FOLLOWING CHAPPO TO GERMANY - by Chris Kerslake
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s the only real opportunity Chappo fans had of seeing him live was to venture over to Germany. I have reproduced an article from one such fan, Chris Kerslake from Swindon, explaining the dedication required at the time.
'Over the years, getting to see a Chappo gig has become progressively harder.
The first time - Family's farewell tour in the early seventies - was a piece of cake. Catch the 658 in Earl Shilton at 6.40, arrive at Leicester Poly at 7.10, and a stroll up to the De Montford Hall arriving in time to see Phillip Goodhand-Tait (remember him ?) open the evening.
The next couple brought different logistical problems. First to the Poly to see Chapman Whitney. Despite the convenience of the aforementioned bus stop, gigs at the Poly finished somewhat later than the last departure home. Some smooth talking to my dad secured a lift at half past midnight.
New levels of persuasion - 'I bet mum would fancy a day's shopping in London' - was required not long afterwards for the all dayer in Hyde Park.
Then, finally, a car and freedom (although only a high speed dash across London from Highbury to Paddington to catch the last train to Swindon was memorable - but presumably not as memorable if I had missed it and spent the night on the streets).
So, travelling to see Chappo is no problem - well it wouldn't be if the absence of any British gigs in the recent tour hadn't tempted me to nip over to Germany. Time for some more smooth talking, this time to the wife and justifying the expense - 'don't bother with me at Christmas, this'll be my present'.
Of the venues on the tour, Kassel looked the most practical and fitted my main criteria - a weekend, Leicester City playing away (being a season ticket holder, and mean, I didn't want to miss a game), and reasonable driving distance. After a few 'phone calls to Neil at the Appreciation Society to find out the venue - thanks for your help Neil - the arrangements were underway.............
Saturday 10 November 1990
The first stage of the trip was to deposit wife and son at the in-laws, and on to pick up (a different) Neil at 6.00pm. Neil had by this time already made one sacrifice in order to make the trip - forsaking the pleasures (?) of standing on Oakwell's windswept terraces and seeing the City fight out a dour 1-1 draw away at Barnsley.
The journey started in torrential rain - it was ultimately to rain for most of the weekend. We made good progress and reached Felixstowe crack on check-in time, pausing only for a pint of Greene King and some pate on toast at the Plough and Fleece in Horningsea.
Our smooth passage so far was soon to be interrupted. We passed through Passport Control and were promptly stopped by two members of the local Constabulary who showed some interest in who we were, where we were from, and where we were going. The final bit caused them most confusion.
I've come to accept that Chappo is not the best known singer in the world, and was not too surprised that our claim to being going to Bad Lippspringe ('Where') to see Roger Chapman ('Who') was met with some suspicion. We then went for common ground - surely they remembered Family. Still no success and I was on the point of bursting into 'Burlesque' when I suspect that they thought our story was either too incredible, or we were just plain daft, and we were waved on our way.
There were more on the boat than I expected, and after a quick cup of coffee the boat set off for Zeebrugge on time at 11.00pm. All that was left now was the customary standing on the deck as we left port, and the customary debate as to who has to risk life and limb on the top bunk - I lost.
Sunday 11 November 1990
I always worry on overnight boat trips about sleeping through and waking up to find myself on the way back again. No fear of that with P&O. At 7.00am European time (or 6.00am if you're going by my body clock) the sounds of Vivaldi's Four Seasons blasted out over the PA. Sleep through that if you can......
We docked on time and were on the road by 8.00am. True internationalists that we are, we clocked up three countries before lunch - a couple of hours of Belgium, The Netherlands by 10.00, arriving in Germany at 11.00.
This was my first time in the unified Germany and one difference was immediately apparent - the Autobahn's were littered with slow moving or stationery Trabants. Getting caught behind these in traffic jams was a real hazard - first would be the disgusting smelling black smoke from the exhaust, usually followed by steam from the radiator as the car overheated.
A coffee stop at midday was spent parked next to another Trabant - the driver mixing two stroke which is not surprisingly unavailable in europe's greenest country.
