Gary Glitter is today better known as inmate Paul Gadd and is doing hard time in a Vietnamese jail for child sexual abuse. But in the early 80’s he was on the revival trail and became the first significant overseas act for a local promoter, who scheduled a run of the east coast of Australia. Glitter had been a major act in the early 1970’s, and remained a kind of glam rock icon, earning great money, until he overstepped the mark and became a convicted pedophile in the late 1990’s. This story doesn’t condone what he has done, and he has seen the inside of courts and jails in the UK, Cambodia and Vietnam.
My production company won the contract to supply sound, lighting, staging, crewing and trucking to the tour. We were happy to do it. My crew featured a young and enthusiastic Jon Pope who this day is a seasoned tour manager on the world stage; three other guys (Yoda on lites, Pete on monitors and Keg on beer) and myself on front of house.
Day one was a production rehearsal at the Manly Vale Hotel, and the band arrived very jetlagged and very unhappy at the arrangements thus far. The backline, which we had collected from several rental shops, was not to their liking, nor was Keg, the backline tech.
After some considerable messing about, we had the CS70 synth working. Yamaha didn’t sell too many of these analogue monsters, and we were fast working out why. The Marshal, the bass rig, and the double drum kit were all moved around to suit the whims of the band, with the drummer on a riser stage right and the keys on a riser stage left.
Gary and his tour manager arrived, the TM walked in with bouffant hair and Gary had a brunette stage wig in place. The TM immediately hit it off with me by yelling incomprehensible cockney stuff in relation to some stairs. It appeared we had not been informed that Gary needed a flight of four stairs downstage centre, from which to do an entrance.
Eventually on this long, difficult day, we had hired some stairs, made the stage work the right way, and done a rehearsal. The band were all the same – English (of course) pop stars (arguable) and difficult. The most amiable was an old guy, who looked like someone’s missing uncle. Transpired he played bass sax, and he rejected my Senhiesser 441 microphone, the best thing I had, in favor of an old Shure 565SD which he shoved down the bell. Strangely it sounded great.
When he put on his stage suit, slicked back his hair, and applied the sunglasses, this old guy looked the real deal. Yoda the lighting guy made the show look fantastic, really you could not go wrong with lights or front of house sound – it was a treat. I mixed the tour, and loved what I could do with a stack of concert W bins and That Gary Glitter Sound! I’ve never since had a kick drum and a floor tom sounding so big. The shows were sell outs, and very exciting. Glitter was the master of the pose, a true showman.
The band sound was awesome – that bass sax, the analogue synth, and a thing called The Star Guitar which was star shaped with some kind of distortion circuit onboard and played by Gerry Shephard. If you hear any of the old Glitter tracks, you’ll know what I mean. The drummer had the hardest floor tom hit ever.
For his part Gary wanted some vocal doubling at about 150 milliseconds, and miles more foldback than we could generate. We had a 4560 bin and a horn each side of stage – a lot of firepower – and still he wasn’t happy. I told the crew that nothing would make him happy and to grin and bear it.
I think it was a few gigs later when Gary Glitter junior went missing. The lad had been plucked out of private school in the UK and hauled along with his notorious dad. He was given to us as our follow spot operator, and then didn’t arrive for the show at Selinas. The TM had called through, requiring we pull a spot op out of thin air, we had done it, and now the TM was having a deep and meaningful with op. “He said to be ready to go to black if the wig falls off’, the op reported later.
Behind the scenes there was concern about junior, who had been hijacked by some groupies and had not surfaced since. A search party went to the Manzil Room to collect intelligence, and didn’t return. On this topic we were impressed and in joyful shock and awe at the caliber of groupies attending to this tour. They were thick on the ground, and very happy. Gary appeared to be very busy with them.
But the quiet achiever on the road was the old sax player. Let’s call him Brian. He was sitting having a relaxing beer while the Hoodoo Guru’s did the support act thing one night. Keg and I sat down for a chat and Brian asked if we wanted to look at his snapshots. Thinking they would be of kids and home I said yes, and he happily pulled a sheaf of Polaroid shots out of his pocket.
He adjusted his glasses and flipped the first picture over, smiling. Shot one was a girl we had noted the previous gig, only in this photo she was minus the tight leather mini and fishnets. Matter of fact, she was minus anything at all except bright pink lippy, and she was atop a pool table. Certain billiards accoutrements were being modeled in a manner the maker never imagined.
