The Who USA tour
Ready for the road
Thursday June 8 1989. Hooray! It's my last dental appointment today! The false teeth have been taken out, and the 'new' permanent false teeth, which were specially handmade to fit my mouth and to look like my old 'natural' teeth, were cemented in place today. I'm well pleased! The punch-up actually did me more than one favour. My old teeth were rotten and blue and broken in chips, as a result from too many drunken falls and collisions with glass table tops, concrete paths, etc, etc, etc. Now my teeth look fantastic again! ......
Saturday, June 10 1989. I flew to New York today to start the 1989-90 Who tour of the USA. Sue stayed behind for a bit, but will join me there shortly. I hated to leave her in that 'Binbrook' pit of a caravan, but her daughter came up to stay with her until she flew to the USA to join me. I booked into the Ramada Renaissance Hotel, in room 440, Saratoga Springs, New York State. Yee-haw! America, here we come!
Monday, June 12 1989. The Who rehearse in Glen Falls Civic Center. There's been a slight problem here already. Last night we all hit the town to paint it red, because here, in Glen Falls, the bars stay open all night. Obviously, if they were open all night, then I was gonna be awake all night, and I was. I knew we had to rehearse the next day, but that night I found a particular club that had a piano in it, and of course, as soon as the management found out that I played with The Who, (which information I had dropped into the hat, just to get noticed and maybe a bit better service) I was asked to play a little tune or two, or all night as it turned out, at the club for the customers. People were buying me drinks right and left, and their applause for me was so overwhelming that I played on, and on, and on, and on. In fact, I played until the place emptied out for the night, 6a.m. in the morning. Afterwards, I meandered (stumbled) my way alone back to the hotel, and went to bed. But before I went to bed I called the front desk and left a message with the person on the desk. The message went: "Hello, this is Rabbit. I play keyboards for The Who. I am just going to bed, so, if anybody calls for me, put a 'do not disturb' block on the phone. Just tell whoever it is that 'Rabbit is not working today, period!" Then I went to sleep, or should I say, passed-out. The next thing I knew was that 'Kiddo', the road manager and 'looker after' of all us musos in the band, was in my room, shaking me and tugging at me to get me out of bed and get my ass down to rehearsal. (How the hell did he get in my room!) I told him, "I can't go, man", and he said, "Rabbit, Pete is gonna flip out!" I said, "Tough! I'm knackered and no good to anybody." Kiddo said that he had to go on, and that I was to get out of bed, and get a taxi, and make my own way to rehearsal. Then he left me there in bed. I slowly managed to get myself out of bed, got ready, and sorted out a taxi to take me to work. What a horrible 'hung-over' ride that was! It was miles to the rehearsal and the Sun light was blinding me and my hangover was bad. But, I finally arrived, and heard the band playing at full steam. When I walked into the room, the band stopped, and Pete said, "Rabbit, can I have a word with you?" I said, "Sure Pete." He said, "Not here, but back in the dressing room." For some distorted reason I was expecting sympathy, but in fact the very first thing Pete said to me was, "You're Sacked!" It hit me like a ton of bricks. I said, "But Pete, I thought we were friends. Don't sack me. I love this gig." He said, "You don't give a shit about this band, period!" That also hit me like a ton of bricks because he knows very well that I love working with the band, and that I love them all, personally, as friends. We'd been through a lot together. They are like family. Again I said, "But we're supposed to be friends. You can't sack me." When I said that, Pete's face twisted all up, because he know it's true and just for him to say those words to me, "You're sacked", hurt him a lot. Anyway, we went back out on to the stage where Pete informed everybody there that he was going back to the hotel, and that "Rabbit is to stay seated behind his keyboards, but he is not allowed to play a single note, or touch any keyboard! If he does, then I want it reported back to me!" He was 'very Mad'. Pete left, and I sat there at my keyboards while the rest of the band continued sound checking and running through the numbers in the set. John Entwistle stayed as well, and Roger Daltrey was still on a plane, in the air, on his way to New York with the manager, Bill Curbishley. Neither of them had a clue what had been going on. When the two of them arrived and spoke to Pete, he told them the situation, that "Rabbit has been sacked."
