EPILOGUE - FIRE AND BRIMSTONE (GHOSTS AND SPIRITS OF THE WEST COAST TOUR)
I was so tied up in trying to take care of my own business, as well as doing my part in completing the tasks of preparation for a hopefully wonderful Paler weekend, it never occured to me that just maybe a ghost or two had joined us from New York.
Something Following Me? Maybe, as my hotel in New York was on 42nd street.
I had gone to see Ground Zero on Thursday, which left such a haunting feeling inside me, I insisted that Larry Pennisi and Al Semok join me for a look on Friday. It's amazing how the ghosts of 9/11 take form when you the hear The Blink Of An Eye live after a visit there. It rained briefly that day, an interesting event.
Interestingly, I dined prior to the IMAC show with my cousins Celia and George, he is the only person I know with IF albums, Geoff's old band.
Then as the concert concluded and Carol Fisher and I had left our seats, she took a slight tumble, was a little sore, but fine.
As the Fellow Travellers Tour came West, rain and thunder unexpectedly hit Scottsdale in the middle of Summer on the first night of the tour.
That day we had unexpected difficulties with the Leslie at BBK's. Yet the next evening when Matthew played the Hammond, even though the slow rotor motor was dead, it sounded like it was working full power.
In Los Angeles, bizarre events transpired again.
As the concert began, the decibel level was well below the expected range as it was an open-air venue with strict limits on volume. I had heard that Geoff indicated he would offer to pay any penalty for increasing the level, but that it was just a side comment.
Bringing Home the Bacon started and kinda blew up towards the end as lightning and threatening clouds advanced over the Ford Theater.
Pandora's Box started and the rains came and it stopped. Gary made a comment to the effect that "I don't care if we blow up." The band left the stage as the drops engulfed the venue. A rain like that in LA during the summer is unheard of.
I went backstage and suggested the obvious alternative of BB King's, which Roland did as well.
The stage was soaked. Jules looked at me and mentioned that even with all of the coverings placed everywhere that he had a concern about the drainage and powering up to start again if the rain didn't subside. Jules and John were attentive to everything electric.
The rain subsided, but the representative from Clear Channel issued a coarse instruction to the crowd to vacate the theater because of power poles that would cause the interior of the open-air theater to become dangerous should lightning strike one of them.
Barry Sinclair, Procol's Tour Manager and an ex-head tech for the band in the 70s, waited it out so the band could fulfil its agreement. An hour and one-half later, the show resumed, which was helped by the drainage of water from the slightly tilted stage that was just rebuilt about four years ago.
During the break, I had an opportunity to talk with Sarah Wilson, her fiancée, Joe Coleman, and Nicola Wilson. Sarah made a defining remark for me: "I feel my father's presence." It was very much as if BJ was looking down on all of us, a Fellow Traveller, as it were! I looked at her a little spooked and nodded.
As the show started up again, the shortened set was caused by more clouds and lightning. Just enough time to get in a normal-sized set.
But the strangest events of the evening were now to come. The first drops of the second rain came during A Salty Dog as Gary sang "Our tears were tears of joy." As the rain got stronger, coverings were again placed over much of the equipment and monitors. The band started to play A Whiter Shade Of Pale. As Gary sang "As the ceiling flew away," many of the coverings were whisked off the equipment by a momentary gust of wind.
OK, so they only tore their underclothes.
At exactly midnight, the band walked into BB King's to a Paler rendition of Quite Rightly So, a much-lobbied-for song that I sang for the Palers' Project, and again that evening. That song received some of the strongest responses on the Eastern and Western tours.
So this may be a stretch, but the words that came out during their entrance to the club were the variant verse, "They're seldom meeting, I'm not competing, it seems to me there's no retreat." I know that someone we seldom meet was BJ. I could feel it as the timing hit its zenith with Mark not competing and no retreat from the Palers.
At the Palers' Project party with the band now in attendance, Dennis, Roger, Nathan, and Roland gave a bluegrass rendition of So Far Behind with Dennis on mandolin. During the tour, Geoff on numerous occasions brought a Mandolin sound into Grand Hotel. BJ is the only Procol Harum member ever credited with playing the Mandolin; in fact, 22 mandolins.
