The Black Pudding and Haggis Tour
The story of the 1985 Summer Tour as recollected by Karl Allison
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Following the highly successful Seaside Rock tour of 1983 Blood and Fire decided to repeat the exercise in the North of England and Scotland. These concerts were not designed to attract existing ‘fans’ of the group but to enable local church centres to book ‘something different’. To enable them to try to attract new young people into their buildings and be assured that Blood and Fire would introduce them to the good news about what Jesus could do in their lives. As you will see from this account there was a variance in the degree of both local presentation, expectations and success...
The Touring Band and Crew
Karl Allison (Woking) - vocals
Marc Harry (Portsmouth) - guitar, keyboard, trombone & vocals
Alvin Allison (Woking) - keyboards, vocals
Simon Herbert (Teddington) - bass, keyboard, vocals
Simon Barnett (Maldon) - drums, percussion, vocals
Melanie Collin (Staines) - sound
Fiona Barnett (Maldon) - merchandise
Christine Nicholson (Colchester) - lights
SUNDAY 11th August - Smallthorne
First, the definitives :
Only Blood and Fire would embark on a six date, six day tour with just the five playing members and an all-female road crew !
Only Blood and Fire would embark on a six date, six day tour with no control over venues, advertising or promotion of any kind.
Only Britain could provide a ‘summer’ like this one.
Only in the SA could anyone expect us to do this for ‘love’ - with no wages at all. (Maybe we should move to America)
Only Harry was late.
Lunch was at MacDonalds - hardly grapefruit and muesli, is it ? Still, its as close to health food as B&F ever got !
Up the M1, onto the M6. We discovered that the van didn’t perform too well over 50 (a bit like Auntie Joy in a way)
We’re stopping the night at a small Corps in Stoke. Its called Smallthorne and everybody there knows Harry (surprise, surprise !) The only problem was that Harry couldn’t remember where the hall was. Funny ‘cos he can remember everything else about the place...
We arrive in the ‘nick of time’ to lead the Sunday evening meeting. Harry leads it. (He’s not the only person on the tour...) It goes well.
They want a cabaret/wind up after the meeting. They get one. Harry plays a ‘make it up as you go along’ euphonium variation solo on the tune ‘A Robe of White’. They love it.
The beds feel good, even if they are sofas and mattresses. Day one finishes with none any more enlightened as to why they were going to push their bodies through the forthcoming ordeal. Still, it was worth it to meet the man who posted Don Aitken’s letter !
MONDAY 12th August - Barrow-in-Furness
Up very early and its local speciality oatcakes for breakfast (I think we chose the wrong name for the tour...)
Arrive at Barrow in Furness and soon Karl and Simon are being interviewed live in Radio Furness. Karl mentions the gig, Simon just talks about the bible (twice) and they play Sceptics - all in 5 minutes flat.
The afternoon sets the scene for every afternoon of the coming week :- setting up the equipment.
Everything is ready, and the band are just about to go on, when the CO (a good bloke) pokes his head round the door to tell us that there’s noone in the audience. (There were 40 actually - our visit coincided with the annual town ‘shut-down’ week where the factories closed and everyone went away on holiday.) He was really cut up and nearly crying. Those local Salvationists who he accused of being more interested in civic receptions and getting the freedom of the City had a lot to answer for !
Yet, in true B&F spirit - the show must go on ! Just because there were few people there the band played pretty well. The debut girls on the sound and lights did a great job. The special guest star was General William Booth (guess who it really was...)
Following Part Time Soldier we gave out the usual ‘subtle’ message. There was no visible response but much talking went on afterwards. Perhaps the overriding thought about the night was - when are the Army ever going to learn about rock and roll ? Only five people present that evening had ever been to a rock concert before.
Here’s the twist - the old ladies bought badges and the young people put their fingers in the ears. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow !
TUESDAY 13th August - Edinburgh
We heard a new rumour today (the group was, at that time receiving a barrage of abuse and rumour spreading within our own church - see main history re Bexleyheath...). Apparently, the only reason we were doing a Northern Tour was that we had been banned from performing in the fair City of London ! (The sad thought is that it just could have been true. The group were, eventually, officially banned from appearing on SA platforms !)
In the middle of a pine forest we crossed the border into Scotland. Now, if we were pompous we’d talk about pioneering and opening new chapters in SA History - but we’re not so we won’t !
At first sight, Edinburgh Congress Hall is a bit awe-inspiring. It’s like an old time music hall with a few bibles and a load of songbooks in !
Hang on, guys ! This place is actually filling up ! A good venue, a great audience - what more could a band want (apart from a decent recording contract, a top ten hit and 6 nights at Madison Square Gardens !) ?
There’s a support artiste too. Can’t remember his name but he went down quite well for a support act !
The band were brilliant tonight. As if we knew we were going to play a blinder we just walked onto the stage and did it ! The music was tight and raunchy. It enabled the mobile band members to STRUT, rather than just walk ! Genuine R’n’R in the SA - what is the world coming to ?
It was one of those nights which makes all the others worthwhile and reminded us all of why we started the whole business in the first place. The audience appreciated everything - even Harry’s silly story (in which he always tried to get the name of the town we were in) which referred to the man who lost his rabbit putting his ‘head in burrow’) Think about it...
After the message about ten people responded, praise God but, perhaps a few more should have done so - like the kids who knew the songster songs but laughed at the message...like the other youngsters in the Corps who couldn’t tell us a single bible verse...
But a great evening, no mistake. It showed the potential of the band and also the complexities of trying to change the parts of an organisation that don’t seem to think.
There should have been some extra guests in Edinburgh that evening - like record companies, other army groups, Joy Webb, Garth Hewitt and some ‘senior’ SA officers (to see what potential they had if they could be bothered to support it or even just use it properly) !
