Mitch Dalton’s session shenanigans
The studio guitarist’s guide to happiness and personal fulfilment. R is For Rich, Russia & Rat Pack.
Unless you’ve been living under a pile of plectrums for the last couple of decades, it cannot have escaped your notice that the terms ‘oligarch’, ‘billionaire’ and ‘obscenely wealthy person with little or no taste and the ability to indulge it’ have become a feature of our media lexicon of late.
And if you’re a musician (or an event management company, international singing superstar or acrobat) the news just keeps getting better. You’re working! These chaps have birthdays, anniversaries and weddings just like us. However, unlike Dave Cameron’s “hard working families”, they’re only too happy to spread the word (and a minute proportion of their wonga) by mounting a series of ever more ostentatious bashes in what appears to be a surreal catering arms race. But be ye not afraid. It’s not the road to armageddon. Arm-and-a-leg-ageddon, more like. With extra servings of helicopters, yachts and olives.
Only last month I was flown to Moscow with one of the UK’s finest orchestras. ‘Twas the 50th birthday of a cheeky chappie from Chechnya who had decided to hire the Olympic stadium to mark the occasion. For the week. For two hundred guests. For the sheer hell of it. The usual avalanche of entertainment ensued – dancers, gymnasts and Andrea Bocelli featuring prominently.We played Let Me Entertain You for three minutes. And flew home.
Then there was Schloss Heidelberg – the place, not the man. A step down, I admit. This particular ‘high net worth’ individual could only run to hiring Germany’s most famous castle for his birthday weekend. And he wanted value for money. No less than a full 45-minute feast of Sinatra, Martin and Davis Jr impersonations accompanied by the finest big-band musicians that Euros can buy. Or rent. Here are my impressions from the world of conspicuous consumption. The names have been redacted to protect the guilty.
Friday. Frankfurt airport. We arrive and I am immediately reminded of a Charlie Watts interview in which he was asked to summGarUiIsTeARhiTsEcCaHrNeIeQrUwESithMTAGhAeZINE Rolling Stones.“One year of playing – and 29 years of hanging around”. Transfer by Mercedes MPV to Hotel Adequate. Dinner at far-too-late o’clock courtesy of our hosts at a local traditional restaurant: ie. Pork n Pilsner.
Saturday. We are herded to the castle at 8.30am after a perfectly pink pigfest. We then march to the castle walls, don galoshes in order to protect the pristine venue from the ravages of global storming, spin out the soundcheck until 11am, hang about some more, schlep to another part of the vast edifice where we are shown our dressing room, and traipse across the courtyard to yet another medieval extension where we are offered lunch – potage du pork (or
vegetarian alternative) followed by – frankfurters. No bun, roll, fries or accoutrements of any kind. Just frankfurters. Unless you count some weird radioactive yellow gunk that looks like a sci-fi cross between mustard and gravy, probably from Planet Piggon.
I decline and walk back to the coach and thence to the hotel at 1.30pm. I change guitar strings and return to bed. I set the alarm for 5pm and wake early, grumpy and hungry. Sadly, Snow Blonde is nowhere in evidence, although she is due to jump out of her Marilyn Meringue at the conclusion of our set while we attend to our rousing rendition of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend. There is no beginning to an event organiser’s originality! Still, one mustn’t grumble. This two-minute addendum to our 45-minute workload is about to cost them another 50 euros per man. All that remains is for me to don my dinner jacket, coach it back to the venue, pig out (literally), do our thing to apparent approval, and get the hell out.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got time for Jezza Corbyn and social equality. But let’s be frank. We need to look after these people. Give ‘em what they need. Tax breaks. Anonymous off-shore accounts. Entire utility industries. And the age old aspirations of Liberté, Egalité and Beyoncé will just have to wait a while longer.
I mean, after all. A gig’s a gig. And a pig’s a pig, for that matter.