JOE MOSS: Magic Sound Engineer

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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*PART's 1-2-3 Below..

 

'MAGIC'

SOUND ENGINEER

Joe Moss

 

Writing exclusively for LANKY BEAT Joe Moss adds more insights into the rather mysterious world of quality sound engineering for live bands. 

 

The importance of this side of the music industry is largely hidden and unsung to most of us, but we have all benefited immensely and probably unknowingly by it - but not least the performers and their audiences. 

 

  A great show truly stands or falls by the actions and considerable skill levels of these guys. 'Magic' - the band - Winston and Rainbow Cottage were but three such outfits, whose longevity and success were interdependent on such people like Joe, to the point that they often became an indisposable member of each band. 

Bill Hart: April 2011

 

 

"The connection between the band 'Magic' and Lanky Beat is the fact that I, and a fellow Wiganer called Graham Nash worked as their road crew for close to ten years - myself as Sound Engineer and Graham as Lighting Engineer. Graham had previously worked with the original 'Whizz Kids' in the 1980’s.

 

  

 

  Magic are not a local band. They were formed out of the combination of London and Reading based bands in the early to mid 1970’s and up until 1991 consisted of Rob Lock on drums and vocals, Stan Fuller on Bass Guitar and vocals, Dave Fusaro on Guitar and vocals, Trevor Lock - Rob’s brother on Guitar and vocals and Roger Brown on Lead vocals. They are a very accomplished vocal harmony band and featured heavily of music revolving around The Beach boys, E.L.O , and especially Queen.

 

March 1990 - March 1993

   My first gig with Magic was at Haresfinch Social Club on March 23rd 1990 and this was to be the start of a very hectic schedule over the next few years. Magic were a highly respected and popular band who worked through a North-East based Agency. They worked mostly on the basis of being sold out to other agents in various parts of the country for five or ten day 'runs' in the area covered by the respective agent, but also took other dates besides. So sometimes we would be away in, say, Scotland for ten days or we could be here or there on one night stands. April was mainly one-nighters in groups of three or four, but when we entered May we were in South Wales for ten days and then after a three day break it was off to Yorkshire for four days followed by a day off and then straight off to Northern Ireland for four days going immediately afterwards to Scotland for ten days. This took us into June, and following a few more assorted shows it was off to Germany for nearly three weeks.

 

 

This routine carried on at various levels of intensity for the remainder of the year - some months were busier than others- until it culminated with a run of dates starting on November 21st in which we only had four days off until December 22nd We travelled from South Wales to Yorkshire to Scotland back to Yorkshire and finished off in London for 4 dates with The Monaco Ballroomin Hindley, Wigan stuck right in the middle of these. To put a perspective on matters I should point out that at the time, Magic were based in Yorkshire - Rob, Roger and Dave lived in villages around Doncaster, but Trevor still lived in his home town of Reading, and Stan lived in Newton Ayecliffe near Darlington. So they travelled to gigs in their own transport, only getting to venues shortly before being due on stage and left soon after. Graham and myself, being Wigan based had to take the van and all the gear to the venue set it up operate it , take it down and drive home or on to the next town, digs or wherever. Graham couldn’t drive then so that meant I did almost all the driving. If we were away on a run of dates then sometimes one of the band would drive just to give me a break.

 

 

  1990 became 1991 and we continued to work in the same way going to South Wales, Scotland and up and down the motorways of Britain until May brought a change to the routine. Magic had worked for the Armed Forces entertainments organisation previously - they went to the Falkland Islands before I worked for them and in May they were booked to got to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait . Unfortunately or perhaps not all crewing was done by the organisation itself, so Graham and myself had a short break instead. Following this we returned to roving about Britain until July when the same organisation took Magic out to Belize -Central America for two weeks again without us and then after a couple of dates back home we had a couple of weeks holiday, so Graham and I had nearly a month off whilst still being paid .

 

  In the early part of 1991 Stan Fuller left Magic after about fifteen years with them, and he was replaced by Ray Davies who had in fact been in the band before Stan. His return did not however last too long as he decided that he wanted to go off to join Ray Dorset in Mungo Jerry. His final performance turned out to be a pivotal date for the band in ways then yet unknown. The date was 24 November 1991, and having finished a run of five dates in South Wales he parted company with Magic. On the way home we heard on the radio that Freddy Mercury had died earlier that evening.

 

  Now Magic had always been great Queen fans and were noted for their excellent covers of Queen songs; and so they decided that it would be a good idea to develop a show based entirely round the music of Queen. This led to a leap forward for the band with regards to the type and quality of work open to them. More of this in the next section.

 

  In November of 1991 - 28th to be precise - Charlie Sutton took over from Ray in the Bass Guitar and eye-wateringly high vocal parts. Although he was about ten years younger than the rest of the band, he fitted in very well and the band carried on meeting the same high standards they always set for themselves.

