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eddie cairns
roadie / driver / sound
associated with band: 1979-1981

Simple Minds: The Early Days
by Eddie Cairns

I was working with semi-pro bands when I first met the two Dougies - Wee Dougie (Dougie Wragg) and Big Dougie (Dougie Cowan). They both gave me a lot of advice and help: what with buying PAs for some bands, how to set up a desk etc., and general information on gear. I had been working with semi pro bands for years - since I was 16 - just another frustrated drummer!

I started working full time with Rosetta Stone and at that time moved to Edinburgh and started to share a flat with Wee Dougie. He was doing various things around town and I managed to fit in a few of the gigs with him - usually non paying!

One was in 1978 in Tiffany's in Edinburgh for a band I had already seen in the "Mars Bar" and loved - Simple Minds - and I also did a few other gigs helping out that year but mainly I was working with Rosetta Stone.

In 1979 I finished with Rosetta Stone and was working as resident sound engineer in a bar in Edinburgh - Eric Brown's - when Dougie asked me to help out at a rehearsal for Simple Minds in The Odeon in Edinburgh and, after that, I joined the crew starting in University of Stirling (15th November 1979) doing, if I remember correctly, monitor mix (which Big Dougie made his speciality later).

I did the next few gigs - up to Keele University as I recall (if I remember rightly once we had finished that gig we got back to the hotel which was right next to the motorway and the band decided that they all wanted to go home - there and then - so I had to drive them - God knows how I made it and who I stayed with when we arrived but I was completely knackered - got them home safe though!) and then back to the day job - Eric's. I was then basically on call as one of their roadies. I cannot remember any London gigs (Marquee etc) but I might have just forgotten.

Mick MacNeil with Dougie Cowan and Billy Worton

As far as I can remember the next gig was the Stirling University one (15th February 1980) and, after that, my job was back line, drums and driver for the band. I remember I got the train through to Glasgow and was met by Brian and we set off to pick up the band and go to London for the YMCA gig and then on to Europe. The band had very kindly got together in between the last gig and when I picked them up to make a nice little welcome tape for me!

As we were heading down the A74, Jim asked me to put on a tape - they were all in the back of the minibus and were having a chat and the tape had some Beatles tracks on it and, all of a sudden, there was this conversation over the music which started off along the lines of "Who is that baldy bastard that's driving anyway?" with a reply of "I don't know but if he doesn't watch out he'll be getting a clip round the ear" (or words to that effect) and so it continued for at least a good few minutes with many insults and threats. Now, I knew them but I honestly didn't know where to put my face that day - until I got up the courage to look in the rear view mirror - to find the lot of them almost pissing themselves with laughter at the look on my face - bastards one and all - but it certainly broke the ice! And so it carried on!

When we got to London we checked into the hotel and some of us went out for a bite to eat - Jim, Charlie, Mick and I think Big D was there as well. On the way back we were walking towards the hotel and a couple of lads were coming the other way - all dressed up for a good night out when all of a sudden two buckets of water hit them right between the eyes - an absolute bull's eye. I had seen something out of the corner of my eye and looked up - guess who? - Brian and Derek - there is certainly something about them and water, especially when drunk! The poor guys were soaking wet and were as mad as hell and wanted to kill - of course muggins here had to say that it couldn't have been our crowd as the window they thought the water had come from was mine and I couldn't have done it because I was watching it happen - must have been some other rotters - anyway, they left and, needless to say, we found Brian and Dan almost pissing themselves with laughter.

Europe went well even although we had to get another minibus as that one had broken down, if memory serves in Paris, and we continued with a left hand drive unit - that was weird - first time for me! They then put us into a holiday camp in Holland for the duration of the Dutch leg of the tour which was an education - that lot couped up in a camp. We had two houses and it was chaos all the time! We played some very strange places that leg of the tour and I remember in Groningen that we were told to help ourselves to some new beer to us - Grolsch - so we filled the sleeper cab of the truck. Stupid people saying to help ourselves - we took it literally!

I think we were meant to be coming home after that little jaunt but we were told to go and support Gary Numan on his European tour - that was different but there was one really funny part right at the start. When we were in Amsterdam Derek had met this young lady and they had become good friends - when we got to Hamburg for the first Numan gig, the first person Derek sees is this young lady so he goes over to her - thinking she had come to see her - no chance - she had met Numan in Amsterdam after we had left and he had brought her along as his friend for the rest of the tour - poor Derek - didn't know where to look so he got pissed!

(On the website you have the Real to Real Tour continuing after Gary Numan into France which is right, but I cannot remember coming back to do the Nite Club in Edinburgh and then going back to Holland to do Utrecht - then back to the Lyceum. As far as I remember we went directly to the Lyceum and didn't go back to Holland for one gig? I also think that we did more than three gigs supporting Gary Numan but I might be wrong there.)

After that time there was rehearsal and recordings - down in Wales as far as I remember - mad time there with doors getting bashed in and other wild times - mainly with Brian it has to be said! Nothing new there then!

