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From shore to ship

Day 3 Pt 2

Meet the band


John Young is the first through the door and doesn’t appear to have changed much since I last saw him. “Has it really been thirty-five years?” I ask John as he gives me a hug. “Yes, it has” he says with a smile. There’s obviously some catching up to do but right now, there is work to be done, John not only being the band leader and keyboard player but also the Tour Manager. He goes to check everybody in at the front desk and it’s time to introduce myself to everyone else. There’s a bloke dragging a porter’s trolly through the doors who, by the way he is dressed, obviously isn’t a porter so I give him a hand. “Thanks” he says with a beam, “Sam.”  We shake hands and he disappears outside for more luggage. Next through the door, guitar on his back is Dave. Mr Bainbridge and I have never met before but we recognise each other as I video-interviewed him a couple of years back when he released his solo album, To The Far Away. We both say it’s a pleasure to finally meet and he introduces the lady standing next him, Sharon, his wife. Sharon was the inspiration behind the solo album, Dave and her falling in love and then being painfully separated through the covid years by the Atlantic Ocean before they could marry. Now they are inseparable and it’s a rare moment to catch either one without the other.


Sam clatters through the doors with another trolly and we have to jump out of the way. Behind him is a bubbly English lass who introduces herself as Maisie. This is Sam’s girlfriend, an effervescent bundle of funny and charming, they make a great couple. As I’m talking to Maisie, a long-haired lady with a sparkle in her eyes drifts through the door and looks over at me. I excuse myself from Maisie and go over to say hello. It could only be one person and it’s the one in our itinerary whose role on the trip is described as ‘All things Lifesigns’, a description I will come to realise over the next few days is understated. A radiant, welcoming smile lights up her face as I approach and she holds out her hand. “I’m Julie” she says. “I know” I reply and resisting the temptation to kiss her hand, shake it instead. Last through the door is the bassist, Jon Poole. I don’t know much about Jon other than his interesting moniker on the App (unrepeatable here and wouldn’t translate well into Japanese anyway) and his rather curious messages and videos to everyone on it. I say hello and his reply is that I must be ‘Glonn from Jarparn’. I blink and say yes wondering where his accent was from or if he had some sort of speech impediment. No matter, his handshake is warm and as with all the others, I instantly like him.

John distributes the room keys. I’m sharing with Ray and John restates that my roommate and Sally won’t make it here tonight so I have the room to myself for 24 hours. We all head up to dump our luggage but not before I let everyone know I’ll be in the bar in fifteen minutes if anyone wants a drink. Ten minutes later, Sam Maisie and I are nattering over our first beer. John Young joins us for a while and then leaves as he has to do a bit of work but not before letting me know that he will try and stream the Europa League Spart Praha vs Liverpool game tomorrow – he’s a Scouser and a dedicated fan. Jon Poole (herein after to referred to as JP) then joins us.  Julie arrives soon afterwards and we adjourn to a bigger, more comfortable area. The topics of conversation change often and the banter flows fast. Julie mentions she spent her formative years in Leicester, growing up in Humberstone, just a couple of miles from where I grew up. I know the area well and as we are of a similar age, probably had some mutual friends but the conversation doesn’t get that far. Sam makes a booking at a local restaurant and once the entire clan is gathered, they all depart for it. Regretfully, I have to decline to go as I have unfinished business back in Tokyo that must be sorted in the next few hours. If I don’t, I know it will dangle over me like the Sword of Damocles for the entire cruise and that’s something I need to live without so with heavy heart and some disappointed, surprised and understanding looks, I tell them I’ll see them for breakfast.


