It's early Sunday morning. The unpleasant noise that wakes me up rather urgently comes from the vacuum cleaner a Spanish charwoman is handling, irrespective of my basic necessity for sleep. I am trying to pull my senses together, trying to remember where we are. I seem to know that it's Sunday. Does that mean we are in Madrid ? Or in Barcelona ? Or does it mean that we have already left Spain altogether ? I am determined to find out.
I decide to take a shower to scare away my weariness. It doesn't work. The shower that is. This promises to be another great day on the road. And this is supposed to be a five-star hotel ! Probably because the elevators are functioning properly, itself a small wonder when you consider that we are in Spain. Shampooing without the aid of a shower proves to be difficult. The last time I tried to achieve a similar feat, the result was a minor concussion of the brain when my head collided with the water-cock. Needless to say that it hurt. That was in San Fransisco. Bearing that incident in mind, I dispense with the plan of getting my hair washed here today.
Let's have breakfast instead. There is no room service on Sundays. I'll have to join the rest of the gang downstairs, although a quick glance in the mirror tells me that it would not be a good idea to take part in a beauty contest today (or, let's face it, any other day).
Chris, who is responsible for our personal things, sits at the table already, eating and generally looking very healthy. But then he is not a musician. Christoph arrives and reports of a horrible night full of such absurdities as detonating fireworks in a bath-tub at 5 a.m. The road crew falls about laughing. They seem to know more than Christoph. Last one to join us for breakfast is Johannes. He is barefoot. On account of that, he is refused entry to the dining room. Although his command of
the Spanish (the loving tongue ? You must be joking) language leaves something to be desired, he manages to persuade the eggs and bacon-sheriff to let him in.
At the other table our tour manager tries to open a can of beer. It's not his first one this morning, and not his second either. And he shows it. Healthy he ain't. Now he has even cut himself with the ring-pull. A very sorry sight indeed. I wonder if he will be able to endure the hardships of the tour. He will. Just.
After having finished what might have looked like a breakfast to a Spaniard, we leave, much to the delight of the other hotel guests. They look at us as if we were less than human. Judging from the tone of their remarks, they seem to think that we are work-shy. If only they knew just how much work has to be done in the course of a tour, especially by the road crew, how much sweat has to be shed just to make one single concert happen. And I'm not talking about the drops of perspiration which stand on the foreheads of musicains due to the heat of the lights. I am talking about the damned hard work that has to be done by the roadies. They, too, should be applauded at the end of a concert. The three of us
do have a deep respect for them. What do these narrow-minded Spanish Philistines know about all this ? They keep shaking their heads in disgust and there are even some sighs of relief to be heard as we finally leave the hotel.
Next stop is Porto, Portugal. We cannot go by plane because of a 24 hour strike by the Spanish air traffic controllers. Which means, of course, that we have to go by car. Luckily, Chris is a living road map. He knows everything about European traffic routes and problems that might arise in certain areas. He has to get us into Portugal before the border closes at 8 p.m. Our truck driver has trouble at the customs office. This is not out of the ordinary. Transporting stage equipment from one country to another can be a nerve-racking experience. Anyway, off we go.
After just over 50 miles on the road, our vehicle - a brand new Chevy bus - starts to lose oil. We stop at a gas station only to learn that there is no way of having it fixed within the very short period of time we could spare. At the next service station an Andalucian petrol-pump attendant says he could repair the sump. We hopefully smile at each other. A few minutes later he appears with cutting tool and a fire-extinguisher. Before he gets to lay his hands on the motor, we let him know unequivocally that we have changed our minds as far as his well-meant services are concerned. We prefer not to throw away our lives just now, so we arrive at the conclusion that we better adopt a different attitude to the oil problem. There is no alternative to the "so what"-school of thought. It is not surprising, therefore, that we decide to subscribe to it and drive on regardless.
