Let There Be Light

I turned my full attention to lighting and, after meeting the Jones brothers who used to run the very successful ‘Temptation’ nights at Mountford Hall, I started working with Scorpio Rising who they managed, as their lighting designer. This was great experience. I would hire a lot of semi intelligent lighting in from Manchester, fill the room with smoke, and have a ball. I found I had a good feel and could make the best of any local house rig we happened to come across. I was getting better and more confident behind the lighting console, and eventually got a call to fill in for the Therapy? lighting guy while he went off on another job. They were at their peak at the time and selling out theatres. This was a big step up, and I grabbed the chance and did a good job. This led to a similar job with Scottish rockers Gun and I also held my own. I was starting to move forward in this lighting lark!

The first five years in the 90s’ were a bit of a jumble; I was doing so many things at once. The Real People and Rain had been signed to Columbia. I was drum tech for Rain, doing the lights for the Real People, and also doing lights for The Tambourines who had changed line-ups and gone back to glorious basics. One of the Real People tours was supporting Inspiral Carpets in the days when a young Noel Gallagher was the guitar tech. He used to come to Liverpool quite a lot to record and hang out in the Real People rehearsal rooms. He took a lot away with him. In fact, when we heard the first Oasis single, we christened them ‘The Australian Real People’ -the sound was that close. The Tambourines went on tour supporting River City People. All seven of us, travelling in the back of the van must have had our stars in alignment. I didn’t think it possible to laugh that much. I won’t even try to explain as you had to be there, but it all started with the pipe music!

Rain were staying in a hotel somewhere in the North East. I remember Martyn coming down in the lift and excitedly saying he had just shared it with David Essex. So Woody, in his infinite madness, found out which room he was in and got all the trouser presses from our rooms, put gaffer tape faces and hair on them, gave each a speech bubble - each with one of the great mans songs in … ‘Hold me Close’, ‘Silver Dream Machine’ etc… and he lined ten of them up all along David’s corridor, with a special guard outside his room. He called it his terracotta trouser press army. Who was I to argue?

I did my first ‘merchandise’ gig when Michael Jackson played at Roundhey Park, Leeds in 92 (when he was still black). It was the tour when Jacko put a jet pack on during the last song and jetted off into the night, and the voice over the tannoy said “Ladies and gentlemen Michael Jackson has left the stadium” (even though it was a field). We did James at Alton towers a while later and then started on a few festivals. The merchandise seed had been sown.

Never say never again.

Still, round that same time, I joined another band. Jeff Skellon had written a great song ‘Be my Friend’ and put together ‘People Get Ready’ to front it. Hopefully, it was going to be a dance anthem - and it was bloody good. So we would turn up to do pa’s (personal appearances, obviously I was moving with the times with the club lingo). We had Nicky singing (I’d met her previously with Lalabambam all those years ago), me and Guy Davies on percussion, and two dancers. Hello club land. Here we come. It was a feel good song played to a load of loved up dance heads; we had a chance. The most memorable gig was at monthly transvestite club, Kinky Gerlinky, in London’s Leicester Square. We were set up on the back of a revolving stage, shaped like a wedding cake. As the intro music started, the stage started turning, revealing 2000 trannies going crazy. Anyway the Track was released on Food Records. I’ll give you three guesses what chart position it got to….Correct! Eighty fucking seven!

I was enjoying the lighting experience so much I eventually broke away from Woody and Mr Fantasy and got my own lighting company together. Just 24 par cans, some acls and smoke and strobes, but a great starter rig and independence. I was struggling for a name, but eventually, looking at my fag packet for inspiration, I decided on Berkeley Lights. I printed flyers with the slogans: “playing a gig….not got much cash…fed up with looking shite… you’ll need new Berkeley lights... you’ll be glad you lit up”, etc…Things were going well. I was getting quite a few gigs, one of them being at La Bateau in Duke Street on Thursday nights. Tony Potter was promoting the night and it was getting a good reputation. The Real People, Smaller and even Oasis played regular. After the show, the rig just about fitted into the back of my caravanette. Then it was back home to the first floor flat in Botanic Road. Eventually, I put my rig into the Lomax in Cumberland Street and I was the house lighting guy for a year or so. Those were exciting times as Liverpool hadn’t had a venue like that for a long time. Local and touring bands, the likes of Radiohead, Oasis, Glen Tilbrook and the legendry Frank Sidebottom, all played the 300 capacity venue. On Frank Sidebottom’s night, someone grabbed his puppet ‘little Frank’ from the stage and ran off up Cumberland Street with it. One of the bouncers gave chase, at least to the top of the road where he was getting his breath back when the police came past. “Someone’s taken little Frank’ the bouncer said. Before he’d had a chance to explain himself the police had radioed in and started a citywide search for little Frank. “No, he’s a fuckin’ puppet”, the breathless bouncer tried to explain.

