Buddy had hired another chopper for us to take us to the Shannon airport. The four of them were headed back to the States, and I was going to London. Rose Lane had already arrived there a couple of days ago after her art experience at the West Dean College, so she was waiting for me at the Savoy hotel. I said good-bye to Buddy and Co. and had a breakfast in the airport, as my flight didn’t leave for another couple of hours. The flight was fine, and I arrived at Heathrow airport where I found the train that goes on into London…. to Paddington Station. There I took the Underground to Charring Cross where I got off and walked five minutes to the Savoy. It was great to see Rosie again, and she had put the paintings that she had been working on for the past week all around our room. She had obviously been working very hard in her studies…. the work she had displayed was really good. I think she has jumped to a new and higher level of understanding and talent!
We went out for a while, walking around the Covenant Gardens area that is not far from the Savoy. We rested up a bit later and went out to dinner at an Indian restaurant not far from the hotel, the Sitar. It was very good and quite reasonable…. for London, that is. The ‘ol US Dollar has plummeted of late and it takes a little more than two of them to make one British Pound. Big ouch. After the meal we enjoyed some English speaking TV before heading for bed.
We are in a unique situation in terms of how to get from our hotel to the venue, the ‘02 Arena. The time of day we have to leave puts us in jeopardy of a bad traffic situation…. so the Tour Office decided to book us on a ferry boat to get there. There is a dock right across the road from the back of the Savoy hotel, so we walked across there to jump on the ferry that would take us down the Thames to the Arena. The Arena is not the most attractive of venues to look at from the outside, but the interior is spacious and much better looking than the exterior. Prince is playing here on a series of over 20 shows…. and we are playing in the middle of his run. This now marks “the beginning of the end” of the Bigger Bang Tour, with the three final shows in London.
I had several guests coming…John Malloy and Mike Masse, Dan Ashley and his family (Dan is a star News Anchor in San Francisco for KGO television), my pal Richard Kerris and his wife Nat from Apple Computer and Dano Sayles (a friend of Tom Connor’s from Hawaii). So after doing the set list and some other preparation, I went to the very large Rattlesnake Inn area for the social duties. Rose Lane was helping Carolyn Clements round up the band to go into makeup, so I went on my own there. I ran into all of the above guests and spent a little time with all of them before heading back down to the dressing room for a short rehearsal in Keith’s room.
The show may not have been one of our very best, but at least we were off to a fairly good start for the run. The reviews later were quite good. One funny thing was that no one had thought about this new rule in London concerning smoking in public places. Apparently the law prohibits smoking on stage during performances unless there is some special permission to do so. So the next day there were a lot of articles in the local paper about Keith and Ronnie “breaking the law” by puffing. It was quire amusing to read some of the comments and columns on this.
We laid low after the show, choosing to unwind in our room.
Day off, but not such a pleasant one as it’s cold, damp and raining on and off. We managed to get out just a little for some lunch at a pub not far from the hotel…and also dealt with laundry. We stumbled into a neat jewelry maker in the process of walking around after delivering our laundry to a “fluff and fold” place…. the jeweler’s was called “The CRAZY PIG” and is a place that has made a lot of pieces for Keith through the years. They had pictures of him and the owner scattered around the place. Rosie and I admired some pieces and decided we’d come back again another day. Then we strolled around the area popping in and out of several shops and eventually ran into Richard and Nat Kerris in a men’s clothing store. Had a nice chat with them and made our way back to the hotel. For dinner we again stayed close to the hotel, going to a restaurant in the theatre district called Joe Allen’s that had been recommended by Norman Perry, the owner of the Stones’ merchandising company, Anthill. It was fine…and low key…which suited us. Then we wound up the day.
Our second show in the Arena was a step up from our first, and we rocked the house. It felt great from beginning to end. It’s nice to be indoors for a change…and the sound was pretty good for all of us. I had some guests to attend to before the show…John and Mike were back as was Dan Ashley and some of his family. I saw them and others in the Rattlesnake, and we had the usual warm up playing in Keith’s room. We all are feeling the end is near now…. and there is that mixed bag of being happy to move on and sad that we probably won’t see each other for a long time. But we all want to make a good finish, and tonight’s show was a really good one.
