One of the great things about touring with a band is that it gets me away from my little west London bubble and out and about around the towns and cities that I haven’t been to in quite some time. So off we go with my new boots and panties and my escape-from-the-band book, Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, loaned to me by your very own Michael Henderson. The revamped, reformed, post-Sex Pistols punk popsters The Professionals are on their way.
First stop Exeter and the obligatory stop-off for the Spinal Tap Stonehenge band photo. It has to be done. The film still strikes a chord with every band, and we’ve all had our very own Spinal Tap moments. I remember us going to the wrong stage at a festival with The Pistols once, and hearing our intro tape begin to play, far away on another stage.
I wake up in Manchester’s Premier Inn (no expense spared) and get stuck into a full English (no crushed avocado on toast here) alongside the construction workers who are rebuilding the Deansgate area into a mini-Manhattan. I’m grateful that I don’t have to join them for ‘a proper day’s work’ as my dad would say. After breakfast, my old mate ex-Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown — aka the Lord Mayor of Manchester — gives me a guided tour of the city centre. He points out the Free Trade Hall, where The Pistols played a seminal gig all those years ago. All of Manchester’s finest turned up, and went on to form Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Smiths and The Cult to name but a few. Ian gets stopped every 50 yards by fans who want selfies and autographs, and he handles it all with such grace. Top man.
After Sheffield and Birmingham city centres it’s a relief to get to Cambridge and then Oxford. Taking in the night air after the show, me and our Japanese bass player Toshi ponder the fact that ‘there must have been some clever dicks that have walked this way’. The fan who stops us is not a clever dick. He advises me that with Toshi in the band we should get over to China to play some gigs, as we’ll go down well there. ‘Well, we’ve just got back from Japan and Hong Kong,’ I reply. ‘Nah, not Hong Kong, CHINA!’ he shouts. We laugh as we walk away. ‘I told you they still think we all look the same,’ Toshi says.
Now, the tour bus is usually the most un-PC place you’ll find, so I take a quiet moment to ask the boys what they think of the latest Brexit situation. I’m met with a moment of deadly silence and then we all break into fits of laughter — perfect! The only person who seems slightly bothered is our young Welsh roadie Reece who’s procrastinating about buying his first house in the Valleys. I tell him to go for it. We’ll survive… ‘Never Mind The Bollocks,’ as Geoffrey Cox didn’t say.
On to Newcastle, Glasgow, Aberdeen and the wonderful Edinburgh. As always, the further north you go, the friendlier the people and the more raucous the audiences are. As far as I can see, it would be ridiculous if we were ever to split with our Celtic cousins. It’s been glorious sunshine all the way, and boy does it make a difference to the feeling of wellbeing in the band. (How predictable for the Green party to pipe up and tell us what a disaster all this winter sunshine is.) There’s been only one bust-up, which is pretty good going. We used to have major dust-ups all the time in The Pistols, which was not surprising with Mr Rotten and Mr Vicious around. Band fights are usually caused by the most trivial things, like ‘Look at that awful shirt you’re wearing’ or ‘What’s that bloody song you’re listening to?’ Compared to the rows in my old band, it’s just all kiddies’ stuff these days.
On my day off, it’s down to Henley to cram in a day’s recording at my good friend and fellow drummer Zak Starkey’s studio. It’s great looking round at all the memorabilia of Zak and of his dad’s band. Pretty famous they were, apparently.
People often ask me how/why at 62 I’m still doing this. Well, maybe it’s to escape from the humdrum. In the bus with the boys, there’s excellent banter, a belly full of laughs, a few fisticuffs, moving from town to town, playing our own brand of pop punk, and meeting a load of interesting people along the way. What’s not to like?
Even so, I’m happy to be back in my west London bubble and to play my local and favourite venue, Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Half of west London seems to have turned out and a great time is had. Life could be a lot worse, I’m thinking as we stroll down the Goldhawk Road, heading back to our local for a nightcap.