Big Star at Hyde Park, London
Big Star just returned from London, having performed at Hyde Park on July 1st. John Fry also traveled with the band, and together with Jody Stephens got to tour the famed Abbey Road studios. From Jody’s account of the trip:
John Fry, Steve Rhea, Mark Harber (friend and neighbor) and I boarded a plane to London on June 27. The occasion was a Big Star show in Hyde Park/Serpentine Sessions on July 1. John and I had Monday and Tuesday for a little sight-seeing before the show on Wednesday. On Monday we hopped on a train to Hitchin to visit our friend and former Memphian Heather Hendren. After a stop at the house for a cup of tea and a drive through the quaint village of Hitchin, Heather was kind enough to take us out to the Duxford Air Museum.
Duxford must indeed be Europe’s premiere aviation museum…an amazing collection of vintage aircraft. For a short video with a peppy little sound track click here. No better tour guide than John Fry, an aircraft buff who once upon a time gave flying lessons to Chris Bell, Andy Hummel, Richard Rosebrough and me.
I have to explain to you here that London and this part of England were experiencing a heat wave while we visited. It was hot! (I know, I’m from Memphis, hot capital of the mid-south, but we have AC down pretty good here.) So after a day of sightseeing in the heat what better place to cool off than the Absolute Ice Bar. Mark’s sister and brother-in-law happen to be in London and suggested we meet there. After buying a ticket to enter they wrapped us up in some warm parkas and gloves and sent us into what basically was a big freezer with walls and furnishings, including a bar, fashioned out of ice. The drink menu: Various Absolute Vodka flavors served in a glass made out of ice.
On Tuesday, John, Steve, Mark and I all had the complete pleasure of a tour of Abbey Road Studios. Carl Marsh, string arranger for Big Star’s Third LP, made the proper introduction to the folks at Abbey Road and we were set for 9:30am. Fiona Gillott walked us through this hollowed ground starting with Studio One where they were setting up to record an orchestra. She pointed out several things…here’s the “Lady Madonna” piano and the one next to it is the “Day In The Life” piano. Couldn’t help but yearn to sit down and play them… (I can’t exactly play piano, but you know what I mean.)
After leaving Studio One, I excused myself for a bathroom break and began to wonder which bathroom and what window.
We entered Studio Two, where The Beatles did much of their recording. Standing in the middle of that studio, I tried to visualize a typical Beatles session going on around me…couldn’t quite remember where Yoko set up the bed, but I think it was just below the control room window. After lingering there for a few minutes we made our way up the stairway to the control room where George Martin and Geoff Emerick spent a bit of time helping to shape that unique Beatles sound. Right about here I felt compelled to explain to Fiona that John Fry, Ardent’s owner and founding father, incorporated Ardent and had produced his first Ardent Records single by the time he was 14 years old. So there.
On to Studio Three and then one of their mastering rooms. A very nicely done tour by Fiona…but wait, there’s more: After a photo session with Fiona, outside Abbey Road’s front door mind you, we completed the visit with photos at the zebra stripe crossing which, as you all know, was the setting for The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover.
Had a lazy morning on Wednesday and then grabbed a bus over to the Columbia Hotel for an interview with Martin Aston/Mojo Magazine. Rhino’s publicist had set up the interview to focus on the release Keep An Eye On The Sky, the Big Star box set due out on September 15. I arrived late and Jon and Ken were already underway with their part of the interview. I just had about 40 minutes before racing back to my hotel and then over to Hyde Park and sound check.
Sound check serves as a bit of a rehearsal time as well as getting a balance of monitors and front speakers. That done we had about an hour to kill before our show time. Back to the dressing room area where the folks in Tendersticks (the headliner) were all hanging out outside the dressing room taking advantage of a slight breeze. I spoke with Stuart Staples (the band’s lead singer) briefly. He’s a very nice guy with a smooth, smoky voice… we had met in an elevator in a Los Angeles hotel some years back.
Finally, show time! We took the stage to an audience of about 25 people (including John, Steve with his wife and daughter, David and Mark.) Apparently there was a little confusion about our start time. Once we had launched in to “In The Street” people started filing in and we soon had 1,500 or so folks in the audience. You can check out bits and pieces of the show on YouTube. Ballad Of El Goodo always seems to be one of my favorites live. You can click here for several videos posted by Colin Gibbons. Side note: London being home, Colin and his wife Nikki have traveled out to many of our shows, Malaga, Spain this past April being the farthest I think. Our show in Hyde Park was much more convenient, they could actually walk home. Always a pleasure to play in London. Wonderful audiences there. Sounds like Tom Holcroft had a good time: http://www.last.fm/event/1041480/reviews
After the show I expressed my thanks to some of the folks in the audience and got a positive nod from the Memphis contingent. Had a quick bite to eat (vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie) and failing to find a cab, hopped on a bus back to the hotel thinking it’s great to still be doing this.