1992 started a little more quietly in terms of gigs, but the band used the time to get Charlie properly bedded in and to push ahead with the idea of a show featuring Queen music. They were always painstaking about learning new material to make sure that they came as close to possible to getting everything correct. The workload in respect to gigs built up as March turned into April, with the regular visits to South Wales and other areas came along. Following some successful dates at Butlins in Skegness in 1991, Magic were invited to do an extended run in 1992. So , in late April we started a run of Dates in Scotland and after six nights culminating with a show in Motherwell on a Wednesday , we motored down to Bognor Regis for the first of about sixteen Thursdays,; the following morning we set off on the six hour journey to Skegness for the first of about twenty Fridays there. Just to cap it off, on Saturday we returned to Scotland to finish off the remainder of the dates up there. Over the course of the summer, we were scattered about Britain, but always had to make the trek to the south coast then up to Lincolnshire each week.

 

  One week in early June we played Stockton-on-Tees on a Tuesday, had Wednesday off then went to Bognor Regis on Thursday, Skegness on Friday, Sunderland on Saturday and finished off in Dundee on Sunday. Another week in July we did Bognor, then Skegness followed by Windsor and then Darlington. It seemed that almost every week we started on the south coast and finished up in the north-east of England. One particular sequence of dates in August was as follows..

 

Thursday August 6; Bognor Regis

Friday August 7; Skegness

Saturday August 8; Wigan

Sunday August 9; Spennymoor

Monday August10; Skegness

Tuesday August 11; Off

Wednesday August 12; Skegness

Thursday August 13; Bognor Regis

Friday August 14; Skegness

Saturday Augus t15; Hartlepool

Sunday August 16; Middlesbrough.

 

  The itinerary carried on in this fashion until October, when the Butlins dates finished. In mid November a short continental tour was arranged to try out a full show of Queen music . Holland, Belgium and Germany were visited to break in the new format. From there we went straight to South Wales for a week then up to Scotland for about ten days with a couple of days off before going back to South Wales then up to Yorkshire , back to London for a few days up to Spennymoor, back to Yorkshire , grabbed a few days off for Christmas before concluding the year with a visit to St Helens and finally New Years Eve in Houghton-le-Spring near Sunderland. Just putting this on paper has tired me out!

 

  As a slight aside to this tale, I’m sure that many people in the entertainment business will have stories to tell of situations and close calls which make great anecdotes later but at the time were hairy. One such episode comes to mind of an event which occurred whilst on one of the many visits to South Wales. We were appearing at a place called Maerdy Working Men’s Hall in the valleys one day. The only way to get there meant a steep climb over a narrowish pass over the tops of the hills between the valleys and then an equally tight descent on the other side to drop into Maerdy. This brought us down to a set of traffic lights by a narrow bridge over the river at the bottom of the valley followed by a short steep hill to the side of the club. Now I had worked here before with Winston and we had worked on a ground floor level with the load-in by the front doors . Such was the rake of the hill, however, that at the rear of the club, the ground floor became one floor up a fire escape. This time with Magic, we were to work in the main hall which was on the first floor at the front which became the second via the fire escape- which unfortunately for us was going to be the shortest way in.

 

 

   When we had arrived I had parked facing up the hill near the fire escape which meant we couldn’t open the back doors that way because the gear would have fallen out of the van. So I had to turn the van around. Please note that due to the severity of the incline and the fact that the handbrake wanted adjusting, I had parked the van in gear to help hold it. The problem came when I wanted to start the van to turn it round. As soon as I took it out of gear to start, the van began to roll backwards, even though I was stood on the footbrake and was holding on to the handbrake with both hands.

I was faced with a choice. At the bottom of the hill was the river and I didn’t fancy going into that ; but across the road was a solid brick wall. I decided it was going to have to be the wall. Holding on to the handbrake with one hand , still stood on the footbrake I swung the van towards the wall and a concrete lamppost, seeing this as the lesser of two evils. Somehow, as the van headed towards the wall it managed to stop inches short of both the wall and the lamp. Both Dave Fusaro and Graham Nash were laughing fit to burst at my antics and facial expressions. When I got out of the van I was white and very shaky!

 

  Back to the script.

 

  At the start of 1993, we took a short winter break to make up for the one missed the previous summer, resuming in late January in the usual manner with a flurry of gigs. Then on the 19th -21st of February, we headed over to Ireland to spend a long weekend over there starting off in Dublin. On returning we went to South Wales to complete a run of five dates finishing at a local rugby club where in an attempt to make the load-out easier one of the band took the van round to the rear entrance over a large grass lawn, which because of recent rain was quite soft. The van promptly sank down into this which gave us a real headache trying to get out. We all looked like we had played a rugby match by the time we had dug it out.

 

  Immediately following this escapade, we drove down to Plymouth to embark on a new level in Magic’s career.

