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
me time to concentrate on other things," he explains between bouts of nailbiting.
"The trouble was that it didn't work out that way. If he was taking a solo then I'd be wanting to take that solo." Barry finally admits defeat in the eating contest and Gary contemplates ordering a roast beef sundae to celebrate.
John's nailbiting has now reached such a peak that the gig can't be far away and sure enough within minutes we are on our way to the Town Hall.

MILES AND the band get a warm enough welcome from the two-thirds full house and they launch straight into 'Manhattan Skyline', their latest single and a suitably forceful opening. "Good evening from the John Miles Band," he announces at the end as if to emphasise the group image rather than the solo aspect. He then moves to 'Pull The Damn Thing Down' from the 'Rebel' album which sounds a little threadbare at the beginning but perks up later on when Barry Black starts laying down a hefty beat.
Up to now the songs haven't left much room for movement and the amount of sparkle shown has been limited but Miles' guitar starts loitering with intent at the end of 'Music Man', mixing rough and smooth passages effectively.
Without giving things a chance to settle, Miles launches into 'Highfly' which is taken at break-neck speed and shakes a more positive reaction from the Birmingham audience.
Two young ladies in front of me are now paying much more attention
and one of them lets out a muffled scream as the group put their hands together and get everyone clapping along for 'Stranger in The City' as John grinds out the mounful and sometimes cruel-sounding opening riff.
With the audience now firmly on their side, 'You Have It All' goes a treat and John puts some deft phrasing to his guitar solo. They close with a version of 'Roll Over Beethoven' that almost qualifies as 'new wave' with its frantic beat and wall of sound that renders John's voice almost inaudible.
I join the queue of autograph hunters backstage who are being let into the dressing room half a dozen at a time and the group are feeling satisfied enough to revel in the flattery for a few moments. Then I tag along with John who is due for a radio interview at midnight and we exchange opinions on the concert. I mention that it seems as if Gary is starting to play a much larger role on stage now on the keyboards.
"He's been quite an influence on my writing too. On the 'Rebel' album there's nothing very funky but I've always liked American funky music and the main reason that there's more of it on the new album is because of Gary's influence.
"On the 'Rebel' album we weren't really a band because we hadn't been out on the road. And some of the tracks - like 'You Have It All' - perhaps didn't rock as much as they should have done. But now Gary's started putting in clavinet bits which makes it sound more funky."
The taxi delivers us to the hotel and the wee
wee hours are spent playing Chase The Ace. The group grow accustomed to the idea that journalists play with tokens instead of real money, although if I hadn't won the last game and wiped out all my debts it could have been a different story!

THE NEXT day begins with brunch at one-o-clock and a good deal of amusement over a couple of articles about the group in the music press that week. One says 'John Miles - modesty pays off' and the other says 'The Rolling Stones can't teach me anything says John Miles'.
Chuckling over such diverse images we set off for Stoke in Bob Marshall's Jaguar that seats five with comfort and six with discomfort. I'm the sixth!
Kings Hall in Stoke is a delightful Victorian edifice with genuine Wedgewood patterns adorning the ceiling. Unfortunately the place reeks of kippers for some unaccountable reason but at least the sound is more coherent than at Birmingham.
The speed with which the band settle into the gig means that early numbers like 'Glamour Boy' and 'Remember Yesterday' have a sharper sound to them than the previous night.
The audience are responding on cue and everything rolls along snappily until 'Music' when the guitar amp packs up during the first uptempo break. They persevere to the end and the applause suggests the audience aren't overly concerned by the breakdown, but the roadies continue to
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.