SEATTLE â€” A funny thing happened on the way to the merch tent ...
This week I'm going to take you through some of my more bizarre, err, engagements over the years.
My first professional gig of any duration was playing in a cabaret (hotel) band called Whitticombe Faire in Leeds, England. The singer boasted that I was the 37th drummer to grace "his" stage when I won him over at the audition. From then on every other show with them was screwed up in some way or other.
I should have seen the signs when two of the band quit the first night I went to watch them on New Year's Eve in Scotland. My first show would have been miming on guitar, had I not refused to do so the next day.
At any rate things, started to get really hairy in Norway. One show at the Batsfjord Royal Hotel, took place a week after a menage a trois gone awry. The wronged party proceeded to commit a double beheading on the steps of the establishment making national headlines. The atmosphere seemed tense in what looked like a roadside cafe and, sure enough, a never ending brawl took place during our third of four sets that night.
More Scottish mayhem ensued on the Tennent's Highlands and Islands tour with the Hollowmen. We entered the small town of Forres, home of the cult new age community Findhorn. Choque, our guitarist, noticed a rather nice looking Shell gas pump on the way in and disappeared right after soundcheck. The rest of us retired to our guest house, built for a family of midgets in the fifteenth century.
Consequently, Brian, our other guitar player knocked himself out on the ceiling while descending the stairwell. On arriving at the gig he took solace in the arms of a Findhorn runaway, who proceeded to attach colored metal plates to his torso with duct tape. So on we went, with Choque missing and Brian reading from his own hymn sheet.
The set started disastrously, and Brian seemed to be suffering some kind of amnesia, and at the back of the crowd I saw this pristine glass antique Shell sign, bobbing over a pair of shoulders, like a Frank Sidebottom headpiece: Its Choque! He bounded onstage, proudly rested his prize on top of his amp, slung his guitar and started playing.
In Spacehog we've played on boats, in bowling alleys, volleyball tournaments, you name it. But things got weird when we opened for Sex Pistols in Brazil. I think I was feeling particularly pleased with myself in Rio. The sun was setting behind the Sugar Loaf Mountain, Jesus was winking at me and I was winking back.
Then, out of my peripheral vision I saw this rotating structure. I thought maybe it was just one of the lights until BAM! I was hit in the head by a folding chair, thrown from the audience of the stadium. It almost knocked me right over as I was promptly brought back down to earth. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.
But the No. 1 disaster gig was in The House Of Blues, New Orleans, in 2005 with The Twentytwos. At this point in my career I considered myself a master of Psychic Firefighting after seven years in the trenches with Royston and Antony Langdon. But these girls were on a whole other level of emotional terrorism. Lets just say two of them weren't getting along.
In fact, they weren't talking to each other. In fact, they were a cocktail away from killing each other! Things had reached critical mass in the Big Easy and as everyone knows, bad things happen in the Big Easy!
I had pretty much had enough of them at this point and disappeared for a couple a drinks with a girl O had met at a bar. A pretty girl, she told me she was a prominent actress, but seemed to be on first name terms with all the girls in the strip club next door. We then went and had our fortunes read before returning to the show. To my horror all three of the girls were smashed, could hardly walk, never mind play. Walking onstage that night felt like walking to a firing squad. After three songs the singer just fell offstage, landed on her guitar with a sickening amplified crunch. She remarkably got up (it was a six-foot drop) and continued to play to our shows conclusion.
I don't think we ever played together again, and it was a deadly quiet drive back to New York.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Jonny Cragg
Published July 26, 2016
Spacehog's Jonny Cragg heads back to 1987, when he was heading home from his first trip to the United States and, unbeknownst to him, heading on his way to playing with and recording an album with The Hollow Men.
Published June 28, 2016
As a Brit in the U.S. I have watched the whole Brexit referendum unfold with some interest. I watched on in disbelief as my spiritual homeland rejected the concept of being bound by the European Union. I shouldn't be too surprised, I suppose.
Published March 17, 2016
It is September 1979. I am in high school in Horsforth, a suburb of Leeds, England. My friend Pete had the kind of drum kit every young rocker dreams about - a black Premier Elite with a full battery of single headed concert toms (very Phil Collins). I was hooked.
Published Jan. 12, 2016
It's 1977, I am 10 years old and I buy my first single: "Sound and Vision" by David Bowie. It's an oddity of a track, all wandering instrumentation, sparse vocals and washy synth. But it was the beginning of my relationship with the Thin White Duke.
Published July 1, 2015
As the drummer of Spacehog, I've played in front of big crowds at Summerfest, at least three times (or so I recall). I have some fond memories, rolling into Milwaukee, taking the opportunity to skim new music in the open air of your beautiful lakefront.
Published March 12, 2015
As a jobbing musician, talent buyer, venue manager, etc., seeing live music is a frequent occupational pastime. It's easy to get jaded, but every now and again someone or something blows your mind.
Published Jan. 17, 2015
From the Seattle bureau of OnMilwaukee.com, Spacehog drummer Jonny Cragg takes a look at Sunday's Packers-Seahawks game. Even though soccer is more his thing, he kinda gets American football. And he's rooting for the Pack.
Published Jan. 6, 2015
As much as we love our families, our roots and some of our old ways, I think there's usually a reason (besides our jobs) that we opt to live thousands of miles away from them. So, if you didn't get a chance to see those closest to you this holiday, please enjoy them from a distance; sometimes it's easier that way!
Published Dec. 4, 2014
Twenty years after Spacehog's Jonny Cragg first met Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner, he found himself sharing beers, stories and music with him on the Summerland Tour. That's how he learned that Pirner has a strong Milwaukee connection.
Published Nov. 3, 2014
My band, Spacehog, was lucky: We made enough money selling our re-recorded hit "In The Meantime" to Guitar Hero and Rock Band to finance its production. But there was the small matter of promoting our new release - something we had taken for granted that would be performed by the rank and file of a large record company.