Another unusual sight at the service station was a coach full of beer drinking Germans, most of whom were wearing buffalo skin headdresses. whilst Neil's German was probably good enough to ask the reason why, we thought it prudent not to. We arrived at Bad Lippspringearound 2.00pm, and immediately found the Music Theatre. The amps were being unloaded, and we wandered in to find out the start time and where we could get tickets.
The Musik Theater was similar in size to T&C2 in Highbury, and was basically a disco. The stage was about a foot above floor level, and it looked as if it was going to be a tight fit getting the band on it - especially with two keyboard players.
Off next into the town in search of a room for the night. we found a small hotel about a quarter of a mile from the Musik Theater, but as we unpacked Neil realised that his credit cards had gone AWOL. The bags and car were thoroughly searched to no avail, and a trip back to the Theater was equally fruitless.
Then came a period of soul searching - could they have been dropped at the service station?, did Neil leave them on the table at home? The former eventually turned out to be the most likely.
Next it was off for a walk round the town. Bad Lippespringe is a small spa town about 30 miles North West of Kassel. In true German tradition the town has a liberal helping of Konditoreis and we duly selected one and set about piling on the calories.
Back to the hotel, Neil decided to have another look for the cards, and I wandered back to the Theater to see if I could get a glimpse of the sound check. The door was open and I wandered in to catch a few seconds of 'Holding On' before being promptly evicted by a local who was unsympathetic to my having travelled a long way and wanting to catch a few extra tunes.
After a rest, it was off to find something to eat - man cannot live on gateau alone. The meal was excellent despite a rather long wait. Neil seemed to have ordered two steaks and, not surprisingly given their size, failed to finish one. After some discussion with the waitress she emerged with a doggy (or should I say hund) bag and we walked into the night complete with steak.
On and into the Theater. We were surprised not to be the only English there - we guessed the other three may have been from the locally based British forces.
Time for a couple of beers - 'Zwei Alt Bitte', fluent, eh? - before Chappo came on stage at 9.00pm. the Shortlist had changed considerably since the previous tour, with Mick Weaver (keyboards), and Micky Moody (lead guitar) replacing Nick Pentelow, Steve Simpson and Bobby Tench. Ian Gibbons (keyboards), Pete Stroud (bass), and Henry Spinetti (drums) remained from the previous line up.
The set consisted mainly of material from ' Hybrid and Lowdown' and 'Walking The Cat', interspersed with a few numbers from earlier solo and Riffburglar albums.
The full list (or at least the ones that we could remember when we got back to the hotel) was ' Shadow on the Wall', 'Slap Bang in the Middle', 'Ball of Confusion', 'Big River', 'Bye Bye Love', 'Let Me Down', 'Hands Off', 'Kick it Back', 'Mango Crazy', 'Son of Red Moon', 'Daddy Rolling Stone', 'Bo Diddley', 'Peter Gunn', 'Just a Step Away', 'Come Together', 'Hor Night to Rhumba', 'Sushi Roll', 'Chicken Fingers', Someone Else's Clothes', and '16 Tonnes'.
Two and a half excellent hours later it was all over, and after another beer it was back to the hotel and a good nights sleep before the long drive home.
Monday 12 November 1990
Woke up around 8.00 (no Four Seasons this time !), and after a quick wash and shave, we went down to the bar for breakfast where we were amased to find half a dozen locals, some of whom looked on their way to work, knocking back beer and chasers.
The journey to Calais was fairly uneventful, except for an excellent sausage with apple sauce in a Belgian service station.
As we neared and continued into France we passed the thousands of immaculately kept war graves which are such a dominant feature of many of the coastal towns there. They were newly adorned with flowers following the previous day's remembrance services, and were an ironic sight as we tuned into Radio 4 and picked up the latest news from the Gulf.
The journey between Calais and Dover seemed to pass very quickly and we landed at teatime. After dropping off Neil at St Albans railway station, it just remained to finish the worst part of the journey (the M25 & M4), and back to Swindon. Fifty hours, and 1,125 miles later I was home'
Thanks for the story Chris - a couple of questions remained unanswered though - (a) did you go on to get a Christmas present ? and (b) did Neil's credit cards turn up ?