The Secret Diaries - German Tour Feb/Mar 96

The Cast:
Gordon (Singer & diarist)
Sean (Guitarist with looks)
Mark (Drummer & worrier)
Allan (Bassplayer, footballer & money collector)
John (Van Driver)
Frank (Gun toting tour manager)
Torsten (Lovable Agent)
Dave (Best mate)

Montage of Tour Photos

Thurs 22 • And they're off!
John arrives with his van. Not as big as we'd thought. We drop the idea of taking a mattress to kip on. Leave MK for Harwich to Hook of Holland ferry. Sean & Mark stay up in the disco bar.

Fri 23 • Hamburg
I'm having a shower in someone’s cabin when the others disembark. Allan comes back on ship to rescue me. John's pissed off big time. Bad start!

Hamburg - find the ‘Jugendherbergehaus” (mouthful for Youth Hostel) with Sean’s directions... There’s 3ft high chess to play, the soho-like Reeperbahn (ex-Beatles haunt)) to visit - lots of fit and pretty prostitutes in salopettes and broad shouldered doormen in huge ankle length padded coats. One video shop has a series of tv monitors, set into the wall in groups of 8 like a NASA flight control panel. The punter can flick between one porn video and another - flick from Spread ‘em Wide to Pump Action.

2ft of snow in places, noticeably colder than MK. We play rummy in a bar. We're sharing a room with a skinhead and a gay couple here to see CATS. We worry about where to park the van. In front of the hostel ‘isn’t safe’. 3 shady blokes are out there with old black Mercs teasing little muscle of a dog and looking every inch the small time drug dealer - joint in hand.

Sat 24 • Greifswald “Klex”
Second half of the trip to the first gig in Greifswald. Slow journey on motorway and craterous East German A roads. We arrive early. Promoter Christophe (a Ryan Giggs lookalike. ED) and agent Torsten join us. Torsten likes the gift of the giant monster frog from Nettos which has light up eyes and scuttles across the floor.

The ‘Klex’ started life as a squat and became an officially sanctioned youth centre. Later, we’re treated to a slap up meal. Electricity in whole of town goes down while we’re mid meal. Candles get lit. No one seems unduly concerned.

The gigs a tough cookie. Good turnout..of skinheads. One of them has decided to celebrate his birthday here tonight. They heckle and mess with Sean’s effect pedals. The set ends with Sean breaking into a unrehearsed version of Sham 69’s “If the kids are united” - the skins are happy - Sean slips in a couple of ‘F*ck Off You W*nkers”. One skin even asks for a tape. We go up some very uneven winding stairs, covered in a cheap self-raising lino, to a chill out room with a level of bunk beds 12 ft off the ground. More beer.

Sean and I have a laugh at the local Nightclub. Crap music, pretty girls. Sean stays up all night.

Sun 25 • A lazy day
Frank is out trying to set up another gig for us. Mark and John get a bit drunk visiting bars with him , playing landlords the tape, and chatting up ‘fit’ barmaids. At 1am we have a blistering band ‘discussion’. Mark states his readiness to go. Allan’s diplomatic. Mark’s persuaded to stay. At 3am John gathers up his bedding and goes to sleep out in the hall.

Mon 26 • Greifswald “Irish Pub”
Franks arranged an extra gig. Payment's a hot meal and as much alcohol as we can consume. We make fliers and do some 'PR' at the 'Mensa' (Students Union canteen). Work out 'Come together' to do as an easy cover. Mark’s on top form.

The gig’s at the tiny Irish Pub (run, in fact, by two stocky Germans and a pretty blond). It's dead until 9.30pm, the time on the flyer. Then, within minutes, the place packs out. First set goes down well, even the moody numbers like 'In Hallucination'. Come 11pm we are milking the covers, Sexy Thing in particular, and some girls are up dancing on chairs. Barman Thomas is delighted and can’t stop slapping lager and whisky in front of us. Sean is getting pissed to the extent where the importance chords, notes and structure are becoming blissfully insignificant - he's got a permanent grin - I get the hump. We go go on for the 4th or 5th time. More whisky and another and one for the road and... the band get driven home by the barman!