Tuesday, June 13 1989. Following on with the drama of yesterday, there was a gloom and doom atmosphere all over the hotel, because of my wild behaviour. I messed up bad. Bill Curbishley came to my room and said, "Pete is persistent that you are sacked. There's only two choices that you have. The first is to fly back to England, to accept defeat with the booze, and be thrown off the tour, carry on drinking, and probably be dead before the tour ends. The second choice is that I will make a proposition to Pete. The proposition is that if you really want to do this tour, then you have to agree to do the rest of the tour without one drink, completely 'dry'. I know you can't do it without help, so if you want to stay on the job, I insist that you join the AA - Alcoholics Anonymous, and go to meetings with me in every town we go to." I never knew Bill was in the AA. He said, "It won't be easy, but if Pete accepts the proposition, then you may be able to keep your job." I said, "YES!", straight away. Pete accepted and I joined the AA immediately, across the street from the hotel, and started going to meetings with Bill. Thanks Bill. That's actually the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me. He cared about me as a drunk, and showed me the right way to go with it. Pete was still hurt, and very angry for a long time after this fiasco however, and gave me some pretty mean and dirty looks when we were on stage. He meant business! But at the same time, knew that I had seen light at the end of the tunnel, so was willing to support me on the issue. Nice one Pete. I don't blame him. I'm sorry Pete, and thanks for the support, and another chance, and I thank Bill for saving my life. Never mind The Who! Just thanks for keeping Rabbit alive for a little longer. Thanks also to Roger for supporting me through this too, especially since Roger was against having me in the band from the very beginning, in 1979. He knew I would be trouble. They'd all seen it with Keith Moon, and I was going down the same road as he did. Roger has been a 'stone wall' of support ever since, that I can lean on when I feel trouble ahead. Nice one Rog...
Saturday, July 22 1989. Flying High... We returned back to Chicago after our gig at Alpine Valley, in Wisconsin. There were helicopters on offer to fly us back to Chicago, but No thanks! I'll walk. I ain't getting into no helicopter! Oh good, there's a nice 4 wheel bus over there, sitting firmly on the ground. I think I'll go back to Chicago in that and relax. No booze so far.
Sunday, July 30 1989. Stringfellows, Miami. After the show tonight in Miami, The Joe Robbie Stadium, we all went to Stringfellows club for a night out. By this time I had figure out a way to have a drink without anyone seeing me do it. Uh-oh!. Here we go again! The easiest way to drink secretly in public is to:
- 1) Make sure you get your own drinks from the bar. Everyone will think your getting a coke or a soft-drink, cause you're on the wagon.
- 2) Order a cranberry juice, watch the barman pour it, and when he gets about 2/3rds in the glass, stop him quick, and say, "You might as well fill the rest up with vodka, no ice please."
- 3) Order a 'virgin' pina colada, and again, at the last minute, tell him to fill it with rum.
- 4) Drink fast and get rid of your glass, so nobody has a chance to smell what was in it.
- 5) Stay away from everybody, but if you mingle, stand around people you know are getting drunk, then when your boss comes to say hello, he'll think he's smelling the booze off everybody else.
- 6) Smoke a big joint of grass, and blow the smoke all over your clothes. Then when you stumble around from the booze, they will all think, "Poor Rab, he can't drink so he's getting real stoned instead. Look at him stumbling all over the place."
Anyway, I stayed there until closing time, cause I found the piano and was entertaining all the guests, until they were all chucked out. That's cool, I played to the janitors and bottle washers. As long as there's one or two people there, I have an audience. Peter Stringfellow came up to the piano, and I thought, "Oh shit, this is it! I'm gonna be chucked out too, and just when I'm on a ‘high'! I could have easily kept playing until he opened up the next night. I was that drunk. Sailing! But, to my surprise, Peter got me another drink and joined in the sing-song. He let me play on until I just fell over, and off the piano bench. Then he chucked me out, nicely though. Stringfellow is actually a very nice, caring man, even though his lifestyle would make you think otherwise. Thanks Peter Stringfellow, but you shouldn't have given me that last drink. In fact you shouldn't have even let me in the club that night.
Monday, July 31 1989. Sue's coming.............Yee-haw !!!!!! I'm getting ready for Sue to arrive from England. She hasn't been on this 'leg' of the tour yet, so she's missed all the fun and games. Ha! But, she will soon join in. I'm missing Sue, and getting very lonely.
Thursday, August 3 1989. Sue's here! She's here! I'm going to pick her up at Miami Airport in a nice Big limousine. The champagne on ice is waiting in the limo. (Hang on a minute, I thought I was supposed to be on the wagon!) What a holiday this is gonna be. "Sue, get ready!"...