The Polaroid collection triggered recent memories of the best, most beautiful babes at each of the previous gigs, and in every case old Brian was the star or co-star in a series of debauched pictures that would not pass through customs. Sometimes the drummer was there too, but wow – what an operator. Maybe it was the bass sax?
This tour was groupie city. Go figure.
Meantime the drug consumption was running high, some local support staff appeared to be facilitating whatever the visitors wanted, and behavior was variable. I guess I could say this about every second tour, then and now. I saw a rap artist and posse at play recently and had a flashback to this tour.
Our foldback issues had become acute, moreso since Gary required a bouncer be positioned each side of stage, and the boneheads tended to stand in front of the sidefill, arms crossed, looking mean and getting fast deafer.
When we rolled up to Macquarie Uni for a gig in the student union bar we knew we had a problem, since the four flipping stairs were too high on the stage, or the ceiling was too low. Choose one. Sure enough when the TM arrived with his act, he called the gig off, referencing the contract which clearly stated minimum stage size and height clearance. We marveled at the contract – it had all sorts of provisions in there, things we hadn’t known about, and things we were not doing. Riders that The Gary wasn’t getting. The promoter was spinning away, mouth flapping, ‘blah blah blah’ noises coming out.
Now I knew we had a problem because the place was jam packed and no one was telling the students the show was over. The ‘Gurus were grinding away, and the time came for the changeover, which looked like being a load out. The yelling and threats and carry on backstage between the promoter, the uni rep and the TM had resulted in the brilliant decision to put the Glitter Band on the stage, minus Messer Glitter, who had decamped with the TM in the general direction of Kings Cross.
This all went down very badly, and we basically hung on and hoped for the best while the G band was bottled off the stage. It was a small scale riot, medium scale if you include a uniformed security guard plus his Alsatian on a leash being dangled off the balcony by his ankles. Poor mutt nearly choked. The load out featured more broken glass than any gig I’ve ever done.
Thereafter our arrival for loadin usually featured a delay while the hastily hired local carpenters finished improvising stage extensions. We were impressed at how the TM was holding the promoter to the contract, and agog at how much the extra stage work was costing. The worst of it was in Wagga, where the stage extension was built on milk crates. The TM rolled up and torture tested it by jumping really hard all over, like on an imaginary pogo stick. He had a confused, tortured look on his face. We put it down to the drugs.
One of the Melbourne gigs the temporary stage floor gave way and the bass player badly twisted his leg. Of course it was Keg’s fault, because he was the closest chump.
So many stupid things were happening on this tour, and some of them were my fault. That’s if you include the truck breaking down; or running out of fuel. Both of the above were not my direct, personal fault, but any production problem came back to me, because I was charging one lump sum for the whole package. Plus the running out of fuel situation was just insanity on the part of the driver, who had been told by me to refuel. We were late for two load in’s, so two soundchecks did not happen. This was not well received.
It was hit and miss with one of those gigs since the truck breakdown happened at 2.30am in Albury, and we needed to wait outside Hertz until daytime to get another – then get down the Hume to the gig in Melbourne.
Getting the money from the promoter on this tour wasn’t easy either, I wouldn’t start the tour until the promoter banked the first weeks money in my accountant’s trust fund, and getting subsequent money provided a challenge. He can’t be named, since he still promotes some smalltime tours and is still alive, but wow – he was, umm, a challenge. The best of this was a mysterious hold up outside a gig, where two guys with hand guns bailed up the promoter and took all the cash. No one saw it, of course.
I guess the postscript was the last show of the tour, where at the end the TM and the Gary were left waiting in the dressing room, since the Fairlane, the promoter and the driver had vaporized. With the money. They were forced to make other arrangements, and get back to the Sebel in the crew car.
But I’d already bailed out, cancelling my involvement in the last leg of the tour. I’d simply had enough – enough of the craziness, enough of the promoter, enough of the TM, enough of the Glitter entourage, and enough of the whole mad, drugged, sex crazed insanity. I gave notice, helped the promoter find another crew and production, then helped those guys by doing a truck crossover of rented backline and bits.
There are some things you do for money, and there are some things you do for fun. I could mix fun and money together with work, and I still do. But there are times to cut and run, when your principles are compromised.
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