Tues 27 • Stralsund “Jungendhaus”
Stralsund. A stones throw from Greiswald. Cobbled streets, mist shrouded church, smart converted warehouse for a venue, loud PA. Soundman wears a bandanna and talks like something out of Wayne’s World. Strange gig. The promoter never smiles and the audience don't dance but clap enthusiastically at the end. We do two sets and three encores and sell more merchandise here than anywhere else. Back at the youth hostel, Mark’s seeing horrible faces every time he shuts his eyes and wierd traces when people walk by.

Wed 28 • Potsdam “Keller”
Mark phones home and says he might need a flight home tomorrow. Frank and John take him to hopital. Comes away with reassurances that he’s nothing sleep and industrial strength Hedex won’t cure.

Potsdam’s ‘Keller’. Brilliant venue. Very seedy. Low ceiling. Place is surrounded by cops when we arrive. Apparently there's tight security because of a big political tv debate being filmed upstairs at the venue. Made Frank a bit fidgety. He's a great bloke, very germanic looks, long blond hair, good beard (till he borrowed my razor to cut it off today). He carries a gun and CS gas, gets involved in protests against the movement of nuclear waste. Has to fib about his identity when quizzed by the police since he's wanted for skipping his military service. He speaks near perfect English, seems to know a girl in every town and does a fine job of setting us up. After the Keller gig we hit the Wasserhaus disco, a graffitti ridden upper floor of an old warehouse. Frank introduces me to Ulrika (she's head and shoulders above the rest! ED)

Thu 29 • Berlin “Dunker”
Get up about 3pm and set off for Berlin around 4pm. The venue is in the old East part of Berlin - an area of 6 floor flats, austere, old, delapidated. Mark’s a lot happier.The venue’s an eyeopener - metal junk sculptures suspended on walls and from ceilings, including a giant fly up in the corner which greets you as you walk in the door. We’re not on till 11.30pm. First of all, a filling vegie sweet and sour and an hour or so giggling in front of Mr Bean videos. The venue packs out between 11 and 11.30. Our best performance so far. Afterwards an excellent club playing funk, hip hop and hard core grooves. We dance and chat. Although the original plan was to kip at the venue in the tiny loft space upstairs, its finally decided to drive back to Torsten’s in Potsdam. It’s 5am when we leave. (Driving back, Sean panics when he realises John must be even more wasted that he is! ED) Frank sleeps round Suzanne’s. I’m put up at Jenny’s. Get a lift back to Torsten’s at 8pm.

On arrival there’s an even wider selection of little dog turds on the front step than normal... someone’s trodden it through onto Torsten’s carpet! An hours kip then we’re off to Hoyerswerda.

Fri 1 Hoyerswerda • Dok 28
Heard some bad things about this town, (the hotbed of recent Neo-right uprisings. ED) , a Turkish refugee centre burnt down, riots between radical right and left wingers.John tries to reassure the others.The venue's down some steps... low ceiling, thick paint encrusted graffitti and army camoflage nets everywhere plus the worst toilets yet (generally it’s been safe to have a shit at any of the venues so far - in sharp contrast to your average British venue!). We settle down to more hospitality... a huge bowl of fruit, rolls and 2 crates of beer on arrival... then a tasty meal at the local chinese restaurant. As soon as we sit down to eat, Frank starts passing messages to a couple of girls at the next table - invites them to the gig - and hey presto, Marlene and Helene are now sitting backstage on the sofa between Dave and Allan. Yes, Dave made it all the way over for the weekend, was relieved to find us where we were supposed to be. The gig’s well recieved .. punk it up a bit for the audience ...Sleep over at Mirko’s (promoter). He’s a really warm guy, great set of sideburns (equal to any member of Supergrass! ED). John stays up drinking with Frank. They return to the van only to be surrounded by Police cars. Turns out someone had tipped off the plod about someone trying to steal the van. Frank pretends to be English, John shows his passport and they smile and get let off. Head back to Dok 28 for breakfast to find half a dozen of last night’s crowd still up, drinking. One punk from the night before has fallen asleep on the toilet!

Sat 2 Guben • Fabrik
Great club, half of which is given over to kicker (table football), darts (the horrible electonic variety) and pinball machines. The PA is enormous. Downstairs there are rooms with very heavy grey iron doors and drains in the middle... a bunker? Gas chambers cross my mind. An experimental noise band is tuning up in one of them.

