The details are hazy.
But I do remember this. Karl Broadie and I were in London at the same time. Karl had a tour of Scotland booked and graciously asked me to back him on guitar and sing a few songs to warm up the gatherings. He may have mentioned the tour had an actual tour manager. Someone who had worked with a actual band I had actually heard of. I think that band may have been actually been “Everything But The Girl.” This was a big deal at the time. I borrowed a guitar and met Karl at his mum’s place. We rehearsed and then arranged to meet in Edinburgh, for the first show, at a big club, organised by Everything But The Girl’s actual tour manager.
The details of this next part are clearer.
My friend Tom, who is always up for an adventure, hired a car and drove me to Edinburgh at some expense. Karl drove up there with a filmmaker friend. Naturally it was raining. We arrived at the club for soundcheck around 6pm. It was a great big 500 capacity room of a thing. It was also locked up and deserted. Everything But The Girl’s actual tour manager (let’s just go with EBTG’sATM from here on in) was nowhere to be seen. Clearly, I mused, actual tour managers actually managed tours virtually from offices in London. Tom and I banged on the door to the club. Nothing. No Karl. No sign of EBTG’sATM. I think we may have found a cleaner round the back – “there’s nor show tonight boys.” We waited. The security turned up – “Nor show tonight.” EBTG’sATM had clearly dropped the ball.
Karl arrived and surveyed the scene. I watched as he was descended instantly into that cesspool of hyperreal panic that fills a performer when shit is evidently, irrevocably, completely and utterly fucked up. He made phone calls. Smoked cigarettes to assuage the panic and we shuffled around in the cold.
The catastrophic details continued to emerge. Not only had the club not heard we were coming, but on that very morning they had removed the room’s sound system and sent it away for repair. 500 seat room. No promotion. No sound system. No EBTG’sATM. Tom went into emergency triage mode and wrangled, or at least attempted to lasso a sound system from some outlet in Scotland. It arrived. We got it going. Karl’s family turned up, and perhaps a couple of others. I remember singing songs about Missouri into a microphone, with no amplification on my guitar, to an empty venue with room for hundreds of sweaty uni students. I also remember making an executive decision to get drunk and ‘DJ’ from a god-like booth high above the stage – to no one.
More than anything though I remember Karl’s strong set of songs. He was unwavering. He did that thing that true performers do and bent space and time to his will. His songs were built solid. Mine shook in the face of this kind of terror and I quickly pulled the rip cord to vaudeville. I learned not to do that later. Karl knew not to do that then. I learned it from him.
The next morning we drove to Glasgow. We left at 4am or thereabouts. Karl (and no doubt EBTG’sATM) had organised a morning radio session at the BBC. When we arrived we were given tea and they knew who Karl was. Promising. Karl did his thing and did it well. Tom, did his thing too and talked me into a solo radio spot. In hindsight, this was an arrogant dickish move on my part – Karl had worked hard for the radio time and Tom had sweet talked me, the guitar player, into a slot above my station. I had no idea of the pecking order then. In my defence I was seduced both the sensuous, perfumed smell of the microphone (Diana Ross had sung into it the previous day) and the fact that this was the actual BBC. Radio of station of my antipodean insomnia! Bloody hell I felt as high as Clive James after long lunch. Still, dick move. Sorry Karl.
The show that night was booked for Tore, a small village north of Inverness. Heard of it? .Neither had I. But you’ll agree, I’m sure, that Tore has an enticing Caledonian ring to it. Tor – ancient citadel of the clans. Tor – bohemian village filled with narrow cobblestone streets, stoney wind-swept beaches, and a small pub warm with friendship, whisky and fire. Woollen sweaters and farmer’s daughters would abound. You can see where I’m going with this…
We asked the good people at BBC Glasgow how long it would take to drive to Tore and received a variety of responses ranging from 45mins (that is not a word of a lie) to 5 hours. These calculations depended on a number of factors that remain to this day impenetrable beneath that thickest of fogs – the glaswegian dialect.
We set off in hope. 6 hours later and we were nowhere near Tore and very hungry. Tom and I spied a pub pulled in. It was called The Commando Bar and had two mannequins guarding the front door. One was dressed in summer commando fatigues. The other ready for a winter war. Both mannequins were heavily-armed. We should have taken the hint.
Tom and I entered, our eyes adjusting to the dank smoke-fill interior. I approached the bar in heavy silence. Seeing a man eating a ploughman’s lunch at the bar I summoned my best Australian country drawl and asked Old Mate and his wife behind the bar about the prospects of “gettin’ a feed”.
“Nor fed ‘ere boys”.
Right. “No need to fire up the stove. Just some chips’d be grand? (mixing in a bit of Irish. Genius.) Like that bloke is eating over there”, I said in my best she’llberightmate pointing to a clearly traumatised veteran of the 13th century Scottish Wars of Independence toothlessly munching on a packet of Walkers like a starving Wobbegong.
“No. Fooking. Food.”
Then from the back of the room. “He’s wearing a fookin denim soot!” A commando had picked up on Tom’s strong double denim game. “Look, he’s WEARING A FOOKING DENIM SOOT!”. Laughter erupted. I thought I head a musket shot and like the ANZACs at Gallipoli, we cut our losses and made an extremely successful tactical retreat, pushing north along the ‘highway’, one lane either way. No overtaking.
Driving on, texts to Karl went unanswered in this barren wilderness. We entered hour 8. Delirium set in. We reached Inverness and still we drove north and still with no sign of Tore or a farmer’s daughter. We were now late and hungry and our morale had taken a serious beating from sheer terror of converting the Australian peso into many tanks of petrol on the pound. But then suddenly, shimmering orange as Iron Bru was Tore……………….and there it wasn’t and there it was and there it wasn’t….and so on. Yes, Tore, ancient city of my dreams, spiritual home of the farmer’s daughter, was in fact, mostly a very large round-a-bout with a pub (now ‘Highland Wellbeing’ beauty salon) next to it. I looked on in despair and began to feel sick.
It was at this point that I pulled my second dickish move. I took one look at that big roundabout, that little bar, the petrol bill, the lack of accommodation and hit the eject button leaving Karl and EBTG’sATM to fulfil the last Scottish date. Tom and I stopped at a servo for an ice cream then drove back down the other side of Scotland to the same shitty hotel in Edinburgh we’d left at 4am that day. We abandoned the Tour de Tore.
Again, sorry Karl.
I regret being that dick and then the drunken dick that haunted the Sydney music scene for a while later. I never did find out how the Tour de Tore wrapped up for Karl but I have watched and admired him from afar ever since. I hear his raspy voice, his songs built strong and steady. His caledonian gypsy soul. His black crow calling. I hear us talking about the genius of Ron Sexsmith’s first album in a recording shed out the back of Mickey Blue Eye’s place in Tempe. I hear the shared DNA of Dylan and Hank and Van and all the greats…like Del Amitri! I also hear Karl’s having a tough time of it, fighting a life threatening illness and so now, here’s to Karl.
Why don’t you join me and lend him a hand by visiting this website.