Saturday, January 27, 2007

Roadie Report 22 - Germany, Denmark & Cardiff by Camilla McGuinn

Danish Street (photo by Camilla)

The German autobahn is a delightful roadway on which to put the pedal to the metal. The drivers keep a safe distance and only drive in the passing lane when they are passing. Some of them are passing all the time - at about 200 mph.

Roger found a comfortable speed at 200klm/h, I found one at 160klm/h. The roads are in very good condition but we found ourselves laughing, “The good news is you can go as fast as you want. The bad news is – you can’t!" There was road construction every 50 miles. The GPS had a great feature. It would pick up on traffic jams and tell us in a very refined voice, “Traffic ahead. Recalculating route. Thanks to the GPS, we can say that we drove the country roads of Germany.

Le Meridian Hotel in Hamburg is a few blocks away from Lange Reihe, the restaurant row of the neighborhood. We strolled down the street, peering in the restaurant windows looking more for ambiance than for food. Our knowledge of the German language was rusty, so we were hoping that when we found the right lighting and tablecloths, there would be a helpful waiter. It didn’t take long before I saw the table I wanted to sit at for the evening’s feast. It was a corner table, by the window in an Italian restaurant, Casa Di Roma. There was a good chance we might be able to decipher something on an Italian menu written in German.

The first person to greet us inside the restaurant door didn’t want to seat us at the table I wanted, but a more authoritative gentleman saw our reluctance to follow the greeter and came to our rescue. He returned my smile and guided us to the prize spot in the restaurant. As he seated us, I asked in my best English, “Do you take credit cards?” “ Of course Madame.” he replied in better English. He was our table captain for the evening and it was not only romantic, it was delicious.

My original plan for travel to Copenhagen was to take the ferry, but the GPS knew that the new bridge connecting the islands of Denmark was the faster way to go. The big new bridge is a toll bridge and I only slightly panicked when I realized I was going to have to choose the right lane to get into and how to pay. We ended up in a credit card only lane and thankfully it accepted our card.
We didn’t have a clue how much the toll was until we checked our card statement later in the week. It was almost $35.

The concert promoters in Denmark arranged the hotels and the majority of them were very good. Most of them were close to the downtown areas which made it easy to discover the charm of the cities. The streets of Esbjerg, Denmark (photo by Camilla)

In Copenhagen the Danish agent, Bent, arranged a radio interview for Roger. He emailed me that Robin Cox, the interviewer, would meet us at our hotel and guide us on a 30 minute drive to Roskilde. Then he told me Robin is blind. I started shaking my head. So we were going to have a blind guide. Hmm, sounded like a case of the blind leading the blind. I emailed back and asked if that seemed strange to anyone? In the end, Robin and a sighted friend of his picked us up at the hotel and drove us to Roskilde.

Robin is a fascinating gentleman with an incredible radio voice. His father is English, so his accent sounds like a very proper 1940’s English actor. When he mentioned that he had read the night before, I started shaking my head again, “You just said you read Roger’s web page. How did you read it?” He explained that he had a machine that read for him. I wanted to turn the interview into questions for him.

On the ride back to the hotel, he was very open to answer all my questions. He told me about his life long blindness and that it has never stopped him from pursuing his dreams. He navigates all around Denmark using public transportation, a cane and the kindness of the wonderful people of the land.

Even though the official language of the people in the Kingdom of Denmark is Danish, the majority of the people also speak English. Everyone explained to us that they are a small nation of about 5 million people and they can’t expect people to learn their language, so they learn other languages. It made communicating with everyone very easy but all the signs are in Danish. We had trouble parking the car in a self pay lot, using self-service gas stations and we couldn’t read the road signs. We would have been real lost without a GPS and the kindness of others.

Time for a romantic lunch (photo by Camilla)

Roger’s concerts were scheduled for every other day. That is dream scheduling for a singer and for traveling. Our longest drive within Denmark didn’t take longer than 4 hours, so we had the time to explore each of the cities, visit the food markets and have romantic meals. It was fun to walk the streets of the nation of Roger’s mother’s grandparents, the Heyns.

The last Danish concert was in the very small town of Aarup. A group of music lovers had banded together, and with the help of the government, restored an old theater so they could bring live music to their tiny town. The only hotel on the main street didn’t have private baths, so we stayed in the town of Middlefart at the Hotel KongebroGaarden. We were told that Sir Paul McCartney had once rented the whole hotel for his tour. Fortunately, Roger was the only artist appearing locally, so they had a room available.The view on the pathway from the hotel into the town of Middlefart, (photo by Camilla)

The day after the concert, we hit the road early because we had over 500 miles to drive. We needed to turn in our rental car before the Sixt Rental desk closed at the hotel in Brussels at 6pm. Since we were once again driving through Germany, we could quickly make the trip. Roger did complain that I hogged most of the Autobahn driving on the way back to Brussels. I had developed a need for speed.

