By Eamonn Keyes
I’d always watched those award ceremonies on TV and thought that they looked both exciting and boring, what with interesting and very famous people around, so when I heard that my band, The Answer, had an invite to the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, I was pretty excited.
Metal Hammer had become the go-to Rock and Heavy Metal music magazine since Kerrang had gone all Nu-Metal and Emo.
I was on tour with the Answer boys when I heard this, and we dutifully called to their A&R Manager, James Cassidy’s office in London. James was the A&R for Albert Records, a label that really only had one other artist on the roster- AC/DC- and several years previously I had managed to get the band’s latest demo to him, which was a story in itself.
I was a Director with the Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission (NIMIC). We worked to ensure music and the music industry itself from Northern Ireland was supported and promoted worldwide, helping finance people like Snow Patrol to make their early videos. We also did workshops to help performers interact with professionals from the music business to help them improve and progress. James Cassidy had been a panelist on one of these because of his work with AC/DC, and as the workshop had overran, he needed to get moving to catch his flight back to London. I offered to drive him, and whilst I had him captive I put the latest Answer demo on my car’s CD player, at relatively low volume, saying nothing. After about 10 minutes I watch his ears prick up, and he asked who it was. I answered nonchalantly and told him the band’s name, mentioning that they were from Downpatrick, which was also his hometown. Not surprisingly, as we drove on the conversation centred around the band, and as he left the car I told him that if he really wanted to, he could take the demo with him. He did.
A couple of day’s later James phoned the band, expressing interest, and that began the process that started the band getting signed to Albert Records, and ultimately supporting AC/DC on their Black Ice 2009 World Tour for 118 dates.
Back to the original story.
We called to James’s office for tickets, and he presented the band with four golden plastic wristbands- apt for the Golden Gods Awards- which gave them entry to the special section of the auditorium, away from the fans. However, there was none for me, as James said that was all he could get, but was still trying hard to get me one.
Next day he called me to the office, and he had a very grim face, so I expected the worst. To my surprise he told me that yes, he had obtained a wristband for me. He pulled out a simple white plastic wristband. Then came the warning.
If I was challenged, I was under pain of death not to divulge where I’d got it from.
It had nothing to do with him and could not be connected with him.
I was utterly puzzled by this, but swore to compliance with his wishes.
On the night, I was both excited and disappointed. Excited to see the show, but disappointed as I wouldn’t be with the band.
The event was being held in the revered centre of rock, The Astoria, in London, and we all made our way to the Keith Moon Bar in the lobby for a drink before the ceremony. I watched the rock gods come in, particularly three who came in and stood drinking together. Zack Wylde, the lead guitarist of Ozzy Osborne and Black Label Society, Glenn Hughes, ex-Deep Purple, Trapeze and Chad Smith, the Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer, who had started working with Glenn.
Zakk was almost as wide as Chad was tall, and was festooned with keychains and sleeveless denim jacket as suited his image.
The call was made that the ceremony was about to start (the fans had already been there for a couple of hours) and we all moved upstairs to our sections. Bouncers were everywhere, checking wristbands, and again I was disappointed as the band were directed in to their section whilst I was moved on, down the corridor.
I couldn’t work out quite where I was going, and was directed onward by bouncers, always checking my white wristband. As I walked down the smallish tunnel I could hear the crowd cheering inside to my left, and hoped I could get a seat in there.
At this point, I need to take you inside to the venue to describe what was happening. There was a big set up of drums and amplifiers on stage, as Nightwish were due to play, followed by Trivium and Anthrax.
Anthrax had just reunited with their original lineup, including legendary vocalist Joey Belladonna. To the left of the stage, but on the same level, was a small collection of tables and chairs, with wine, beer, spirits and glasses on the tables.
The Rock Golden Gods were emerging one at a time.
Firstly came Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, flanked by bassist Geezer Butler, and the crowd went mad. He was followed by Lemmy from Motorhead, who emerged and decided to stand, leaning against the wall with trademark Heineken bottle, greeted by raptures from the audience. Glenn Hughes, Zakk Wylde and Chad Smith also emerged to roars, Chad with his traditional back to front baseball cap, All of Anthrax arrived, and the crowd went nuts. Other luminaries arrived to the cheers. I could hear all this, and realised I was missing something big. The bouncers directed me to a small set of steps and told me my seat was up there.
I emerged in the hall to blinding lights with a roar from the audience, which quickly died down to puzzled noises, as I strode out among the colossi of rock and metal. I could hear the shouts of “who the f*** is that?” as I stumbled around, looking for a place to hide. I could even see The Answer, way back in the hall, falling around laughing.
Eventually I sat down at the table with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, praying desperately for the earth to swallow me, but, now realising I was the only person there who hadn’t sold more than 50 million records, I mumbled something about the toilet and made my escape offstage, past a grinning Lemmy and back the way I came, groaning with embarrassment. I wanted to die.
I eventually joined the band in their section, as my white wristband was as Access All Areas pass, and we finally laughed about the event, and after the bands had played, we received an invite back to a private after-show party in a special club.
We went in, helped ourselves liberally to the free booze, and I sat on a sofa. After a while I looked around as I felt someone sit down beside me.
Accompanied by a beautiful girl who sat on the arm of the sofa to his side, it was a grinning Lemmy looking at me.
But that’s another story………..
Lemmy – you met Lemmy.
When he died, I played ‘Ace of Spades’ over and over again – very loudly – the joy of living out in the sticks – I can play music as loud as I like.
‘The Binsness Blue Boys’ played The Orkney Blues Fest in 2011…..
………..and as an encore to their gig in the Standing Stones Hotel, they played their own slowed down version of ‘Ace of Spades’ – it were ace.
I’ve heard Saltfishforty play it at least twice – it wrecks Brian Cromarty’s throat – but sounds great!
And…on the noticeboard in our kitchen, we have an Ace of Spades – pinned up by a winkle-picker – it’s the only card I need.
Memories, Eamonn, memories.
As hinted above, he will feature in a future Brief Encounter, Bernie!
Thing is Eamonn….these aren’t just your personal memories, they are very much of the times of which you’re writing.
There’s social history in your stories – social history which is worth recording.
I think that’s probably true for some of them, Bernie, I suppose I’ve always just seen them as a bit of fun that I hope might entertain some people briefly. But thank you for the observation!