I had mentioned to the band and crew, when questioned why I was wearing a suit, that I intended to sing Gary Shepard's and my interpretation of Juicy John Pink; a suit appropriately worn for the blues.
Curiously, at the Paler Festival that evening as Geoff started to play Whisky Train, Gary pulled him over to the keyboard. Almost immediately, the band launched into Juicy John Pink, a song rarely played (except at some soundchecks) since the early 70s. The original was played with guitar, drums, harmonica and vocals. Needless to say, our version never was played after that.
And Sarah, Joe, and Nicola generously graced us with their presence.
As the Paler Band concluded the festival by playing a Whaling Stories where all Palers congregated on stage to recreate the first Los Angeles choir since Procol's 1973 legendary appearance at the Hollywood Bowl, the band itself joined in with singing from the floor, and Geoff's chirping bird inclusion was ever-present.
The main point is that the John Anson Ford Theater is not more than a short distance across the freeway from the Hollywood Bowl, and BB King's is not more than a mile from the Ford.
After the finale at BB King's, Barry was driving the van back to the hotel. Inadvertently, they had gone the wrong way on the boulevard. I received a cellphone call, and guided them back to Hollywood to return to their hotel. Need I say that my "On-Star/Lojack" conversation was with the drummer? And the driver/Tour Manager's name was "Barry" (albeit spelled differently).
Spirits hovering over the hills of Hollywood?
Upon arriving in San Diego at 4th and B for the soundcheck, the band had started getting ready, and we again ran into Sarah, Joe, and Nicola.
At the conclusion of the soundcheck, Gary invited Nicola to sit in at the piano and then at the drum kit.
As the concert progressed, it became very obvious that Mark was having a very special evening behind the kit. After the show, I mentioned to Mark how amazing he was and that he was all BJ this evening. As the humble pilgrim he has remained, he again stated what he has always maintained: "I just try to be myself while honoring the spirit of BJ." I said, "Tonight I thought I listened to BJ through you." He commented that something very strange had happened, and that he felt like he was on a different plain this evening. Could it have had anything to do with Nicola having sat at the kit?
San Diego brings into play another piece of PH history. I had dinner just a few years earlier there with a friend and his wife, a young lady who had grown up in Oregon. Through our evening conversations, as is typical, PH crept into our discussions. It didn't take long to realize the BJ connection in that she and Sarah had grown up together. She supplied me with a photo of them at an earlier age, but it was never published at BtP because we didn't have permission.
During the Interval, I managed to bring them together again after many years through a cellphone call. Last I heard, they intended to renew their relationship.
Later that evening, a few of us went with the band to their hotel. Roland, Jens, and I with Jill standing with us had great discussions with Gary about the past and the future.
It was off to San Francisco the next day.
There was a room upstairs at The Fillmore with larger size posters than those that were placed on almost every wall in the venue. The more thrilling ones showed people and groups like Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, and Santana opening for Procol Harum.
Of course, as has become expected, Jens, Roland, and I photographed the marquee with misspelled "Procol Harem" flashing about.
This was probably the loudest crowd from beginning to end as opposed to individual songs. A very eclectic San Francisco crowd. Glad to have spent time with Robert Moselle, his wife and others, along with the band and webmasters after the show.
The next day, I had one of a number of continuing phone conversations with Beverly. She told me of a dream she had the prior night of she and BJ - he wearing one of his famous Hawaiian shirts. They were sitting in a small club watching PH play, and that BJ was thoroughly enjoying himself, approved of what he was hearing and having a great time. What Beverly didn't know was that the venue the next night in Vancouver had changed ... to a small club.
That night was the best show I saw this tour, and might have been the type of venue BJ would have enjoyed playing at. Mark was astonishing again this night, and could have been mistaken a lot of times for BJ as the drummer, imho.
After the gig at a point later in the evening, Gary and I were drinking wine backstage with Geoff and Matt and Barry. Mark walked in. I don't recall if Matthew was present. For some strange reason, one of them asked how I got the moniker of "One Eye." After my explanation, Gary stated what might be the true title, One Eye On The Future; One Eye On The Past. At that moment, Gary and I sang the first verse and chorus. Who would have thought ... wow! A real highlight!
The first testament ended the band's run because of punk and disco. And here come the young nubiles and brave boys as the club becomes a disco. I'm trippin'!