On October 11, we caught the Eurostar from Brussels to London’s Waterloo Station, hailed a taxi to the London Paddington train station, had our BritRail passes stamped and boarded a First Great Western train to Cardiff, Wales.

In our possession was a bottle of Champagne that the porters on the Eurostar had given me as a souvenir. After lunch on the Eurostar, I explored the train and spent a lot of time talking with the porters and inquiring about their lives. When we stepped off the train, our porter whispered to me that I should go to the other car because there was a present for us. My new friends wanted to send us away with a gift.

I love the train trip from London to Cardiff. Wales is the land of all the cities of the song “The Bells of Rhymney.” I always feel like I’m coming back to a very familiar setting because the song is one of Roger’s favorites and he loves to sing it in his concerts. My favorite memory of the song is the night he sang it at the Bottom Line in NYC for a songwriter’s showcase. Allan Pepper, the owner, asked me if Roger would participate in this event and I told Allan if he could get Pete Seeger to do it, then Roger would. A few days later Allan excitedly called me and said Pete said, “yes!” The showcase featured Pete Seeger, Joe South, Ted Hawkins and Roger. At the end of the second show that night, the moderator, Vin Scelsa, asked Roger to sing a song he wished he had written. During the first show Roger sang, “Turn, Turn, Turn” but this time he sang Pete’s song, “Bells of Rhymney”. After the show, Pete came to Roger’s dressing room, stood at the door and said, “ Bells of Rhymney”…I’ve never heard it sung so well.”

Tears flooded our eyes as Pete turned and walked away.

The postcard Pete sent to Roger after the Bottom Line show. The last line mentions "Bells of Rhymney" -Bells of R

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Roadie Report 21 - The Trip to London by Camilla McGuinn

Winter Park Train Station ( photo by Camilla)

On September 23, 2006, we boarded Amtrak’s Silver Star train in Winter Park, FL for our overnight ride to New York City. The Silver Star is beginning to get a little shabby, but the compartments are still cozy and the porters always accommodating. Drifting to sleep to the sounds of the train while looking out the window at the moon beams dancing through the trees is the perfect recipe for imaginations and dreams.

The train pulled into Penn Station almost on time. It gave us enough time to check into the Waldorf Astoria, courtesy of the Hilton Honors programs, then catch a taxi to Greenwich Village to have dinner with Melani and Ed Rogers. One of the great benefits of recording on Arista Records was working with Melani who was the head of the publicity department in 1991. We quickly became friends with her and her husband, Ed, and have remained close ever since. Roger has even played guitar on Ed’s recent CD, "You Haven't Been Where I've Been."

Just before I began to work on the itinerary for this tour, the
airports in England experienced an unfortunate threat from terrorists, so Roger asked me to find an alternative to Heathrow and Gatwick, which actually is always a good idea, because those airports are wall to wall with people most of the time. During my research, I found a new airline flying between New York’s JFK and London’s Stansted airport. Stansted is north of London, 70 minutes by train to the city. The airline is called EOS. Not only did it meet our requirement to avoid the major airports, it’s fleet consists of 757 aircraft configured with only 48 seats. The seats recline fully for sleeping and because of a back problem, this is a necessity. There were some wonderful promotional fares available, so the cost of the round trip, including the train compartment from Florida, was less expensive than flights out of Orlando.

As part of the ticket price, EOS had a car pick us up at the hotel at 3:30 on September 25th for our 7:15pm flight to England. When we arrived at Stansted and processed through immigration, an EOS attendant was standing by our luggage. She gave us First Class tickets for the express train to London and even walked us to the train. We felt like we were living in a different era of plane travel. It was a good way to begin this 45-day adventure.

The Marriott County Hall, courtesy of the Marriott Rewards program, was our home for three days. All those one night stays in freeway hotels were beginning to pay off. The first week of the tour was the perfect time to cash in on hotel frequent guest points. We napped for a few hours, then set the hand held GPS for Shepherd Market to meet Roger's agent, Nick Peel, for dinner.

The walk from the hotel took us past Buckingham Palace and through Green Park. It was an unusually warm evening for late September and people everywhere were catching the last rays of sunlight standing outside the pubs with their suit jackets thrown over their shoulders.

