Yesterday I lost my hat. Cuntsticks.
A misty, half-frozen morning in Forli, where we played last night. Leaving Frank asleep, I sneak out of our hotel room block into a small stone courtyard to phone Rifa. Cobbles frosty on bare feet, so it’s not a long conversation. Then I try to pull the door open but it has clicked shut and I’m locked out.
Shivering I go sit in reception, where a vagrant blags two euros off me. There’s breakfast but I’m not hungry – and I don’t have enough Italian to explain my predicament and score a back-up key. I play golf on my mobile phone for an hour then venture back. Ha. Turns out I was supposed to push the door, not pull it and was never locked out at all.
Ever since Italian promoter Eric’s assistant (and it turns out, girlfriend) Laura (pronounced ‘Louder’) picked us up from the airport, life has been a ton more relaxed. It’s brilliant to be passengers while someone else fights the SatNav and hairpins. Laura is a principessa, always smiling and we’ve been supremely well looked after here, eaten awesome rustic pasta and got sleep before the gig. Last night was my tough gig of the tour – I wasn’t very good. I found the sound boomy but my headspace was the problem, not the gear. Find myself promising to do better to Eric, which is silly – they both enjoyed it, they say. Frank claims he had his worst show too but maybe was just making me feel better, he sounded ferocious.
Italy looks like Italy. I was worried it might look like Eindhoven. Pokey rough wood, grandiose architecture, cigarettes, dramatic half-shouted conversation with waving arms and the badly-ridden Vespas of classic movies.
All around Europe, Frank has told people that the current trendy thing to shout in the UK when you chink glasses of beer or wine is ‘Chav!’ and spreading this toast worked a treat everywhere else. But Eric and Laura are savvy Anglophiles and rumble us as soon as we try it. Apparently people in the Latvian rock scene still shout “Richardmadeley!” when toasting absent English punk friends.
Eric is a big, quiet laconic guy with a brilliant dry sense of humour. He’s mates with the coke-tinted Nambucca urchin crowd: Jay Beans and Dave Danger and the Holloways. Eric has a hundred dodgy tour stories and has even been over to London to DJ at Frog.
A stunning drive across the backbone of Italia to Roma, through snowy mountains and at one point a 10km road tunnel, which is a headfuck. They also have these incredible extended bridges where the motorway snakes above the mountainside for miles on massive stone pillars, like a giant aquaduct for cars. The link back through history to earlier Roman architecture is apparent.
In Rome, Eric gives us two hours to sight-see in the heart of the city. Starlings flock by the thousand over St Peter’s Square, looking occasionally like ghostly angels. The river and prison are beautiful too and elicit lengthy lessons from Francis.
Turner’s got amazing breadth of history, powered by a good memory, which I guess is also why he can play so many cover songs. One of the best subjects to get him banging on about is European and, in particular, Balkan and Soviet history: genuinely the single best-informed layperson on these areas I’ve met. Rather than trying to keep up or chucking my own bits in, I soak it up. I sincerely wouldn’t mind a reading list at the end of this tour!
We’ve argued vehemently about politics, sometimes over dinner to the point where our hosts get uncomfortable. It’s so much about definitions of things though rather than core beliefs: he’s no more truly right-wing (as I constantly accuse him of being) than I am a true commie, we’re scratching at meanings and struggling to balance ideology with lifestyle.
The good people of Roma quietly don’t like their new Pope very much. There are somewhat sickening souvenir stalls all around the Vatican, offering such classy things as plastic holy water bottles, or a €20 mail-order Papal Blessing. And we’re told the shopkeepers are doing a poor trade in Benny tat, as compared to re-issued John-Paul tat. Yes, Jesus Christ would be kicking those tables over if the poor bastard could see what the Church of Rome has done to his “love everyone” legacy – it takes the phrase “sell-out” to the world’s most epic level ever. The Jesus I know would be more into coming to the gig with us, than hanging with those money-changers!
I most love the way ancient aquaducts and other buildings sit happily amongst modernity, graff covered and still alive, cars driving around them. It’s a bit like British city walls but older.
Great show. Lovely crowd, very sexy, these Italians. I play much, much better and Eric understands what I meant. Reasonable opening band and smacky miserable girl singer. OK girl DJ who seems cool at first but is coked off her brain. This is still rarer in Italy but increasing – apparently very influenced by how London is portrayed in the entertainment press. Her friends are worried because her dodgy boyfriend is the dealer. I get drunk and too involved. Oh, Sambucca. I also apparently banged on various doors up to our B&B apartment and called the clanky lift to every floor as we clattered up the stairs. Sorry Frank.
West over the backbone again and south to the seaside resort of Recanati, famously picturesque, hilly and much more chilled out. It gets the most amazing mist I’ve ever seen, high up above the sea and really cold. Thick cold night-time fog like treacle, maybe less than 5 metres vision. Makes me think of Sherlock Holmes’ London but cleaner.
Live radio session in fast Italian. I hope we get a CD of it because they talk about Brighton Pavilion and get very excited when I explain it’s where I got married. Sounded awesome, all bibbly-bibbly-bibbly chris tee tee bibbly-bibbly. I get stuck in their weird lift twice, perform a great version of This Gun and leave my mobile phone behind in the studio by mistake.
Frank’s old friend Nooz – a rock DJ for a different station – shows up for dinner. Epic pasta and pizza nosh in a rock’n’roll restaurant attached to the venue. When MD played in Italy, Nooz told Frank the best thing to say when he first got onstage was “porco dio!”. Frank leapt up and shouted it and the crowd went silent. It’s a deathly insult in Catholic Italia, worse than “cunt” – more like using a racial swearword in the UK. Apparently Nooz also fell in love with Julia and pursued her aggressively until she vowed never to go back to Italy. He’s calmed down these days, trying to use his real name, got a girlfriend and lost some hair. But still writes out a large sign for Frank to hold in a photo saying “Lesson No 2: Porco Madonna!”. Nooz actually misses the gig to drive his girlfriend home, then the fog slows his return drive, so Frank plays for him in the street and a menacingly drunken Italian squaddie type dances and shouts “Fuck you!” all the way through. I’ve got it on film, feels like at any moment we’ll all get bottled.
Then back to our four star hotel.
In the morning I try to walk to Carrefour before breakfast to score some clean socks and a treat or two – but it’s just too far along what turns out to be the motorway hard shoulder. Return to the hotel annoyed and have cereal and a croissant but there’s no hot drinks left. I’m sure if I asked they’d fix me a coffee (it’s posh here) but I don’t have the energy or the language.
We say fond farewell to Eric and Laura, they were absolutely brilliant – I won’t forget them. Eric drives us to the airport.
Fuck. Bucket flight (Ryan-fucking-air) delayed for hours. Waiting room A) rammed B) no facilities C) very hot. Then: rushed takeoff, turbulence and an intense grumpy vibe on the plane, even stewardesses nervy, before landing at speed through heavy fog, hours late. Flights out cancelled apparently. Crowded train to London. Goodbye at King’s Cross. Hug it out.
I’ve lost: my hat, Frank’s harmonica, a large swiss cheese, almost all my socks and a bag of guitar cables. But I’ve gained: lush new friends, CDs by a bunch of new bands, some movie footage to die for and the keys to a small apartment in Vienna with the shower in the kitchen.
The next day Rifa buys me a new hat, in exchange for the apartment.