We tried our hand at promoting in the early days of the Lomax. Me, Steve Roberts, Stuart Grey and fellow Rain roadie Ian Bell-Chambers got together and organised a Christmas spectacular. We called the night ‘Mersey Christmas Tommy Lawrence (on ice)’ - obviously a pun on Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. We got a friend of ours who was a caricaturist on TV’s ‘You’ve Been Framed’ to design the flyer which had the overweight 60s’/70s’ Liverpool goalkeeper skating around a rink. It was the first sold out night of the Lomax and we actually made a profit. We decided to put the money we had earned on the table in my flat, and the four of us played computer golf for prize money; it seemed a fair way to divvy the money up.

I started working with Electrafixion (who were Echo and the Bunnymens’ Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant) as their lighting designer They were tentatively touring to see if the old chemistry would come back. As I was a fan in the 80s’ this was a great time for me. My old mate Tony McGuigan was playing drums, and Sploote from Scorpio Rising, was on guitar. We supported The Boo Radleys and had a ball. We eventually went on a six week coast to coast tour of America, which was my first time - and what a time we had. We had Echobelly supporting, and first on the bill were the unknown Dandy Warhols. I ended up doing lights for all of them.

I knew I was making progress in the business when I got a phone call off Mac asking me to do the next tour. Electrafixion were supporting David Bowie but, unfortunately, I was committed to another project and couldn’t get out of it. After 15 minutes of trying to persuade me, he finally gave up. I put the phone down and thought back to when I was seventeen. If I could have imagined back then Ian McCulloch asking me to tour with Bowie, and me turning them down - my two heroes - unbelievable! What a pisser! I laughed at the madness of it all.

Through the contacts I had made at the Lomax and the fact that I had worked numerous departments within the music industry, I somehow drifted into tour management .A young band called Cecil had just signed to Parlaphone (then part of EMI). In the end I tour managed them for 7 years and we had some great times. One of the strangest things we got up to was at the EMI conference; we called it “The Brian May challenge”. Brian stood between us and the toilet so, every time you passed him, you had to tap him on the opposite shoulder and hurry past. He was spinning all night like a giant poodle chasing its tail. Earlier in the day Cecil had decided they wanted to perform in chambermaids’ uniforms, so I got those for them. Patrick Moore (the stargazer) was in the green room about to do his xylophone act, and I’ll never forget the bizarre sight of Patrick and the Cecil chambermaids sitting round the table. Paddy, the Cecil guitarist, and I ended up leaving the conference only to find Robert Palmer outside waiting for his limo. After pestering him for 10 minutes with continuous “Giz a lift Bobby; don’t be tight Bobby; go on Bobby”, he eventually cracked and let us in the car. Paddy sat between Robert and his then Mrs, who were in the middle of a full scale argument, and I sat in the front pointing at him and shouting ‘Bobby’ for the entire journey…That’s what free champagne all night does for you.

I also tour managed the Dandy Warhols , Patti Rothberg , Kid Rock , Pete Wylie and The Zutons before drifting full time into the world of tour merchandising.

I actually came back to the musical fold while tour managing Pete Wylie. I was taking him to a video shoot to film Loverboy (Columbia records) when he remembered that I used to be a percussionist, and he asked me to be the percussionist on the video. I said “I’m tour managing and haven’t got the time”. When he told me how much the musicians union pay percussionists for video shoots, I soon came out of retirement. The Smiths rhythm section, Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke, were involved, so I got my 4 minutes of cred on a video, and Pete got dropped for hiring a fat percussionist…or something like that. Check it out on youtube. I only found it the other day. I’m the out of focus one in the background.

The textile world has kept me pretty busy and, in the last 10 or so years, I have covered most of Europe, toured America seven or eight times, toured in South America, done shows in Beirut, tel Aviv and Dubai and have toured with Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Coldplay, Morrissey, Alanis Morisette, Lou Reed, 50 Cent, Feeder, Ian Brown, Green Day, Take That, Goldie lookin’ Chain, Foo Fighters, Moby, Amy Winehouse, Dolly Parton, Elvis Costello, Muse, Placebo, Willie Nelson, Human League, Manic Street Preachers, the Pogues, Suede, Robbie Williams, Happy Mondays, Beautiful South, Genesis, Steely Dan, the Smashing Pumpkins, James, The Hoosiers, Joss Stone, the Mighty Boosh, Al Murray……….

Also I am the merchandising event manager at such summer extravaganzas as Leeds/Reading festivals, T in the Park, Live 8, Creamfields, Latitude, Global Gathering, Isle of Wight festival, Latitude ……

It’s been a funny old ride.

Anyway, that’s enough about me……..

Perry Leach.

April 2009.