VIEWS

PETE DONOVAN'S LETTER FROM AMERICA

February 10, 2002
I was sleeping peacefully in my bed in San Francisco, California on this Sunday morning, when I am stirred from my slumber at approximately 9.15AM by the sound of the telephone ringing. Not that I stirred much. It was Sunday morning. After all, who could possibly be calling at that time of day?
None other than Andy Davis requesting I start this letter from America business for the Stackridge web page. I was in no shape to converse with anyone at that ungodly hour.
Yes, Andy you were correct in your assessment that I was deep under the quilt vaguely aware of the answer machine kicking in.
As I didn't go to bed until after 2.00AM with two bottles of red wine consumed with much more glee than I was feeling this morning, as you would imagine, well you don't have to imagine do you?
So I'm lying there thinking in my befuddled state. Where do you start? What could they want to know? There are a ridiculous amount of years gone by. So I decided to try and attempt to bridge some of the years and life in America, as that seems to be the point of all this. But as this is also the Stackridge web page, I'm sure there is a lot interest in anecdotes from my days with the band.
So with that in mind I went off out into the 70 degrees of sunshine of San Francisco. (Sorry had to slip that in, gloat - moi?) I walked up and down the hills of Victorian houses that surround me. Taking it all in I began to think of how far I had come since those formative years of sitting in that khaki coloured long wheel base Transit van.
That was the Stackridge group van. We were dead chuffed at the time, because we had the long wheel base version and that was quite something in those days.
It actually came with Billy Bent, along with a Selmer 500Watt PA system. I tried, usually successfully to sit in the front along with Bill. I hasten to add at this point that I was the probably the only "Roadie" in the British Isles who didn't have a driving license.
In order to keep the front seat I enacted the time honoured tradition of "Roadies Privilege." It is purely academical that I was the one who instigated the tradition in the first place.
Crun would from time to time insist on some bass player rights to the front seat, but in time these became minor intrusions to my divine right of the Roadies Privilege.
But, there was a drawback to the front seat. Bill was good for about fifty miles before he would start falling asleep at the wheel. Day or night. It is even more remarkable when you consider he went on to become George Martins chauffer. If you are out there Bill, how did you manage?
So like every privilege, it came with a price. Mine was to sit perched upright, eyes glued to the road in the absence of Bills, whose could close at any minute.
I was never quite sure if he swerved violently on purpose to keep our knuckles white or he was actually having forty winks at the wheel?
It would be disingenuous to place too much emphasis on Bills driving techniques, as he had to do all the driving, owing to my own lack of paperwork in this department.
Before Bill joined Stackridge Lemon that was the original name as many of you aficionados will undoubtedly know?
There was one particular drummer we went to see in Oxford. Andy and I hitch hiked and Crun travelled in the aforementioned drummers sports car. As we were going to Oxford we donned college scarves in the hope it would assist in our getting lifts.
We did manage pretty well on the whole, apart from some farmer type in a battered old car that had no windscreen wipers and as it was pissing down this did pose some problems.
But our resourceful driver had a technique of keeping a large pair of underpants in the glove compartment, which he would wield with some energy with an arm outstretched wiping the windshield as we hurtled along country lanes.
I don't recall why the drummer did not get the gig, or even if we saw him play?
We did drink lots of beer though. So along came Bill in his van, fresh from "Johnny Car and the Cadillac's" and that sorted the lack of a drummer problem
So began the ritual of picking everyone up from their respective abodes in Bristol, before setting off on our forays onto the highways and byways of Britain.
Not too mention some really dodgy venues, no offence to Mike Tobin our manager. We would go anywhere for a fiver.
So that was how my life on the road started and ultimately lead me to here in San Francisco in the USA for the last fourteen years. A khaki Transit van with Billy Bent, Crun Walters, Andy Davis, James Warren, Mutter Slater, Mike Evans and yours truly.
Packed like Sardines in a can, all as mad as March hares, well apart from me that is.
America has been good to me. I became a citizen a few years ago.
It still bewilders sometimes when I get to place my vote for the President of the United States. No, I did not vote for George W. I did vote for Bill Clinton thought, being a registered Democrat. When you sign up to vote you have to state your allegiance to a party. The reason being is to deter you from taking potential votes away from another party nominee in the primaries. But, enough of politics.
It is time for me to take my evening walk. Who needs a treadmill when you have dirty gert hills to climb. Crun informs me he has taken a few liberties with my good name, so I am looking forward in these future pages to redressing the balance.
Don't worry I will get to them all in time. So it's goodnight from San Francisco and goodnight from me...
Peter Donovan