Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wir sind alles Berliner(s)

This picture was taken by our tour manager Steve Left, on our spring of 1990 tour of Europe. That's us, standing in front of what was remaining of the Berlin Wall. (Left to right, it's Ken Frank, David McIntire, Colorblind James, Phillip Marshall, Joe "The Bone" Colombo and James McAvaney.) Students of history will remember that the wall came came down in November of '89. We were touring then, and had some shows booked in Germany, including one in Berlin. Most of them fell through, being cancelled as we were flying to London. In the meantime, we plodded onwards with the rest of that surreal and depressing tour. We were aware that world-shaking events were unfolding, but we were preoccupied with our daily routine of travel and performing. At some point, we realized that our cancelled gig in Berlin had been scheduled for the very night that the wall came down. We would have been there for that momentous event. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

The tour concluded with us deep in debt and severely depressed as we prepared to fly home. The debacle that was our journey home will need its own separate posting, but suffice it to say, we were feeling low. But soon to be brought even lower, when, on the same plane as us was another band (I have no idea who they were) who HAD played in Berlin on that fateful night. They were exultant about the experience, telling people on the plane what a fantastic experience it had all been, how excited the East Berliners had been to hear American bands for the first time, how the clubs were all packed with enthusiastic throngs. I had an intense feeling that some cosmic plan had gone horribly wrong, and the fun, successful tour that was rightfully ours had been given to this other band somehow. It wasn't fair.

A few months later, we finally played in Berlin. By then, the excitement was over, and the gig was routine. We still took time to go to the wall and pay our respects.

Addendum: The title of this posting was a rough attempt to approximate the phrase from JFK's speech at the Berlin Wall where he declared, "Ich bin ein Berliner." The audience knew what he was trying to say and roared approvingly, but his statement more or less translates to "I am a jam-filled doughnut." Which should tell politicians to try out those phrases on native speakers BEFORE they make the big speech. Anyway, the actual plural would be "Berlineren."


Anonymous said...

I saw the Colorblind James Experience at Manchester Polytechnic in 1989, I think it was, so that must have been during the tour you're talking about here. I'm sorry to hear it was such a depressing experience for the band. My friends and I certainly enjoyed the show though. I had first heard of the band through a fellow student who had come across you on the John Peel show of course (where else??).

I always thought it a crying shame that so few people have even heard of CBJE. I'm sure more people would appreciate the band if only they knew you. I know that any time I play 'Considering a Move' to friends, they love it. I ony wish I had more of your material on CD.

Keep up the good work with the blog.

david d. mcintire said...

I'm very glad that "anonymous" enjoyed the Manchester Poly show, and thanks for the kind words about the blog. I thought that in general the Northern audiences were more in tune with our sensibility in some ways, and more open to our less known repertoire.

I should clarify that the '89 tour was in many ways a tremendous artistic success. We had many successful shows and grew into a much more versatile unit as a band. It was on this tour that we really started playing with consistent, phenomenal precision. Our BBC Peel session on that tour was excellent, in my opinion, and I'd do the whole thing all over again without a moment's hesitation. But, the financial stresses that we experienced placed a cloud over all of the positive aspects of the tour, and by the end that's about all we were aware of. Chuck commented later that this experience would have broken up most other bands.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a blogger account, hence my apparently anonymous appearance. :-) My name's Phil and I live in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I was a student in Manchester in the late 1980s which is when I became aquainted with CBJE.

Anonymous said...

I saw CBJE at York University (UK) during that tour. I'd gone there on a whim to visit a friend, and somehow had absolutely no idea that my favourite band were even in the country. I danced like an idiot all evening with a big stupid grin all over my face, and then the nice security man introduced me to the band. It was the only time I ever saw CBJE live, and I've never enjoyed a gig more. Thanks for that.

- Adrian Stovold

david d. mcintire said...

Further, and final addendum: my German teacher informs me that the proper construction for this blog posting title should be "Wir sind alles Berliner." (I relied on Babelfish back when I originally wrote this...) And that JFK should really have said "Ich bin Berliner," omitting the article "ein," which is what implies the tasty pastry. Everything else in the posting stands as it is.

Robert said...

I was at the Berlin show! My first (of many, many) shows.

It remains one of the best (if not the best) show I've seen in my life.