Rose Lane and I didn’t go out after…. as I have to leave tomorrow to go to Frankfurt to rehearse with my German band and to play the first show of my Green Leaves and Blue Notes tour.
I had made these arrangements quite some time ago, and knew that it would be challenging with the travel, rehearsal and show, and then to get back for the last Stones’ show in London. I had made Mick and Michael Cohl aware of these plans back when we were rehearsing in Brussels…but all of a sudden they got nervous about me doing it and told me to try and get back the night of the 25th. This would be impossible for me, as my show is in a place called Laubach, Germany…about an hour and a half outside of Frankfurt….and I would not finish until past 10pm. Anyway, I told them that it was nice to “…feel so loved and needed”….and I just brushed off their concerns knowing that it would be no problem for me to get back on the 26th. I had already looked into it, and there were about 5 different flights that would get me there in plenty of time.
My flight to Frankfurt didn’t leave until 11:30 from Heathrow, so it wasn’t too painful to get up at 8:30 to make it to Charing Cross station and from there to Paddington and on to Heathrow. From there I boarded on a British Airways flight to Frankfurt, arriving about 3:30. I lost an hour with the time change. Andrea Tutenburg, the wife of my friend and the organizer of the tour, Christian Raupach, picked me up and drove me to the HR1 studios where I would finally meet the band that would be working with me. We had a nice chat on the way, and got to the studio about 4:30. I first met Paul Hochstadter, the drummer. Tim Ries has met Paul when we were in Frankfurt earlier in the summer when the Stones had played there and had recommended him to me. Paul graciously put the rest of the band together for me. Paul gave me positive vibes right away…and had helped to set up my piano rig for the rehearsal. I had a nice Steinway to play and he had it all miced with some monitors set up for me. Then I met the rest of the guys…Christian Diener, the bass player; Lutz Haefner, the saxophonist; and Martin Scales, the guitarist. We eventually all took our places and got down to work. The guys had prepared well, and between the mp3 files I had sent them over the Internet and the charts that they and I had made, we had a great rehearsal. But being the first time we had ever played together, it did take us a good 6 hours of work. We were all pretty tired at the end of it, but I felt confident that we’d have a good show the next day.
We wrapped up the rehearsal and Christian took me to my hotel. We had a late dinner together before saying goodnight until tomorrow.
The next day, my friend Michael Salm-Salm came with his friend and neighbor Patricia Senszh driving. Apparently he had let his drivers’ license expire and therefore had to call for help. I had met Patricia back in ‘04 when I came to Germany for the release of my “Forever Green” book here. It was good to see them both, and we headed out for Laubach, where there would be a meeting of the German Forest Landowner’s Assn. that we would attend, then I had the concert to do for the “Blues, Schmooz and Aplemus” festival, also in Laubach. It was a beautiful drive through the German countryside…. lots of agricultural lands and forestlands to gaze out at during the drive. We also had a great chat and caught up with our respective families and various goings-on. Finally we arrived in Laubach and the place for the Landowner’s meeting. It was already in full swing with about 100 folks in attendance. I had a few interviews to do and went to a room upstairs to get a couple of them done…..then went back down to the meeting. Michael had asked me to speak to the group…so after several other speeches, I gave a short address with him interpreting and played a couple of songs for them. They all seemed to enjoy it, and so did I. Then afterwards I signed some autographs and did a couple of more interviews upstairs. With all that done, I had a little time to grab a bite to eat with Michael, Patricia and the president of the Association, a really nice and sharp man named Michael von der Tann. We had a light bit of food and good conversation together.
Finally it was time to play. The stage was not far from the facility where we had met with the Association and had our meal…only a short walk down some grounds to get to a big tent that had been set up for the festival. I was surprise to see such a big crowd as we approached…. there was about 3,000 or so folks there. The entire band had arrived and set up, and Christian had arranged for someone to set up my piano and rig. I greeted everyone and we had a short discussion of the set list and little details about arrangements and then took the stage.