Day 4

A day off in Miami


JP collars me for breakfast and we talk about his history. The Wildhearts, The Lotus Eaters, Cardiacs, and eggs, all of which are important things in his life. It turns out we have an old friend in common as well. He plays with Willie Dowling and I knew Willie back in the eighties when he had his band The Grip. A few other Lifesigns make brief appearances before I pour myself a whopping great coffee (I call them Dolly Parton Specials after the lines in her song 9 To 5, ‘Tumble out of bed and I stumble to the kitchen, Pour myself a cup of ambition’) and head back to my room to do some writing. I had managed to resolve my unfinished business last night and emails this morning confirm that so I have that lovely weight-off-my-shoulders feeling. With not much else to do, I contact Dave and ask if he minds to do an interview – he says yes. I have planned to interview everyone in the band for these articles and Dave is the first in line. We talk for an hour and during it, the word comes down that the Liverpool game is on in John’s cabin. I arrive there ten minutes into the game and Liverpool are already a goal up. John also has the F1 practice laps on the TV so he’s in seventh heaven. Dave joins us at 0-2, John grabs some lunch for us at half-time when it’s 0-3, Sharon joins us for a few minutes in the second half, Liverpool run away with the game winning 1-5. In other news, Ray and Sally are en route and will be here in time for dinner. I’m back in my hotel room typing away when the door knocks and Ray announces himself. He comes in dragging a suitcase and an SKB case, looks knackered but relieved to be finally here. We shake hands and despite the travel hell he’s just gone through, has a big grin and a happy demeanour, he’s another of those instantly likeable people. I go downstairs to the bar to let him get settled. I have a beer and over the next twenty minutes, we all converge. The last member here I have to greet (there are more but I’ll meet them on the ship) is Sally and when the opportunity arises, I introduce myself to her; she’s a rose. Last night’s restaurant was Famous Dave’s which is just a couple of minutes’ away and apparently so good it is the chosen eatery again tonight, that’s fine by me. The chat over dinner is free-flowing, very natural with lots of laughs and I can see why Lifesigns refer to themselves as family. Back at the hotel, Ray opts for a nightcap with Sam. I’m writing up the day’s notes when he comes in a few minutes later. I’m still typing ten minutes later when Ray is in the land of nod, oblivious to the rest of the world.


Day 5



Check-out is midday but our transportation isn’t arriving until 2pm so John organises three rooms we can stay an extra couple of hours in. After breakfast, Ray goes into town with Sam to take the minibus back and they ask if I’d like to go with them. Thanks but no thanks as I want to double-check I have everything prepared. Over the next two hours, I potter around the hotel room while JP seemingly going mental, sends weird messages to everyone. It’s hard to ignore them. Around 11:45am, I move mine and Ray’s bags to Julie’s room as it’s next to ours. I comment that the room is somewhat hot and Julie tells me that the AC doesn’t seem to be working well. I fiddle with the controls as she tells me that because their second regular backing singer had to cancel at the last minute, there is a spare cabin available and John has said I can have it so Ray and I don’t have to share. I mention JP’s messages and Julie assures me that this is quite normal. Then JP arrives with his bass and case but we all soon move to John’s room as no amount of fiddling changes the temperature which seems to be stuck on ‘Parch. John’s room is more comfortable and once again the F1 practice is on.


We pass an hour with idle chatter and then head down to the lobby. It’s a lovely afternoon and Sharon spots some lizards running down a palm tree. Our transport arrives, provided by the cruise organisers, a 54-seater coach for the ten of us. It’s a smooth run with not much traffic and the expected forty minutes journey only takes just over half that. Approaching the port Ray reminds everybody that we have to hold our breath going through the Port Miami Tunnel. I was not previously aware of this task but everyone else nods or says yes so I just follow suit taking a big gulp of air as we enter said tunnel. On the way through, I am wondering why we do this and reasoned that it must have been something I missed in the Terms & Conditions on the Norwegian Cruise Lines website. Anyway, we all achieve this feat of human endurance and the bus rolls into sunlight just as our lungs are beginning to pound. On our left, moored to Terminal B, is the Norwegian Pearl, our home for the next five days. She looks magnificent.


The check-in is very efficient. From getting off the bus and tagging our luggage which will be delivered to our rooms and walking up the gangway is just twenty minutes although to be fair, we did appear to be the last band and passengers to board so there were no queues. The longest part of the process was actually getting inside the ship from the deck as John was greeted by several old friends before we could get through the door. One such friend, Tony Marshall and his wife, Sue, make it known to us that there is free beer to be had at the bar. Our faces light up and Ray and I run down to our cabin to dump our bags Upon entering, both of us comment that we are glad we have separate rooms to be sorted later as the double bed in No. 5014, isn’t going to work. We throw our bags in and with a thirst in our throats, go back up to meet Tony and Sue properly and enjoy the first of today’s drinks with them.


The free bar closed at 4pm so Ray, Maisie and Sam suggest heading up to explore the Pool Stage and bar. The stage is on Deck 12 facing the bow and is open air. It has promenade decking either side on Deck 13 giving a birds-eye view of the stage; the Sky High bar spans the two promenades. Departure time is 4:20pm and strawberry daiquiris in hand we watch Martin Barre get the proceedings underway. The ex-Jethro Tull man gives a stellar performance as Miami fades into the horizon. The sea breeze feels good, Sam tells me to make sure my phone is off or on airplane mode otherwise I’ll get charged maritime rates and we talk about who we want to watch. I‘m up for Flying Colors as their Third Stage album has been a favourite of mine for a few years and they are on at 6pm so we separate; they go to eat and I head for the Stardust Theater.


