Sunday, July 09, 2006

Prequel to The First Tour (1988)

With all of the mail coming in from England, with all of the BBC airplay that continued unabated from mid-1987 onwards, and with our snazzy new distribution deal with Fundamental/Red Rhino all coming together, we naturally thought that a European (or at least British) tour would instantly be in the offing. Oddly, none of our record distributors seemed to be pushing this idea very hard. We however, saw the situation as a hot iron that needed to be struck if anything were to happen.

So when I went to London in January of 1988 (my wife Kathleen had to go there on a business trip), I thought I'd drop in on the folks at Red Rhino and see if we couldn't get that plan moving forward. I talked it over with Chuck and the band, and all agreed that it made sense to try to contact them and see about organizing a tour. I said "drop in" because they didn't have an actual phone number, or at least one that we had access to. I had no means of making an appointment. All we had was a street address in York. So I took a four-hour train ride up to York from London and walked around asking directions until I was guided to a fairly shabby part of town. I walked up to a doorway on the correct street with the correct number, but no other indication that I'd come to the right place. No sign saying "Red Rhino Records, Ltd," or anything helpful like that. I knocked. And knocked some more....

Eventually a bloke came to the door, opened it about two inches or less, and said, "Yes?" I asked if this was the location of Red Rhino Records. He didn't really say one way or the other, just more or less replied, "So, who wants to know?" I explained that I was a member of the Colorblind James Experience, that I happened to be in England just then, and that I happened to have taken a train to York to speak with them about help in setting up a European tour.

"Wait here."

So I stood in the damp chill of the doorway for a while, and eventually was invited in. The two gentlemen that received me were very gracious from that point onwards, and after some discussion they gave me the name of a booking agent in London who they thought would be interested in working with us. And also recommended a fine pub for lunch, whose steak and kidney pie was outstanding. The initial cold reception and mysterious behavior made a lot more sense a few months later, when we learned a bit more about this company that was handling our record in Europe. I'll explain further in an upcoming posting.

In my various wanderings around York, I had also stopped in at a local record shop, just to get a sense of the music scene there, and because I simply couldn't walk past a record shop in those days. As I walked in, what should be playing on the store sound system but "A Different Bob," from the first album. I walked up to the counter and said, "This is a fine record that you're playing here." A largish fellow looked up and said, "Oh, have you heard of them, then?" "Actually," I replied, "I play in that band." I have never seen a jaw drop in a more classic manner in my own life (or in a movie) before or since that moment. Priceless. He told me he was a huge fan of the band, loved the album and that it had been selling well at their shop. At this point, I had to get back to the station to catch my train back to London. I reviewed the day's accomplishments. I had: 1) made direct contact with Red Rhino, 2) conveyed the fact that we were eager to tour and been encouraged by the response, 3) been given the name of a booking agent (Paul Buck, who did help book our first tour), and 4) discovered firsthand that the buzz about the album was real. It felt like a fairly productive day. The strangeness of the experience didn't sink in until much later.

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