 

 

  Among the agencies and organisations that engaged Magic was a gentleman called Trevor Hamilton who ran a company called 'Unique'. He specialised in upmarket functions and very often used top London hotels to stage these. In the course of the first three years with Magic we worked at quite a few of these hotels. Graham and myself used to dread these jobs coming up because we knew that they would be stressful from start to finish. Driving into the centre of London to find the venue could be bad enough, but trying to load in to them was very often a nightmare. Parking was always the worst problem because it didn’t exist in central London and trying to park a large van legally usually meant going to a special lorry park and getting a taxi back to the hotel. Over the course of the three year period we also worked some unusual venues. Two that spring to mind were 'The Natural History Museum' in London , where we played to both a corporate audience - another of Trevor Hamiltons’ specials - and to a large dinasaur’s rear end. Another involved a swimming pool in Hawick, Scotland, where we worked to a pool part full of bathers. The inevitable happened after the gig when Graham was dunked by the band.

 

 

  The next part of this narrative will chart the progress of the band in developing their Queen tribute show.

Joe Moss: May 2011

 

 

PART 2..

 

 

"March 2nd 1993 was a seminal date for Magic. It was the first date of a nationwide tour of concert halls and theatres in which they performed their “Queen” tribute show. I must make it clear from the outset that this was never intended to be a 'look-alike' tribute - as there were five members of Magic, none of whom bore any resemblance to any of Queen, it was a non-starter anyway. Magic’s selling point was the fact that they probably got the most musically faithful renditions of the Queen repertoire and that this was done without any help from pre-recorded backing tracks; it was all live and done without the aid of a safety net.

 

  Up to this point Magic had worked the club circuit that most bands we know from round here were doing, and this, with exceptions mentioned in the previous section above, was what they were geared up to do and what they were equipped for. We were aware that in moving up to this new level that something would have to be done regarding the equipment needed, but unlike touring bands on this level, Magic wouldn’t be able to fall back on any kind of sponsorship or rely on record sales to cover the cost of providing this equipment. So, for some time beforehand, they had prepared as best as finance would allow to be ready .

 

  We arrived at Plymouth on 2 March to start the tour at the Pavilions Hall with an enlarged P.A system that, hopefully, would be enough to provide a sound to fill the arena. For comparisons sake, the Plymouth Pavilions was a 2500 seater concert venue that would fit all of the Goose Green Labour Club buildings inside without it touching the sides. We took an awesome look around , gulped, and prayed that we could pull it off. By the way, the venue was close to sold out!

 

  We proceeded to set up for the show realising slowly that what we hoped would be enough gear wasn’t really going to be . Fortunately, the venue had a good house system that we could link into and this enabled us to provide a show which went very well to give us a flying start.

 

  Plymouth turned out to be one of the biggest halls that we worked over this early part of 1993 and whilst we did have to beef up the sound in some venues by adding their P.A. systems to ours, in many halls we were able to manage with the gear we had. It did become apparent, however, that what we had was really only just about adequate, and that something more efficient was required to obtain good sound quality at higher levels, so the next few years became a constant search by the band to achieve this at an afordable price.

 

 

  I have been using the term “touring” but it should be pointed out that Magic were still having to play venues that had up to this point been their lifeblood, so it could be a little strange being in a concert or theatre type setting one night and then being back before a social club audience the next night. It would take some time before this situation could be altered. So, in March we could be mixing clubs with venues such as Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall, Southport Theatre; Sunderland Empire Eastbourne Congress Theatre were separated by a ten-day stint in the Scottish clubs. This mix of venues was to continue on for quite some time and called for a close eye on what type of venue was next because if it were a club then Graham and I would usually arrive at six’ o’clock and work through in the normal way with the band arriving later to perform and then leave. If it was a Concert Hall/Theatre type then the arrival time came forward to two’ o’clock to allow for set up, a full sound check, and to allow time to ensure that the venue had complied with the 'riders' to the contract for that show. I use the term 'rider' loosely because we were not in a position to demand very much, nor were Magic the type of band that would be inclined to do so, but there is a much stricter 'protocol' in putting on show in these venues, and over the course of the next few months we found out, sometimes by error more than trial that there were certain procedures to follow to co-ordinate the running of the show for all local stage crew and 'front of house' staff so that the audience could be safely allowed to enter and leave the hall at the correct times, and to ensure that we didn’t start the performance before, say, the audience had come back from the bar at the end of the intermission.

