Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Clive Continuum

Clive Smith has been around for an awful long time. Awfully long. An enigma, a maverick, a pioneer; he has described himself as these things and many, many more. Now, with the weight of experience crushing his increasingly fragile mind and body, he has begun developing The Clive Continuum, a series of works that act as his passing of the flame to younger artists and visionaries. Learn from his mistakes, for if it could ever go wrong, it went wrong for Clive

"Touring" (see also: "Side Projects" & "Lyrics")

Britain has one of the best Motorway and Road networks in the world, meaning being on tour is one of the most exciting parts of being in a band. The efficient and well monitored network means travelling around is as great a pleasure as arriving. In fact, sometimes the motorway part can feel like the holiday after especially bad gigs (lol!)

Large stretches of the British Road Network are lit through the night, making late travel much safer. Strong CCTV coverage on the main routes and a mass of orange ERTs means if you get in to trouble, someone will come and look after you. That could make the difference between a soundcheck and a linecheck; essential.

The strict 70mph speed limit means you are less likely to be victim to a tourbus crash whilst the small size of our grand island means air travel is not necessary, making you less likely to be victim to an airplane crash. Unless you are a fan of clich├ęd rockstar death, these are good things.

Britain also has some of the best motorway service stations in the world. You might not think it. Sure, the food can be poor unless there's a KFC (a problem quickly being rectified by the Colonel) but compare the vast toilet cubicles of this country to the holes in the floor in France and you will soon be happy your band has no following whatsoever on mainland Europe.

The major motorways can make for dull touring, especially the M1, with its long stretches of bland embankments and Birmingham. But some are wondrous and when planning your tour routes, an Atlas is essential. I often plan tours with certain motorways in mind; a trip up and down the M6 is a distinct pleasure, especially as it turns into the M74 in Scotland. Even the M4, major though it is, has plenty of surprises and points of interest. Careful planning can make your tour full of treasured memories.

There are certain essential items required for a tour. A quality pack of sweets in the glove compartment can help pass the tired mornings after a lacklustre attendance at an otherwisely excellent gig. A good range of cassettes is essential too, though it is important to follow the 'driver picks' rule, especially relevant when the driver is the singer#s wife and the singer is me and she doesn't own any tapes, except the ones I made. I also find it useful to listen to your own music as you travel around, to stay focussed on the job in hand.

A good way to save money on tour is to not bother with accommodation. During my tours of 91-93 we used a rotation system where one band member would opt out of the gig to sleep. Then, once the show had finished we drove through the night and slept in the car as we travelled, the sleeper taking the wheel. It led to some odd gigs, especially when it was my turn to drive and the band had to do an instrumental set. Though they got such good reviews they ended up leaving and starting their own group! But it did keep the costs down and meant I could schedule the tour to include lush eight hour motorway drives every night. Otherwise we'd have got there way too early, which would have been pretty embarrassing!

I've written many an album whilst on tour. I find it invigorating. The journey, the camaraderie, the sense of purpose, the idea I’m proving all my doubters wrong, those who never thought I’d be playing a three night run in Cleethorpes. I once drove all the way to Hamburg for a gig only to find out the offer of the said gig had been a sarcastic one. But I didn’t mind, because the two days it had taken me were bliss. Though the lack of a gig was rather upsetting, the thought of a two day journey home, by myself, was enough to pull me through. And on the way home i recorded my lo-fi dictaphone masterpiece Hamburg, Your Time Will Come which was loosely based on the events I have just described.

A funny tour story is one of mine from the mid ‘80s when I supported Status Quo on their UK tour. Officially I wasn't billed as support. But the way I saw it, by following them around and blagging afternoon slots in pubs near the venues, before their doors opened was a way of supporting their ideals, and drawing more of a crowd for them. The heavy politics of the In The Army Now album sat beautifully alongside my angry attack on Wakefield council's lapsidaisical approach to pothole repair Holey Moley! (still as relevant now as it was then). So I was supporting them in the truest way. The funny part is that I'm now friends with Rhino Edwards, their bassist, and he's about as poor as me now. Ha ha!

Clive Smith

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