HERE I GO AGAIN Too Many Tours

the sec­ond part of his road diary fol­lows Bernie and the Gov’t Mule boys over to the con­ti­nent

Guitarist - - Opinion - bernie Mars­den

Sun­day morn­ing, 29 Oc­to­ber, 2017. I’m at the Ibis Ho­tel Ca­nary Wharf hav­ing break­fast with War­ren Haynes and Jor­gen Carls­son of Gov’t Mule after join­ing them for two dates in Cardiff and Lon­don. The minibus picks us up and we drive to St Pan­cras In­ter­na­tional, ar­riv­ing at 12.15pm. The train leaves at 2.20pm, with one stop sched­uled at Ash­ford in Kent be­fore ar­riv­ing in Paris later that day.

Fif­teen min­utes be­fore Ash­ford, the train stops for 20 min­utes. We then limp into Ash­ford where we’re told that one of the main bat­ter­ies on the train has failed, and that we have to wait for a res­cue train to come and pick us up. What can we do? Noth­ing ex­cept wait. Some un­known Amer­i­cans close to me be­come very irate be­cause their sched­ule is in­ter­rupted. I text War­ren ask­ing if we should get to­gether to write a song while we wait – he replies: “What about now?” I im­me­di­ately think this is a bril­liant ti­tle for a song, but the train gets go­ing a few min­utes later. The train fi­nally pulls into Gare du Nord – two and a half hours later than ex­pected. A car meets us and we drive to the très chic Ho­tel La Pi­galle, where my room in­cludes a record player with Jimi Hen­drix and The Bea­tles on vinyl – not a bad room to have!

That night we have a great curry, and walk­ing back from the restau­rant, War­ren and I could hear an ex­cel­lent jazz group (two gui­tar play­ers, up­right bass and drums), who were play­ing in Lulu’s Drink­ing Club. They were play­ing French swing Django style, and they made an awe­some sound. We stood at the door­way with the sound re­ver­ber­at­ing across the street out­side. Small gems like this are the side of tour­ing that the fans of­ten know noth­ing about, but make be­ing on the road so spe­cial and are of­ten the most re­ward­ing.

Road Dogs

We haven’t seen any of the crew since we ar­rived in Paris. They left after the Lon­don show, trav­elled overnight to Dover, jumped on the ferry to France and then drove to Paris. By now, they’re checked-in and en­joy­ing a well-de­served sleep in a ho­tel bed.

The next day, after my break­fast at the ho­tel, I leave alone need­ing to buy a jacket as, yet again, I have for­got­ten to bring a coat with me to a European city in late Oc­to­ber. I did this a few years ago upon ar­rival in Moscow in Fe­bru­ary! I fail on my mis­sion to find a coat and we all meet in the lobby to travel to­gether to tonight’s gig at Le Tri­anon. The bus pulls up, and to my de­light, I find loads of clothes shops in the area. I find a jacket for €29. Mrs M will be pleased!

The gig is in a lovely Vic­to­rian the­atre, beau­ti­fully or­nate with plush red seat­ing. I watched the band sound­check and, once again, the setlist is different. Tonight I will play Blue Sky and Broke Some­body’s Heart at the sold-out Tri­anon. The boys and I re­ceive a sen­sa­tional re­cep­tion, and the de­lighted French au­di­ence leave the the­atre very happy.

After the crew have loaded the bus we leave overnight for an es­ti­mated drive of six hours to Am­s­ter­dam. We are all slightly mys­ti­fied as to why the driver stopped the bus on no less than four oc­ca­sions, mak­ing the drive more than ten hours be­fore we ar­rive at the Apollo Ho­tel in Am­s­ter­dam. This may seem like a bit of a moan but Stix, the bass and drum tech, has wo­ken her­self up com­pletely twice, thus mess­ing up her sleep that night in her bunk. Life on the road.

We fi­nally ar­rive and I am checked in, be­fore be­ing told that lobby call is at 3pm. I go to bed – it’s 9.30 in the morn­ing.

Al­though half asleep, I re­mem­bered to bring some milk and ce­real into my room from the bus this morn­ing, and so I have cold milk and corn­flakes at 2.30 in the af­ter­noon be­fore I join the band in the lobby.

The crew are long gone to the gig. Tonight is the leg­endary Par­adiso Club, a gig I last played 25 years ago. It’s changed a bit since then! There is great cater­ing here, a lady from New Or­leans has made gumbo!

Wild And Free

Tonight’s show is a Hal­loween spe­cial and War­ren has de­cided to play a whole set of Free songs. The band have learnt no less than 30 of them and War­ren has re­duced it to 19! I’m due to play the last four. War­ren has bound­less en­ergy, he copes with all things at all times and is con­sis­tently nice to peo­ple – I take note.

Gov’t Mule has been on the road most of the year and you can tell, they are so to­gether. I watched most of the sound­check and run-through at the Par­adiso, mar­vel­ling at War­ren’s voice on the Paul Rodgers Free songs. Tonight he’s us­ing my old Whites­nake Mar­shall head and he sounds truly mag­nif­i­cent. He’s keep­ing the Mar­shalls for the rest of the tour – he likes them a lot.

It’s only day five for me but it seems much longer since the drive to Cardiff. Be­ing on a tour bus is bloody hard. You can only un­der­stand when you’re part of the tour – it’s re­lent­less. As I said, the crew left the bus at the same time as me this morn­ing at 9am, but while I was hav­ing my corn­flakes at 2pm, they’d been at the Par­adiso for five hours set­ting up. Rock ’n’ roll is a hard life but their pas­sion is in­fec­tious. Eric, Gra­ham, Stix and ev­ery­body else, I salute and thank you.

The show is fan­tas­tic, the packed Par­adiso crowd lap­ping up ev­ery mo­ment be­fore my en­trance for the four-song 30-minute en­core. The crowd gives me a great stand­ing ova­tion and, along­side these four gifted mu­si­cians, I feel very proud. I say my good­byes to the boys, and thank War­ren for his in­vi­ta­tion. It’s been a blast. Fred Cox puts some cash into my hand, and tells me to buy flow­ers for Mrs Mars­den for tak­ing me – and the Mar­shalls – to Cardiff. My Gov’t Mule tour ends tonight, no more tour bus for me.

The next day I leave the ho­tel at 11am for Am­s­ter­dam Cen­tral rail­way sta­tion hop­ing the boys are rest­ing in their rooms in Ham­burg. I take the Eurostar to Brus­sels, chang­ing there for Lon­don, my PRS on my back and suit­case in my hand, but my sto­ries from the last five days could fill a trunk.

I feel strangely alone to­day, I sup­pose be­ing to­tally im­mersed on the tour bus has re­vived some old mem­o­ries. But then Rob Cass, my old friend and pro­ducer, just called me on the train ask­ing me to do a ses­sion at Abbey Road with Gin­ger Baker. An­other day, an­other gig. The road re­ally does go on, and on, and on…

“I get a stand­ing ova­tion and, along­side these four gifted mu­si­cians, I feel very proud”

Bernie on stage with The All­man Broth­ers at New York’s Bea­con The­atre in 2014

Bernie’s PRS and War­ren Haynes’ Les Paul back­stage at Lon­don’s 02

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