 

  The 'Tour' carried on into April and May and took us to some venues we had only seen in papers such as 'Melody Maker' or 'The New Musical Express'- you know, the kind of place that 'name' bands did and we never expected to go to. Sometimes we had to pinch ourselves to make sure this was real and many times there was a slight inferiority complex of 'What are we doing here'. Some of the gigs that came up in April and May were as follows:

 

Apr 2: Queen Elizabeth Hall; Oldham

Apr 3: The Pavilion Theatre; Glasgow

Apr 4: The Barbican Centre; York

Apr 5: The De Montfort Hall; Leicester

May 19: Buxton Opera House

 

  Towards the end of May we sailed to Ireland again to play a short run of dates over there. Back in England we returned to working mens' club type venues with the odd theatre date thrown in and this continued throughout the summer months, interrupted by another trip to Ireland in July, to play further down south in places like Waterford, Limerick and Cork, until September, when the promoter who set up the earlier tour had put together another run of theatre dates to be done through the autumn months. A selection of the places we visited this time round are;

 

Sep 4: Brighton Dome

Sep 10: Nottingham Theatre Royal

Sep 15: Swansea Grand Theatre

Sep 19: Lewisham Theatre; London

Oct 8: King George’s hall; Blackburn

Oct 14: Fairfield Halls; Croydon

Nov 6; City Hall; Hull

Nov 14: City Hall; Sheffield

 

Magic performing at the Wire TV show at The BreweryWharf, Leeds.

 

  It was during the summer months of 1993 that Magic landed a slot on a 'Wire TV' show compered by the late Richard Whitely of Countdown and Callender fame, to perform a selection of songs to be played and recorded live at the Tetley Brewery wharf in Leeds. In what was essentially a short live show they played a pick of Queen songs whilst I dashed from doing the mix for the 'audience', to running into their control studio to try to gauge the sound being fed to the TV station. This was very tricky because the sound spilled into adjacent mikes making separation virtually impossible with the result that whilst the sound was acceptable 'live', it wasn’t especially good on the Television, with cymbals in particular causing a real headache to control. When the performance was over, Graham and I were invited to sample, live on television, together with Richard Whitely, the results of an earlier cooking item on the same programme. A claim to fame if ever there was one?

 

  One rather different show that came up in this run was The Cabot Hall Canary Wharf London on Sep.30. This was to be a six’o’clock show timed to catch the people who worked in the district on the way home. It can be quite common practice in and around London for people to go out straight from work and then go home due to the length of time lost in commuting. We did the gig which as far as I can recall seemed to go well enough and were dismantled and on the way home by late evening thinking that we wouldn’t be ridiculously late home only to get embroiled in a long tail-back on the M1 motorway in the middle of the night. You can’t drive anywhere in peace anymore!

 

 

 December saw us lined up to play a run of corporately organised Christmas party gigs split between Spennymoor and Gateshead, but the finishing twist of the knife, before we took Christmas off, was to go to Swansea for a party bash at a nightclub there. On the way down Graham and I got stuck on the M5 at Birmingham for several hours because of a traffic accident. Instead of taking just over four hours to Swansea, it took seven. When we arrived, the band were already there and between us we threw the gear into place, performed and got out almost in the same movement - horrible gig. Just to rub salt in the wound, though, we had to travel on to the Isle Of Sheppey, which is completely the other side of the country to play a club there. After we had got there, we had to sit around for about four hours waiting to perform, followed by wrapping the gear up and then the long drag home through the small hours of the morning. We arrived home in the wee small hours of Christmas Eve with just enough time to rest and enjoy Christmas.

 

  1994 came in quietly, at least for the first half of January. It was back to the club circuit for the moment and the only two that stuck out that month were the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane London, which was one of those horrible London hotel gigs where you had to fight tooth and nail to get any help or co-operation. I was stuck up on a circular balcony which ran around the edge of the ballroom, off to one side and above the sound. I had no real idea of how it sounded downstairs and to make matters worse, it was one of those high level plush presentation functions where everything had to be just so. I still have nightmares about those jobs. The other gig I could have bad dreams about is a place called The Cage in Bournemouth. It was a students dance of some sort and we had to be there early to get in and set up. Once we had done this we had to kill about five hours in a cold and damp dressing room before working and then when they had finished all the lights went out, the DJ cranked up and lots of strobe lights came on. Graham and I were left to dismantle all the gear and get it out whilst being disorientated by the noise level and lighting effects and trying to barge our way out with all the gear to load out. It must have taken nearly three hours and some very frayed tempers. Boy were we glad to see the back of that one.

 

  

Parquesur Complex in Madrid

 

  This year was a strange one in terms of work because the promoter who had arranged the first two tours in 1993 felt that the tribute phenomenon had run its course and wouldn’t handle any more gigs. Magic and their management felt differently and so proceeded to get the gigs themselves and so for a lot of the year we were mixing club circuit and theatre circuit without any separation between the two. We were going back to theatres we had already been to and going to new ones whilst still working the clubs. We played this mixture of dates until in early June we flew out to Madrid to play a couple of nights at the Parquesur Disco in the centre of a large water park on the outskirts of the city. There was nothing to do in the daytime but lie by the pools and soak up the Iberian sunshine. Things like this helped to make up for some of the more stressful jobs.

