Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tales From The Abyss Pt. 2 : Cathedral, Black Sabbath And The Marquee de Sade!

Tour Schedule for the U.K. dates of the "Cross Purposes" tour. When I got one of these I knew we were going!

The Manchester Apollo was the first gig on the Black Sabbath "Cross Purposes" tour. I spent my first hours waiting for ever in a fish and chips shop for sound check to happen. It was a beautiful sunny day but blustery cold with the wind howling at times. Victor, Scott and I had arrived on the tour bus with our opening act, Godspeed from Asbury Park, New Jersey. They were already drunk and trying to play king of the sand box with us. At first they were an annoyance but later through the tour would become a living nightmare to deal with. One of their "two" bass players was already suffering from a broken ankle received the night before from one of his own band mates. There would be many other broken things to come. At the time though, we were only concerned with pulling off our gig with a slightly under rehearsed Cathedral.

Me in front of the marquee for The Apollo checking out the billing.

I entered the venue through the stage door and went to work on some adjustments I had to make on the Premier drum kit that I was using for this tour. In 1990 the rep from Liechester told me that there wouldn't be a problem getting a kit for me on lend if I was ever doing a high profile tour in England and to call him anytime if I needed Premier's services. Well, it was now 1994 and they made us buy the bloody kit! That was strike 2 against me after Victor and I missed the first flight to London. Paul Loasby was not amused!

I was changing out certain drum heads with better ones behind the back line when I saw these black shoes coming in to my field of vision and walking up right in front of me. I looked up as I was tightening the lug screws on a bass drum when I noticed a smiling face with sun glasses belonging to Tony Iommi. He was shaking his head in disbelief that I was working on my drums behind their amps. I got up real fast and offered him my hand shake and introduced myself to him. I told him that I was looking forward to the tour with him. He shook my hand and said absolutely nothing, then walked off! The only thing missing was the black cape , black helmet and resperator sounds!

Photo taken behind Tony Iommi's amps with the weathered SG and spair guitar.

Black Sabbath began their sound check as Victor and I sat in the auditorium. They sounded good as they had just finished up the American leg of their tour. They went through all the set pieces involving the heavy keyboard parts of their show. Bobby Rondinelli was drumming for them and was having to watch a metronome light to hold back from speeding up. It also kept Bobby from pulling out any fancy fills making him just any other drummer. I had played a show with him in 1981 when I was drumming for the Boyz and we opened for Rainbow. He was full throttle back then! It was a shame seeing him being restricted like this.

All day long a fog machine sprayed out it's mist to give the entire venue a smokey atmosphere so that the lights would show their beams better. It suddenly hit me that we were playing in an awesome old time theater. The Apollo was the most ornate theater I had ever been in with it's gilded gold trim and fancy scrolling wood work . The ceiling was full of beautifully colored stars and moons outlined in gold and the seats were upholstered with fine valuer. I should have brought my opera glasses! I could tell by Sabbath's sound check that it was going to sound great in there too!

Victor and I went on an expedition to meet some of the crew and people we would be working and living with for 3 months. Right away I ran into an old friend named "Sunshine" who once used to come to my early shows with Death Row at the infamous Happy Pickle. She was now the wardrobe mistress for Black Sabbath and was regularly working with Deep Purple also. When I met her years ago she worked for Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. It was great to see her as we had both had a slight spark for each other in the old days and it was good to see her happy and successful. I also ran into an old friend from my days in the Kim Simmonds band named Charlie. He was Geezer Butler's bass tech and then the ultimate surprise was meeting Bobby Rondinelli's drum tech, Wade who i recognized immediately as the drummer that I replaced in Leslie West's band back in 1976!

This was a real small world and it became a kind of full circle for me but with all the old friendships and aquaintences present, it still wasn't enough to make this beast of a tour comfortable or friendly for any of us in the end!

Time came for Cathedral to sound check when we got word of a terrible traffic jam from London all the way to Manchester. Lee Dorian and Gary Jennings were in the manager's car en route from London. They were hopelessly stuck in traffic so Godspeed got up and did their sound check until they were told by Sabbath's stage manager and light man Keith Olsen, to knock it off!

It got later and later until it was showtime and still no sign of the rest of our band. Godspeed did their thing and then it was time for Cathedral and still no Lee or Gaz! We told Sabbath's people what was happening and apparently Geezer Butler's wife was also stuck in the same traffic jam, so they understood. I was flipping out! It was opening night of the tour and a load of press were there to report the happenings of the evening and set the tone for the shows to follow. It almost came down to the wire whether we would play or not and suddenly Lee and Gaz showed up and plugged in. We only got to play 4 songs but it was a killer show despite that fact. It looked like the rag tag team up of Pentagram and Cathedral members were going to work out fine together as the new Cathedral!