2 crates of beer tonight and a fabulous chinese. We pig out in style. Long set & encores. On to the Keller discotheque for more entertainment... it's full of robust blonds. Down a few diesels (beer shandy with coke rather than lemonade ED). Crash at 6am at promoter’s lovely flat. Stink out the place in the morning - my nose must be permanently blocked - can’t smell a thing!? Hot rolls at 3pm - love the garlic cheese spread.

Sun 3 • Back to Potsdam
Round to Suzanne’s for dinner. Bed.

Mon 4 • sight seeing
9am. Jenny shows us round Potsdam. Dave treats us to breakfast then we’re off to Berlin. Head for the Brandenburg Gate. Over riding impresssion of transition - the whole area around the gate is one big building site. The Reichstag is covered in scaffold. An illuminated dome is being build on top of it for 1999. (Later on Sean and Allan decide to go for a meal but have to leave restaurant almost straight away in utter embarrassment because they can't understand what the waitress is saying to them.ED)

Tues 5 • Gottingem
Up at 6.30am to travel to Gottingem in time to fly the Mensa. The town has a 30,000 strong student population. Steal into the local youth hostel for a crafty shower before the gig. Discover we’ve left behind the bag with the ferry tickets in it! Hope to get it forwarded. 20 youngsters from the hostel turn up to the gig at 9pm. Gig goes very well. Manage to get a bed with three students, Andre, Nicole & Suzanne... Frank’s planned stay at the Youth Hostel (said he’d arranged a shared bed for each of us with a groupie of our choice. ED) is aborted. Turns out that the only access to the dorm at 1am is a window about 12ft up that opened outwards ... at the top... but it won't be for want of trying.

Weds 6 • Munster - "Gleis 22"
When you arrive you’re welcomed by a huge mural on the side of the Gleis 22. We’re supporting American grunge band Chokebore tonight. Long soundcheck, spinach meal. Venue starts filling up around 9.30pm. On stage at 10.15pm. 2 encores. Free bar to us. We celebrate with three free bottles of champagne. Several very strange characters by the bar...a tramp fascinated by his fingers, a girl with punky make-up grins into space.

Frank offers champagne to 2 long dark haired girls, courtesy of me! They nod and smile and we chat. They’re off to Mexico at 4am. An extrovert called Simone invites us to a club. End up sleeping in her stylish flat. She has a poster of CAST on the wall with a large rectangle of parcel wrap hiding the faces. She explains that the day after she 'met' them they weren’t very kind to her... Sean and her 'chat' for hours whilst Frank and I take advantage of her bed to try and get some kip.

Thu 7 • Homeward bound
Homeward bound and wishing we weren’t. Stop at Frank’s parent house in Kevelaer, Holland. The house is full of dolls which his mum paints. We’re told they fetch upwards of 500DM (£250) a piece!

Its a rougher crossing than before. The boat’s tilting enough to make you feel drunk. Arrive back at Harwich around 7am. No surgical glove treatment at customs (despite looking ideal candidates ED).The van starts shuddering violently on the M1 a mile away from MK. John gets a tow back to Northampton.
End.

Top Five Tour Tracks
1. Jungle Boogie - Kool & The Gang
2. Listening Wind - Talking Heads
3. South American Getaway - Burt Bacharach
4. Fat Sams Grand Slam - Bugsy Malone Soundtrack
5. Sexy Thing - Hot Chocolate

Single News
"Cancel Life", the debut 7", got 4/5 in 'Music Week' , reached number 16 in HMV London's singles chart and got a helpful plug from the Record Collector.

Melody Maker's Simon 'ooh, you've smudged me eyeliner' Price gave it a fairly pointless 4/10. Meanwhile fanzines worldwide gave it universal praise. Radio in Italy, Sweden, France, Holland and Germany played it. Regional BBC stations and XFM gave it a serious spin and Revolution offshoot, Jealous, started taking a healthy interest in the band.

Thanks to all of you that brought the single, and especially those that had to go through the time-consuming process of ordering it.

If you haven't yet got hold of the single, and would like one of the few remaining copies, send us a well concealed £2.50 and we'll sort you out.

Ends | April 1996

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