Monday, 15 March 2010

Hitting the Road

Winter 1975. I was back in my dorm dreaming of how I could join Genesis on tour. The month of January was a short term at college. The one during which you could propose to the Head of the Art Department a project for credit. By now Steve and I were talking on a daily basis. This was going to continue for the next thirty two years. Even if we were apart we talked or wrote to each other every single day. I'd already shown some of my artwork to the band and they seemed impressed. Tony Smith, their manager, proposed that I could come out to California and work on some record sleeves. Perfect! There it was, my project handed to me on a plate. I worked diligently on some ideas. packed my bag and went to meet them in New Orleans. Steve was anxiously waiting for me at the airport - we were like two kids on holiday for the first time – and we had a few days there. This evocative place was the home of Anne Rice, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams, and, of course, the home of the Blues.

In those days New Orleans was full of character and characters, eccentrics in a slightly decadent French Creole way. I dropped off my bag and we headed to the famous French Quarter. All those iron-laced balconies, some with laundry drying, some with neighbours chatting and some with ladies showing off their wares! The streets smelled of spices and chilli and of course the sound of the Blues wafted around every street corner, enticing the tourist to join in.  We were floating about like two red balloons, entwined, always going together in the same direction. Those were also the days that we could still drink. Whiskey Sours were the best! I woke up the next day still amazed that here we were on tour. Phil had his family there too. Andy, his then wife, and little Joely, who was always hitching a ride on his shoulders. And Tony and Margaret Banks, more than anyone, loved to take in the sites and always made the most of observing the local colour. We joined them for brunch at Brennan’s, a must when you were in town.

Pete was on his own as Jill was only going to meet up with the tour in Los Angeles. She had just had her first baby and there had been a few complications. Mike was still single and not yet going out with Angie. I enjoyed parties and organizing them and so took on the role of after show social organizer. We would take wine and drinks from the show back to the hotel, order up some room service and everyone would congregate back at our room. Steve loved this - it was the first time that he actually started to socialize with the other members. Mike hung out a lot with us and there was a very good feeling about. Unlike other bands at the time we girls got on great. There's a lot of hanging around when you're travelling, it’s such a bonus when people get on. It wasn’t always going to be that way after Steve left. I missed the girls and all our outings together.

Steve was doing daily hand exercises with a rubber ball to keep the muscles working on his injured hand. He explained that this accident had happened a little before the Lamb tour. He had been under a lot of stress and in a moment of anger had lost control and crushed a wine glass in his hand. Pretty scary - he could easily have lost the use of that hand and never been able to play again. He’s fortunate to have a wonderful Guardian Angel by his side.

It was also at this time that, after much pleading from me, that Steve agreed to shave his moustache. He hadn’t seen his face without hair since he was sixteen! He first shaved off one side and, after that, he had no choice but to shave it all .He suddenly looked ten years younger and had a whole new look. He was pretty surprised with the result - and so was the band that night.

It’s amazing that after 32 years the question that Steve is still most asked is why he left the band. Many bloggers have been asking me to shed some light on this. I can’t say much at the moment, but I can at least set some of the record straight – it’s only fair. It was not because of Tony (Banks), as has been widely reported in the past, that Steve left. And I did keep him in the band for an extra two years when he would have left after Acolyte. This is all documented.

Day after day as we travelled across America, we sang along with Simon and Garfunkel’s “America”.

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Fergus Hall Tarot

Right after we met it was clear that Steve and I had a lot in common. At this time in my life I still believed in coincidences! We were in a cab, driving through Central Park on one of those impossibly crisp, cold and clear days that make winter worthwhile, when Steve started to talk enthusiastically about his ideas for his first solo album. He talked a mile a minute about all these musical ideas and the concept album he wanted to make. He was interested in all things spiritual but his passion seemed to be the tarot. I listened and was fascinated to find out that it certainly was no coincidence why I identified so much with the band. At one point he showed me this tarot pack. I reached in my bag and showed him the same cards. Wow! There they were - the famous tarot pack that had been used in the Bond movie “To Live and Let Die”. They were painted by the artist Fergus Hall and were incredibly whimsical. I had received mine a couple of weeks before at an event for Fairport Convention.

I was staying with my cousin Danny during this week that Genesis were in town.  Steve had called me the next day to invite me for another performance they were doing. He had yet to encounter the mighty Jo Durden-Smith …! He was, after all, my mentor. Jo was definitely a bit protective. He was this great tall bear of a man, with an equally large and commanding voice. Steve called and Jo answered. Both Englishmen abroad. Steve asked to talk to me. Very mischievously Jo decided to interrogate this shy and tentative man. This is Steve, Steve of Genesis … after a longish pause Jo replied “Sooo I am Jo of the Apocalypse!” Said with a loud and booming voice. A longish pause again - and a roar of laughter. “I’ll go and get her.” By the time I came to the phone Steve was almost speechless. Unfortunately Jo died a few years ago and is much missed by all who knew him.

After those dreamy and slightly unreal days in New York the next time we would meet was in my family’s home in Petropolis, Brasil, for the Xmas holidays.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Rumplemeyer's Reminiscences

I am sure that what clenched the deal was Phil Collins shouting out of the car to us “That girl’s great vibes!” That made Steve really proud, the cat who had gotten the cream. We were having a wonderful time. New York was my city and I knew it well. I was determined to convert Steve to her virtues. On his own he felt dislocated and a bit frightened there. The raw energy in Manhattan is second to none. It's been said that it sits on top of a bed of rock crystal. There's also an ancient holy Indian cemetery under the island that creates an aura of intense and mystic energy. I don’t really know where the buzz comes from but boy, it never stops!
We had so many memorable visits over the years to NYC. I lost count of the times we had lunch or dinner at our favourite, Rumplemeyer's. A child's sinful paradise, an old-fashioned ice cream parlour with colourful stained glass and the most whimsical stuffed toys everywhere! It immediately awoke the child within all of us. No-one could resist Rumplemeyer's! The best dreamy hot chocolate, mountains of syrup-covered waffles, not to mention the rainbows of ice cream sundaes. To quote a great Irishman - "the only thing I can’t resist is temptation”. Steve and I loved it there. He thought it was a haven, an antidote to the madness outside. It was located on Central Park South at the old St. Moritz Hotel. My Grandmother, Grace, used to bring me here when I visited her on college breaks and I wanted to share this magic with Steve. This was a place where the Hayley Mills character, Pollyanna, would have felt totally at home. It was full of the 50s feelgood factor. In fact Pollyanna was one of Steve’s favourite movies, he had a secret crush on her for years.

He bought me numerous stuffed animals. I especially favoured the fluffy, soft feminine cats, the epitome of girlie cuteness. Sometimes you have to let your hair down! We both love cats and over the years we'd rescued many animals ...  

To complete a perfect weekend we would make our way to The Tavern On The Green for dinner. This restaurant in Central Park was a landmark. It was the first place we'd seen that had fairy lights twinkling from all the trees - Wonderland! You could easily pretend that you were arriving for a grand occasion in one of the palaces in St. Petersburg. Just like two tourists pretending we were in a Rock Hudson and Doris Day movie, we would take a horse and buggy ride in the Park afterwards. It was delightful …

Horlicks - the Peacemaker
Many years later, I became allergic to chocolate. Rumplemeyer's famous hot chocolate became a distant memory. I was introduced by Steve to a lovely and soothing alternative, a malt drink called Horlicks. It was also a peace offering that soothed any bad feeling or a cross word. Isn’t it time for a Horlicks?