In September 1983, I did a manic drug-and-alcohol fueled ten-day Dutch tour with Leeds punk-rockers To Be Continued. After I’d done my opening poetry set, they’d come on and back me on a couple of songs before doing their own set.
Everything went wrong. We’d no money so my student partner, Gaynor, lent us her grant money. The band’s drummer quit the day before we were due to set off. With hours to spare, singer Stevie, persuaded his brother to stand in. However, the ex-drummer had been the only one of us with a driving licence. The bassist therefore ‘borrowed’ his dad’s driving licence which I then adapted. First I rubbed it in engine oil and crumpled it up to make it difficult to read, then I erased his dad’s first name and his age before carefully penciling in the bassist’s details. Somehow, this secured us a rental van in Amsterdam and we toured driven by our unqualified bassist.
When we crashed head-on into a car a couple of days later, the police were called and they demanded to see our driver’s licence (panic!). Luckily, the car had suffered only slight damage so the owner agreed to accept a hundred Euros in cash and the cops waved us on. Our van, however, needed repairing. With no funds for accommodation, we were sleeping mostly on whatever floorspace we were offered. Cleanliness had been marginalized. At the garage, the mechanics refused to work on the vehicle due to the overwhelming stench of us throughout the vehicle. God knows how a metal-bodied Transit could retain that subhuman stench, but it did. After leaving all its doors open overnight, they finally fixed it the following morning.
Our first gig had been at Amsterdam’s prestigious hippie-run Melkweg. From the moment we arrived there, we began stretching their hospitality and tolerance. We drank our generous rider in the first half-hour, then found and drank the sound-crew’s rider, much to their subsequent anger. Bang went all hope of sounding good. They’d make dead sure of that. Oblivious, we bought more booze, and proceeded with our pre-gig druggery and partying.
The venue had a guest-book signed by every band that had played there. We were asked to sign it too. Instead, Gaynor and Claire, who was Stevie’s partner, drew crude cartoons over some of the most impressive signings. The rest of us joined in and, between us, we destroyed their precious book, tearing out and ripping up all the pages signed by bands we didn’t like. By now even the building itself hated us. When Gaynor and I took a shower together, the drains clogged up and raw sewage gushed out. We were ankle-deep in it before we noticed the distinctive odour.
Five hundred people came to see us. I slurred through a short solo set. The band came on, drummer unrehearsed, all rat-arsed, Stevie beyond playing. They did two very ropey songs fronted by what was left of me before I quit the stage and left them to it. By the time they’d done piss-poor parodies of their first two numbers, with the booze-robbed sound-crew assassinating whatever music the band hadn’t already killed, the audience was down to less than fifty.
Post-gig, I went to collect our fee. They were actually about to pay me when chaos broke out. One member of the band had climbed onto a table in the bar and stripped naked. The rest of the band had responded by grabbing fire extinguishers and turned them on him. Fine white clouds of fire-retardant powder rapidly spread through the entire venue. It went everywhere, even getting inside the sleeve of each and every album on the racks behind the DJ’s desk.
Their patience wearing thin, the management refused to pay me until we’d cleaned up the whole place. We worked all night alongside half a dozen members of staff and a bunch of Dutch punk fans who’d be with us for the rest of the tour. We got no sleep, but the place eventually achieved some semblance of what it had been like before we’d turned up.
Dutch hippies are too nice. Next morning, before we left, they made us all breakfast and paid us our fee. We’d gone a few miles when we discovered that the punks now travelling with us in the back of the van were sitting on a whole haul of things they’d stolen from the venue. Their booty included half-a-dozen bikes belonging to the staff. These punks would keep us supplied with drugs and alcohol for the rest of the tour.
Somehow, we survived and completed that tour. My final memory is of the all-night party at the end of the whole thing. When we ran out of drink at about three in the morning party, one of the punks said he’d go to the supermarket to get more. He never returned. It was only after we’d been home for several days that I heard he was in prison after spending several days in hospital. We’d assumed he’d been going to an all-night supermarket. Wrong. He’d gone to a supermarket that was closed for the night, his plan being to burgle it on our behalf. However, having climbed drunkenly onto the roof, he’d fallen through a skylight.
I’ve no idea what became of him or his friends. As for us lot, Claire went on to stardom as the actress Claire King (Kim Tate in Emmerdale, Erica Holroyd in Coronation Street, Karen Betts in Bad Girls, etc.). To Be Continued morphed into the now-legendary Leeds cult band The (Dead) Vaynes. Gaynor and I got married a year later. Several decades on, we’re still together. And, when the weather’s warm, her and my feet and ankles still smell vaguely of sewage.