Did I ever tell you about the time I was on stage at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, the Mecca for all serious touring bands ? The Second City’s leading live music venue from the early seventies until the mid eighties as reviewed by our own Colin Jackson in his No Apologies – Apollo’s The Best article.
It was the 16th of February, 1979 on a quiet afternoon in McCormack’s Music Store where I worked. My boss Freddy was looking for a volunteer to help deliver a Fender Rhodes to the theatre. I was certainly up for it because I knew The Jacksons were coming to town. Not the Jackson Five or Michael Jackson, The Jacksons ! It’s easy as 1,2,3 !
A Fender Rhodes is an electric piano popular in the seventies. Unlike a standard piano it has tines instead of strings which resonate next to a pickup where the sonic goblins carry it to the ample flyer who ……………………look, I’m a saxophone player. I don’t know all that technical stuff ! All I know is, it has a warm pleasing bell like tone and it takes two people to carry it.
These days you don’t have to sell your car or your grandmother to get a decent electronic keyboard with hundreds upon hundreds of sounds and samples, bells and whistles that you can easily carry under your arm. You can bet that the first presets people search for are the vintage sounds of the seventies – grand and honky tonk pianos, Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, Hammond organ, clavinet, moog and mellotron.
Freddy and I carried the piano, gingerly stepping over electric cables trying to avoid knocking cymbal stands over on one of the most hallowed stages in the world. There was a rabble of roadies frantically moving stuff about, plugging things in. One two, one two. Some scampering up lighting rigs like frightened baboons. There were a couple of guys on bass and drums laying down a killer funky groove. I don’t know if they were backing band members or some frustrated technicians but it sounded sweet to me.
The din around me started to fade as I looked into the empty auditorium from my elevated spot on that stage. Yes, it was high up there.
The chants were getting louder.
We love you Johnny.
As I bent down to pick up the scattered flowers and discarded panties an enormous explosion shook me out of my reverie. Some unfortunate stagehand had unwittingly stepped on the trigger that detonated a firework display. It would have been mightily impressive in a dimly lit packed theatre at the end of a noisy gig but in an empty auditorium in the afternoon it was like a sonic boom. I don’t think I was the only one adjusting my underpants fearing the worst.
It turned out the gig was cancelled as the band were apparently snowed in in Geneva. At least they didn’t blame it on the boogie !
So I can’t even say I was testing out the stage for Michael and his brothers Jesse, Action, Glenda and…………………Colin.
(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2023)