 

   

The Rosehill Theatre near Whitehaven,

 

  On returning from Spain we next had to play at one of the most unusual places that came our way. The Rosehill Theatre just outside Whitehaven is a theatre in almost miniature. Rather like Wigan Little theatre but possibly smaller and able to seat only two-hundred people maximum. It had a great atmosphere but was always a challenge to set up in. Over the course of the next few years we played this place many times and usually for more than one night which took some of the sting out of getting in and out.

 

  As the year went on the ratio of theatre gigs increased as the club jobs lessened. In September we only did four non-theatre gigs. In fact, because the band had a deliberate policy of targeting theatre work, we were actually working less nights but were increasing income - both for the band unit as a whole and individually - although overheads were also rising. The dates in November were all theatre dates and were as follows;

 

Nov 2: Tameside Hippodrome; Ashton-under-Lyne

Nov 3: Derby Assembly Rooms

Nov 4: Alban Arena; St. Albans

Nov 10: Hanley Victoria Hall; Stoke-on-Trent

Nov 13: Newport Centre

Nov 18: Sands Centre; Carlisle

Nov 19: Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre

Nov 20: Magnum Leisure Centre; Irvine

Nov 24: Hull City Hall

Nov 25: Victoria Theatre; Halifax

Nov 27: Mansfield Civic Hall

Nov 30: Hammersmith Apollo; London

 

  December carried on in a similar vein excepting for a six night stay at the Kings Theatre Bar in Birmingham, and included Bristol Colston Hall and Liverpool Empire. My previous visits to this venue had been to see the likes of Eric Clapton and George Harrison with Delaney and Bonny, Genesis and Yes. There were times when it was a little daunting to think who else had trod those boards!

 

  During the course of 1994, the crew had expanded to three people, in order to cope with the increased amount of equipment and also the extra travelling. Most theatre/concert hall type venues employed a clause in their contract stipulating the minimum distance and time that an act could appear in the vicinity of that venue; this meant that careful thought had to be given as to when and where Magic could perform. Also, almost all venues had a policy of leaving a gap of at least one year and more often eighteen months between visits, so this also added to the amount of travelling. Against this was the fact that, in spite of increased overheads, a higher level of income from both ticket sales and merchandising allowed Magic to perform less and be more selective of the venues to appear at. The balance was that the working days were longer and the travelling tended to be more, but we got longer breaks between shows.

 

  The periods just after Christmas and at the height of summer always tended to be quieter, one due to lack of money after the seasonal festivities, and the other because of holidays. It was a slow start to 1995 but it built up by the end of January to a steady flow and by this time we were going back to many of the places we had visited in the previous two years, but many new venues were coming along too; the size, shape and style of venues was very varied and we had to be adaptable to many different approaches. One theatre that came along at this time was Great Yarmouth Britannia Theatre. This was situated at the sea-end of the north pier and for the first few visits we were able to squeeze the large Mercedes van we had at the time through a very tight entrance archway at the front of the pier to be able to drive along the pier to the front of the theatre, scattering holidaymakers aside in the process. The van would only just squeeze through the gap with inches to spare and some very careful steering was needed to get through unscathed. In later years as things got bigger we had to drag everything on wheels the length of the pier. We didn’t look forward to this job coming along, and unfortunately for the crew Magic ended up doing a weekly run of dates here during one summer!

 

 

  In the summer of 1995 Tony Peet - who had worked with Graham in Whizz Kid - joined the crew. His knowledge and experience were a great help. A previously booked holiday kept him away for a couple of weeks in September, but we were fortunate to have as stand-in a guy called Terry Millard from Barrow-in-Furness, who I had got to know during my time with Rainbow Cottage. His sister Kay was a great fan and friend of the band and he was a one-man roadie machine around the area and worked for several bands at the same time. By 1995 Terry had, thanks to a friendship with Geoff Banks - one of the main men in Genesis’ crew he had made tours with Genesis, Pink Floyd and was more or less a permanent fixture for Van Morrison at the time. Terry kindly stood in for Tony and proceeded to show us how little we knew about how the big boys went about their business. He also had many hilarious tales about the goings on in that world too. He stayed with us for a couple of weeks till Tony returned .

 

  By this time Magic’s show had expanded to include the regular hire of a large lighting rig owned and operated by Kevin Cain, who hailed from the north-east of England. He had a three man crew and at the time travelled in their own truck. This was now beginning to have the feel of a much bigger show. We were now having to think in terms of a more detailed technical rider with lighting going in at 11’o’clock in the morning and sound going in at two’o’clock, to allow time for full set up taking about four hours, a focus of the lighting rig and full sound check to be ready for house opening at usually seven‘o’clock. When the show came down - not usually later than 10:30 - it needed two hours with help from the local crew to de-rig and pack away the gear.

 

 

An outdoor show at Wallington hall near Morpeth.

Strictly speaking this was in 1996, but it helps to show the scale that things were getting to.

