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The Jazz Butcher Etc | Letters From Pat 13Apr94 94 European Tour
JBC TOUR REPORT : EUROPE 1994

The players this time:
Day 1 : Travel
The JBC wake up at Michael's parents' house in Ramsgate. The Butcher wrestles with Lemmings on the video game machine while everyone else runs around in small circles, trying to find a replacement for the tyre on the Love Bus that blew out last night. Eventually one is located and we rumble onto a boat bound for Dunkirk. The boat is virtually deserted, but there is a DJ in the bar who spins an unbelievable succession R & B and soul classics. The trip is over too soon, we land and make our way drunkenly to Breda in Holland, where we spend the night with our friend Marty. At about 11:30pm I start teaching Curtis the songs. Right up until last night we were anticipating that Richard would be able to disentangle his studio commitments, but it was not to be, so Curt was recruited this morning, and will now be doing without sleep as I march him through about two hours' worth of tunes.
Day 2 : Hamburg - Logo
Great joy as we reach Germany and have our first proper hot meal since leaving Northampton. Our soundcheck in the Logo is long, but Curt is acting like a trouper. Owen Jones stops by and declares himself in favour of this diminiutive Scots-Nigerian skinhead. The Butcher succeeds in getting the bus lost in Hamburg (no, I mean, come ON...) and Kathie manages to get arrested for running a red light on the way to the show. Somehow she charms her way out of trouble and we get to begin the set with Caroline Wheeler's Birthday Present and a brace of truly spectacular timing mistakes. The show is at times wildly inaccurate, but high on action and good vibrations; we end up playing two encores to the home crowd, and retire for a delicious dinner with Jones, our German guide, Uli, and a lady from Sony, who doesn't seem to understand that we're usually a tad tighter than that. She thinks we're really professional - we think we got away with murder! Several drinks later, I leave my beret in a bar and retire to bed.
Day 3 : Berlin - Loft
Curt, having been equipped with maps of the songs on the long journey to Berlin, plays a lot tighter tonight, to a slightly larger crowd than Hamburg. There is a vibration of quiet satisfaction on the bus, but not on the stage, where the show is once again wild and aggressive. Support act Clive Product, a genial English ex-pat, gives us one of the most totally vapid fanzines ever written, and Steve Winkler, the East German DJ, takes us out for an incredible dinner at 2:30 in the morning. It's starting to look good out here.
Day 4: Bremen - Roemer
We had spoken too soon. A small crowd in a vibe-free club with a poor P.A. get to see the worst JBC performance in about 5 years! Curt and Nick are all over the shop, Dooj and I soon start to follow. We still get called back for more, but it would have taken more than that to avert the inevitable and lengthly post-mortem, delivered with remarkable taste and decency by yours truly. It does, however, go on and on and on... Curt goes to bed early with a cassette player, and I hit the Jagermeister. Early in the evening, however, I did at least get to do rather a sweet little solo set on the local radio, including - for no very good reason - a cover of Rodney Allen 's Disney Head. Disney Head, bloody nose... and a lot in between.
Day 5 : Dortmund - Livestation
Curt refuses to come out of his headphones until well into the soundcheck. Meanwhile, the rest of us have decided that a calmer beginning to the show would make it easier for him to fit in. And so we stumble upon the set that we will play - with hardly any variation - for the rest of the tour. Curt, now seated, starts on the acoustic guitar for Sweetwater and Partytime before we begin, ever so gently, to crank the set up. It works like a dream. Although the crowd looks disappointingly small in this big, beautiful club, every last one of them sucked into the sequence of songs, and the show goes like a dream. "That", I announce as we leave the stage, "That's my band." And it was. Uli has us on the sambucca (he calls Jagermeister "Leiberkleister" - "liver glue") and we have a massive dressing room party with an interesting bunch of people from Muenster. Cool.