Wow, it went better than I could ever have asked for! Great crowd…. and the guys played brilliantly. We went through about a ninety minute set and did a couple of encores…and left them wanting more…truly a perfect start to the campaign! I congratulated the band for such a great job…. and then we had to pack up and say our good byes…. but temporarily…. as we had more dates to together in the coming month. Michael and Patricia drove me to the Frankfurt airport where I would stay in the Sheraton hotel, right next to one of the terminals. Michael helped me get checked in and we hugged each other good-bye, grateful for such a successful day. By now it was a little past midnight, and I had to catch a 7:30am flight the coming morning to get back to London. I put in for the dreadful wake up call and put my head on the pillow.
THE END OF THE BIGGER BANG
I woke up with a startle to the phone… which was really loud. Probably a good thing, as it wasn’t easy to drag myself out of the bed. But I did, and put myself in the shower to help me wake up. Luckily there was a little coffee maker in the room and I downed a couple of cups which helped, too. Then it was time to rush out of the room, check out, find my way to the proper terminal and get checked in. It turned out that i had plenty of time, and when one of the restaurants finally opened at 6:30, I was able to grab a little bite and more coffee before boarding. I made the flight with plenty of time to spare and then did the train thing again from Heathrow back to the Savoy. I was beat, but I had made it. I stayed up with Rosie to tell her about the previous day, then we went for a light lunch at a pub next to the hotel called the “Coal Hole”. After that I had time for a short nap before having to get ready for the last show of the Stones Bigger Bang Tour.
I went down early in one of the vans and had time to do the last set list of the tour, and deal with issues like my wardrobe, talk to Will Alexander about my gear and some items I wanted him to ship home for me and such. Then the social requirements kept me busy for a little while. In addition to John, Mike, Dan and company, I had my good friend Fran Strong and his guests there. Fran is a diplomat in the US Embassy in London and we’ve known each other since our school days. It was wonderful to see him again and to meet his friends. I had nice conversations with all my guests…talking about how this would be the last Stones show….at least for a long time.
Back downstairs we had the last warm up in Keith’s room and soon it was time for the downbeat of the final show of the tour.
It was really a great one to end on. I could feel the vibes all over the stage from everyone playing that we wanted to “celebrate this one home”…and we did, from beginning to end. After the final note of “Brown Sugar” we gathered on the front of the stage for our final bows…and then I looked down at 13 pairs of shoes that I knew I wouldn’t see for a long time. We waved to the crowd and made our final exit off of the stage and into the vans that would take us back to the Savoy.
Of course there was the “End Of Tour Party” to go to….and after turning in my clothes to wardrobe, Rosie and I went down to the place just next door to the hotel where the affair would take place. We were all smiling and congratulating ourselves on having survived the last two years….lots of hugs and good wishes were passed around and there were many glasses that touched together in various toasts. We saw everyone there at least for a little bit…and finally decided enough had been said and done. Most of the folks would be taking flights early in the morning to get back home. But Rose Lane and I would stay in London for an extra day before flying to Vienna where I would play the second show of my “Green Leaves and Blue Notes” tour…and the first one that would be a solo performance. We headed up to bed about 3am.
I have to say it was a load off my shoulders (and I think Rose Lane’s, too) to be finished with the Stones tour. Now we could truly concentrate on other projects and issues. Today we would just have a light day of rest and relaxation…with the only plan being to go back to the Crazy Pig to purchase some jewelry for Rose Lane. Her birthday is coming up and after thinking about what we’d seen there, she decided she liked a special “Goethe” ring and a silver “Fleur de leis” bracelet. After an easy morning we eventually made our way there and purchased the items. It made us both happy to do so, and we enjoyed the experience. After that we walked around the area again, taking our time and peering into windows, occasionally walking in a store. We went back through Covenant Gardens, browsing through the little stalls there, finally making it back to the Savoy. For dinner we tried the Red Fort, an Indian restaurant that was on our list and that Darryl Jones had also recommended. It was fine…but to be honest, we liked the Sitar better. We cabbed it back to the hotel to do our final bits of packing….most of it had been done in the afternoon, but we left some things for later. Finally we went to bed, feeling good about how our last two years with the Stones had gone….great memories, great shows, lots of happy fans and friends…and we were happy too. Now we can start the next adventure!