POP / On the road: Tough stains

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The Independent Online
I have never been much of a one for writing graffiti on the walls of dressing rooms. Even in the early years, the only time I can remember doing it was at the Marquee, a rather unambitious 'Squeeze' in felt tip, on the night Paul Weller accused us - wrongly - of nicking one of the Jam's mike stands. By the time you reach the larger venues, you've lost interest - and perhaps the ability. Your basic clubs and pubs, though, which I'm playing on this tour, are the natural habitat for the graffiti artiste. And, I can reveal, someone has got it in for Evan Dando of the Lemonheads in language not suitable for a family newspaper. I find I'm tempted again.

This tour has started to seem like a sequence from The Glenn Miller Story: there's a shot from a low angle of a train racing by, overlaid with a page-a-day calendar whose pages are flying off, fading to a cheering crowd with hats flying in the air and zooming on to town names that are gone just as quickly as they come - Edinburgh, Glasgow, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Stoke, Leicester, Northampton, Portsmouth. But here in week three, small things are starting to irritate me. Why is the maid cleaning the rooms in my corridor playing Radio 2 at a volume more suited to a rave? Does nobody in Stoke-on-Trent ever want a service wash in the launderette on a Saturday? Am I becoming a grumpy old git?

Sound check is very brief - 15 minutes maximum, easy peasy. The highlight of the day is, of course, the gig itself. I will do any requests within reason, so long as I know at least one verse and chorus. This has led to my doing 'Like a Virgin' in Northampton, but refusing 'Smoke on the Water' in Portsmouth. There are limits, I'm sure you'd agree. A wag in Liverpool shouted out for 'I was Kaiser Bill's Batman', which I was more than happy to comply with. Whistling never did Roger Whittaker any harm.

On my day off I go to Keele University to see Senser, an excellent band who have just the right mix of power and technology. In spite of my casual dress, the age difference between me and the audience is impossible not to notice and in one dark moment I fear being mistaken for an undercover CID man. Perhaps this paranoia is down to the fact that George, the landlord of the Wheatsheaf in Stoke where I'd played the night before, has introduced me to draught Guinness topped up with Tia Maria. Not a good idea in retrospect.

Backstage in Leicester, Johnno, who introduces himself to me as the world's oldest punk, chats with me for a few minutes. He is a keen tattoo man and, hoiking down his trousers, shows me Debbie Harry on one thigh and David Bowie as Aladdin Sane on the other. Well I never.

(Photograph omitted)

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