Day 6 : Bielefeld - Kamp
It's a beautiful morning in Dortmund Beer City as we pull in to buy gas. As the bus pulls away, a small and gentle green furry brontosaurus climbs onto the dash; it's Gerti, our new tour pet, a gentle soul with a fondness for yoghurt chocolate. After a short drive we check into our beautiful hotel on the top of a high hill over the town and have another delicious lunch. Tonight we have the largest crowd yet, partly because the promoter has worked really hard for us, and partly because dozens of people have followed us up from Dortmund. The show is as good, or better, than last night, the party afterwards quite deranged, including the invention of a device called the Elektronische Handbefeuchter, an item which looks suspiciously like a kettle. Perhaps you had to be there.
Day 7 : Frankfurt - Nachtleben
On the way to Frankfurt I realise - quite by chance - that tonight will be my hundredth show in Germany. The club has a brilliant innovation, the backstage toaster. Not only does this enable you to have backstage toast, it also allows you to have a major backstage laugh as everybody steals Nick's toast as soon as it is done. We play a set that is not as fine as the last two, but remains well up to standard, which is just as well as the representatives of our Tokyo paymasters, Sony, are here to check out what sort of cak McGee has been sending them. Actually, I recognise two of the Sony folk from earlier times, when they were just-fans, so the diplomacy thing isn't too demanding, after all. We also do two very silly interviews for various US Forces networks. Tonight was the first show to sell out completely. We'd been a little concerned that the crowds of around 200 were a bit on the thin side, but were deeply reassured when Uli told us about what had been happening to other, supposedly more "happening" British groups on this front. Cater, we were delighted to learn, had played more than one German show recently to a crowd of about thirty people! Oh JOY! Our German dates done, we say a lengthly and emotional farewell to Uli and clatter off into the night.
Day 8 : Day off in Freiburg
We get up, drink up (another unreal lunch, this time at Frankfurt's Cafe Palm) and point ourselves south. Our next date is in Geneva, but we figure life is less costly in Germany, so we spend the night (as we did last year) in the lovely old town of Freiburg, where we guzzle pizzas, watch "Married With Children" in German, and introduce Michael to the joys of Gluhwein.
Day 9 : Geneva - L'Usine
On the Swiss border, Michael and I are incapable of avoiding the local cigarette called "Marocaine". On the assumption that they must have something good going for them we buy a pack of 200. Eurobabble begins as we switch from German to French and narrowly avoid ordering horse for dinner. The Usine is a huge place full of dodgy "youth" activities, including us. We do one of those "special" radio interviews, with a large hairy man who wants to know if I have a stairway to heaven. I tell him I take the elevator. The show is competent, but a bit dull, but you could never say that of the Hotel Beau Site. Yeah, the site might be great (actually, it's on a huge grey stone boulevard that reminds us of Moscow) but the furnishings have to be seen to be believed. And the drains have to be heard! Curt and Nick convince me that the peculiar bakelite radios in the rooms are actually bugging devices, and within seconds we are IN MOSCOW, HELP US - WE'RE IN MOSCOW! Later Curt and Nick's room will fill up with teenage Canadian boys, on a sports tour. I hide in my room.
Day 10 : Fribourg - Cafe Des Grandes Places
This was always going to be a weird one. Rather than put up with a day off in a expensive Switzerland, we had accepted the offer of an "unplugged" show (no, don't laugh...) What we hadn't been warned about was the owner of the club, a genial Moroccan called Samba (!), who acts as if he is angling for the job of Radio 1 DJ, or Ibiza party host. In between trying to calm Samba down and get him to do his job, not ours, and avoiding slow poisoning from the world's most lard-infested "mushroom pate", we do, in fact, assemble a rather splendid JBC Acoustic Soul Revue. Curtis opened up, playing his own numbers and a couple of blues classics. Michael then delivered half a dozen songs from his wonderful Spittle Rattle repertoire before the JBC took over, doing two band sets sandwiched around a bunch of solo numbers from the big fella. All in all we delivered about three hours of non-stop music to an appreciative house. Fashion note: Nick's shameless appropriation of Alpine styles were regarded as a major JBC sartorial breakthrough, and would later win him the Best Dressed Man Of The Tour award.