As the Pool Stage is open deck, there’s not really a capacity but the Stardust Theater is seated and once every seat is taken, no more are allowed in. Fortunately, there were still a couple of seats at the back available and I settle in during their second song, A Place In Your World. We all know what Steve Morse has been through over the past couple of years and it’s good to see him on stage again. The band are superb throughout. Steve’s solo in The Peaceful Harbour brought tears to my eyes and a standing ovation from the audience – he was clearly moved. There was another deserved standing ovation at the end of the set and I exited the theatre wondering if I had already seen the best show on the cruise. I set off for the Garden Café, not really knowing where I’m going but end up walking into the Atrium where I see Simon Phillips talking to Steve Rispin and a couple of others. Steve is one of the most in demand sound engineers onboard and as it happens, an integral part of Lifesigns sound so at an opportune moment, I cut in to say hello. He’s a bear but the friendliest bear you’ve ever met. I catch Simon’s eye and introduce myself. I’ve interviewed Simon a couple of times before but it was years ago and given how in demand he is as the world’s best drummer, it’s not surprising he’s apologetic for not remembering me; I’m just honoured to be in his presence again. Simon is not only onboard with his own band, Protocol but also filling in for Lifesigns regular drummer, Zoltán Csörsz who was unavailable for the cruise. Continuing to the Garden Café, I bump into Julie near the information desk and ask about when we should get the rooms sorted. ‘Let’s do it now’ she says and five minutes later, it was done. I thank her, tell her we’ll be up at the Pool stage later and continue to the Garden Café. As luck would have it, Sam, Maisie and Ray were still there, Ray is a happy drinker and extremely happy now having had four strawberry daiquiris before eating. I have a roast dinner after which Ray and I sort the rooms and bags and head back to the Pool Stage. Julie is there watching Stick Men of a sorts. Tony Levin isn’t on stage as his Chapman Stick got lost by the porters somewhere after checking-in so Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter are doing an improvisation with Adam Holzman on keyboards. The level of musicianship goes beyond telepathic.


Each night on the cruise is a theme night and tonight is ‘Best concert shirt’ night. I’m looking around but not many people seem to be wearing a shirt that says ‘This was my best concert’. Hardly surprising really as I estimate the average age of the passengers is around fifty-five and their favourite concert was probably three decades ago so even if somehow, they had kept the shirt, I doubt they would fit into it anyway - I certainly wouldn’t fit into my Kate Bush one if I still had it. Ray and I have another drink with Sam and Maisie but by the end of the improv, tiredness is creeping into my body. Darkness descended a couple of hours ago, it’s a starless night and the horizon is no longer visible. Wherever you look, there is nothing except the ship. It’s an odd but comfortable feeling and although I would to like see Gryphon who are starting soon, bed beckons.



* The other interviews, for various reasons, never happened so Dave’s will be a stand-alone interview at at a later date.


I’m not telling you.


Everything sorted, this was my cabin. 


The Pool Stage.

Cruise to the Edge Part 1(クルーズ・トゥ・ジ・エッジ パート2)





 ジョン・ヤングが最初にドアを開けると、前回彼と会った時とあまり変わっていないように見えた。「本当に35年ぶり?」私はジョンにハグをしながら尋ねた。「そうだよ。」彼はうなずき、微笑みながら言った。当然、追いつかなければならないこともあるが、今はやるべきことがある。ジョンはバンドのリーダーであり、キーボード奏者であるだけでなく、ツアー・マネージャーでもある。彼はフロントでみんなのチェックインをしに行き、それから自己紹介の時間だ。ポーターの荷台を引きずってドアを通っている男がいるが、その服装からして明らかにポーターではない。そこで私は手を貸した。「ありがとう」彼ははにかみながら言った。 「サム。」握手を交わすと、彼は荷物を取りに外に出ていった。次にドアから入ってきたのは、ギターを背負ったベインブリッジだ。デイヴと私は初対面だが、数年前に彼がソロアルバム『To The Far Away』をリリースした時にインタビューしたので、お互いに面識がある。「やっとお会いできて光栄です。」と言うと、彼は隣に立っている女性、シャロン(彼の妻)を紹介してくれた。あのアルバムのインスピレーションはシャロンだった。デイヴと彼女は恋に落ち、結婚する前に大西洋で辛い別離を経験したのだ。今では二人は切っても切れない関係にあり、どちらか一方がいない瞬間をとらえることはめったにない。