 

  By the end of 1995 Magic had consolidated their position as one of the most, if not the most popular and respected of the 'tribute' bands, having gone from playing the club circuit around the British Isles to working almost exclusively to Theatre/Concert audiences in this country and abroad. The next part of the story will cover the time from 1996 to 1999."

Joe Moss: June 2011

 

 

PART 3

*The Magic Years

1996-1999

 

 

1996 started off quietly with a two week break at the start of the year but by the middle of the month we were back in the swing of things on the seemingly endless motorway journeys up and down Britain, almost as if someone were throwing darts at the map blindfolded. At one point in March we had Truro on a Saturday night followed by Manchester the next. Another instance a few weeks later was Middlesbrough to Torquay. The venues contracts almost always enforced a barring clause of any performance within a certain time and area, so it wasn’t always very easy to keep the band active whilst adhering to any restrictions set down.

   

  Many venues were becoming regulars, whilst newer places were also coming along. In early June we had a run of four gigs finishing at Bristol Hippodrome, and the next day we flew from Luton Airport to the Isle of Man to play three nights at the Summerlands Complex as part of the “T.T” week festivities. The population of the island swells considerably during this week and it brings much needed business to their shores. We did three shows with various other acts on the bill including a troupe of girl “ dancers” who left almost nothing to the imagination as part of their act. We had a hard time competing for the attention of the mostly male audience. The return flight took us back to Luton after which we went straight to Canterbury to continue with dates in this country.

 

  Following a break for summer holidays we reconvened at Scarborough for the first of about six Wednesdays there with assorted dates up and down the country, including one at the “Mean Fiddler” in Harlesden, London. This is one of the venues that was always being advertised in papers like “ Melody Maker” and very often had bands and artists on who had either already made a name for themselves in the music press ,or were about to. Despite all the kudos attached to working there, the reality was a disappointment. The room you worked to was quite small and very basic; the stage was small and cramped and protected from the punters by chicken wire ( a la Blues Brothers) and the sound and lighting were likewise. It may have been a stepping stone for acts around London to try to establish a name, but it was a pain in the ass to work. I have to say that I once went to the Marquee in London, which was probably one of the most important venues to be seen at, and found it very similar in many ways. It was vital to be seen there to be noticed by the music press, but it was very basic and bare.

 

  Magic, being a band whose origins were from down south, had made many connections within music circles in that area. One of these was a member of “The Rocking Berries”; this particular gentleman had started his own agency with many contacts around the world as a result of their great success in the sixties. As a direct result of this, we found ourselves boarding a plane from Heathrow airport on our way to perform at the Happy Valley Sports Club in Hong Kong. The flight left London at 10:00 am on Thursday 5 September with the first leg of the flight going to Bahrain arriving after a seven and a half hour journey at local time of 8:30pm - 5:30 pm London time. Following a ninty minute layover to change planes we boarded a flight to Bangkok, which took another seven and a half hours arriving in Bangkok at local time 8:30 am - 2:30am London time. We were on the ground for one hour but weren’t allowed to leave the plane and took of on the two and a half hour flight to Hong Kong at 9:30 am arriving at 1:00 pm local time Friday afternoon - 6:00 am London time.

 

     

 The racetrack at Happy Valley Sports Club, Hong Kong.

 

  We flew into the old airport where the runway extended out into Hong Kong harbour and on the approach to landing the flight path comes between the high rise towers; as we descended, I remember waving to a woman hanging out washing on a balcony and she waved back DOWN to me. As we left the airport in the courtesy bus sent for us we followed the road around the end of the runway and I happened to look up to see a jumbo jet coming in to land and realised how little room there was for the planes to get through. No wonder they built a new airport on a man-made island away from the population centre.

 

  This was now Friday just after dinner and or body clocks were telling us that it was 6:00am. We had tied to get some sleep on the Bahrain- Bangkok flight, but quite severe turbulence over India put a stop to that. A quick stop at the hotel to check in and then it was straight of to the venue to set up and sound check on the gear provided. This took a while because it was not set up in any way for us. Following a break in the early evening to shower and refresh ourselves it was back to the venue to perform the first of two shows, one on Friday ,and one Saturday. After the show we were fed and entertained by the management and audience, who were almost all ex-pats living and working there. Eventually, after almost two days since leaving London we were able to go back to the hotel to get some rest. This would be about 3:00am on Saturday morning. I went out like a light and the next thing I remember was waking up wondering what time it was only to discover it was 3:00 pm Saturday afternoon.

 

  I tried to contact the rest of the band only to find out that they had already gone out; I discovered later that they couldn’t get any response from me so they assumed that I had gone out. I decided to grab my camera and go out sight-seeing myself, and spent a few hours wandering round the city. When we met up at the club later on I found out that they had gone up to Victoria Heights with it’s panoramic views of Hong Kong and the harbour; I felt very envious at missing out on that.

 

  

The beach at Abu Bhabi Brits Club Complex.

