vicarinatutugal (vicarinatutugal) wrote in morrissey_shot,

I was Morrissey's roadie.. (not me but read on)

This interesting article was posted anon in the previous post. Have a read. 

Andrew Winters

I was Morrissey's roadie

It looked like the gig of a lifetime for a Morrissey fan, touring America with the man they call Moz. But our writer lasted barely a day – and still doesn’t know what went wrong

The initial phone call came out of the blue. I had recently stretched my CV in the music business to include tour management and just returned from driving two English bands round the US; just me, both bands and their equipment, all squeezed inside a van, enacting a road-trip scenario that in filmic terms might have been viewed as a strange meeting of Little Miss Sunshine and About Schmidt.

Here was a new job offer, the gist being “How would you like to be Morrissey’s valet for two months across America?”. The official job title was assistant road manager. Without hesitation the reply was: “Yes, please. I’ll have some of that.”

Over the next couple of days the initial approach was followed by an e-mail question and answer dialogue. Alongside the usual questions such as who had I been tour-managing recently and how much I might be expecting to earn, were: Smoking or not? Married? Was I a vegetarian and/or would I be willing to be one for the duration of the tour. Lastly, would I e-mail a picture of myself? The latter caused a lot of deliberation. Should it be a mugshot, or me in my swimming togs, perhaps? In the end I opted for a picture in which I was reclining on a sofa with my fiancée’s cat in my lap.

As it happens, the first time that I ever travelled to America – in 1991 – was to go as a VIP guest to Morrissey’s solo New York debut. He sold out Madison Square Gardens, 20,000 tickets in record time (the record had been held by U2). I still had my VIP pass; I considered scanning it and sending it, to prove that I am a bona fide fan. Luckily I didn’t, as I subsequently learnt that anyone resembling an overenthusiastic admirer of the man or his music was immediately vetoed.

Better also keep quiet, then, the fact that I was present at the first concert that the Smiths played outside of Manchester, at the Rock Garden in London in 1983; that I danced like a demon to What Difference Does it Make at a GLC “Jobs for Change” concert at the Jubilee Gardens in London the following year, and that I had been present, feeling uncomfortable, as Morrissey performed swathed in a Union Jack at Finsbury Park in London in 1992. And again ten years later as he reestablished himself, supported by the Libertines, at Brixton Academy, previewing the phenomenal comeback album You are the Quarry.

Now it’s a week later and I’ve just got off a train and am having a pint of beer in a pub in Suffolk. It’s my “interview” and Morrissey’s road manager is sizing me up. In fact, as much as anything, he informs me, it’s to check out how I comport myself, my choice of clothes and general demeanour. Apparently if I was to be sporting anything resembling archetypal road crew apparel, such as turning up with a baseball cap reversed on my head or a cap-sleeve T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Saxon – World Tour 1987” then I’d be on the first train home.

I am told that if I am accepted, then it will be the most unusual gig I will ever experience. I will get to know the protocols of working with Morrissey but the one overriding rule is the vegetarian one. No burgers from room service, no ham on salads, I get the sense if I am caught even visibly acknowledging the existence of a McDonald’s - instant sacking. I politely ask what the view is on fish. Seafood is sea life, I am informed, the same rule applies.

I get home, not quite sure why or how that was an interview or what the outcome would be. I check my e-mails and there it is: “Welcome to the tour.” For a moment I am stunned. In a week I will be flying out to LA to join the tour. Result!

The next day I get an outline of what some of my duties will be. The touring party is divided into three sections – Morrissey A, which includes him, the road manager, his PA and personal security; Morrissey B – the musicians, and C – the road crew, technicians and support staff. I am to be responsible for the B unit and linking up to take care of Morrissey and the band onstage during show days. I am responsible for getting the musicians to the venue intact and on time.

The production carries “sound-check suits”. I am informed that the band are considered “ambassadors” of the Morrissey tour and are therefore expected to be dressed in these suits for all soundchecks, all collective flights, all dinners and functions that may possibly include Morrissey – and it’s my responsibility to make sure that they are wearing them.

I am also responsible for the upkeep of the suits, their dry cleaning and steam-pressing before each show. I must iron shirts and clean shoes. I am to be valet and wardrobe mistress and possibly barber as well, although I learn later that a new hairdresser is flying in from Dublin to join Morrissey for this tour. The various eating habits of each band member, who eats what and when, is explained, as is the how and when to take food orders . . . all from vegetarian menus, of course.

During the soundcheck I am to “fragrance spray” between the front row and front of house and am informed that Morrissey’s PA will provide me with the fragrance of the day “if required”. I make a mental note to discover what fragrance spray is – unless it is a common brand of male underarm deodorant you can be sure I won’t have it.

And here’s one I like: set up record player and 45s in the band’s dressing room. Make another mental note to take a small selection of my own vinyl collection to impress Morrissey and the boys when we’re under way. An hour before stage time I am to wake any of the band members who might be sleeping, collect a trumpet and collect a cup of tea and, um . . . facial water spray for Morrissey onstage and make sure it is positioned within easy access for him.

I must ensure that the band is fully dressed for the show at least 15 minutes before stage time, ready for Morrissey to enter the band dressing room five to ten minutes before the show. I must ensure that a clean chair is placed near the door for his preliminaries with the band and advised that for these moments I should make myself scarce . . .

A few days to go and I receive details of my flight. I am flying to the US on September 11, 2007 – nice to get a memorable date. On the flight an attendant announces: “Vegan meal for seat 83c.” I realise that this is me, preordered vegetarian meals are standard on all flights of a Morrissey tour. I try to explain that I am only a temporary vegetarian for the purposes of work and that perhaps vegan is a jump too far too early. “No sir, this is all we have.”

