WEEK NINE: MONTREUX TO HOLLAND

Montreux. Home of the extremely wealthy (and the subject matter of one of Rock’s most well loved and most learned guitar riffs!….“Smoke On The Water”). And Lake Geneva is most certainly a beautiful shoreline. The Montreux Jazz Festival is a very famous event, known and revered around the world: Prestigious, world class talent play all around the town and the Bentleys, the Rolls and the Ferrari’s are in full effect. And right in the middle of all this wonderful largeness rolls our tour bus at 8.00am in the morning. Jeremy and I stagger off the bus, wearing baggy board shorts and covered in tattoos, followed by our punk rock leader, Billy Idol, his six string partner in crime, Steve Stevens and the rest of the gang. Everyone is wearing shades. To their credit, the hotel handle our spikey haired, multi colored invasion with dignity and aplomb and we are all soon resting in our rooms. The view from the balcony of my room is insane, with the lake and mountains and the hustle and bustle of Montreux beneath me. Later that afternoon, Derek, Jeremy and I take a walk down near the shore, amongst the Camden/Melrose-like stalls and vendors selling just about everything a person could never want. But it’s a nice scene and we make plans for a decent dinner overlooking the lake later that night.

After dinner, Steve V, Jeremy, Derek and myself are strolling back to the hotel when we stumble across an 18 hole outdoor mini-golf course, with no one on it. This just seems like too good an opportunity to miss, and immediately the challenge is on! The first (and possibly only) annual Billy Idol mini-golf tournament is in full effect. Shirtless, and looking decidedly dodgy in our shorts and flip flops, Jeremy and I are close throughout the whole game, ending within ONE point of each other. He is second and I come third. I was robbed!! Derek Sherinian displays an amazing amount of character, determination and awful luck, coming last in a big way!! He does also, however, take a pretty spectacular hole-in-one along the way. Steve Vaccarro is probably a professional mini-golfer somewhere (or owns his own course in Las Vegas) because he pretty much squashes us with his style, panache and downright plain luck. Congrats Steve – make the most of it, because the return match is coming!! The show in Montreux goes really well, and I see a ton of Hi-Def cameras shooting the whole show. No doubt this one will surface at some point.

After a couple of nice days in Switzerland, we head over to Cologne (or Koln) in Germany for a day off before playing the show in Bonn the next night. And the big semi-final World Cup game is on tonight. Germany Vs Spain. We can hear Cologne gearing up for a big night as Jeremy and I get ready for our alternate plan…… more ink!! We have another friend here, Petra Burck, who has agreed to actually come over to the hotel tonight and tattoo us both in our rooms!! Jeremy’s room gets picked as party central, and soon we have room service getting delivered every 30 minutes, while the game is on TV (and Petra’s German boyfriend is screaming at the box in German as loudly as he can!!), Steve V is shaving Jeremy’s Mohican in the bathroom, and I’m getting my shoulder tattooed while messing around on the laptop. This is definitely one way to spend a night in Cologne. Billy and Evil McG watch the game downstairs in the outside bar, and when Germany lose, we all kinda slink away to let everyone nurse their wounds in their own way. Which in Cologne seems to be getting very drunk. After the tattoos (thanks Petra, you ROCK!!) Derek joins us and we take a quick walk across the bridge to the Cathedral, but roaming gangs of skinheads with no shirts and pitchers of beer in their hands, singing anthems of indeterminate nature force our premature exit back to the safety of the hotel.

Bonn is only a short ride away and it’s another outdoor gig, with another packed and extremely noisy audience waiting for us. It’s so hot onstage that I feel like my new tattoo is melting….it’s got its own heartbeat…..and within three songs I am drenched in sweat. The new song, “Love Is Strange” seems to go down really well tonight, as do the two Gen X tracks we’ve been playing – “King Rocker” and “Running With The Boss Sound”. The latter track is especially cool for me – one of my favorite Generation X tracks, even though I am not a lead guitarist by ANY stretch of the imagination, I get to take the leads in that song and it’s a lot of fun. Steve Stevens pulls some sick tricks out of his bag during the Blue Highway solo, sounding like some kinda space-age monster one minute, and a killer, old-school Jeff Beck the next. It’s insane. Rebel Yell gets every single hand in the air and by the time we leave the stage after the final two songs – “White Wedding” and “Mony Mony”, we are all fucking knackered (as they say in England!), drenched in sweat and very happy with the gig. Believe it or not, it’s back on the bus for a long overnight drive back to Switzerland……we were only there a day ago.

The hotel is so non-descript in Huttweil that I seriously cannot remember a thing about it. I think the tour is starting to take its toll now – not really sure where we are, and have absolutely no idea what day it is. Time is pretty much determined by “is it light out, or is it dark?” and the hotels are now just “coffee, internet, sleep” stations. I do, however, remember the gig here. Krokus. Yep, that’s right. Krokus. With more pyro, smoke, strobes, confetti and fire than a Kiss concert! And if you close your eyes when they’re playing, you will swear that you are at a Bonn Scott-era ACDC show. It’s incredible watching them bang/flash/pop/pow their way through the set. We ended up being about 30 minutes late going onstage because the crew had to sweep the stage and get rid if the 2 inch layer of sparkly confetti strips. Tonight we brought back another one of the new songs, “Don’t Shoot The Messenger” and it’s starting to click into place. The set was a decent one, and went by really quickly. After the gig, we rolled out for another overnight into a day off in Brussels. And unfortunately I hibernated in my room all day, so unless you want a blow-by-blow of a full day in a hotel room, that’s all I got on that for you!! We did, however, get a cool band dinner in that night, in a restaurant that used to be a bank. Nice vibe, great food, shame about the lack of air conditioning.