 

  Following the Saturday show we relaxed around the complex until afternoon when we had to go back to the airport to catch the return flights as far as Bahrain, where we overnighted and rose very early to catch the short flight to Abu Dhabi to work at the “Brit Club”. This was a similar set-up to Hong Kong in that it was an enclave for ex-pats where they were allowed to follow western rules regarding alcohol etc. I remember arriving and seeing the outdoor pool which looked very inviting. At the first opportunity I was in looking to cool of in the very warm temperatures. By the time I got to the other end I was sweating more than when I got in. The waters of the Persian Gulf were just over the low wall and so I headed for that burning my feet on the very hot sand; in I went and had to go down more than six feet to find cool water. I was told after that these waters were among the warmest in the world when the hot sun had been beating down on them all summer.

 

  After the show that night a small surprise awaited Magic. Just to prove what a small world it can be ,in walked Ray Davies, their erstwhile bass player, who was with another outfit who were playing elsewhere on the complex that night. Everything was finished and wrapped up and I remember walking outside at 2:00am when it struck me that leaving behind the air conditioning in the hall when I got outside how hot it was even though it was well after midnight. Another late night was followed by another very early rise to catch a flight from Abu Dhabi to Doha, Qatar to play at the Ramada Hotel. Qatar is a strict dry state and alcohol was only permitted in two bars in the hotel, and when shows were staged in the large function room drink was only allowed to westerners and armed guards were placed at the entrances to stop any Arabs going in. Indian waiters were used to serve alcohol as Arabs were barred from any contact with it. We were told quite a few stories about the care that even Europeans took when dealing with alcohol, so strict were the regulations. This also meant that beer prices were extortionate and I recall paying either £5, or £10 for a pint of beer in the hotel bar; I was tired and con fused by the exchange rates, so I’m not sure which it was , only that it was very dear.

 

'Magic' at The London Paladium.

 

  We returned home the next day after a tiring but very eventful week, to resume work in this country. From mid-September for the next three months we were kept very busy with a full date sheet doing the

usual rounds until 15 December when we arrived in London to play possibly the most prestigious theatre in Britain - Sunday night at the London Palladium. After growing up with this programme on television and seeing all the biggest stars in the world play here it was a real feather in the cap to be able to say you’ve done the Palladium. It was strange to see it in the flesh after seeing it so much on television, but it is smaller than TV makes it look. Still a goodly size though and the backstage area was a real rabbit’s warren of convoluted passageways with a real sense of character all around. This was the ultimate ego-trip for any entertainer; I’ll certainly never forget it. Following this the year wound down to a close as 1997 came along.

 

  

The London Palladium

 

 

 

  1997 was very similar to the previous year with a quiet start which then built up to being busy by about March and April. A sample of part of how it was going by April was:

 

Fri 4; Exmouth Pavilions

Sat 5: Swindon Wyvern Theatre

Sun 6: Bristol Hippodrome

Mon 7: Hayes Beck Theatre

Tue 8: Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Wed 9: Croydon Fairfield halls

Thu 10: Telford Oakengates Theatre

Fri 11: Llandudno North Wales Theatre

Sat 12: Newark Palace Theatre

Sun 13: Oxford Apollo Theatre

Wed 16: Chatham Central halls

Thu 17: Hartlepool Borough hall

 

Joe Moss - Red Square Moscow

 

   

                            Red Square Moscow                                                  Gorky Park Moscow

  

  The real surprise of that year was something we did not know too much about until fairly close up. On Thursday 15 May we found ourselves at Heathrow Airport once again this time boarding a plane For Moscow to play a couple of concerts in Gorky Park at the invitation of the Russian government via their cultural department. This was in connection with AIDS awareness and in view of Freddie Mercury’s untimely passing because of this affliction, Magic were invited to take part. We all thought that the Russians may have been misinformed of how high a profile Magic had in Britain, but nobody was about to put them right. So we arrived in Moscow after much toing and froing regarding visas etc, to find ourselves whisked through customs and driven into the city with a fully armed guard taking us straight to the hotel . The hotel was a huge old red brick style building on the edge of Red Square. The foyer and reception were the size of a football field and we were given rooms on the second floor at the far end from check-in, which meant going up two floors and then having to show keys to a very stern looking Russian lady who could have won the shot-put at any Olympics ,to find a room were everything seemed to be on the verge of falling apart. After settling in we picked up our security guards and interpreter/ guide and went round the corner to Red Square and the Kremlin. Posing for photos was almost obligatory and we also had a stroll round some of the stores. That night we sat in the large reception hall of the hotel enjoying a few drinks when some very beautiful ladies came across to try to introduce themselves to us; the disappointment came when our guide informed us that they were high class prostitutes and it would cost us a lot of money to get to know them better. In view of our situation we thought better of it.