  JPは朝食時に私に首輪をつけ、彼の生い立ちについて話した。ザ・ワイルドハーツ、ザ・ロータス・イーターズ、カーディアックス、そしてその仲間たち、すべてが彼の人生における重要なステージだ。私たちにも共通の旧友がいることが分かった。彼はウィリー・ダウリングと一緒に演奏していて、私はウィリーが80年代にザ・グリップというバンドを組んでいた頃を知っていた。他のライフサインズも少しだけ登場し、私は美味しいコーヒーを注いだ(ドリー・パートンの曲「9 To 5」の「ベッドから転げ落ち、よろめきながらキッチンに向かい、自分に野心の一杯を注ぐ」という台詞にちなんで、ドリー・パートン・スペシャルズと呼んでいる)。そして部屋に戻った。昨夜、やり残したことを何とか解決し、今朝のメールでもそれを確認できたので、肩の荷が下りた気分だ。他にすることもないので、私はデイブに連絡を取り、インタビューを受けてくれるか尋ねた。彼は快諾してくれた。この記事のためにバンド全員にインタビューするつもりだったが、デイブが最初に引き受けてくれた。私たちは1時間話し込んだが、その間にジョンの小屋でリバプールの試合が行われているという情報が入ってきた。試合開始10分で現地に到着すると、すでにリバプールが1点をリードしていた。ジョンはまたF1の練習走行もテレビで観ているので、気分は最高潮だ。0-2でデイブが合流し、0-3のハーフタイムにはジョンが昼食を取ってきてくれ、後半にはシャロンが数分間合流し、最終的にはリバプールが1-5で逃げ切った。他のニュースとしては、レイとサリーがこちらに向かっていて、夕食に間に合う予定だ。ホテルの部屋に戻ってタイプしていると、ドアがノックされ、レイが名乗りを上げた。スーツケースとSKBのケースを引きずってやってきて、へとへとになりながらも、ようやくここに来れたことに安堵しているようだった。握手を交わしたが、彼は旅先での地獄のような状況にもかかわらず、幸せそうな態度で、すぐに好感が持てる人物の一人だ。私は彼を落ち着かせるためにロビーに降り、ビールを飲み、それから20分かけて、私たち全員が収束した。このメンバーで最後に挨拶しなければならないのはサリーだ(他にもいるが、船上で会うことにする)。機会があれば、彼女に自己紹介しよう。彼女はバラの花のような人だ。昨夜のレストランはFamous Dave's(フェイマス・デイブス)で、ここから2、3分のところにある。どうやら、今夜もこの店が選ばれたようだ。夕食をとりながらのおしゃべりは自由闊達で、笑いの絶えないとても自然なもので、ライフサインズが自分たちのことを家族と呼ぶ理由がよく分かる。ホテルに戻り、レイはサムとの寝酒を選んだ。その日のノートを書いていると、間もなく彼がやってきた。レイが眠りの境地に入って10分後、私はまだタイピングを続けていた。他の世界のことは忘れている。













 無料バーは午後4時に閉店してしまったので、プールステージとバーを探検しようと提案する人が何人かいた。ステージは船首に面したデッキ12にあり、オープンエアとなっている。デッキ13の両側にはプロムナードデッキがあり、ステージを一望できる。スカイハイ・バーは2つのプロムナードにまたがっている。出発は午後4時20分。ストロベリー・ダイキリを片手に、マーティン・バレのパフォーマンスの進行を見守っていた。元ジェスロ・タルのこの男は、マイアミが水平線に消えていく中、素晴らしい演奏を聴かせた。海風が気持ちよく、サムは携帯電話の電源がオフか機内モードになっていることを確認するように言い、そうしないと通信料が請求されるからと言う。そして、誰を観たいかについて話し合う。フライング・カラーズのアルバム『Third Stage』は数年来のお気に入りで、午後6時開演のため彼らは食事に行き、私たちは別れ、私はスターダスト・シアターに向かった。


 プール・ステージはオープン・デッキなので定員はないが、スターダスト・シアターは着席式で、すべての席が埋まったらそれ以上は入れない。幸い、まだ後ろの方の席がいくつか空いていたので、彼らの2曲目「A Place In Your World」の間に陣取った。スティーヴ・モーズがここ数年、どんな思いをしてきたかはみんな知っている。またステージで彼を見ることができて嬉しい。バンドは終始素晴らしい。「The Peaceful Harbour」でのスティーブのソロは、私の目を潤ませ、聴衆からはスタンディング・オベーションが起こった。彼は明らかに感動していた。セットの最後にはまたスタンディングオベーションが起こり、私はもうクルーズで最高のショーを観たのではないかと思いながら劇場を後にした。






* 他のインタビューは様々な理由で実現しなかったので、デイブのインタビューは後日writerinjapan.comに単独で掲載される予定だ。



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