Ok Holland. Here we are. Last two shows of the 2010 European tour (and the last two paragraphs of Billy Morrison’s tour diary – at least for a while!). First up is the festival in Weert, and on the day of the World Cup Final…..but all I’m interested in seeing is Status Fucking Quo!! I am a huge fan of the band and they play right before us – Francis and Rick in their full-on Fender Telecaster/Denim glory! Except no denim these days. Everyone is wearing black or white, but the Tele’s are blazing….Caroline, Down Down, Roll Over, Whatever You Want, Rockin All Over The World…. It’s a greatest hits set and BFI and I stand on the side of the stage like little kids, jumping around and singing and cheering. Rick glances over, sees us and winks. It’s hot up there but Francis and Rick kill it, sounding full, fat and every inch the world class rock n roll band that they have always been. A little while later and it’s our turn and we hit the stage with the sun beating down directly onto us. It is gonna be a very hot show today! I look over during the first song, and Rick Parfitt from Quo appears right there on the side of the stage by my guitar tech, Jimbo. He watches our whole set. Billy runs over to him and shakes his hand. After we finish our set, covered in sweat and walking offstage, Rick walks over to me, shakes my hand and tells me that we rocked. And then he tells me that he loved my playing. I’m blown away and we do the obligatory fan pic – me being the fan!!! Thank you to Rick, Francis and Status Quo for making a hot, dusty, uncomfortable gig feel alive. We drive off pretty quickly, trying to get a satellite signal for the bus TV system so we can watch the World Cup Final. Eventually, after literally backing up and parking halfway across a few quiet side roads, we get a picture and we watch Spain become the new world champions. Rolling into Amsterdam at 1.00am in the morning and seeing the streets flooded with drunk, miserable Dutch fans, we slink away to our hotel and get ready for the last night of the European tour.

Amsterdam is a unique, and very well known sleaze pit. So much so that people come from all over the world to experience the sleaze. Not “London Soho” type sleaze, “Soi 23 Bangkok” type sleaze, or even “Hamburg Reaperbahn” type sleaze….. this brand of low bottom, tits and ass and dope and guns type debauchery is on sale in every window in every alleyway. Most of the smack is bad, a lot of the women are men, and the streets are filled with 22 year old college student/tourist types getting legally high for the first time and losing their money to drug dealers and purveyors of ill-repute. Perfect for an end of tour show. I go for a walk around town, through the back alleys and across the canals, smelling weed everywhere. There are a lot of people frequenting the coffee shops and never leaving……just kinda rolling another one and putting lifes plans on hold. By the time I have to go to the gig I have gone through a rollercoaster of emotions that have ended in sadness, compassion and a huge sense of gratitude that I don’t belong in that world anymore. Onwards to the world famous Paradiso and the last night of the Billy Idol European tour 2010.

What an audience! This place is packed to the ceiling with people hanging off the balconies and the noise is incredible….the cheers and the singalong vibe when everyone’s screaming the words…..the small, intimate vibe after all those huge outdoor festivals is just what the Doctor ordered. We play a killer set, with a liberal sprinkling of the good old punk rock vibe for good measure. Everyone is ready to go home and chill for a couple of weeks before the next leg of the tour, but no one holds back tonight, giving it their all. One last encore of White Wedding and Mony Mony and it’s over. And here I am in the airport lounge in Amsterdam, waiting for our flight to take us back to Los Angeles and my long-awaited Sushi dinner with my wife. As I reflect on these past few weeks, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone: Jimbo, my tech, who put up with my constant bitching about wireless dropout….., Joe, Matt, Karel, Stuart, Robert, Roy and B-Ranks, who all built and maintained our stages and our instruments every single night, no matter where we were…..you guys were awesome. The amazing photographic talents of Mr Charles Jischke – I think you all need to throw your hands in the air and give Charles some massive respec’!! He made this diary and this site what it is right now – fucking awesome!!! Derek Sherinian. Introduced onstage by BFI as…”the beautiful, unforgettable”….thank you for the laughs, the pomposity, the heinousity and the pipe-dreamery. Evil McG – you are a unique one-off. Pure and simple. Heart of gold and an amazing touring partner. The groove machine, Mr Jeremy Colson….”lets take a walk along the shoreline. Maybe talk about our hopes and dreams….share our feelings together”!!! Thank you mate. Steve Stevens – I am eternally grateful for the opportunity and it is my honor to share a stage with you. Every night. And Mr Idol – from Gen X at the Lyceum to Idol 2010 at Donnington….what a trip. You’re the real deal and it’s amazing to be “running with your boss sound”. See you all in the States.

Billy Morrison