PS - it was our best night ever on selling merchandise !
WEDNESDAY 14th August - Perth
Oh dear, even further North, further away from home and slightly less chance of the audience being able to understand a word of what we’re saying !
Perth Hall is in the middle of a row of shops. Unloading the van turns into a running battle with a traffic warden and a shop owner. Perth Hall is also up two and a half flights of stairs - everyone collapses at the thought of lugging several tons of gear up - and collapses again once it’s done ! However, Perth Hall is good: good stage, best acoustics so far on the tour.
5 minutes before the gig starts there’s nobody there. The band go backstage while the same support as last night does his stuff again. I think his name was Stuart (from Glasgow).
By the time B&F walk on stage the has filled up nicely - the Scots obviously like to leave it late ! But they were a wall of apathy. Ho hum ! One of these is it, we think sarcastically.
They were warmed up a bit by the 3rd or 4th number and were dancing well by "Stop The Pain" and they looked and sounded as if they were enjoying themselves.
Alvin played a keyboard solo - possibly his most inspired stage moment ever ! The band played another good gig - I reckon that if the music itself hasn’t improved much on the tour the stage presence and awareness of the band certainly has.
By now Melanie and Christine were handling their respective jobs like old pro’s ! Karl gave the message and a few responded . "Wish we’d all been Ready" was pretty memorable (even if I do say so myself).
Scotland, for B&F has been more than worthwhile - it’s been a great success. We came, we saw, we played loud !
THURSDAY 15th August - Whitley Bay
Down to Whitley Bay. Who’s clever idea was it not to have a rest day on this tour ? I mean, even God had a rest after 6 days ! Just to rub it in, the sun comes out at last as soon as we see the sea for the first time.
The CO is an old rock and roller himself - knowledgeable and would have made a good B&F member himself ! Harry thought his wife was quite nice too !
England was beginning to prove a bit of a downer after Scotland. A small hall ("packed to the doors" according to the CO) was not quite as full as that and most of those present were friends and supporters of the band over from Newcastle, where we had previously played some fantastic gigs.
It was a strange atmosphere - like everybody had come to enjoy themselves but just sitting down and listening, whereas we prefer them to be up on their feet and moving about ! Some did dance in the end.
There was no visible response to the appeal but that was not surprising given the type of audience. Having an audience that knows all your songs (some of them knew all the words) is OK for a fun gig but we were forced to wonder what the point of the night was. Karl dedicated ‘Sight to the Blind’ to "everyone on Tyneside who isn’t here!"
I remember the tale of Larry Norman walking off the stage at the Royal Albert Hall when he saw everyone mouthing his lyrics having brought no non-Christian friends with them. He suddenly decided it wasn’t really worth it. I think I knew tonight how he felt. I’m glad the audience enjoyed themselves and I hope they were challenged and encouraged but it wasn’t why we had undertaken the tour.
I guess it takes a lot more people than 5 (or even 8) - or even 50 to change an organisation of thousands. Unless you have the power, of course...
FRIDAY 16th August - Lancaster
The van got to the home of the bombers on time. Herbie arrived 5 hours later with a new windscreen and a large hole in his pocket.
We joined the Army locals for an open-air in the town. It was a fine idea but it showed the people to be most sincere but quite oblivious as to how to make any kind of impact at all. We were later to find out just how true this was.
Actually, the open air was somewhat embarrassing. In the end we just gave up and sat on the floor to talk to some punks.
We seriously considered (for the first time) not going on stage tonight. The acoustics in the hall were awful, although that was noone’s fault except the *!£$% architect). The main problems were in the Corps having provided no blackout (a total waste of our usually impressive light show), no proper audience and precious little support of any kind in just about any way you can think of !
We did go on in the end. We played a rock concert to a bunch of small kids and pensioners ! Someone in the band did say they’d seen 5 teenagers but I’m not sure anyone else believed them !
The first half of the gig was just about OK but, by the time the sweat really began to run we were all wondering what we were doing it for - why we’d bothered. We cut the set short and did a few more, fairly heartless songs. Instead of an appeal Simon B did a sort of children’s story with a moral - noone showed any reaction and, in his tiredness he responded, "Thanks for wasting my time !" as he finished. OTT ? Well, not really ! What kind of sense is there in spending money, time and so much energy putting on a show when the people who booked you obviously had no vision at all for the event ? Why did they bother to book us at all ? Who knows ? Maybe the General does...or God ?
SATURDAY 17th August - Preston
There were some heavy discussions about the night before - undoubtedly the worst night in the band’s history. We decided a new direction was needed. The result was that we decided to set ourselves up as a company to take more control over bookings, promotions etc. Pure B&F thinking !
We also decided to enjoy the last gig of the tour. It was a blinder. Harry even managed to turn the cricket off long enough to play one of his guitar solos !
The gig lasted over 2 hours in the end. Noone in the band realised - and neither did the audience. All the songs regained their original intentions - for B&F to really work we had to believe in every note we play and every word we sing. Tonight we did. "Part Time Soldier" was simply potent. A few people responded and there was general relief all round. The tour was not only over - but it had finished pretty well.
SUNDAY 18th August - Preston
(I think Karl must have been very tired - this is the entire entry for Sunday...)
One wet Sunday morning at about 10am a quiet road in Preston was having a lie-in. Suddenly this bunch of antisocial ‘noise-makers’ arrived. How anyone can justify this is beyond me. (I take it that was a sarcastic review of the open air !)
Wet, puzzled, we go to the meeting. Mr and Mrs Herbert (lieutenants) lead. Melanie begins, Simon speaks.
Then we all eat and get in the vehicles.
And that’s it really.
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