5th February 1977
|I ALWAYS try to dress up to meet the stars you know. I find it makes it more of an occasion and helps their self?esteem.|
So when I checked into the Birmingham Albany Hotel to begin a two-day re-acquaintance with John Miles and his band I went straight to my room for a wash and brush up. I was sitting, enthroned, idly perusing a copy of one of our rival rags and thinking how apt the whole situation was when there was a hefty knock on the door.
Wipe wipe, flush flush, tug tug, zip zip. One startled journalist pokes his head out of the door straight into face of well-known rock star. Well known rock star looks pleased to see journalist but he has not come to offer massive bribes for a good article or indeed supply 18 women with enough champagne for all. He justs wants to borrow the rival rag. Seems it contains a live review of himself. So much for dressing up.
I RETURN to my previous occupation but this time without reading matter to hand so I contemplate the present status of J. Miles Esq in the rock and roll hierarchy: six tours within the space of a year in Britain, Europe and America playing with such diverse talents as Robin Trower, Jethro Tull, the Rolling Stones and Elton John.
A massive hit with 'Music' following a top twenty success with 'Highfly'. A not-so-well-received single, 'Remember Yesterday', but a second album, 'Stranger In The City' which has met with more widespread approval and is generally considered to be a more accurate portrayal of both Miles and the band's talents. And now another tour that gets back to the nitty gritty of medium?sized venues and universities.
Later that evening keyboard player Gary Moberley, the only non-Geordie in the band (and an Aussie to boot), and drummer Barry Black are having an eating contest which Gary seems to be winning by a couple of helpings while bassist and co-writer of nearly all the band's material, Bob Marshall is 'resting' before, the gig.
The band are now back to their original four-piece after a brief period with an extra guitarist, ex-Groundhog Dave Wellbelove, during their last British tour.
"I suppose I'm a very selfish person as a guitarist really," says John when I ask why they're back as a quartet. "The original reason why we got another guitarist was to ease some of the pressure from me and give
HUGH FIELDER shares the joys and hardships of life on the road with JOHN MILES
|rush frantically round the stage as John introduces the rest of the band and eventually introduces the roadies to continue stalling for time.|
The guitar sound returns so they launch into 'You Have It All' but the amp goes on the blink again halfway through so Gary has to come to the rescue with a keyboard solo.
They don't bother with 'Roll Over Beethoven' but the crowd are insistent in their demands for an encore so a spare amp is rushed on and the band return for 'Slow Down', but now even the keyboards are suffering and the number turns into a tour de force for bass and drums.
In the dressing room afterwards the band are seething and matters are not helped when the guitar is heard below ringing out loud and clear on the original amp just three minutes after the end of the gig.
BACK AT the hotel the frustrations of the evening are soothed away in timehonoured fashion. When John has worked his way round to a rosier view of life once more via a couple of pints I tackle him on the effect their American visit has had on the group, not just in terms of the new single, 'Manhattan Skyline', but in the raunchier feel that pervades the new album.
"We had to have single ready in time for the American tour while we were in New York and we already had the introduction ready for 'Remember Yesterday' so we finished that off and then Bob and I were sitting in the hotel wondering what to write about and talking about the way Manhattan hits you the first time. That's how the song came out of it, and 'Manhattan Skyline' is a nice title for a song anyway.
And presumably America must loom fairly large in this year's plans.
"Yes, it does. It's a market we still have to crack and it can be quite hard when you're touring because you tend to break locally. I mean, in Boston we're huge but we're nothing in Kentucky!
"We talk about things openly among ourselves which I much prefer to the situation where one guy is the star and the others are the backing group and you don't talk before you go on and afterwards the star gets hustled away in a limo."
Somehow I don't see that happening. The John Miles Band are too close. And the band that stays together grows together. The John Miles Band are growing alright. Not as fast as some might like but at the kind of speed that means they'll be able to take it all when it comes.