A lot of problems beset our first show at the Manchester Apollo but it got favorable reviews in Kerrang Magazine .

A moment that really sticks out in my head about that night was when Black Sabbath started the beginning of "Iron Man". Victor phoned his nephew back in the states from a pay phone that just happened to be on the stage at stage right and pointed the receiver at Black Sabbath so that Greg Turley , his nephew could here it live on the phone! This was a moment in time that young Greg will never forget!

A rare photo of the guitar titans of doom, Tony Iommi and Victor Griffin

The agreement Victor and I had made with Cathedral weeks before we left the States required them to wire money to our accounts before we flew over and during certain parts of the tour at specific dates, more money would be wired so that we could pay our bills at home while we were on the road. I especially needed this as I was a new father with my new born son, Joseph Jr.. There was no one home working as my wife had her hands full with a newborn. Here we were on the second show and we still hadn't been paid and my wife at the time was letting me have it on the phone because the utilities were being cut off at our house for non-payment. I knew that we were going to have a hard time with this as Paul Loasby, Cathedral's manager felt that Victor and I weren't worth the money agreed upon. It was obvious that he was was trying to convince us of that as he avoided our phone calls and disappeared when he knew that we would corner him for money!

On this night we were playing the legendary Hammersmith Odeon in London. This was to Victor, Scott and I the equivalent to playing Madison Square Garden would be to a Brit. So when I had to play a game of financial chess with Paul Loasby with the chance of ditching the gig, I was really saddened! This was a battle that I had to win because there was no other alternative. My family came first!
Me, in front of the Hammersmith, now called Labbat's blocking the doors form anyone entering the venue!

Early that morning I rang up "Hammy" from Peaceville Records who was putting out Pentagram's "Be Forewarned" and told him the situation. He agreed that this was the time to strike if I wanted to get paid as all the other gigs didn't mean near as much as this Hammersmith show would to Paul. So Hammy agreed to buy 2 tickets on British Airways back to the states for Victor and I for the following day and that we could use this as leverage! If Loasby didn't immediately wire the money to our families then Hammy would send a car for us before we went on stage leaving the whole concert package in a lurch! If he decided to pay then Hammy could refund his money for the airline tickets in time and no one would be the worse for wear.

I was elected to be the heavy in this matter and confronted Paul at my dressing room door. I told him what I had planned and that my wife had still not received the money wire. I told him that my family came first and that I couldn't give a fat rat's ass about his bullshit or this tour if I didn't get paid. He said to me in his starchiest London accent, "You...You...You're having a go at me aren't you?" I said "It's funny you mentioned the word "Go" because that's exactly what I'm going to do!" I then said"I'm going to call my wife in 2 hours and if I don't hear that the first part of my payment is in my bank account, a car will be sent over to pick Victor and I up to be taken to an undisclosed location to be be later put on the first plane out of here and back to the U.S. .

We had 8 hours before we had to go on and that gave him plenty of time to start honoring our agreement. I called home after 2 hours and "Wa - Lah!" Our money had arrived! Paul hated our guts after that and I really didn't care! He was wrong and got called on the mat for it from someone who's been through hundreds of situations like that in the past! My first encounter with that type of greed almost landed a switchblade in my back when I was 16 years old! I'm no stranger to people trying to see how much they can get away with whether they be small time or big time. It's all relative! Strike #3

We were scheduled to go on in 15 minutes. I noticed that Lee was getting a case of nerves as it was a prestigious gig with Black Sabbath recording a live DVD and probably the most important showing for Cathedral as a true arena act. I kept giving Lee time updates every minute as to play on his stage fright. "You have about 3 minutes now to play Hammersmith" ding... ding! All I got out of him were these anxiety ridden moans like a wounded animal! I was nervous too but I was looking forward to this gig of a life time while Lee was agonizing over the prospect of it! I realized right then that these guys were "green" and I had been falling for their guilt trip about whether or not Victor and I were good enough to play with "them" ! They were now proving to be the amateurs and not us.