Day 11 : Zurich - Palais Extra
The drives in Switzerland are really short! All the more time to enjoy our excellent hotel, although the Austrian TV did make me feel a bit homesick. We succeeded in losing Curt before the soundcheck, and Michael during it. On the other hand, we did find a fridge full of Czech Budweiser, which lifted the game a little, as you can imagine. A wonderful dinner in an Italian restaurant staffed entirely by Pakistanis, and a fine show, perhaps the best we had delivered to date. After the show we partied severely with some stray American gentlemen, the charming lady from Sony Zurich, who gave us all neat little Sony key-rings (corporate!) and showed me how to sing the Company Song ("I made it up, fool..."), a stray Polish jazz band and a couple of huge Italian chaps who appeared to be paid to finish off the food that we couldn't manage ourselves. Bit of a night, son.
Day 12 : Bern - I.S.C.
Yet another short trip to beautiful Bern. The house soundman plays Sting at the soundcheck until Curt explains his little mistake. Today it becomes clear that Nick has somehow failed to collect his Sony key-ring. This plunges him into a state of rage and despair, and enables us to take the piss ruthlessly for hours, not least because Kathie has actually got his key-ring on her! We finally relent, and present him with his key-ring on stage, along with a hastily-contrived cardboard birthday cake. The show is good, not great, the promoter is a young goth who has modeled his appearance on Coppola's Dracula, we are still having fun.
Day 13 : Moudon - Anciennes Prisons
At last! The JBC got to jail! Pausing only to offload a huge rider backlog of fruit on the bears of Bern, we make our way deep into the countryside to play this rich-but-draughty venue. Michael and I skip dinner (we have eaten SOOOO much on this trip) and sit in the bar worrying about all the rich teenagers sitting around listening to what Curtis will later call "acid crap" or "crap jazz" depending on who's asking. No need to worry - the show goes down really well, and we have a fine old time until the police show up. Then we go home.
Day 14 : Travel
I wake up and leave my hotel room to find a large dog turd in the hotel corridor - this is A First. Stopping for a lunch of curried banana near Geneva, we pass into France and drive through a blizzard before coming into the Rhone valley. We pass a drunken night in Montelimar in the south of France. It snows.
Day 15 : Travel
The worst weather of the tour, and it's on the Mediterranean coast! Michael bravely navigates the Love Bus through appalling storms and equally appalling French driving. Finally, things start to clear up as we approach Toulouse, where we check into the Hotel Guillaume Tell (a little Helvetic irony there, kids). Kathie, Dooj, Michael and I find a curry house and dine extensively. Curt and Nick fail to get any couscous. Later that night, a seedy-looking individual appears at Nick's door, asking if he has anything wict which he can wipe his needles!
Day 16 : Toulouse - Le Bikini
I get downstairs to find the JBC in a state of high excitement. Apparently the old lady in charge of the breakfast cafe is stone deaf, and is delivering stuff entirely at random: "Is it on the trolley?" is the rallying call. A lazy day, wherein we remove to the Hotel Ibis, then off to the show. Le Bikini is a huge, spanish-style discotheque. Tomorrow Wet Wet Wet are playing here; "Ah, but that is not my promotion", says the promoter and club-owner, "I prefer having you." Judging by the cartoons on the dressing room wall, he may not be talking about the concert. You can tell we're near Spain from the amount of free liquor that we are supposed to consume before dinner.

