From Newcastle Via Nottingham And La To Milan – A Musical Journey
By Special Guest Diary Writer Tina Winter.
September 27, 2007
It’s been a momentous year for the yourmindandwe family – Keith and I were married for 30 years in January, Keith retired from a long career in teaching in April and our son Jim graduated from University – so we decided we needed a good holiday to celebrate. I’d been to LA a few years ago with Lizzy and loved it so much, and vowed I’d go there sometime again with Keith and Jim, so California it was, in July. Didn’t manage to catch up with all the folks I’d hoped to over there, but we did have dinner one night with Mike and Hannah Randle in the Olde Kings Head English Pub in Santa Monica.
Mike told us about this great project that Baby Lemonade had been asked to take part in – the London Sinfonietta were going to recreate the Sgt Pepper album 40 years after its release at a special concert in Milan, so they needed to get together a cast of rock musicians. The folks at the Sinfonietta spoke to Glenn Max, who is a big wheel at the South Bank centre in London, and mentioned that they wanted it to be something like Arthur Lee and Love recreating Forever Changes…and Glenn said “I know those guys, I’ll check to see if they’re free” – and they were. Mike also said if we could get there, we’d be on the guest list.
At the stage where Mike was telling us about this, none of the guest vocalists were on board, but you could tell it was going to be something special. I immediately texted Lizzy – about 5am Newcastle time – something along the lines of “Leave 21 st September free, we’re off to Milan” – a quick “OK” came back.
Fast forward to 21 st September – thanks to the wonder of Ryanair, Lizzy and Chris and winging their way to Milan from Newcastle and Jim and I are on our way from Nottingham East Midlands Airport. We all manage to meet up at 4.30pm by the big blue milk bottle in the absolutely ginormous Milan Central Station, and then it’s off by taxi (with a suitably crazy Italian taxi driver) to our hotel, which is a very nice building based on a very old palazzo in Sesto San Giovanni in the Milan hinterland.
The concert is at the Fiero Milano, a huge exhibition center several miles outside Milan. Another taxi over there (not quite so crazy this time) and we arrive. We ask on the door how to get to the concert – its about a 20 minute walk along a long corridor with exhibition halls off – this being Milan they seem to be mainly full of shoes and bags, although there’s also a big music trade fair going on. We eventually get to the reception for the gig – Mike is true to his word, there are tickets waiting for us. A walk down another long corridor and we’re outside where a big stage is set up in the car park at the back of the building.
It all seems very chaotic at this point – there is a small area just in front of the stage with seats, then barriers and a lot of people standing up. We walk down to the front and there seem to be lots of arguments going on about who can get into this cordoned off area. There are also a number of policemen (with guns – we don’t get that in the UK) and also Italian firemen – are they expecting trouble? Anyway, I nab one of the officials and it seems that yes, with the tickets we have, we can get into the inner sanctum down the front. Mike Randle’s name is mentioned and all the ladies say “ Oh Mike Randle, yes” with beams on their faces, so Mike seems to have worked his magic there as well.
So we’re sitting at the front, with what seems like a baying horde behind us, they’re not very happy at all, and we feel slightly uncomfortable with the situation. Things are still happening at the front, and an Italian gentleman comes onto the stage and starts to talk to the crowd. Our Italian is hardly fluent (for that read non-existent), but it seems that the barrier is coming down, the seats are being taken away, and it’s becoming an all-standing concert. Fine by us, and it means we have time to get to the front, to get a good view and take some pics, before the angry mob is allowed through, which happens without major incident (maybe something to do with those armed policemen).
Then we’re off. The 25 piece orchestra troop on stage, with conductor. Then the band including new addition Todd Jaeger on keyboards – he looks like Dave Chapple crossed with Jack White. Screams and waves from our party at the front (well at least the female portion) – Lizzy actually saw the Beatles live when she was about 12 – its like Beatlemania all over again 40 years on. Mike, Daddyo and Chapple are all together at the left of the stage, and Rusty is all by himself over on the right – it’s a big stage. The orchestra starts off then Mike and Rusty come in with that famous opening riff from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, Rusty on vocals. They sound great – and we’re such a lovely audience – and then Rusty’s introducing the one and only Billy Shears….
Aka Jarvis Cocker. “With a little help from my friends”.
Followed by Beth Orton “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
Badly Drawn Boy “Getting Better”
Alex Chilton “Fixing a hole”
Marianne Faithfull “She’s Leaving Home”
The Residents “Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite”
Peter Murphy “Within You Without You”
Russell Mael “When I’m Sixty Four”
Badly Drawn Boy “Lovely Rita”
Robin Hitchcock “Good Morning, Good Morning”
Then the band – Sgt Pepper reprise
Marianne & Jarvis “A day in the life”
Robin Hitchcock “I am the Walrus”
Russell Mael “It’s all too much”
Peter Murphy “Tomorrow Never Knows”
Everybody “All you need is Love”
Highlights for me:
Jarvis – I’ve seen him perform with Pulp – he was great and a lot less laconic, almost cheerful , than I remember him being a few years ago
Peter Murphy – not an artist I was particularly familiar with, but a great performer, the most theatrical of the evening, throwing petals around the stage, and obviously big in Italy judging by the shouts of “Peeterre – Peeterre” that rang out whenever he appeared
The Residents – lead singer with a weird mask on and the rest of the band with big eye balls on their heads, and bashing away on laptops, doing a great “Mr Kite”
Marianne performing “She’s leaving Home” – backed by the orchestra without the band, with Rusty and Dave Chapple doing backing vocals – real hair standing up on the back of the neck stuff
The orchestra building up to a crescendo on “A Day in the Life”…..
Hey, it was all great. A tremendous experience all round. What struck me is how versatile musically the Baby Lemonade guys are, and what great vocalists – Rusty particularly was singing for a large proportion of the show. Sgt Pepper is a big drumming album and Daddyo took on the Ringo mantle with aplomb. It seemed to go down very well with the Italian audience as well.
Sgt Pepper is another one of the albums, like “Forever Changes” that had a deep and lasting effect on me when I first heard it in my teens – I remember going round to my friend Barbara Lockhart’s house in Forest Hall on the outskirts of Newcastle and us putting this LP with a really weird cover on her tinny little record player, and the sounds coming out just being amazing, like nothing we’d ever heard before. It still sounds great now but in 1967 it really was revolutionary, and to hear and see it performed on stage like that from start to finish, with a great orchestra, a brilliant band and outstanding vocalists was just out of this world.
My son tells me that I’m not very objective in these matters, but I don’t care – and he really enjoyed it as well.
Mike did his usual coming out at the end of the gig to speak to people as well, the only artist that did. We saw Brummy Jim and his mates then as well, they were over in Milan for a few days and were off to the San Siro on Saturday evening. A quick beer with them, then off on that 20 minute walk again to get another taxi back to the hotel.
To be continued…by Lizzy B