Needless to say , the show went down a storm and got favorable reviews from the press. After the show Victor and I found the upstairs lounge and met the gals from Girlschool and had a blast downing a few libations with them. Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden was also there talking to me about his new upcoming solo effort. The evening ended up nice but Cathedral was now becoming divided and stayed that way throughout most of the tour except when we were on stage. I don't hold it against them as they were young then and did what their manager told them whether it was right for them or not.

Our next gig took us to Wolverhampton in a nice large auditorium. We were scheduled for a photo session at 3:00pm so I got up early and went to town looking for Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet paraphernalia. I found a vendor that had everything I was looking for. When I made it back we were told that the photo shoot would be in the back of the hall by the load in next to the flight cases.

The photographer knew what he was doing and captured some great shots that stayed with us in the magazines for the whole tour. It was strange though because I think that he took it that I was the lead singer because I was told to be in the foreground in all the shots! "Strike #4"

Pictures from this photo shoot in Wolverhampton ended up being the main photos used to promote the tour in the magazines.

When the photo shoot was over we all took off running like madmen towards the front of the hall! I was in the front and ran down the stairs at the side of the stage heading for the hall when "bam!" I knocked this big grizzly bear looking bloke with funny shoes and a fuzzy beard down the stairs but managed to catch his fall! As I kind of dusted him off, I told him that I was sorry and that we were acting like stupid kids running around like that. He said, "Pay it know mind lad, I'm OK".

That night everyone seemed to play a great set and it was a tremendous success. Black Sabbath was going to host a meet and greet in the lounge and it was rumored that some of the guys from ELO would be there. I was in the dressing room getting changed an chilling out when Scott Carlson came upstairs and said "The guys from ELO are hear including Bev Bevan and you won't believe who they brought with them!. They brought Roy Wood!" In case any of you don't know who Roy Wood is, he was the founder of The Move and later formed ELO before going on to a solo career and forming Wizard. Roy was one of my biggest childhood heroes and influenced me enough to become a multi-instrumentalist like himself.

Without hesitation I bolted down the stairs to the meet and greet and then Scott pointed Roy out to me. To my horror it was the same guy I had accidentally knocked down the stairs earlier in the day. I was looking at them but they were pointing at me and Roy didn't look too happy either but Bev Bevan was laughing his ass off. I felt that it might be inappropriate to say any more to him as I had said and done enough to the poor man!
Roy Wood, When we played Wolverhampton I literally ran into him!

Our night liner pulled out of Wolverhampton and made it's way to Newport, Whales under the cover of darkness. The Godspeed guys were acting up and whispering a lot of stuff about us behind our backs. They were real jealous that we had the slot before Black Sabbath and not them as they were managed by Gloria Butler, Geezer's wife. Godspeed was not a metal band nor were they a punk band, but somewhere in between. One thing was for certain, they had no good intentions for anyone that got close to them. They had made a recent video for MTV in America for their song "Houston Street" (pronounced Howston) and were promoting the new album. They were the kind of kids that in no way should have been thrust into such a large tour. Someone was going to lose and in the end it was everyone!

The show in Newport was excellent for all the bands and the audience got their money's worth! This was the last time Godspeed's management would be around until we got deep into Germany. We picked up their tour manager named Mick for the Europe shows. Unfortunately he let his band act as shitty as they wanted to. They would break something or make trouble with the promoters and Mick would report back to Gloria that it was all Cathedral's fault. Meanwhile these little animal fucks from New Jersey were holding hard core punk karaoke every night on the bus while fighting and smashing bottles and everything else that wasn;t nailed down. This would last long into the morning and no one got any sleep for the next day's gig. These lot were the worst! Unfortunately we were stuck with them on the bus for 3 months!

What happened next will expose how unglamorous the life of a rock star can be! Don't miss the next installment of "Tales From The Abyss" Part 3


Menzel said...

This is priceless Joe! Thanks a lot for sharing all this with us.

Woody said...

Part 3 soon please! Love this story. I forgot all about Godspeed and how lame they were.

El rock chingón said...

Joe, this is gold. Writte a book about this unknow rock and roll histories. You rock.

El rock chingón said...

Man, this must be a movie./Users/franciscoxavierjeantron/Desktop/a6450bb544a3053e.jpeg This mexican actor could be Iommi.

Anonymous said...

Their leader "Tommy" was like one of those kids that spent his entire youth in reform school for skinning all the neighborhood cats and hanging their pelts in the branches of their owners trees.

I didn't know you thought so highly of me!

Hey Woody, Fuck you!

Anonymous said...

i still love ya anyway joe ya big lug!

Marc said...

amazing stories!keep em coming!