Grimethorpe - A humourous look at their trip down under:
Andy Snell – one of Grimethorpe bands quieter members, recalls
the bands historic trip to the Southern Hemisphere and a series
of concerts the like the banding world in Australia and New Zealand
will never forget. They played like angels and behaved like devils
– but it was a trip they will never forget – if only some of them
could actually remember anything of what went on.
We're often asked "what's it really like on a tour with a top
band?" Here's your answer. We'd been booked by International Concert
Attractions to perform 14 concerts in 18 days on the other side
of the world and we set off from a dreary Manchester airport on
the first leg of our marathon journey. A great start.
Thanks to the organisational genius of British Airways the 8.30
shuttle flight to Heathrow left AFTER the 9.30 flight and we arrived
in London with 25 minutes to change terminals, board the plane and
get the luggage on the new flight. BA had arranged a coach for the
band from terminal 1 to terminal 4 and we got to the terminal with
enough time for Cliff Hopes to run into the duty free for some fags
for his wife! Having boarded the plane with just 5 minutes to spare
we the sat on the runway for an hour and a half! An even better
The delay was announced to the passengers as being due to the band's
luggage. (Typical BA – blame the Workers!) All the other passengers
(with whom we were to share the next 23 hours) were so pleased to
be sharing a flight with the famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band!!
After a brief duty free stop over in Singapore (more fags for Mrs
Hopes!) we arrived in Sydney at around 7.30 Tuesday night.
Have you guessed it yet?
NO LUGGAGE. None. No clothes, no money, no cameras, not even a
toothbrush. Initially BA refused any compensation, as the luggage
had not been lost for 24 hours. When a number of the larger members
of the band pointed out (fairly forcefully) that we had last seen
the cases in Manchester (over 24 hours ago) and that we knew Ann
Robinson, (You are the Weakest Link) we were granted 100 dollars
each to buy a change of clothes. For the larger members amongst
us, 100 dollars just about bought a tee shirt and clean Y fronts.
On the way to the hotel we realised however, that not many y-front
shops are open at 9.00 at night and when we reached our hotel to
find that it was on the edge of Sydney's red light district we decided
new clothes could wait. Things were looking up!
Elgar Howarth had advised us that when in Sydney we should visit
his favourite pub - The Lord Nelson, so after a quick check-in at
the Holiday Inn we piled into a fleet of taxis and headed off to
spend our BA handout.
We arrived at the Lord Nelson to discover that Mr Howarth had sent
us to a gay bar! Thanks Elgar! Still, by now our body clocks were
as unstable as most of the regulars in the Lord Nelson so we embarked
on a 'night on the tiles' which included vast amounts of beer, a
couple of dodgy Chinese take aways and what can only be described
as some 'late night entertainment' in the King’s Cross area. We
retired to bed at around 5.30 a.m.
The next morning Cliff arrived at breakfast proclaiming that the
bar around the corner gave out t-shirts if you could drink large
amounts of the local beers and that he had won a lovely shirt there,
so didn't need to buy a change of shirt!! The fact that his shirt
had cost him his $100 in beer didn't seem to bother him much.
Most of the band spent the day relaxing in 42-degree heat on the
beach at Manly - sunburn count - high! We don’t get much call for
Ray Bans and bikinis in Grimethorpe in Jauary. Principal Trombone,
Jonathan Beatty bought a new pair of swimming trunks, and spent
the day wandering round a beach in the gay capital of the southern
hemisphere with the makers name – SPANK - written on his backside!
By the middle of the afternoon the luggage arrived at the hotel,
with one notable absentee - the music case. So here we were, 24
hours before our first sold-out concert 13,000 miles away from our
library with no music. Things were taking a bit of a down turn.
But hey, we were on the beach getting burnt so we left it to the
airline and the tour manager. After another night in King’s Cross,
we retired to bed at 6.30 a.m. Our bodies thought it was 11.00pm
back in England so we felt we weren’t abusing our musical professionalism!
Thursday. First concert, no music yet. Cliff missed breakfast,
but was now the proud owner of two new t-shirts! The music arrived
2 hours before we left for Wollongong, having finally been found
in Los Angeles, and we set off for the venue. We had been told that
Wollongong was Grimethorpe-by-Sea but Grimey doesn't have a 3,000-seat
concert venue or a fantastic sun-kissed beach, but hey, minor differences!
We played the Entertainment Centre (sold out) a week before Deep
Purple and there were a few members of the band whose post-performance
antics would fit better into the rock-star lifestyle. We retired
to bed at 6.00 a.m. Our bodies are temples you know.
Friday. Australia Day. Cliff arrived at breakfast as the proud
owner of three new t-shirts. Nine of the band were bright eyed and
bushy tailed, as they hadn 't had a drink the night before. Why?
They were climbing the Harbour Bridge and before you go up the bridge
you have to take a breath test. The look of fear on Dave Barraclough's
face when he blew into the tube - he thought he would fail from
the amount he had drunk two days previous! We all passed and set
off up the bridge.
Australia Day is a big deal in Oz. Unlike St. George's day in Englanf,
it is a public holiday with loads to do and after watching a Tall
Ships Race from the steps up the bridge and being filmed by TV news
helicopters, we had our photos taken and reached the top. As we
climbed back down the Australian Air Force did a 12-plane fly-by
of the bridge and the Aussie red Arrows did a display over the Opera
Kevin 'Papa Smurf' Wadsworth (who had recently been sacked by his
band for being too old) was heard to remark F**K Brighouse! We were
told by our climb leader that we were her first celebrity climb,
and Grimethorpe are now resident on their ‘wall of fame’, where
they post pictures of all the famous climbers they’ve had – including
Steve Redgrave and Kylie Minogue. Bet you never thought you’d see
Grimey with Kylie, eh?
We had a concert that night in Newcastle, hometown of YBS conductor
Dave King (so we went down well) and so arrived back at the hotel
late before heading off into King's Cross. We retired at 5.30 a.m.
All Olympic athletes now.
Due to the lateness of our return the night before Cliff arrived
at breakfast with only one new t-shirt to his credit - a poor night.
Saturday was the day our ambitions were realised.
The venue - Sydney Opera House. Papa Smurf did a live link up
to the GMR breakfast show just before we went on stage and played
to a packed hall who loved every minute of it and gave us three
standing ovations at the end. What a night! Rep player Gary Owen
was prouder than most as his Mum and Dad had travelled especially
from North Wales to attend the concert.
After a night like that you can't sleep so we stayed up and watched
Man Utd getting knocked out of the F.A. cup. We watched in the famed
t-shirt bar, and as the kick off wasn't until 4.00 a.m. none of
us were in any fit state to remember the result at breakfast the
next morning. Our drinking was not measured in how many pints we'd
drunk, but how many t-shirts we'd got!
Sunday was our final day in Sydney, so after some final sight seeing
and souvenir shopping we played to another capacity audience at
the Hills Centre on the outskirts of town before re-acquainting
ourselves one last time with the bars of Kings Cross.
At breakfast the next morning Cliff's tally of t-shirts had reached
an astounding eight and, with his roommate Dave Barraclough room
312 had amassed twelve 'I drank my way around Australia' T-shirts.
We left Sydney on the 11.30 flight to Auckland – We had conquered
Oz and now New Zealand beckoned.
I will release details of our trip the Land of the Long White
Cloud in due course.