Friday, August 4 1989. Yachts. Me, Sue, Bill and Jackie Curbishley, Bob Pridden (the who's long-time sound-man), the photographer and his wife, and a couple of other people hired a yacht and went cruising around Miami waters. It was fabulous. (No booze here though. Bill Curbishley would have thrown me over-board, guaranteed!) The skipper of the yacht told us that he used to be John Wayne's skipper on this very yacht. He even showed us the bedroom that John Wayne slept in. There was even a 'ten gallon' cowboy hat, which belonged to Wayne, on the pillow, so says the skipper. Who knows?! After all, this is 'America'... We also sailed past the area where 'all' of the seriously rich and famous have their Miami mansions. Julio Igleses type stars, etc. I'm not really into staring at somebody else's house though, so that was a bit boring. I couldn't give a shit where other people live! What's it to me?! After that, we stopped the yacht and moored at a beach so we could have lunch and go swimming. There was a little cove near, and to the left of the main restaurant building, where a wild 'manatee' was swimming around. The locals said it came there regularly and that the restaurant owners fed it, so it was a bit like having a 'wild pet'. Apparently it's favourite food was lettuce. We were all standing there, looking at it, when Bill Curbishley said, "Rabbit, I dare you to jump in the water with that manatee and swim with it, and feed it up close." So, anything for a dare, I immediately jumped straight into the water, fully clothed, sober as a judge. I don't know what made me do it, except maybe the excitement of being near a 'real' wild animal, so close. I jumped in and everyone busted out laughing, unbelieving that I actually took up Bill's dare. It scared the manatee to death, so it disappeared. There I was, fully clothed, in the water. I thought, "Shit, it ran off!" But, after the water settled, the manatee swam slowly back towards me. It was brilliant! I put some lettuce in my hand, and out-stretched my arm. It gently nibbled the lettuce right out of my hand. It was a great experience. I fed it just like I would a dog. Fabulous! I got pictures to prove it. The manatee's mouth felt soft, just like a big ole' golden retriever's slobbery mouth. What a great day it's been. I felt better sober, and the fact that I could still do wild and whacky things, without being drunk, was a relief to my healing consciousness. Thanks Bill, for inviting me and Sue.
Friday, October 6 1989. Trouble at the NEC. Roger Daltrey pissed me off tonight, after the gig at the Birmingham NEC, England. Me and Sue were sitting around backstage, when Roger came up to me, out of the blue, and started swearing and cursing at me. He said something to the effect of, "Rabbit, you fucked up the whole show tonight! " Apparently, at one point in the show, the hammond organ was too loud, and it threw his singing off. But, hang on, I don't control the volume of the band out front! He pays somebody a lot of money to do just that - 'Mix the Sound'. All I do is play the fucking instruments. I don't control how loud it is out front, in the house. Sue told him to 'fuck-off'. I should have hit him. It was very embarrassing in front of all those people backstage. But, being the coward that I am, I didn't feel like it warranted losing the gig that I love so much, by fighting with the 'lead singer'. What is it with lead singers!? It's like they think they are the only reason that bands exist, just for them show off their egos in front of a huge crowd. Without us good musicians playing good music behind them, they would sound like shit anyway. Do a test, sing on stage with crap musos at one gig, and then do another gig with real great musos, and then read the reviews for the two gigs back to back. See what the punters say, and give your band a bit more respect Rog! Don't treat me like a Dog, muther-fucker! I ain't chasing any sticks ! Afterwards, Pete came up to console me by politely telling me not to pay any attention to Daltrey, and to forget it. Rog was just in one of his moods. "FUCK THAT!", I said. Mood or no mood, there's ways to deal with people, and he ain't yet learned the rules, Rabbits rules on how you deal with ME! And roger failed the course. I was red with embarrassment for the fact that I sat there a took it, and didn't stand up for myself. If I had hit him, not only would I have lost my gig, but he would have most likely beat the shit out of me, and put me in hospital, what a cunt he can be at times. Not most of the times, but when he feels like it, he can be a right cunt. Apart from that, I think he is a great guy. A bit full of himself, but good right down to his heart. You don't really mess with guys like Roger though. He's tough. He's 'all front' and 'all bite', as the saying doesn't go...