 

   

                    Joe Moss in Red Square Moscow                             Magic in Red Square Moscow

 

  The next day we did the first of the outdoor shows in Gorky park. Even in May Moscow is not too warm and it was necessary to keep wrapped up a little bit The weather led the promoters to suggest moving the second show to disco in the city centre but Alan Leightel, Magic’s then manager vetoed this idea, so we had the second and part of the third day to go sightseeing. We were able to visit Lenin’s mausoleum in Red Square and the to go inside the Kremlin. I would never have thought, even six months ago I would ever be in this place.

Inside The Kremlin.

 

  The next day we came home. One thing to remember about going to Russia is that the rouble - The Russian Currency - could at that time only be obtained in the country and you had to complete a declaration of all the monies that you brought in and before you left you had to cash in all the roubles you had left and account for the remainder of your cash to make sure you hadn’t spent any foreign currency whilst there; dollars would get you anything then. Due to rushing to be ready to go I ended up with roubles that I hadn’t exchanged, so I hid them and brought them out. When I got home and went to the local that night I threw a wad of notes an inch thick on the bar and offered to buy drinks all round. Very generous of me- the money was totally worthless outside Russia.

 

 

  Very soon after this we had a couple of interesting gigs to do in the open air. The first was a National Trust property, near Gateshead called Gibside Chapel. This was al lovely setting overlooking the Tyne valley and we had a large crowd in a natural amphitheatre there. The second was Althrop House near Northampton, birthplace and former home of Princess Diana, who at that time was still alive, although as this was the 1 August her sad passing was only a month away. We did think we saw her there at the time but events were to prove this incorrect. The work continued apace until the end of the year and we finished for Christmas with one of those horrible London gigs at the Connaught Rooms somewhere of Tottenham Court road in darkest central London. It was the kind of Christmas function were nobody cared you were there except to interrupt the disco; it was a ballache upstairs load-in, the transport had to be parked a million miles away ( central London always has this difficulty)and we were very glad to be able to get the gear out and drive home for Christmas.

 

  The big change in 1998, especially from my point of view was that for a number of years Magic had been transporting the sound gear in one truck whilst the lighting rig was moved around in a truck owned by Kevin Cain, who had been responsible for this side of the show. It was felt that it was becoming more economically sound to cease using their own crew and to put everything in the hands of Kevin and his crew - both sound and lighting - and for him to move it around in at first two box wagons and then later an articulated truck. I was now to travel with the band and not be involved in the main set up and load out. This meant I had to travel to Doncaster first to meet up with them and then travel on to wherever. Mostly this was much better for me and sometimes it meant going to Doncaster to come back on myself depending on where we finished any run of dates. After 30 years of humping gear I was allowed a life of ease.

 

  On 13 December we once again played on Sunday night at the London Palladium, and once again it was a special thrill to be able to work here. The promoter at one point talked about The Royal Albert Hall, but nothing materialised . The year finished off with another Magic special mystery trip. On Friday 18 December we played near Sandown on the Isle of Wight ; the next night we were in Kilmarnock, near Glasgow. I sometimes thought we were sponsored by the Guinness Book of Records.

 

  1999 followed the pattern of the previous years in that after a quiet start in January, it started to get busier and by March we were busy and it continued like this through April and May. In mid-March we flew out to the middle east again going to the Ramada Hotel in Doha, Qatar to perform there again, and then on to Dubai to play at the Emirates Golf Club. This is a golf course constructed out in the desert just outside Dubai; from what I see now Dubai has spread out quite a lot so the golf course probably isn’t so far out now. My main memory of the gig was having to spend all day putting the hired gear together ( most of it was so new it was still in boxes) working right at the side of a very inviting pool and never having the chance to dive in. I never gave a thought to protecting my head from the sun and paid for it when we came home.

 

  

The Emirates Golf Club Dubai.

 

  During the summer months we found ourselves playing more and more outdoor shows. On the 3 July Magic appeared at Dyrham Park, a National trust property near Chippenham. It was one of those grand stately homes that seemed to be staging more of this kind of thing. Great shows to do when the weather co-operates and there seems to be a special atmosphere about them. A few days later, we worked at Epsom Racecourse. There was an evening meeting, and acts were brought in to entertain the punter after. I’d worked at various racecourses before whilst freelancing in the corporate field, but this was the first time I’d been at one when racing was going on. Later in the month we did Esher National Trust and then Gibside Chapel near Gateshead.

 

     

 

  By mid to late 1999, I had been working with Magic for close to ten years and for a variety of reasons it was becoming clear that it would be best if I should move on and allow fresh ears to provide the sound for the band. So it was agreed in August that I would continue to work for Magic until early September, when a new man could be brought in. So it was that on 5 September at the Aberdeen Music Hall I did my last gig as sound engineer for the band . I had a great time with them , at times good fun and at times hard graft, but always eventful and interesting. It gave me the opportunity to see places I would never otherwise seen and to work in places I could scarcely imagined only a few years before."

 

 

The poster used to advertise the Gorky Park event.

Joe Moss: July 2011

 

bill@lankybeat.com

 

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