Band: Soft Heap
- Pip Pyle…garbage man
- Elton Dean…a mentor
- John Greaves…a translator
- Mark Hewins…lucky bastard
- Irene…super model
- Alain Eckhart…French Guitarist
Viral pneumonia is a very dangerous thing to get, especially at 11 years old. It happened to me but I’m OK now. It did however introduce me to Strasbourg, because that’s where I spent 7 weeks recovering, and I was very much looking forward to playing there with Soft Heap on the second tour.
What a great town Strasbourg is. We had a fantastic time playing there. When we arrived our host, the promoter, took us for a meal. I, of course, knew the local food from my period of convalescence and ordered Chocroute, which is a wonderful sausage, flowery potato, sauerkraut and belly pork meal for the working man. The promoter and his friends were impressed that I knew their basic diet so I told them of my childhood illness, and foolishly boasted I could speak the local dialect, Alsatian, which sounds like low frequency backward German. “Go on say something to me” I said, thinking the few meaningless phrases I had picked up as a kid enabled me to converse with them. “Scrugjdkshjmksdu, kirgsddnj?” the promoter asked. Naturally I couldn’t even begin to understand him, so we scratched that idea and went to do the concert.
After one particular performance we were up all night having a good time until dawn, when we heard a clattering in the street below. It was the garbage men and Pip, for some reason, shot off and did the whole round, helping them collect the rubbish in this, one of the most beautiful European cities. I believe they paid him in cafe cognac’s afterwards and it must have been quite an experience. Perhaps another vocation?
We played Strasbourg a few times. During one tour I had gone to see the European Parliament on my own and found (in the surrounding gardens) one of France’s two genuine five star ‘Michelin Guide’ restaurants. A meal would have cost a year’s salary for mere mortals. This is how the other half live – and on us, don’t forget!
Anyway, it was getting late and I was about 3 Kilometres from town. It seemed I had half an hour before we started the gig and I knew the guy’s would be getting worried, so I tried to find a cab. Impossible. I was now starting to panic because with five minutes to go until the start of the gig I didn’t know where I was. The only thing I could think of doing was to flag a car down, any car, and plead for help. I walked into the road and waved my arms about, nearly getting run over a couple of times – who gives lifts to people carrying guitars, in the real world? – but thankfully a car drew up and I looked inside putting my best ‘help me’ face on. Irene was the most stunning blond I had ever seen, a real ‘super model’ candidate, wearing a fur coat and dangling with jewels. Yes, she would give me a lift and, yes she knew where we were playing. Phew! what a relief! I was so grateful I would have done anything for her at that moment, but it would have made me late!
We arrived at the hall and I invited her to see the gig. We walked in together, right on time, and the guy’s were already on stage. I could tell they were all ready to be annoyed with me for being late. As I walked down the central aisle of the hall full of people it went very quiet. They were all looking at this gorgeous woman who was with me. I sat her at the front and sauntered onto the stage, to thunderous applause. Even the guy’s were impressed!! Obviously she was done up to go somewhere else and unfortunately she left about half way through and I never saw her again.
Another memorable time in Strasbourg was with Soft HEAP#4, which was a short tour including Alain Eckhart. I turned up at the club and found a brand new Yamaha baby grand piano, unplayed as yet, sitting at the side of the stage. No contest. I am not ‘per se’ a piano player but found my own expression on this superb instrument. I spent two days in front of it, bending it to my will, I was the first human it had encountered – one of my most enjoyable voyages of musical discovery. The concerts may have been recorded, I would like to hear them one day, I do hope the recordings survive, and are as good as I remember.
MORAL – Politicians produce nothing but corruption, always eat well, and always at someone else’s expense.
WORD COUNT – 800 COPYRIGHT – MARK HEWINS 1994
PS! This is a repost of a story that was originally published on the old website on Musart.co.uk. These old web pages are gone, but are still accessible through archive.org’s Wayback Machine. Read the story on musart.co.uk by clicking here.