Michael opens the show with a Spittle Rattle set, which is well received by a small but perfectly formed audience. We go on and deliver a good set and a lot of free fruit from the rider. There may not be very many people here (and such a big room!), but they are, without exception, well into what we are doing, so we count the show a success and have a big old party with The French. Much bus-surfing in the hotel car park, then bed.

Day 17 : Clermont-Ferrand - Club 3000
The drive to Clermont-Ferrand is long and winding, over many hills. At a place called Cahors Kathie saves us from certain death on the road when a moronic Frenchman tries to pull onto a narrow road that is already full of vehicles. Leaving the miscreant to think over the consequences of his actions in a ditch by the side of road, the Love Bus speeds on. The drive goes on forever, enlivened only by Nick's asking the driver if she was still awake. Things start to look up when, on arrival in Clermont, we are taken to play an acoustic set in a record store called "Spliff"! We then get taken to a Pakistani restaurant of utter brilliance. Its name is Kalash - you have to eat there. Stuffed full of curry we play a rockin' set to a stuffed club, and are duly loved. After the show there is a disco that was clearly devised soley for the benefit of Mr Dooj, who bestrode the dance floor like a glam-rock colossus. After several hours of partying we became aware that the club has filled up with some of the most squalid junkies we've ever seen, so we split. We have already received our invitation to return for a festival later in the year.
Day 18 : Paris - Arapaho
[image] Pascal has been busy; as soon as we arrive in the venue he is on the phone: "I've made you a backdrop - can you pick it up?" It's huge, and covered in penguins. We'd hoped to have Michael open again here, but unfortunately a dirty hippy youth had already been booked to do his Kurt Cobain impressions. Nonetheless, the JBC show is a monster, the best Paris for years. The Love Bus throws an after-gig tantrum, but is soon re-animated. Perhaps an hour later we finally find the hotel - very nice, but a little discreet, non?

Day 19 : Dordrecht - Odd Balls
Paris was, officially, the last date of the tour, but we were having too much fun to stop there, so we'd asked Marthy to sort us out a couple of little bar concerts in Holland. This one was notable for three things: we finally found some food in Holland (very nice, too!); the audience, when we began, was 80% black; and Curtis, having delivered a wildly stoned opening set, managed a more than respectable impersonation of Michael Schenker during Zombie Love . We played for hours and hours, doing covers that included the [image]Spacemen 3's Walking With Jesus and the best-ever version of Part Time Punks (The Television Personalities) . It all went down very well, so once again we partied hard. So hard, in fact, that I think it rather alarmed our Dutch hosts. I don't think they believed we had it in us. Well, now they know!
Day 20 : Breda - Zinetti
After a long sleep we drive the 30-odd kilometers to Breda and join Marthy and his band, The Four One And Onlies, at their tiny but beautifully-decorated studio. They are recording a version of Jonathan Richman's UFO Man for some dubious "tribute album", so we join in with handclaps and backing vocals. We have some beers. Those that are interested in this kind of thing are advised to look for the LP on Alienor Records, an independent out of BordeauxFrance, in the near future.

In the evening, after an introduction to the World Of Roti (tasty!), we descend on what is fast becoming the JBC's Euro-base, Zinetti. Establishing ourselves on the balcony (well, we hadn't played up there before) we play two lengthly acoustic sets to a full house. For the last time Curt delivers his ragga-skinhead rap on Camper Van Beethoven's wonderful tune, and that is that. Back to Marthy's to watch The Monks on ancient euro-videos, then bed.

Day 21 : Travel
Catch the boat, sort out the money, do the tour awards, drive home, got to bed for ever.

JBC TOUR AWARDS : JAN/FEB 1994
THE SET
Sweetwater
Partytime
Big Saturday
Mr. Odd
Ghosts
She's On Drugs
Bakersfield
Girl-Go
Looking For Lot 49
Penguins
Shirley Maclaine
She's A Yo-Yo
Caroline Wheeler's Birthday Present
Sister Death
President Chang
Also played
Angels
Zombie Love
My Desert
Soul Happy Hour
Water
La Mer
The Human Jungle
What's The Matter, Boy?
Rain
September Gurls
Ambiguity Song
Part Time Punks (The Television Personalities)
Walkin' With Jesus
Goodnight Irene
King Of Joy (Bill Drummond)
Take The Skinheads Bowling (Camper Van Beethoven)
Roadrunner (Richman)
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