Of course the past was brought full circle with the presence of Andrew Loog Oldham.
The next day we move to Oregon, BJ country, and more strange things start to happen.
I was told that I could walk to the Aladdin. That was not a good idea as at a certain point, I realize I have about a 45 minute to and hour walk in humidity with no taxis anywhere in sight after I had left the Downtown Portland area.
I get to the venue and find out that the band and crew have been delayed due to airport problems in Vancouver.
Tony, Matt, and Mark are furiously trying to get the drum kit set up correctly. The crowd is delayed from entry as the band arrives late for the soundcheck and they are still working on the drums. Could this be a test of willpower from BJ?
As the sound starts to come together, Graham, John, and Barry finally arrive. Graham has to make a number of sound adjustments at the beginning of the show, and the band doesn't seem to get untracked until a few numbers into the first set.
Sue Wilson (BJ's widow) and a few of Gary's fishing buddies are in attendance here in Portland.
The exit sign stage right is blinking all night, mostly to the beats. Very eerie in BJ country.
After the concert and all autographing and socializing is concluded, we walk outside the club through a side door. The band gets into a van, and I mention that I could use a ride Downtown.
Gary offers me a ride with two women who are driving him with the van following back to their hotel. As Gary introduces me to them, I am surprised to find out the lady sitting in the front passenger seat is Sue Wilson.
We get slightly lost going back to the hotel. I see what I think is my hotel as they stop to get 'phone directions, and I decide to get out. As I exit the car, Barry from the van jokingly says, "Hey, you're holding us up. We're tired. We want to go to sleep." It turned out that was not my hotel, and I had to walk about a mile.
The strange parallel is that on the Eastern Tour, the directions to the Birchmere given to me by the hotel were wrong and that day I walked almost an hour in humidity to the club. Again, no taxis were around. And after that gig, I lucked into a taxi that was called to the club, but wasn't for me.
And coincidentally or not, the band and the crew arrived late to that show. There were equipment setup delays because the truck from Boston got lost and arrived slightly later than expected. The only crew member early that night was Jules again as he rode in the truck.
The band and crew drove to Seattle. There was a sense of a poorly-promoted show as the crowd was small, and much smaller than expected the evening before for The Alan Parsons Project for The Progman Cometh Festival. Of course the parallel here is that Gary sang Limelight for a Parsons Project.
Prior to the concert, Mark and I were talking about side-projects. When we came up from the lower levels of the Moore, everyone had left to go to dinner and then pick up their performance-clothing at the hotel. Mark and I looked across the street and saw Gary and Geoff at a restaurant. We joined them.
As our conversation evolved, I decided to outline some of the strange circumstances that had occurred during the tour. There seemed to be a silence that took over the table, everyone quite taken by the events, but seemingly not that surprised. As I concluded my loose synopsis of events, Gary looked at us, tilted his head slightly up, and commented, "Ghosts!" There was about 10 seconds of silence, and then conversation worked its way back to normal.
During the show, Gary comments about this night being the end of the tour, recounting it, and stating that this brings to a conclusion the end of the tour, "Leaving For The Coast, as it were." I take that comment, correctly or not, as a tip of the Homburg to the Palers.
Radio signals are coming through Geoff's amp in Seattle, and Gary's commenting about religious shows since it was Sunday.
Gary's addition of the chilling scream in Whaling Stories and Geoff's addition of steam and birds chirping brought old and new sounds to a classic.
We finalized our goodbyes at a bar party that everyone attended by Gary, Barry and I toasting our wives.
Upon my return home from the tour, my family and I went to see the movie Freaky Friday. Jamie Lee Curtis's profession in the movie is a psychiatrist. Incredibly, she is to be interviewed on a talk show about her book, Through The Looking Glass, an echo of the name of the first Palers' Project CD.
One month to the day after picking up Roland in Long Beach to come back to my house for the Paler Festival weekend, and that evening having met up with Jens at the Basecamp hotel, a series of event occur over a 24-hour period on a family vacation in Hawaii.
It starts at night in an elevator when a guy asks about my One More Toast shirt. (see here)
The next morning upon driving to view the USS Arizona Memorial Remembrance at Pearl Harbor, through a quick blink of my eye, I caught a notation on a highway sign indicating to proceed H3 if one wanted to go to Red Hill.