The sun burns unreprievably which is quite remarkable when you consider that it's October already. When you are looking out the window of a fast moving car for a while, you begin to develop a feeling of timelessness, of not belonging to this world, of not taking part in its activities. Totally passive, one tends to get into a pensive mood. That doesn't mean you feel obsolete. On the contrary, this is the time when dreams and fantasies take over from the more profane thoughts of everyday life. I am getting a little carried away here, but I guess that our music, to a large extent, took shape while we were passively observing our surroundings,
mostly on the road, in cars and aeroplanes, in airport lounges and in hotel lobbies. Intuition was our most influential teacher, observation our main source of inspiration. Ask any musician. I think most will agree.
We have to stop because of Johannes who mouths his desire to take a leak. This brings me down to earth again. As everybody knows from experience, peeing is a contagious activity, so we are all soon emptying our bladders by the roadside. I won't be going into any more details, although this must be fascinating stuff to read, I'm sure.
After a few more hours in a crowded car, boredom sets in. To relieve it, we would like to listen to a bit of music. Check out the competition, you know. But alas, this is not possible. You see, only a very short while ago, some enterprising thief succeeded in breaking open our car and stealing, apart from Christoph's clothes, all our cassettes. Our musical provisions all gone, we do not have anything to listen to. For the umpteenth time we examine the van's interior closely for cassettes the thief might have overlooked. In the glove box we finally find what we have been looking for, four cassettes the thief apparently didn't like: Debussy's "Afternoon Of A Fawn", C.W.McCall, an experimental recording a Spanish fan had made and given me, and the Boomtown Rats. What a rich choice of material. But
we do not complain. First it's Mr. Geldof's turn to entertain us. He tells a dreadful tale of being caught in a rat trap and he sings it with real conviction, as if he means it. The guy's obviously a good actor. He should be making movies. His face is made for the silver screen. Somebody should tell him.
I've got a headache. Seems to be draughty in here. Another 200 miles to the border. Geldof has stopped singing. My mind begins to wander again. Impressions of Birmingham, Liverpool, and Glasgow pass before my inner eye. All of a sudden, memory pictures of punks and teds, of skins and rastas, of mods and rockers march past. I see policemen on horseback, the Notting Hill Carnival, schoolkids in uniforms, Victorian furniture. I can feel the atmosphere of downtown London and, unfortunately, also the rather sickening aspects of tourism there. After a while the movie in my mind adopts the form of an endless comic strip in black and white. Don't get me wrong. I do love England. Maybe because it remains very much a mystery to me. I do love the British. Maybe because I do not understand them most of the time. I do love their music. Maybe because it's so totally unlike our own. It has not always been this way. On the contrary. When I first started making music in the mid-sixties, I was desperatley trying to copy the Stones, playing nothing but Stones material. We were just imitators then, and not very good ones at that. But then, who is ? Geldof is pretty good at it. He must have spent a lot of time studying Jagger's movements. As I said, he's an actor.
In the meantime, Chris finds out that we have taken the wrong route. We have to turn around and drive back more than 20 miles. When we arrive at the junction we had not noticed originally, the sign says: 110 kilometers to the border. It's 5 p.m. so we should be able to make it until 8 p.m. We make sure that this time we go in the right direction.
Christoph starts playing his battery-powered mini synthesizer. The noise he makes drives me up the wall. In a situation like this I can see why there are so many people who think of Tangerine Dream music as a load of boring, pretentious rubbish, not even suited to purpose as wallpaper muzak. Fortunately, these moments of self-doubt do not occur too often and normally pass quickly. But, on the other hand, there have been days when I would have preferred not to go on stage, not to produce music for which I simply wasn't in the mood. This is what it all comes down to in the end. Basically, the mood you are in at a given moment is essential for the choice of music you make. And right now I am definitely not in
the mood for our own music. This is not meant as an absolution for so- called critics who never seem to be in any sort of mood that could help them understand what they feel compelled to be writing about. I do not have the slightest respect for writers who are constantly bitching about and putting down music they are too ill-informed to criticize constructively. Like those who only ever see the technical side of music, those who seem to think that electronic music cannot have soul, cannot
transport and express feelings. They may be right so long as they are talking about self-styled "human-machines" and "androids" who are deliberately suppressing the organic side of their work with a sense of purpose, dubious as it may seem. Image cultivation is the name of the game and I, for one, do not waste time on "artists" like that. To be frequently placed in the aesthetic neighbourhood of self-confessed robots, hurts. Because nothing could be further from the truth.