Billy Worton

We then started with the Peter Gabriel Tour and it most certainly didn't start in Sweden, we joined it in Hamburg, I remember the journey from Harwich very well, as will the ladies and security guard we led astray that night - madness ruled! The Gabriel Tour was brilliant - the band, Big D, Billy and I all in the one minibus - me doing all the driving - great time - I have been on many tours but this one was special, and the beginning of the end for Brian (and me for that matter, I was looking after him and Derek in the main and when Brian left then there was no room for me!). I could tell Brian was getting very frustrated and it came to a head when we were heading from Cascais to Porto for the last gig on the Peter Gabriel Tour. We had stopped at a café for some lunch and an argument broke out between Brian and Billy - something about money and Brian let loose at Billy and gave him a slap or two - I dragged him off and took him to one side where he just cried - frustration and fatigue - simple as that and I cannot say I am surprised. If anyone put 100%+ into each and every show, it was Brian - he hits the drums as hard as anyone I know and he put himself through the ringer a lot during my time with the band!

There are tales and I will get to the individual bits later but I do remember that we went straight from the end of Peter Gabriel Tour in Porto back to London - we didn't go to Holland again after that. They did a session in the Maida Vale Studios because I had to drive the truck. We then set off on the last tour I did with them througout Britain - starting with Kidderminster - the only time I have seem Charlie lose it - completely and utterly. Some guys doing the spitting thing and I had asked the security to stop them - they had done nothing about it and I had just climbed back up onto the side of the stage when I turned round and saw Charlie ripping his guitar off and leaping into the crowd - guess who had to sort it out and take the punches? - from the idiots and the security. I managed to drag Charlie to the dressing room before being told that the security wanted a part of me for pushing one of them over - I went out to the hall and they all backed down - arseholes! It certainly was a different start to the tour though!

Extreme close-up: Derek Forbes

I did a couple of more gigs and took them and their gear to some rehearsal studios but, sadly, Brian left and the replacement had their own roadie who he wanted to come along so I moved to London and started work with a PA hire company, got some record company work and was on tour in Europe with another band when, as far as I was told afterwards, a call for me to join Simple Minds again came through. Too late for me to do so but Big D carried on with them until his death.

Wee Dougie moved on and Billy was getting beyond control at the end and I was pleased that he had been removed because he was becoming a threat to himself and the band - when we were on the Peter Gabriel Tour it wasn't just a few occassions that he took a full bottle of Brandy with him to the mixing desk for the show and it didn't come back - he was losing it big time. Last time I saw him he had gotten himself together somewhat and was either married or living with a lady but I assume it was drink, drugs or both that contributed to his death - but I do not know - only conjecture. Johnny Ramsay took over after that and seemed to do a good job but I was never with him when he did the sound!

I am so proud to have been there at the beginning and seeing them through some difficult times and times where they were learning about their music and themselves - pity it couldn't carry on but there are some wonderful memories that nobody can take away of some really great guys that were so inspirational to me and others around them.

Moments that you might like to ask about:

"The Offenbach Arab(s)." This surly pair appeared a few times on tour and consisted of two pissed band members - I will let you guess who - with towels over their heads and their underpants keeping the towels on - with buckets of water! (Told you, water and pissed band members make a terrible concoction!). The first time they appeared - and how they got the name - was when they decided to drench me and came and knocked on the door - throwing the two buckets of water when it was opened - stupid buggers got the wrong door and some poor German got soaked - all he could report was that there were two naked Arabs (he could tell they were Arabs because of the headdress they were wearing) had knocked his door and when he answered they soaked him. Total mystery as there were no Arabs staying in the hotel that night - wonder who it could have been?

The second time was when the band and crew (during the Peter Gabriel Tour) were taken out by the record company but I had stayed behind to keep the fan club secretary company. We were in my room and they didn't need to knock the door that time - Big D let them in and they soaked her and my bed! Bastards!

Ask some of them if they remember the booze bus? When we were on the Peter Gabriel Tour we were in a hotel in Paris when some of the band - guess who, went on the hunt for me and, again, got the wrong room - in point of fact got the wrong floor. They found that the doors were open with nobody in them - seemingly the floor had been set aside for a delegation or something - and they decided to help themselves to the contents of the mini bars of most of the rooms. They found a cleaner's cupboard and filled plastic bags then came and found me to open the minibus so they could put their ill gotten booty in the storage space under the front seats - when we handed the minibus back it still had some minatures in the storage trays but we did drink well on that tour!

Ask any of them if they remember the night the truck (driven by Wee D) was chased by a chap on roller skates! We were coming away from a gig in Europe somewhere - Holland springs to mind but we were heading back to a hotel and not to the "base" so it might not have been - and Wee D was in the lead and we were following him. He took a tight corner and clipped a car mirror and managed to damage it - he probably didn't even know he had done it to be honest - anyway, this guy on roller skates saw what had happened and started shouting at the truck and, when it didn't stop, he set off in hot pursuit with us in the minibus at the back of him killing ourselves laughing. He followed us all the way to the hotel and was serious about calling the Police - should have seen him, doubled over out of breath trying to tell the management of the hotel what had happened - he must have chased the truck for about 5 miles!

One night I had to take Jim back to the previous hotel as he had left his notebook with his lyrics there and we wanted to make sure he got it - called the hotel and made sure it was there before we set off and were just about to leave when I looked out of the window towards the street and the MacDonalds beyond - and there was Derek Forbes wandering about amongst the flag poles on the balcony - not a real balcony - he had just decided to open the window and climb out and go for a stroll - he denies it but it was him! Madman!

The author himself: Eddie Carins

Words and pictures: Eddie Cairns