As we walked, we talked. England’s history has affected the whole world but in 1963 the sound of four innovative English musicians changed the consciousness of music. I was 13 when I first heard the Beatles but it wasn't until 1987 that I actually met one. Walking the streets of London, we reminisced about that night almost 20 years ago.

Tom Petty had a day off from his touring schedule in St. Petersburg, FL and invited Roger to hang out with him at the Don Cesar Hotel. While they were flying kites, Tom mentioned his upcoming tour of Europe with Bob Dylan called "Temples In Flames." Roger told him how much he enjoyed the Rolling Thunder Tour with Bob and that he would love to experience that camaraderie again. Tom said he would ask Bob if Roger could join them. Within the month, Roger received a call from Dylan’s manager and he was on the tour starting in Israel.

I joined Roger for the last dates of the tour in London for 4 performances at Wembley Arena. While Roger was touring, Rickenbacker Guitar was finishing the prototype of the Roger McGuinn 12-string Rickenbacker and had it sent to Wembley for Roger to play for the first time.

Roger opened the show with the Heartbreakers backing him. It was a honor for Roger when they approached and asked if they could play like a Byrd. A lot of musicians learned their craft from the BYRDS and I love to catch the twinkle in the eye of musicians when they are playing with Roger on “Mr Tambourine Man” and “Eight Miles High”.

On the first night of the Wembley concerts, Roger strapped on his new Rickenbacker. I was at the sound board and was horrified at the sound. The different settings of the knobs on the electronics were still new to Roger and the knob got turned to one of the more shriller settings.

I knew Roger would be joining Tom and Bob for the encore, so I ran to the stage and found Roger sitting and talking to a friendly looking chap. The run and concern over the sound had me breathing hard as I rushed to tell Roger of my description of the guitar sound. Roger smiled and told me to take a breath and that he wanted to introduce me to a friend of his. I smiled at the friend, shook his hand, told him it was nice to meet him - just as my father had always taught me to do - then quickly turned back to Roger with all my sound concerns. He said he would fix it and I went back to the sound board very preoccupied with the guitar sound.

When I returned to the board, I stopped dead in my tracks, grabbed my head with both hands and my lips moved silently screaming, “I just met a Beatle!” Roger had introduced me to George Harrison and I so wanted to call Winkie, my best friend when I was 13 years old. We were both going to grow up and marry George! We never thought about how that could be accomplished, it was just the fantasy of two young teenage girls living on a far away island called Guam in the Pacific Ocean. Now I was in London and I had just shook the Beatle’s hand and told him it was very nice to meet him! I could imagine the sounds of her 13-year old screams as I screamed telling her. Music had transported me back to a moment in time.

The next day, George sent a car to our hotel for us. Joan and Derek Taylor were in the car. Derek had been the Beatles and the Byrds publicity agent and we were all going to Friar Park to have dinner with the Harrisons.
Derek Taylor's last picture of the Beatle's and the Byrds' 12-string players at Friar Park. George, Olivia, Roger, Camilla and Joan

As we were getting out of the car by the front door of the Victorian neo-Gothic mansion, George leaned out the window above the door and said to come on in. I kept whispering to myself, “Sure wish I could call Winkie.”

Me and Winkie on the island Guam in the Pacific in 1964 (photo by some teenage boy who didn't have chance when the Beatles were playing on the juke box)


As we walked through Green Park, we laughed about that night of my introduction to a Beatle, then a moment of quiet over took us both - memories of George.

I chose the County Hall hotel because of its proximity to the Waterloo train station. The Eurostar was our next form of travel after three days of radio and press interviews for the tour, the new Martin Roger McGuinn 7-string and the new BYRDS’ box set, “There is A Season.”

On Friday, September 29, we caught the Eurostar to Brussels. When we arrived at the hotel we went straight to the Sixt rental car desk and got the keys and GPS instructions for the BMW that would be our transportation for the next 11 days. Our mode of travel in the States is a Ford Van, but Roger was looking forward to the Autobahn and requested a high powered vehicle to keep up with the other drivers in Germany. I had never driven in Europe, but we had some long drives, so I too was looking forward to seeing how fast I felt comfortable driving.

We opened our eyes early on Saturday morning, loaded the car then set the GPS for Le Meriden Hotel in Hamburg, Germany. Our teeth were clinched as we navigated through the busy streets of Brussels. Once through the congestion of the city, we relaxed, feasted our eyes on the sites of Belguim and Germany as the GPS talked us through the countryside. The complexities of buying gas for a different car in a different language was only one of the challenges facing us on this adventure. Which side was the gas tank on?

Backstage on the Last Night of the "Temples in Flames" Tour

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