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,
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? -
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!
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,
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
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