It was 2.00am and I was still wide-awake. On the bed in front of me were the three most important things in my life at that time. A half bottle of Makers Mark whiskey, a cigarette and the remains of an eight ball of cocaine. Either side of me was a naked girl. One black, one white.
Noel Wyatt S.O.C. / Aka ‘Ratty’
Chapter One: Rip Jim Morrison
First Published: 1 March 2012
I was in a hotel room at the Holiday Inn, Atlanta, Georgia on the first leg of the Black Crowe’s ‘Shake Your Moneymaker’ tour and things were going well.
As I leaned over to grab for the coke I was suddenly overwhelmed by the situation I was in.
“How the fuck did I get here?”
Me a little snot nosed kid from the back streets of Bristol. Me with no qualifications whatsoever. The kid most likely to end up working in a factory according to my teachers. I settled back into the bed with my arms around the two girls and figured that it couldn’t get much better than this. What I didn’t know at the time was that my journey had only just begun.
By the time I reached retirement at 55 I would have travelled around the world, been married four times, worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry and become a film and video cameraman. Not bad for a loser.
You can’t train to become a Roadie, or as they prefer to be known now, Backline Techs. Roadies are hammered out of gun metal and hardened on the floors of whoever will let them crash. Fed on pizza and beer, they work for minimum wage for many years as they hone their chops. They take anything they can get and shag anything that’s vaguely female. It’s a male dominated world of testosterone and highly competitive individuals. The jobs are few and far between and the chances of making it are remote at best.
It’s not for everyone as the lifestyle can be extremely lonely. Constantly travelling, living out of a suitcase, eating rubbish and working for twelve or fifteen hours a day. We are the fairground people of the music business, the carnets or roustabouts that you see standing on the back of your dodgem car covered in grease, faces creased and sun baked with a smile that says: “I know something you don’t.”
The business takes your life away and, when you eventually come off the road you find it impossible to relate to anyone outside of touring people. No one understands what you did, people in the local pub think you are bragging when you talk about rock stars you have worked with and after many years of hard graft you find all you have to show for it is a bad back, a battered suitcase, little or no money and some amazing memories.
I didn’t start out as a roadie. No one does. My Dad was a roadie back in the fifties so it was already in the family long before it ever became a reality for me. Most of us elite crew start off on the road to being a musician and there are many out there that could easily give the person they work for a run for their money.
For whatever reason we are all failed musicians. The journey began in my case when, at the tender age of nine I used to sit outside my brother’s room and listen to him alternately strum and swear as he attempted to master his chosen instrument of torture. For me the guitar was and still is a mystery. Even though I worked as a guitar tech for Warren Di Martini from Ratt.
The drums were and still are my passion although nowadays I play saxophone more than drums. Even at that age I was tapping out rhythms on my knees as I listened to my brother Jim struggle with his guitar. It wasn’t long before Mum’s pots and pans started to disappear as I assembled my first kit.
I remember one day in the kitchen at our house I had all of Mum’s saucepans arranged on the floor, lids hanging from strings as cymbals and wooden spoons as sticks. Jim had bought an old electric with an ancient Fender spring reverb amp. The spring reverb was broken so the only way he could make it work was to kick it every now and again.
We sat there, me smashing the hell out of the pots and Jim strumming away and kicking his amp.
My First Band
The noise must have been awful but to us it was as near to perfect as you could get. I got my first drum kit at the age of twelve. It was donated by an uncle of mine and it was what they used to call a traps kit. It consisted of a snare drum, a tom tom, a bass drum, a hi-hat and a cymbal hanging from what looked like a budgie stand. I pounded the crap out of that kit when I got it, trying desperately to sound like Buddy Rich and sounding more like I was throwing it down the stairs.
I HAD THE KIT FOR LESS THAN A WEEK! My other brother (Martin) had begun to collect scrap metal at the time as a means of raising some much needed money for the family (we were pretty poor in those days) and I got home from school one day to find my cymbals had disappeared. He had taken them to the scrapyard and weighed them in.
At that point I lost interest and wouldn’t touch another drum kit till I was 17 which I am sure was appreciated by Mom, whose pots and pans were ruined and the neighbours whose ears had been assaulted to the point of bleeding.