For some years I was a lighting rock and roll roadie – which meant that I worked with the stage lights used on rock and roll tours, and during the concerts, I was one of the follow spot operators.
Touring itself had its pleasant side to it, the chief being the cohesion of the roadies, we tended to become something like a small army unit, a very tight group of people, we knew we could depend on each other absolutely in all circumstances. This was pleasing to experience. The tours themselves tended to become something of a foggy experience, after being on the road for a couple of weeks with gigs almost every night tended to make us confused as to which city we were in, let alone which country. So in motorway cafes we generally ordered our food, and then simply held out a handful of mixed European currency and told the guy to take what he needed in his country’s money.
This was obviously before the advent of the Euro…. Must make life on the road so much easier!
Going across borders tended to be tedious too. We traveled in relatively large convoys of huge trucks and various crew buses and cars (Almost never with the group themselves, they generally flew from gig to gig). At every border we were of course stopped and taken apart by the Customs who were determined to find drugs on us, which they never did, for three reasons:
- We all knew we would be searched thoroughly at the borders,
- We actually hardly used drugs on the road, we were working to hard for that,
- Any drugs there were with us ( mostly for the group’s use) were always in the TIR sealed trucks, so the border Customs couldn’t open them…
Idiocy of borders.
On a Traffic tour we experienced something totally Kafkaesque on the border between France and Spain. For once the band were traveling with us in cars. The bongo drummer with Traffic, a really nice, friendly and fine musician from Ghana had a visa for one visit to France, but when he got to the Spanish border control it turned out that his visa for Spain wasn’t valid for some reason or other, so he was not allowed into Spain.
When he tried to go back into France so it could all be sorted out, the French immigration control refused him entry into France as his French visa was only good for one visit… So he was stuck between the two countries, literally. There were a pair of parallel lines painted on the road which indicated the actual border between France and Spain, and he was stood there… We roadies had gone through first, and only heard about this problem about 30 minutes later, so we rushed back to the boarder to see what we could do to help.. After a lot of discussion, they allowed us to at least give him a chair so he could sit down… And there the poor man sat, shoulders slumped in no-man’s land.
All this while the tour management were busy with frantic phone calls all over the place,and after a lot of fuss and bother, it was agreed that he would be allowed back into France and to an airport, and be allowed to take off in any plane and sort of fly back and forth across Europe until his Spanish visa was sorted out.
So he spent the night flying back and forth to Rome….
Finally it was all sorted, and he was able to get on a flight to join us in Barcelona… and all was well. But for God’s sake!
Share with us:
Have you any memories of life on the road as a Rock and Roll Roadie? If you do, please do share them with us here.