wed 13/12/2017

Tales From the Tour Bus: Rock 'n' Roll on the Road, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews

Tales From the Tour Bus: Rock 'n' Roll on the Road, BBC Four

Tales From the Tour Bus: Rock 'n' Roll on the Road, BBC Four

A tale of bands in vans that, for the most part, stuck to familiar routes

Fairport Convention, for whom touring took a terrible turn

This latest Friday night vehicle for archive footage and pop performances was the tour bus, as BBC4 invited us to hop into the back of the van for a quick spin through the "golden age" of touring rock bands (which the producers clearly felt ended with the Eighties).

The designated driver was high priest of prog pomposity Rick Wakeman – but long gone are the flowing locks and gowns that were once his trademark, replaced by a look that falls somewhere between youngish Bill Maynard and overstuffed straw pillow. Given the subject matter – the often harsh reality of life for a touring band – this seemed about right and, in keeping with the theme, he presented from behind the wheel of his Dodge Ram van, bought out of his frustration at the rigmarole of air travel. Now, I’m not one to judge – and Rick seems a usually pragmatic sort – but this is a move that makes as much sense as buying an abacus to combat poor server speeds. Still, it fits nicely with the theme I guess.

As a presenter, Wakeman was a good choice, his affable, blokey delivery and keen ear for the Have I Got News For You rhythms that the BBC use in place of punchlines these days, held the interest on the occasions where the talking heads fell short. Not that this was the fault of the contributors themselves – indeed, it was refreshing to see, and hear, bands such as The Birds (Ali McKenzie) and The Pretty Things (Phil May) represented alongside more familiar fare. The problem for the main part was that listening to someone tell anecdotes involving people you don’t know, that took place at a party to which you weren’t invited, can just be a bit… dull. You really did have to be there, it seems.

There was a real sense that remembering it was more fun than living it

That’s not to say there wasn’t anything of substance or interest here, it’s just that you had to wade through achingly predictable reminiscences of bad behaviour, rock excess and pissholes cut into the floor of the van (okay, I didn’t see that last one coming) to get to it. Hearing Simon Nicol recall the crash that devastated Fairport Convention and left drummer Martin Lamble dead, punched home with real force. As did Motörhead’s “(We Are) The Road Crew”, played to herald the section of the programme dedicated to the nomadic tour heroes, the roadies. Occupying a space somewhere between noble Bedouin and shit-flinging orangutans, their persistence, durability and sheer drive was truly awe inspiring. Or disturbing. One of those two, for sure.

It was, fittingly enough, as the programme wore on that it managed more successfully to convey a sense of what it was really like after the tellies had been thrown and the adrenaline spent. Norman Watt-Roy and Wilko Johnson – always entertaining – explained the backbreaking realities of having to take on the dual roles of band member and roadie with unquenchable enthusiasm, and there were captivating memories from Aswad's Brinsley Forde and Brian James and Rat Scabies of the Damned. The overall tone seemed to shift down a gear as we drew to a close – the odd head dropped, a few eyes dipped and there was a real sense that remembering it was more fun than living it. It’s hardly a surprise though – roadies don’t mummify each other naked in cellophane because they’re having a great time, they do it because they’re bored shitless.

Anecdotes involving people you don’t know, that took place at a party to which you weren’t invited, can just be a bit… dull

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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