At this point, it’s worth giving a mention to some of the shenanigans that took place on the first Brian Brain tour because it was madness, start to finish, an absolute crackers of a time all done on a prayer and a shoestring.
As I said previously, the first tour took place right after Flowers of Romance had been finished and Martin through his own perseverance had sequestered the services of Hillary Jaeger in the States to organise visas and book the Brian Brain dates for November 1980. Three weeks before we left, things were looking good; there were dates arranged, decent money promised, even a support slot with Siouxsie and the Banshees was in the offering. What an opportunity! and I couldn’t wait to get on that plane. Performing in the States was beyond my wildest dreams and being somewhat naive didn’t foresee the problems ahead. We were playing without a live drummer, Martin had recorded all the drum parts to tape along with extra synth noises and effects as well as audience applause after the last number. This guaranteed an encore at every gig. whether we went down well or not, it didn’t matter, we came back on stage waving and thanking the audience as if they had given us the applause. It wound people up no end. Bobby Surgeoner played guitar with me on bass so it was a cheap way to tour as a three piece plus 1 crew.
We had managed to squeeze in a 3 day recording session at Magritte Studios in West Drayton before we left to record songs (Cover versions of PiL’s “Careering” and Gang of Four’s “At Home He’s a Tourist” along with original tracks “Working in a Farmyard in a White Suit” and ” Fun People”) for what became the Culture EP and we did a quick shitty warm up gig at the Kings Head in Acton. 5 days before we were due to leave, we had no work permits, visas, contracts, hotels, equipment, money or plane tickets booked. It looked like our first tour was evaporating before our very eyes before it even started. Again, it was only due to Martin’s dogged determination that pulled things together at the last hour.
Friday 31st October 1980, we had been sitting in the American Embassy pretty much all day, at 3:30pm the visas were issued, we rushed out and got the plane tickets at 5:30 for a plane leaving 23 hours later. Martin and I went to the all night cinema in Leicester square and we took along Jim the roadie where, with the help of some pharmaceuticals, we watched 5 films on the trot: Freeby & the Bean, Streetfighter, Lepke, Stone Killer and Slaughters Big Rip Off. What a night it was!.. There was plenty of violent action on screen and just as much action off screen as fights broke out amongst the mostly pissed as farts audience. We didn’t realise, that the all night cinema was really a cheap place to stay for the night where for just a fiver, you could stay in the warm and sleep or watch a film or two. The place was rammed with drunken homeless….. and us. We were fortunate to not get involved in any of the fighting and eventually left at 6:30, bleary eyed into the early morning London gloom, all a bit spaced out. On the way home we ended up in the drivers cab of a tube train, god knows how, or why the driver let three drunk, speeding yobs into his cab… Bizarre end to the evening.
We had time to get our shit together then set off to be at Heathrow by 12:05 to check in for the 4:30 flight. We had a bit of time to kill so went to the bar and got slaughtered, I’m sure these days you’d never be able to get on a flight in the state we were in. Being young, and complete fucking idiots we continued to drink on the plane and when the stewardesses stopped serving us, we drank our bottles of duty free scotch instead. We arrived in NYC at 8pm, totally rat arsed, very very confused and went straight to Tier 3 to play our first USA gig, by this time we had been up for 52 hours straight. The gig went ok considering but ominously, there wasn’t much of a crowd, especially for a Saturday night.
We played 8 dates in total, the trip to Canada to support the Banshees never came off (surprise fucking surprise) money was scarce and Hillary was elusive in the extreme, hotel bills weren’t paid, gigs cancelled at the last minute.. pure chaos. We took the train to play in Philadelphia at a club that had been a topless bar two weeks previous. We had to fix the PA for them and needless to say, there had been little publicity for the gig. So no one turned up. Train back to NYC to play the Rock Lounge where things got a little better; we got paid $400 and had 4 bottles of vodka on the drinks rider.
Funny thing about the club scene at that time, people never went out much before 10pm, and we were sitting at the club from about 8 with time to kill and 4 bottles of vodka staring at us. Martin and I used to murder Vodka and orange and as it was Jim’s birthday we steamed in, by the time we went on stage at about 1am, we could hardly stand. Jim ended up on stage fighting on the floor with Martin, I was running around like a mad dervish, Bobby was just giggling at it all. The audience didn’t know what the fuck to make of it all, they just stood there staring at the madness and trying their hardest to pose. After the gig we retired to Tier3 where Martin passed out.
We took the train again up to Boston where we fared a little better. We played 2 nights at the Underground and the crowd we’re more accepting and generally liked us. Boston ended up becoming a special place for Brian Brain as we made many friends there and people like Jim Coffman helped us out a lot.
We ended up pissed off at the whole disorganised affair, Hillary never got us the money we were owed and it all ended up in a big argument and fighting. I went back to the UK, Martin and Bobby stayed on in Boston for a while partying with friends. It hadn’t quite been the experience I had anticipated, but despite the problems we did have a riot of a time, made some good friends there and vowed to go back again as soon as possible..