"Frontera" screams the sign...we have made it, against all odds. Wonderful. But wait a minute. It's 8:30, if I'm not mistaken. A quick time check proves that I am right. The border is closed already. It will re-open at 7 a.m. the following morning. Eleven hours in the wilderness, with not a hotel or restaurant within 50 miles - good prospects indeed. Driven to despair, we even consider crossing the border illegally. Johannes suggests that we try to drive right across the adjacent fields in the hope of entering Portugal through the back door, so to speak. This is perilous and can become dangerous, we are well aware of that, but we still give it a try.A few hours later we are back, still in Spain, the only difference being that our fabulous Chevy van has sufferred considerably and our collective disposition verges on the brink of hysteria. Somebody suggests bribery.
But we are not the only ones waiting so even if we'd succeed in "persuading" the immigration officer to let us pass, the other unlucky ones might get impatient and....what a stupid idea, anyway. We make ourselves as comfortable as possible in these kind of circumstances. I'm not sure if anyone actually gets to sleep.
At exactly 7 a.m. the next morning we are facing what undoubtedly has become a ritual for border crossing musicians all over the world. It takes the officers the better part of an hour to find out that we carry neither drugs nor weapons. You can sense their disappointment as they let us pass. Next thing you know, a motorcyclist who has disregarded a sign to stop, very nearly collides with our vehicle. Our driver's power of reacting prevents the accident from being fatal for the reckless cyclist. However, after that dreadful night, this incident feels like a sequel to a nightmare. To think that we have at least another four weeks on the road drives me crazy. We desperatley need a holiday. But there is absolutely
no chance to relax in the foreseeable future. After the tour, we'll have to work on a soundtrack. Immediatley afterwards we will be touring Germany and Italy and....
We don't get a bite to eat until we arrive in Porto. Our tour manager has the impudence to ask where we had been. But then what does he know. There he stands, clutching the obligatory can of beer, looking pissed. We do not answer his ingenious questions. The restaurant closes at 3 p.m. so we have to hurry if we want something to eat. And believe me, we are hungry. I try to explain to the waiter that some of us are vegetarians. At first he doesn't understand at all. When he finally does, he seems to be irritated. He tries to smile but obviously doesn't have any sympathies. Apparently he prefers to serve those who enjoy little cooked pieces of carcass. But you should have seen his face when I tell him that I don't care for his wine, that I don't drink alcohol. He looks downright offended. He just
walks out on us. This is getting ridiculous. I pour down a glass of mineral water and go to sleep.
It's 3 p.m. and I can't wait to get on stage. If you believe this, you'll believe anything. There is no time for a soundcheck. When we arrive at the concert hall the roadies are fast asleep inthe flightcases. I suppress the desire to run away. To think I'll be mounting that stage in a few minutes time gives me the creeps. We stopped taking drugs in 1973, but I can remember vividly the times when we still indulged in all kinds of self-abuse. Never underestimate the temptation to relapse, even with stupid habits like drugs. Especially under desperate conditions like the ones we are suffering right now. But then there are thousands of fans waiting
outside, looking forward to seeing us. Some of them have travelled far for the concert. This is special to them. To us it is dangerously close to routine.
We had intended to go on stage, totally in control of ourselves, our music, and the audience. We are trying to give the impression of being calm and detached. We do not succeed because quite simply we are not. Nevertheless, the concert tonight is turning out to be one of the best of the entire tour. We are happy. Why ? Who for ? What is success ? Glory ? Honour ? Blah blah...
"I'll never know how the elephant got into my pyjamas."
(Marx, Animal Crackers)