were asking for our autographs! Mark even had to sign his mug shots for one of the policeman's children! Bail came to $1,100!
Next day in court, Mark was told that because the policeman hadn't shown his ID they had made a wrongful arrest. We were also told that if we didn't press charges for wrongful arrest, or sue the state of Louisiana, the police would forget about the incident with the women in the hotel. They nearly got charged with trespassing in the hotel. So we got our money back, forgot the whole incident and everything was wonderful, and everyone was happy - BASTARDS!
New Orleans is a town we'll never forget.
Next stop, Houston Texas.
A normal day.
22nd March - Austin Texas
We played a live broadcast for a show called The Source, which is the best live tape I've ever heard of us.
Texas is quite a nice state. Nothing much really happened, probably because we had a heavy schedule and we had never played in this neck of the woods before. Stuart and I were presented with two miniature travel guitars. Callum strapped one on, and started impersonating his dad!
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Mark and I get back in the spirit of things by not shaving for three days, and calling each other "Gringo".
Joe keeps feeding us on new vitamins which turn our urine bright orange.
Here we are back in Hollywood, after four and a half weeks on the road. Discovered an English pub called the Cat & Fiddle, which sold draught bass and Heineken.
Next day, Joe and Ian made some Shepherds Pie, which was definately meal of the Tour. Most of the group and crew went down to Disneyland again.
Strolled down Santa Monica Boulevard today, which has a bad reputation for gays. Walked into a gay shop by mistake, but decided to take back home with me a game called "Gay Monopoly".
Ian and Alan went down to Mexico for a few hours. Ian had his camera stolen, and James (his son) nearly wasn't allowed back into the country. After the gig, everybody got stuck into the Mescal, which has a maggot at the bottom of every bottle. After drinking, the maggot must be consumed. Big Joe had hallucinations.
At the moment, the Big Country partly looks like the Hill Billy family, what with Stuart and Sandra wearing General Custer jackets, my davy crockett hat, and all the children's cowboy gear.
Slade turned up at the hotel today. I think they and Quiet Riot are coming to the gig tonight. Mark and I got quite friendly with Don Powell (Slade's drummer), who tends to forget things quite quickly due to a car accident a few years ago.
Went to the LA Sports Arena with Mark to watch the Annual Truck Pull event, which involves Hot Rods with helicopter engines pulling big weights across a basketball arena.
Stuart and I discovered a new drink called Kamikazi. It is a double vodka with a shot of vodka and a little lime juice. San Francisco is like it is on the telvision. Every corner has bums, faggots, policemen, druggies and drunkards. Went down to a radio station which overlooks Alcatraz Prison, which has now been turned into a national monument!
Everybody is dying to get home now. Stuart keeps counting the hours till the last chords of In A Big Country resolve, plus my wrist is getting sore writing this book! [so are mine typing it up! - Oliver]
San Luis Obispo
Spent most of the day playing baseball with the crew. Played a blinder of a gig tonight, and that was it. All over. The end of our second American tour. Champagne and beer all round for the crew, support group (Wire Train), and us.
On the tour bus, our driver Don showed Stuart and I some country and western guitar licks. Everbody is now in high spirits at the thought of going home. This diary will go into action again in twenty days at the start of our Japanese tour.....