Sunday, September 3 1989. Another USA Tour Done. This is our last gig on this tour. The venue is The Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas. The ill-fated Stevie Ray Vaughn supported us on this one. What a fabulous guitar player and singer he was. Sadly, he died later in a helicopter crash while supporting Eric Clapton on his tour of America. Sadly missed...
Monday, September 4 1989. That's it!... That's it. I made it through another exciting Who tour of America. Endless airplane flights, hotels, sound-checks, long nights, etc. Now me and Sue will have a well earned rest and holiday with my Mom and Dad in Houston. We flew from Dallas to Houston, took a limousine from the airport to their riverside cottage in Cleveland, Texas, about an hour and a half ride. When we arrived in this huge limo at their place, which is actually in the back-waters of the Trinity River, the driver was astonished. He thought we had led him to a place, where surely, no human beings could survive, must less live in. Mom insisted on sitting in the limo, (she'd never even saw one before-her son had come home in 'big style'). She wanted her picture taken in a real limousine, while using the telephone in the limo. Real style for a back-water lady. We gave the driver a drink and he had a bit of a rest at the riverside. In the end, he really liked it there, and could finally see why someone would want to live there. Complete serenity! It is a very beautiful experience to be there. Off the driver went, and that's it. I'm back to being and average, everyday 'Joe' again. I only live the 'high-life' when I work with The Who. Apart from that, I am just a "poor boy with a dream."
Sunday, September 17 1989. Wedding Bells... Me and Sue decided to get married on this Tour of America, so we decided to do it at Mom and Dad's riverside home, where I had romped as a teenager all those high school years ago. It was a brilliant wedding. The place was over-run with friends and relatives. People I hadn't seen for years and years. I invited Johnny Nash, (my old friend who had the hit, 'I Can See Clearly Now') and his wife Carlie and their two children. I must say, that Texas is still so racist, that my Dad had to call all of his racist neighbours and warn them that "A 'black' family is coming to John and Sue's wedding here at the house. If ya'll can't handle the fact that there will be black people here, then don't bother to come to the wedding." I couldn't believe what I was hearing, listening to him on the phone. Ain't it weird that all that stuff still goes on?! Fortunately, I am so famous in the 'back of the woods', that black people or not, all the woods-people were dying to see the famous John Bundrick, of The Who, whose mom and dad are their neighbours. (Even my mom gets recognised when she goes to the supermarket.) So what if they had to eat a piece of wedding cake that maybe a black man had eaten from too. Silly ain't it? When Johnny Nash arrived, he came slowly walking up to this hoard of backwoods, white country folk, not knowing quite what to expect. Then, as if rehearsed for hours, every white person there stood up and gave him a standing ovation of rupturous applause. Johnny looked behind him to see what or who they were all applauding, and there was no one else there. You can't see a black person blush, but I promise you, Johnny Nash did! He didn't know if he was being accepted, or being applauded as 'dinner' to be put in a pot and cooked over the bar-b-que pit. But, he was warmly accepted. After all, he is famous, so the crowd had a good day. Two famous people, a wedding, all they could drink, and lots of bar-b-que. Who could ask for more? The wedding turned out great! Uncle Rusty, mom's twin bother, gave Sue away. Instead of having wedding music played, we went for country and western music. After we said our 'I do's', we marched back up to the house from the wedding pier on the river, and the music of Bob Will's and the Texas Playboys rang out of the speakers. It was a real cowboy wedding. Me and Johnny Nash even did a little set of piano and singing for the friendly neighbours after lunch. It was brilliant'... I drank so much hard liquor and champagne, that I nearly came to 'blows' with my oldest brother, Bill. I refused to take Sue to the hotel that mom and dad had booked us, for our honeymoon. In all honest truth, I was just too drunk to move. And anyway, me and Sue had already been together for 11 years, so who needs a honeymoon?! We weren't gonna do anything we hadn't already been doing for the last 11 years, and we had just come off a tour where we saw nothing but hotels. I'd had enough of them, so no way am I going to another one. Mom and Dad's place is so nice, I just wanted to stay there, in the woods, near the river, and all the sounds of nature, not some cheap hotel with a black and white television, and no room service. No thanks! So, me and Bill had this 'brotherly argument' about the right thing to do as a 'Bundrick', and to him that meant getting my ass down to the hotel, and doing the manly thing. I yelled at him, "Bill, I've been doing the manly thing for 11 years. Now shut up, have a drink with me, or fuck-off! " I knew when to stop hassling him though, cause if I would have pushed him too far, he would have beat the shit out of me, wedding or no wedding. He's like Roger, but even tougher. He's a red-necking Truck driver, and don't take no shit from nobody. I'd feel mighty sorry for Rog if my brother got hold of him. He's like a dog. when he bites, he don't let go... Me and Sue had a great holiday, wedding, tour, and everything you could have dreamt for. Now it's time to go back to England. Back to the caravan in Binbrook, redundancy, no work, and no self-respect! What a come-down...
