My first memories of the Music Machine are getting there before anyone
else, along with the rest of the crew, and surveying the place. It was enormous
compared to some of the other venue's we'd played at. The stage was about
seven feet above floor level but luckily the load in door was almost next to
the stage, so that made life easy to get the equipment in. Not so easy to get
the equipment out again, because while the place was in full swing that same
door remained shut until the whole gig had finished around 2a.m.
A lot of that was to do with the noise from the venue spilling on to the streets
at what the locals might see as inconsiderate hour in the morning but to the rest of us quite
normal. We didn't live the normal 9 to 5 lifestyle. We were living on the edge.
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The edge of what, you might ask? Stardom maybe? Back then, who knew?
There was also the health and safety aspect, but we didn't care so much about
that in those days. I don't think anybody did. If something went wrong, it was
looked into and dealt with. Nowadays, if something goes wrong, so many
people become involved. This department, and that department, bickering
about something that could so easily be cleared up with a tissue. It really get's
on my tits, but let's not digress.
The stage was a decent enough size to accommodate the three bands on the
bill, which were in order of headline, Samson, Iron Maiden and Angelwitch.
And then of course there was Neal Kay, who along with a local promoter, had
set the whole thing up.
Looking at the stage from front of house, (the punters area, if you like) Neal
had his DJ box to the left. He also had his own crew, which I found amusing.
Neal never touched a thing. I don't think he even touched his records. I'm sure
he had someone to do that too. I could be wrong.
Back to the load in...
We were met by three guys who turned out to be the local crew, there to help us get
our gear in and out again. They were generally known as humpers. The leader,
or for a better term, crew boss was a biker called Crazy Ken (who I remember
as being an absolute nutter). But I have to admit, he and his two mates didn't
mess about when it came to getting the gear out of our van and loaded into
After my Maiden venture I became a stage hand with a London based
company called Stage Miracles but I never came across these guys again. It
gets you wondering where they all disappear to?
Getting there so early was our fault, and we had hours to kill. So we whiled
away the time talking shit and finding more and more stupid things to do.
Ken had a used tampon in his pocket that he would suck on, and he would
offer it to everyone. Bizarre, but true.
I found out that if I leaned far enough back on a particular chair, it would
eventually fall over, and I would slam into the floor, much to the delight of our
new biker friends.
It was all getting a bit stupid, until other people showed up, then the bikers
went off to sort them out and we had to start getting our show set up.
The changing rooms were an insult to all of us really. Backstage at the Music
Machine were not rooms exactly but cubicles. They were unguarded
and we had to have someone looking after the bands personal effects during
the show. It wasn't a case of distrust, or maybe it was, thinking back. We didn't
know anybody else on the bill, so we were just being careful. We were from
East London, Angelwitch were from South London, and Samson could have
come from anywhere, because they were a bit strange. But I'll come back to
them in a bit.
I'm not sure if there was a problem with the sewerage system at the MM,
but the lower you went, the wetter the floors were. The band decided to get
changed for the show about 15 feet away from the stage access and even to
this day I have no idea who looked after their personal belongings but it was
Angelwitch opened the gig and played what I remember as being a powerful,
Sabbathesque set. Lots of real heavy basslines complimented by twin guitars,
and a really competent drummer.
They played for about half an hour, maybe more. That long ago it's difficult to
gauge time, but Angelwitch didn't let anyone down.
Then it was our turn. Most of our stuff was already on stage, all we had to do
was wait for Angelwitch to clear their equipment away and move our gear into position.
The band played a really good set that night, finishing with Iron Maiden and
Lightsy setting the mask off to the delight of the crowd.
Having done so many local gigs in such a short time, the Maiden fans there
that night astonished me. I couldn't put a figure on it, but I would say without
hesitation that most of the people that turned up, were there to see Iron
Maiden. I think that proved itself, when a few weeks later we headlined the
But my tale of the first night at the Music Machine isn't quite finished.
While me and Pete packed our equipment away and put it all to one side of the
building, Samson started to play their set.
It didn't take long to realise that although this was not the best rock music I
have ever heard, the singer was something different.
Bruce Dickinson, a young man with big idea's, was the highlight of Samson's
set. We watched him climb all over the PA, jump off and do barrel rolls. He was
the most electric front man we'd ever seen.
The rest of the band noticed too.
I stood next to Steve Harris, who had Dave Murray to his right, and the two of
them chatted away between themselves all the way through the Samson set,
about what, I have no idea, although in hind sight, I guess we can all assume
When the show eventually finished at 2 am and we were finally allowed to get
our equipment out of the building. Vic brought the Green Goddess round to
the load-out doors and we loaded up our stuff onto the back of the van and
Everything had gone really well. We had just played to our biggest audience
yet, and we knew that things were about to get better.
Or not, as the way things go.
We were almost home when the Green Goddess decided to give up. After
various checks were made, it was decided that we would have to make our
own way home.
I was quite happy to walk home but some people got cabs. At 3 in the
morning, I didn't really care. I started to walk, after all, it was only the Canning
Town Flyover and I'd done this walk numerous times after watching RDB
playing the Bridgehouse, with one Dennis Stratton.
What freaked me out most within the first few steps, was to see a rat, about
the size of a medium sized dog. James Herbert (The Rats), you bastard. If you
are not familiar with the books, then I suggest you give them a go.
Luckily, the rest of the journey home was uneventful.
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