03. OPEN ROAD
Updated: Jan 2, 2019
The Zombies have been nominated for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
I feel very lucky to be a part of their more recent story and thought this may be a good time to share a few thoughts, from my perspective, of the strange and fabulous world of touring.
Although I sang backing vocals for The Zombies ‘Odessey and Oracle’ concerts in Shepherds Bush 2008 and small UK tour 2009, my first MAJOR tour with The Zombies was around North America the Autumn of 2015. At that time it was with four of the original Zombies, Chris, Colin, Hugh and Rod (Paul sadly passed in 2004), Jim Rodford (bass/vox), Steve Rodford (drums/perc) Tom Toomey (gtr/vox) and Darian Sahanaja (keys/vox).
Rod, Colin and the current band line-up are seasoned performers and tourers. They have built up a great fan-base on the way. I am very aware that by 2015 I was joining them at a time when their tours had become better managed and significantly more comfortable in terms transport and accommodation.
Chris and Hugh, of course, experienced touring America in the 1960’s. The original five Zombies who toured and experienced America in 1964/65 (Chris, Colin, Hugh, Paul and Rod) … well, THAT is a whole book on its own and HAS to come from ‘the boys’ themselves.
There is really just too much to write about touring - like the collage I tried to make so
for now, here are 10 things about The Zombies tours and performances between 2008 - 2018:
01. SEEING AMERICA - I saw more of America than I thought I would in one lifetime, by road and by air. The sheer diversity and beauty was a joy. Daily journeys in a minibus with ‘rock legends’ exposed me to countless hours of jokes, humour, rock music facts and stories between guys who have been friends with each other for decades!
02. MUSIC - Being on stage with and working with such amazing singers and musicians is magic. Meeting people like Brian Wilson, Al Kooper, Graham Nash, Paul Weller, Paul Shaffer, Tom Petty and Benmont Tench, Al Jardine, Ann Wilson and Susanna Hoffs en route – all fans of The Zombies, is pretty magic too. When Robert Plant held the stage door open for me at the Shepherds Bush Empire in 2008 – I looked at Chris (White) and said “I’ve arrived!” Who knew there was still a world of experience to be had and to still be having?
03. ART BUZZ - Seeing my artwork animated and up on screen behind the band on the ‘Odessey and Oracle Tour’ of 2017 and onwards was an unexpected and brilliant surprise!
04. THE TEAM - The sound crew, road crew and management are all extraordinary. There is a great collection of people around the Zombies. They work as one - like a well oiled machine!! Most of them are musicians in their own right and all of them are gifted individuals. I can’t say enough great things about them!
05. EXHAUSTION - a combination of the relentless pace, travel through time zones, long journeys, adrenaline, nerves and excitement, late nights, early mornings, socialising, packing, unpacking can add up to a bit of a frazzle! Sad events and family problems which developed whilst away meant stress, sadness and challenges, but the overall journeys were totally uplifting and great life lessons.
06. THE UNEXPECTED – just 2 examples - when Colin got ill and was hospitalised in Boston, three gigs had to be cancelled. It was impressive how everything got dealt with efficiently and professionally by the management /road management team, including getting 19 of us sorted out with accommodation, changed travel plans, rescheduled concerts in the same 3 missed venues a month later and basically making sorting out a logistical nightmare look easy! When the plane got cancelled in Cleveland, again the team sorted it - and had us traveling in a big ‘Spinal Tap’ type tour bus out of the snow of Cleveland to sunny Atlanta overnight… respect!
07. AMERICANISMS – Traveling with Darian Sahanaja (of Brian Wilson Band / Wondermints fame) and American road crew meant that I got to learn some Americanisms. Of all the great phrase and new words I learnt was the ‘Peanut Gallery’ which Darian used to describe the bunch of us in the back seat of the minibus on 3 hour night time journey after a New York gig in October 2015. We were exhausted and a bit hyper and I laughed ‘til I cried!
08. WAITING – There is a lot of ‘hanging about’ when touring - There is a lot of waiting around for ‘people to be ready’ whether that is a band or crew situation, rehearsal, venue, sound check or lights / projection situation, travel or hotel situation - it is WAITING.
The longest wait was 10 hours at Cleveland Airport before being told the plane was cancelled. Sadly we missed the gig at The Golden Nugget in Biloxi - the sound of which had really fired my imagination! Everyone has their own coping mechanisms for these times!
09. LOSING STUFF – it felt like every day I lost something I needed in my suitcase! It was of
comfort to me that even the most experienced of the guys lost stuff every day too!
10. LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF – physically, emotionally and mentally is a necessity. Apart from the guys around me I got a lot of help from internet sources and found a lot of good common sense backing-singer hints from Denosh Bennett. Dale – The Zombies’ brilliant sound engineer taught me a lot about eating right and even got me in to the gym!!
Like anything really - you think you know what it will be like but it’s different LIVING it.
That’s it for now. Meanwhile GOOD LUCK to The Zombies’ bid for induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You can vote for them daily until 9th December!