||LOOPY'S WORLD: PART THIRTEEN - KISS IN EUROPE
Steve 'Loopy' Newhouse
Across the borders, and through the barricades.
I met up with Michael Kenney and Pete Bryant at the old Edwin Shirley yard in West Ham early enough to hear the cock crow, but that didn't happen. There wasn't a farm that close to this industrial part of town, so we had to put up with the tube trains running close to the yard instead.
The band's gear was stored at Edwin Shirley's around this time, so we knew what we had to load onto our brand new Renault Saviem truck. All the new flight cases had arrived a few weeks before and had all been stencilled with the Maiden logo, numbered 1-25 and carefully loaded onto the truck by the three of us.
The new Saviem was going to be our home for the next few months, and I couldn't wait.
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Edwin's liaison, Annie Mac, had told us that the truck had been governed to do no more than 60 miles per hour and we accepted that. The first test was getting this huge truck out of the old yard, and, if any of you know what I mean, can I just say "hats off" to the Artic drivers that did this on a daily basis.
This was no easy task. Out through the barrier; turn left under the bridge, then left again up the slope, a sharp U-turn, further up the slope again, over the railway then left and down the slope to the main road and freedom. Piece of piss for someone like me in the passenger seat. We hadn't even started and yet Pete was already sweating bucket loads.
It was going to be a long journey. Next stop Rome.
At least we had the right paperwork this time. Our only other venture into Europe was a disaster.
We did an indoor festival in a town called Kortrijk, on the French Belgian border. Getting out there was no problem at all. In fact, on the same ferry going over, we met up with a bunch of guys going to the same festival. They were a small band called McKitty, including one Nicko McBrain. Can you see where this is going?
As I said before, what Harry wants, Harry gets. But back to the tale.
We get to the hotel, check in and everything's fine. We get to the venue and find out that Judas Priest have pulled out and Gillan are headlining. No problems there. We do our bit, pack our stuff up and go back to the hotel.
Kortrijk is a lovely town with a huge open town centre, and we just happened to be there while they were having some kind of fayre. There were lots of stalls selling all manner of gifts, nic nacs etc., but they also had some kind of carnival going on.
Some of the stalls had dangly cork strings with a prize at the bottom. The idea was to shoot away the cork with an air rifle and win the prize.
Everybody was trying their hardest to win the bottle of booze, or the packet of cigarettes. Not Jon McCoy, the bass player from Gillan. He went straight for the gas mask and won it.
Funniest site of the weekend was when Jon and some of the Gillan crew came crashing into my room at 4:00am and turned my roommate's bed upside down. My roommate was Chris Caldwell, Iron Maiden's soundman at the time. The guys didn't hang about but Jon was still wearing the mask when they hit our room.
So, with Chris on the floor, his bed still on top of him, I went back to sleep.
The following day was one of those days in the band's history that I think most of us would like to forget.
There's a little thing called a Carnet. A Carnet is a list of everything you take out of the country on a van and it should be a list of everything you bring back in on a van. Are we all in the clear about this? Then I shall continue.
We didn't have one. A Carnet I mean.
I don't know whose problem it was to sort this out but we, the crew I mean, didn't know anything about it. We went out from Dover with no problem at all. Coming back, Pete and Mike Kenney sat at customs for four hours.
Me? Well I was ok. I came back in the Limo with the band and, if I remember rightly, we went to the Bandwagon for a beer or two. I know that Pete and MK were not happy bunnies.
So, with that story cleared up and on the road to Italy to join Kiss, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, first of all we learned that the truck had been governed to do a maximum speed of 60mph, and we had two days to reach Rome so this shouldn't have been a problem. But we had to learn fast.
We got to Dover and crossed the Channel to Calais in no time at all. All we had to do now was navigate through France to the French Swiss border.
The idea was to go through Switzerland and into Italy, and then head straight down to Rome. On paper it all looked brilliant. And that was as brilliant as it got. We were so far ahead of ourselves we didn't realise that certain borders closed for the night.
We got to the border between Switzerland and Italy to a place called Chievo just as the border was closing for the night.
We spoke to everyone involved at the crossing and, not having enough cash to try bribing everybody, we stayed where we were parked, and then had to wait until 8:00 the next morning for the border to open again.
Now we were under pressure. We had to drive the length of Italy to get to Rome.
We finally cleared Customs just before 9:00am and hit the road knowing that we were against time. The distance from Chievo to Rome was about 600 miles but we figured 60 mph, 10 hours of driving, we should be in Rome before show time.
I don't remember much about the journey south apart from a couple of things. Firstly, if we had the windows down the air would get under the gap between the roof and roof lining to the point where the roof lining sagged down between me and the driver. So, first job was to cut out the roof lining.
At 60mph on a hot day this could have caused untold trouble. So being the professionals that we were, we took immediate action.
Secondly, I remember seeing the leaning Tower of Pisa off to the left, a few miles away. Back in those days I never thought about having a serious camera to capture my surroundings or I would have given you a visual experience too...
Part b to follow...
Click here for the Loopyworld index for the rest of this amazing story, including Steve's tribute to Clive Burr...