The Sadie tour. February 6th 2013. Wednesday. 12 noon. Loaded up and pulling out of Mortlake. Matt Hay at the wheel. Heading to Ealing Studios to pick up Elizabeth. Then it’s down the backroads of Brentford to the M3. Lunch stop at Fleet Services… and back on the road, listening to Thelonius Monk. Terl rapping out a rhythm on the back of the headrests.
Arriving Wimborne Minster, Dorset and backing up to the loading bay at the Tivoli Theatre: built in 1936 as a theatre and cinema, it’s Art Deco features include original chrome and Bakelite door handles.
Soundcheck. Pre-gig run through. Support from The Open Road, then we’re on, kicking off our first tour with ‘One Thing Leads To Another’, Elizabeth and Philly making their grand entrance while the boys vamp the chords: In music, a vamp is a repeating musical figure, section, or accompaniment used in jazz, gospel, soul, and musical theater. Also found in rock, funk, reggae, R&B, pop, country, vamps are usually harmonically spare and may consist of a single chord or a sequence of chords played in a repeated rhythm. The term frequently appeared in the instruction 'Vamp till ready' on sheet music for popular songs in the 1930s and 1940s, indicating that the accompanist should repeat the musical phrase until the vocalist was ready…
Post gig drinks in the Minster (minstrel’s) Room at the Kings Head Hotel.
February 7th. Thursday. 11am. On the road to Devon. Dylan on the stereo singing ‘Series of Dreams’. Passing through Hardy country. Dorset's most famous literary figure, he was born and lived most of his life in the county. Many of the major themes in his work, the characters and the landscapes they inhabit, are drawn from the Dorset countryside. Associated with agriculture right up until the late twentieth century, Dorset remains the only county in England without a single mile of motorway… Driving along an impressive mile-long avenue of beech trees, planted in 1835, to Badbury Rings: a hill fort which dates from the Iron Age, a high point in the local landscape which provides excellent views in all directions. It was used as a main cross roads for the Roman empire whose road network cut across Dorset… and on into Somerset… talking about great movies we have seen… ‘A Star Is Born’ with James Mason and Judy Garland, listening to Hacienda Brothers … Rain. Sleet. Devon, and a gig at The Factory in Barnstaple. A small but appreciative crowd braved the weather and gave us a rousing welcome. Some are here out of curiosity, some already fans of the music. Every night is different.
February 8th. Friday. Cross country to the M5. Next stop, Birmingham. Cries from the back … “Are we there yet?” “Is it lunchtime?” “Where’s Ron?” Grey, scudding clouds. Winter sky. Then dappled sunlight on the rolling hills of Somerset. Into Gloucestershire. The Forest of Dean off to our left: The forest is a roughly triangular plateau bounded by the River Wye to the west and north, the River Severn to the south, and the City of Gloucester to the east. The area is characterised by over 110 square kilometres of mixed woodland, one of the surviving ancient woodlands in England. Traditionally the main sources of work in the area have been forestry – including charcoal production - iron working and coal mining. Archaeological studies have dated the earliest use of coal in the forest to Roman times, for domestic heating and industrial processes such as the preparation of iron ore…
Arrived in Birmingham, Adrian Boult Hall, the major concert venue within the walls of the Birmingham Conservatoire. Sir Adrian Cedric Boult, was an English conductor who worked in London for the Royal Opera House and Sergei Diaghilev's ballet company before becoming conductor of the City of Birmingham Orchestra in 1924. He established, and became chief conductor of, the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1930. Boult was known for his championing of British music. He gave the first performance of his friend Gustav Holst's The Planets, and introduced new works by, among others, Bliss, Britten, Delius, Tippett, Vaughan Williams and Walton … not sure what he’d have made of Sadie and the Hotheads… or the autograph hunters waiting outside for “Miss McGovern” to arrive, not knowing she was already chilling out in the dressing room backstage.
February 9th. Saturday. A short drive to Worcester, home of Elgar and the wonderful Huntingdon Hall: Edward Elgar was born in the small village of Lower Broadheath, just outside Worcester. His father, William Henry Elgar worked as a piano tuner and set up a shop selling sheet music and musical instruments. In 1848 he married Ann Greening, daughter of a farm worker. Edward was the fourth of their seven children. All the Elgar children received a musical upbringing and by the age of eight, Elgar was taking piano and violin lessons, and his father, who tuned the pianos at many grand houses in Worcestershire, would sometimes take him along, giving him the chance to display his skill to important local figures. Elgar's mother was interested in the arts and encouraged his musical development, and he inherited from her a discerning taste for literature and a passionate love of the countryside… he could have been a Hothead!
Huntingdon Hall was built as a chapel in 1773 by the very formidable Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, a woman most definitely in touch with her ‘Sadie’. The Chapel prospered until the second half of the 20thC and the last service was held there in 1976. After a period of decline, and due to the considerable efforts of local people, the unique features of the chapel were repaired and restored. This beautiful Hall, the only one of its kind in the country, is a Grade II listed building. The poet John Betjeman described it as "unique and irreplaceable...a Georgian gem"… the best night on the tour so far, a packed house, a great performance from both bands and the chance, for the Nelson Brothers, to renew an old friendship with great local singer/songwriter/broadcaster Johnny Coppin.
February 10th. Sunday. And on to Bristol. St George’s: “one of the country's finest concert halls, with superb acoustics and a unique atmosphere that attracts the world's best artists.” Nice to be amongst such exalted company. Dropped off the gear about 1pm and headed out to Park Street for some lunch and shopping… After a little encouragement Nick bought a wonderful pair of pink, checked ‘punk’ trousers, complete with numerous zips, for the gig. They complemented his tails perfectly. Simon said, “Make sure your flies are done up… all of them!” And so, the last night of the first part of the tour and a fitting end to this part of our journey. Sadie rocked, wine was consumed, gear packed away and we headed out into the dark winter night and a snowy drive back down the M4 to London.