Big Boy Bloater: '5 Stories from the Road'

THE TIME WE THOUGHT WE KILLED AN R&B LEGEND We’d been booked to back tenor sax supremo Joe Houston at a big festival. For those not familiar with Joe he was one of the early pioneers of honking and screaming back in the R&B days of the 40s and 50s. Joe had flown in the night before from LA. He was in his late 70s at this point and hadn’t had a great journey over. He was suffering from jet lag and a dodgy tummy but it was show time! The room was full of an eager audience as the compere announced Joe. The band struck up with the vamp for his opening song and Joe kinda wandered on looking a bit lost. I thought he was about to blow his first note on the sax when he turned to me and said, “I don’t feel well”. He proceeded to stagger off stage to the back-stage toilet. We didn’t know where he had gone so we kept playing around the 12-bar vamp that we’d already committed to. It seemed like we’d been playing that riff for an age (probably 4 or 5 minutes) when he finally walked back on stage and picked up his sax. He played a few notes on the sax that sounded like an animal dying and he started to fiddle with it. There seemed to be something wrong with it so Joe sat down on the drum riser and proceeded to take the thing apart. Next thing I knew he slumped back against the bass drum and kinda went limp. I thought that was it; he’d gone! Strangely the band kept on playing. One of the other sax players came over and grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket and tried to hoist Joe to his feet in a most ungainly fashion. It was all getting a bit surreal at this point but then a glass of water appeared. Joe took a sip (he wasn’t dead) then set about picking up his sax and starting blasting out some great honking riffs. The rest of the show was great but it sure was a shaky start! ALL THE TIME LEONARD COHEN’S STARING AT ME It was early days on the first ever LiMiTs headline tour and we arrived at York in the pouring rain. We eagerly set up, looking forward to that evening’s show, and once we’d sound checked we decided to get something to eat. There was no food at the venue so we had to head out. In the couple of hours it had taken for us to unload the rain had turned to snow and was currently about a foot high. This limited our choices as to where to eat, in fact the only place close by and accessible was a Subway. Cool, ‘Eat Fresh’ we thought. Foot long subs were purchased and we headed back to the venue with our scran to consume it in the dressing room. It must have been about 30 mins before show time that 3 of the 4 of us started to feel a bit dickie. There was only one toilet back stage and suddenly it was very much in demand. All too suddenly it was show time! I felt in no fit state to be doing anything but sitting on the crapper and indeed I was interesting shade of green / grey but the show had to go on! We took to the stage and just as I was counting the first number in the keyboard player leaned over and said, “I’ve shit meself!”. The rest of the gig was a bit of a blur. Both the keyboard player and the drummer had to leave the stage at varying points of the show to fill a bucket that was back stage but some how I managed to keep all the fluids in my body from squirting out of any of the available orifices and finished the show. As soon as I got back-stage I realised the toilet was occupied so I headed out to the venue toilets and got myself installed in a cubical with a kicked in door. But I didn’t care. I had to let it all go. Both ends. This of course was one of those venues that had a club night pretty much as soon as the band finished so I was soon dragged out of my ‘comfort zone’ to pack away our gear and load up the van. The van was snowed in and at the top of a hill from the venue. We had to carry all our equipment up the hill because we couldn’t risk getting stuck at the bottom in the snow. Each trip I manged to get about half way up the hill before I had to put down whatever I was carrying and heave my guts up. It seemed to take forever to load that poxy van but finally it was done. We all jumped in the van desperate to get to the hotel which should’ve been about 20 minutes away but because of the snow and having to stop every 5 minutes for someone to get out and throw up was more like 2 hours away. Just to add to the sheer hell of that journey the heater of the van was stuck on full and was blasting hot air in my face the entire trip. Through the heat and the hallucinations of the feverish sickness I can just remember one thing about that journey. There was a CD on the dashboard of the van. A Leonard Cohen CD with a picture of face on the cover. His eyes were reflected in the van windscreen and seemed to stare at me for the whole journey. I don’t know if that made me feel worse or better but until this day I can’t listen to Leonard Cohen without choking up a little bit of sick. Boy was I glad to see that hotel bathroom! I did get a good song out of it though – this is the real story of my song ‘Leonard Cohen’, nothing to do with the man himself! I DON’T A very long time ago I was in a band that was booked to play at a wedding (even before I was known as Big Boy Bloater!). We got there and set up and as the guests shuffled in we noticed half of them were sitting on one side of the hall and the other half were sat on the other side and there was a distinctly chilly ‘no mans land’ in the middle. Turns out the bride had run off with the best man but the guests decided to still have the party anyway. Man was that a shit gig! WIG OUT! Some time ago I was in a band fronted by a female singer who, shall we say wore a ‘hairpiece’. I remember driving up to a gig somewhere one incredibly hot day. I was driving, the bass player was sat in the middle seat and the singer was on the outside seat by the window. As I said it was a really hot day and this was in a time before vans had A/C so the windows were wide open. Anyway, we’re hurtling up the motorway and she turns around to say something and said hairpiece was of course sucked straight out of the window and lands on the windscreen of the car behind. I was really struggling to contain the laughter and keep the van on the road but it was all too much for me when she pulled out a ‘spare’ from her bag! So let that be a lesson to you – always keep a spare wig in your bag! MURDER ON THE DANCEFLOOR I remember playing a show in Kent or Essex somewhere, in one of those venues where there is no stage so the band plays on the floor. About halfway through the first set a fight breaks out and chaos ensues. The band (being on the floor) almost get caught up in the fight but in the nick of time a bouncer arrives and ejects the trouble maker. Everything seems to settle down again, we carry on and everyone’s having a great time. That is until near the end of the second set when the audience starts shuffling around and looking around at each other -there’s some sort of commotion going on that we can’t quite see from where we are but it appears that the dance floor is emptying rapidly from the centre. Turns out this fellow had got back in, was none too pleased about being chucked out and decided to let the management know his distaste by pulling his pants down and laying a rather hefty turd right in the centre of the dance floor then proudly walking out. Needless to say there was no encore from the band that night! UK Tour Dates Tickets available here Thurs 6th Sept – NOTTINGHAM, The Maze Fri 7th Sept – NEWCASTLE, The Cumberland Arms Sat 8th Sept – GLASGOW, Stereo Sun 9th Sept – PRESTON, The Continental Thurs 13th Sept – BIDEFORD, The Palladium Club Weds 19th Sept – LONDON, The Black Heart Thurs 20th Sept – BRISTOL, Mr Wolf’s Fri 21st Sept – ALDERSHOT, West End Centre Weds 26th Sept – SHREWSBURY, Albert’s Shed Thurs 27th Sept – CHELTENHAM, The Frog and Fiddle Fri 5th Oct – NORWICH, B2 Venue Sat 6th Oct – LOUTH, Hoochie Coochie Club Photo credits – Rob Blackham  ]]>

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