Oil at the Arizona has been seeping from the vessel for the past 61 years with no way to stop it. I am wearing a Western Tour The Well's On Fire, Fellow Travellers t-shirt. Just as I had made a point of going to view "Ground Zero" in New York, I felt the memory of the over 1,100 militia who had no more warning than those trapped at the World Trade Center.
As we ventured back to Waikiki and walked down the main road, I viewed a man talking with two girls and handing them some cards. As I passed by them, I overheard the guy say, 'One Eye going this way' and pointing to the direction I had come from. Then he said, "And One Eye going ..." and he stopped. I said to myself, "going this way," the opposite direction.
No more than twenty minutes later, a sign at the International Marketplace, an outdoor bazaar vividly stated, "All of the pleasure, but none of the gain" in reference to a yogurt dessert.
At about the same time yesterday, I started to get a rash of phone calls about bizarre business issues which all seemed to work themselves out over the same 24-hour period.
Another strange matter is that I have always superstitiously considered getting a 50 cent piece as change a sign of good luck. Good luck has come in the past, but 50 cent pieces are rarely used in making change. I was handed one as change at approximately the 24th hour of this run.
As I was writing and completing additional notes for this Epilogue while sitting on the balcony of my hotel room, two lightning rod flashes completed the 24 hour period, just as it had started the process one month ago to the day of the LA concert; and the rains came again, as they had in New York and Scottsdale/Los Angeles.
Roland and I have discussed our Favorite PH album Home, from which Roland sang an unexpected Dead Man's Dream at the Paler Fest.
As I spoke with Al Semok this past week, I related thoughts about BJ and the Continuum of Procol Harum. Al said it sounded like BJ's "passing of the torch" to Mark ... The Continuum!
It took a week for me to recover from the Western Tour: I am not that young anymore. I had a cold throughout the Paler fest and continued coughing throughout the tour, I began to realize that "The barbells on my eyelids only emphasized my youth."
I think about a cancelled second Eastern tour and how tired they must have been. I do know that there was a friendly ghost following us.
Especially as Gary and I sang:
"We'll raise our toast to pleasures past
They came so quick and went so fast
Idle boasts, crazy ghosts
We'll make our toast and drain the glass
We're know we're out of favour
We don't expect no saviour
We're looking to the future but we keep one eye on the past" [Words unchecked and courtesy of the BtP website]
As I completed this piece this morning, I thought, "Well that's it! Nothing more can happen.
This afternoon, my family and I went to see a movie called Uptown Girls. During a scene, the young lead male actor with a British accent turns to Brittany Murphy the female lead and says, "I feel like I just stepped through the looking glass."
This evening I have decided to watch a detective/cop show on TV. The detective says to another cop when asked if the body should be moved. "No, I want to put this one in The VIP Room." The last reference for me was in Seattle when Gary gave a dedication to John Entwistle.
Then the late evening news spoke of monsoonal thundershowers due in LA.
This morning I awoke to a big headline on the front page of the Daily News stating One More Time.
As I departed from a restaurant from breakfast, I noticed on a TV a piece being offered about Pete Frampton. There had been a series of discussions of guitarists over the past day due to the Rolling Stone article. Here was one who played with Gary during the Ringo Tour, and was quite amazing in capturing the Procol sound.
As I got back into my car, the "Mermaid" verse of AWSoP came on.
As I checked my emails, Beverly had sent me a note about a looking glass Keith had given her some 30 years ago and of one Franky and Gary had given her very recently.
As the day wore on, I received an email from an individual whom I had done business with in the past who ordered a Lost in the Looking Glass CD. He and his wife had been in attendance at the Ford for their first Procol Harum concert, although fans since 1967.
As this 24-hour period concluded, I received another email from a vacation getaway asking me if I would like to take advantage of a package at a resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. It seems to me, everything has come full circle. Just amazing!
I don't know if I stepped through the looking glass, but I am certainly inside there somewhere.
Yes, the continuum lives!
oe, the monocular one
Ijust watched a show called Law & Order: Criminal Intent (7 Sept 03). It was the story of a murder within what would be the last band of nomads in the United States. The type of clan is known as "Fellow Travellers."
So it happens again!