TUESDAY, MARCH 21 1989. Uh-oh! I got into a punch up in the pub, and got my front teeth knocked out! Oh shit! I've really gone and done it now. When I got back to the caravan in Binbrook, my front teeth were just hanging on by a thread. I laid in bed for hours, moaning and panicking, and then decided I'd have to go to a dentist specialist in Harley Street. I was fixing to spend a whole lot of money getting 'new' teeth put in my ugly mouth. I fixed up a 4:30 appointment on Wednesday, march 22, with doctor Norcliffe, Sue's family dentist in Harley Street, London. The dentist started the treatment by pulling the two hanging front teeth the rest of the way out. It looked like I'd been in a car wreck! I was drinking stupidly excessive, and it was bound to happen sooner or later. Somebody just had to shut my big gob up! And they did, big time- it all happened so fast. I was giving this guy a hard time, so he hit me as hard as he could, right in the middle of my teeth bang! It sobered me up straight away. I thought, "What the fuck was that! " My drinking must have been real bad, for someone to have to resort to violence to shut me up. It's not the first time, mind you. I don't blame the guy. I deserved it. I'm just glad he used his fist, and not his pint mug, which would have caused a lot more damage, and been a lot worse off, for my face. I'm so thankful for sue. Poor sue. I'm surprised she is still with me. I don't deserve her. But, with her help, and the help of a few caring friends, I am actually getting better, believe it or not! I still have bad days, but I'm usually conscious when I'm having them, so I still have a tiny bit of control. The dentist fit temporary false teeth in the front of my hole, but, it's gonna be fine. It's gonna work out good. He's a great dentist. I'm not worried at all. He's a fine dentist. And in the end, a 'Who' tour was just around the corner, so my luck was in. I was having all this dental work done, and in between dental appointments, I was going to Who rehearsals, so the money was right there to pay the dentist. The guys in the Who must have thought I was mad. "What has rabbit done now! We're fixing to go on tour, and he's having new teeth put in his face." Still, they were used to Keith moon, but I think they didn't want to go through that with me, so they just ignored the whole thing. The dentist told me, once he'd fitted in my 'newly crafted' front teeth, he said, "Mr. Bundrick, if you are ever in a car accident, the only teeth you are gonna lose, are the 'real' teeth that you have left. The permanently attached, pinned down, new teeth I have put in your mouth, are going to the grave with you. They are indestructable." That's what he said, no kidding, so if anybody out there wants to take a pop at me again, be sure to hit me in my two front teeth. that way I'll survive. Good times were ahead, though, and I knew it. I got a 'wake-up' call in the pub, and also I was going on an American tour with the Who. That would help pay for all the dental work. Who can complain at that! And I was gonna make so much money, that it was to enable me and sue to get out of the gutter, leave the poor life behind, and move into our very first 'house' house, of our own, in Grantham, Lincolnshire. No more slumming it in caravans and beach huts. Lovely, lovely. In fact, on Monday, December 18, our dream was realised. Me and Sue moved out of that dingy caravan, in Binbrook, and into our new house in Grantham. I completed the tour successfully, sort of, and my new teeth were in, and we had a new house, so all had a happy ending. yeeeee-hawwww !!!! Now, that I'm settled in, where did you say that nice, quiet, pub is? As it happens, during our stay in Grantham, over a few years, I unforuna1ely relapsed into drinking again, and managed to get myself permanently banned from entering any pub within a 5 mile radius of my house. The first to go was the pub on the corner of my street, then the one down the road, where the landlord actually threw me out by the scruff of my neck, and said, "Now fuck off, and never come back to my pub again, ever!" And the rest of the pubs followed suit. I was rendered a no-pub goer- the only way I could get a drink, was to go to the super-market, stock up on booze, and bring it all home with me, and sit in my little studio for nights on end, drinking it all away. The story goes on, but I was hopeless again. Maybe I should pay another visit to that pub in Binbrook, for another wake-up call? I don't think so!