I arrive in LA with the excitement and expectation overriding the jet lag. I come to the hotel and am impressed by the suite that I have been allocated all to myself. I get a bit hungry and look at room service. I decline the parma ham and decide on mushroom and tomato pizza as part of my new vegetarian regimen. I then spend the next few hours sleeping, dozing, dreaming of aircraft crashing into buildings until finally, at 7am, the phone rings. It’s one of the band. He has to sort out some business affairs and asks if I would like to accompany him. I am here to serve, so naturally say “yes”. Anyway, it’ll give me an opportunity to get to know at least one member of the band. We get on fine. Then I am asked: “What was the first record you ever bought? Moz asks everyone that, I’m told. What would your answer be?”

Being involved in music I have often been asked this question and my policy recently has been honesty. It wasn’t the Velvet Underground, Sex Pistols or the Jesus and Mary Chain, it was Rocket Man, by Elton John. “F*** me, Andrew,” he says. “Don’t tell Moz that, you’ll be right out the door. T. Rex is always good.”

It’s not long before I make another apparent faux pas. We are listening to Indie 103, one of the best alternative rock radio shows in LA. I am asked if I have heard the station’s show by the Sex Pistol Steve Jones. I say I have but also like to listen to Henry Rollins, whose Harmony in my Head show is on the same station. This is met with a frown and then silence. I wonder if I have said something else wrong, then forget it.

It’s the afternoon. We’re at the rehearsal rooms in downtown LA and the full force of Girlfriend in a Coma can be heard, just one of a whole new bunch of Smiths and Morrissey solo material that the band is adding to its repertoire. I’m doing my part; the carrots are cut, the cucumber chopped, the celery stacked and dips and fresh bread easily accessible. Morrissey is not p r e s e n t , though, and the guitarist is filling in on vocal guides. I am really excited about the whole prospect of this adventure.

Then, at about 5.30pm there is the bleep of simultaneous texts arriving and the band drop instruments and set about a bit of grooming. We have been summoned to the pub, a well-known Morrissey hang-out. I arrive with the band and crew. We have tables reserved in the beer garden.

“Be careful, Andrew,” someone warns me. “Moz hates people who are boring . . . but then, he also hates people being too pushy around him. Establishing common ground quickly is important.”

An hour later and the A team arrives – Morrissey, his PA, the road manager and security team. This is something of a reunion as Morrissey, the band and crew haven’t been together for a few weeks, so there is a lot of rebonding going on.

It is at this point that Morrissey and I have our only line of dialogue – Moz asks his bandmate how his day has been. He replies a bit boring because a lot of it was spent sorting out some business and adds: “But it was good to have Andrew around as company.”

Morrissey looks at me with what seems like a slight smirk and shakes my hand. “Don’t worry, Andrew, it can only get better than this,” he says – and then proceeds to grab his guitarist and rub his fingers through his hair.

All this time I am weighing up quite how not to be boring but to impose myself on the situation. I admit I do give up slightly and just decide to be normal with the band and Moz’s PA and to get to know people.

While this is going on everyone is drinking. Morrissey instructs his PA to order him a large vodka concoction. Then something bizarre happens. A drinking game ensues, where one of the musicians is encouraged to knock back his pint to a chorus of “Down in one, down in one, down in one,” a chant to which Morrissey himself adds flamenco claps, skipping in front of his employee. He immediately beckons for another pint for the same musician and the process is repeated.

It’s hard to believe I've been in LA barely 24 hours.

The jet lag is kicking in a bit.

The next move of the evening is to be a change of location.

But it’s hard to work out who has been invited and who hasn’t. Am I? I’ll probably never know. One of the band who I have been asked to keep an eye on can’t decide whether to go on to the new venue or go to the hotel. He, like me, has just flown from the UK so is a bit jet-lagged as well. He suggests going back to the hotel –and that is what we do.

The next day is the second day of rehearsal. I wake up early and am greeted by a text from the road manager: “Please chck ur e-mail.”

And there it is – “Morning, Andrew, I’m sorry to say I have been instructed to arrange travel back to the UK for you today. Your flight details are below.”

That’s it. I’m out. I sit there in shock. What did I do? I speak to the road manager who says: “It’s nothing to do with you, really. It could have been the shirt you were wearing, your haircut, anything. Please don’t take it personally. This happens.”

The car is waiting to take me to the airport. I am pondering where I went wrong, how I could have done things differently.

Did details of my first record purchase slip back to Morrissey? If so, my subsequent searches on the net might give me a clue to my summary dismissal. Type in “Morrissey” and “Elton John” and you get a speech that Morrissey dishes out when he performs the song The World is Full of Crashing Bores along the lines of “bring me the head of Elton John”.

Not a fan, then – but not even a bit of leeway or identification with the song Rocket Man, in which John uses the song as a metaphor to depict a lonely star who only feels at home and in control onstage.

Paranoia’s slipping into my research now. Perhaps I shouldn’t have professed to liking Henry Rollins’s radio show. Type “Morrissey” and “Henry Rollins” into Google and you come across a story that Morrisseyonce attended one of Rollins’s gigs and sat in the audience shouting “F*** you” at Henry. It sounds like internet tittle tattle but, in any case, perhaps it would have gone down better if I’d said that I liked Tony Blackburn.

We’re sitting on the runway at LAX. I’ve just sent a final text to Morrissey’s PA to see if she can throw any light on things. It all happened so fast we hadn’t even had time to talk contracts.

Her reply drops in my inbox. “Well, I’m none the wiser! Safe journey home and good luck.”

We’re in the air and I hear an air hostess looking for seat 24b. It’s the same woman as before. “Vegan meal, sir?”

“Not me” I reply. “Bring me the beef.”


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