Access All Areas
by John Keeling
Guilfest, Saturday 17th July 2005
It is just about the hottest day of the summer. Blistering. And Guildford is heaving. We’re met at the rear of the stage enclosure by Toot and Dave Salt. Dave is a big guy. He’s quietly spoken but you sense he’s not someone to mess with.
And then the moment comes – after being a fan for 32 years I’m handed my first laminate. Access All Areas. I know it’s daft but I’m absolutely thrilled! Though a quick recce of the backstage facilities destroys any illusions I ever had about the rock’n’roll industry. Frankly, it’s rather depressing. A bunch of drab Portakabins with village hall furniture. The only relatively comfortable sanctuary is Quo’s portable production office, staffed by Dave Salt’s PA, Lynn. Were she not married, I’d have proposed on the spot. We quickly learn this is the place to come and blag cold water and Red Bull.
As the band is not due to arrive until 2.30pm, we’re going out into the growing crowd to do some Vox Pop’s. For some reason, almost every person we see wearing a Quo T-shirt (our cunning method of identifying Quo fans) is also wearing a wig. Especially the men! Frankly, we got some absolutely hilarious answers but thought the best came from ‘Clacton Jack’ & co. – just loved the Sid James laugh!
Grateful for the backstage shade, we attempt to bolt down an awful curry just as Chas ‘n’ Dave take to the stage. Naturally, that was the moment that Quo’s tour bus arrived and we dash about like blue-arsed flies to film their arrival. We’re greeted like old friends, though when Francis learns that Chas ‘n’ Dave are on he dashes up the ramp and spends the rest of their set beaming and singing along at the side of the stage. He obviously loves them.
“They’re really fantastic musicians,” he later enthuses.
Turned Out Nice Again
The band members then settles down into their own routines, though we’re still waiting for Rick to arrive. Francis has stripped down to a pair of shorts and starts sunning himself with determination. Rhino dashes around being Rhino.
“My boys’ band [as in his sons] is playing in one of the pavilions later!” he tells us. Obviously chuffed. Matt’s quietly reading a book, and Andrew and Ronnie Bown are just relaxing in the shade.
Rick arrives. He’s brought along a ukulele. Apparently it once belonged to George Formby and cost a small fortune. He tucks it away in the cabin marked ‘Mood Room’, grabs the nearest guitar and starts strumming. An impromptu sing-along begins, including (would you believe it?) Flanagan & Allen’s Strolling!
During a changeover on the main stage, it’s drummer Matt Letley‘s turn in front of the camera.
What a thoroughly affable bloke. It’s not the ideal spot to conduct an interview but he takes the numerous interruptions (including the deliberate ones by Rick) in his stride. Since Matt missed many of the political upheavals, and obviously the early days, my repertoire of questions is somewhat limited and we concentrate more on recording the new album, The Party Ain’t Over Yet.
He’s obviously pleased at co-writing Nevashooda with Andrew. As to the album:
‘Erm, I suppose it’s been a bit more difficult than Heavy Traffic. It seemed to take forever to make. Things seemed a lot slower to me. Don’t know why that was, particularly. But it is much more of a pop album, I would say. The mainstream will probably prefer this album more than the hardcore, I would think.”
Another band strikes up on the main stage and we call it day, to Matt’s obvious relief.
Not much is happening in the enclosure, so we follow Rhino and Andrew across to the Pavillion where the Rhino Juniors are playing. Andrew gets up on stage and plays harmonica for them in some boogie number while Dad (and Mum) watch from the wings.
Back at the enclosure, Francis is being fitted with new ear moulds for his in-ear monitoring system. It looks bloody uncomfortable as all manner of things are shoved in but he takes it like a pro. Rick lurks around telling us that we can’t eat the bands’ bananas. I get a chance to film some shots of Rick and Rhino jamming on acoustics.
But as gig time approaches there’s a noticeable shift in tension. More guests arrive including that rock’n’roll rogue, Jackie Lynton.
(NOTE: I had wondered/worried about including the next part in this blog. Rolf Harris’ fall has been highly publicised. But at the time this documentary was made, who knew? Harris would have been considered the safest of entertainers whose appeal crossed generations of TV viewers. Rick Parfitt went on to make a Christmas single with him, Christmas In The Sun, and would have been as mortified as anyone when charges were made and Harris ultimately convicted. Since there were a couple of shots of him featured in the documentary, the original comments I wrote remain here.)
As the band start changing into their stage gear, Rolf Harris turns up. He and Francis greet each other like long-lost brothers. It’s an utterly surreal moment. Francis is getting a little tired of our cameras and so we retreat to a discreet distance and give the band some space.
Larry (2nd Camera) and I dash down to the stage to get some footage of the fans warming up. They go bananas for us. It’s now impossible not to be caught up in the adrenaline rush. We sprint back to the Quo camp where Toot Carmen is giving the band their marching orders. It’s time…
Various backstage guests call out greetings to the band as they stroll towards the backstage ramp. Andrew pauses to drain a pint. Rick cracks his awful Dead Sea pun – “I knew it when it was only ill” – and the drone begins.
Front to Back
They’ve lived through this moment thousands of times before but you can tell they’re not jaded or blasé. There’s a palpable tension here, heightened by the vibrations of that huge F major drone. Rick lines up to go on first. Toot lets him know he’s got it wrong – he’s on last. After some jostling, Toot gives them the ‘off’.
For me this is the most important shot of the day. From the moment I started this project I always knew that the last shot of the programme would be the band walking on stage – a rock’n’roll Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid moment. I literally hold my breath as cameraman Patrick follows the band out. I needn’t have worried – the shot proves to be fantastic.
Patrick is in his element. Although restricted to shooting from stage left or behind the backline, the band let him get perilously close. The idea here isn’t to film a concert in a traditional fashion; I want to try to give fans a feel of what it’s actually like to be stood on stage with the band. To cluster round the drum riser with them, shoulder to shoulder. I know I’m biased but I think the onstage footage is some of the best that’s ever been filmed of this band. Director of Photography Patrick Rowe is simply superb.
That’s not to forget me old mucker Larry (Lawrence Catford, the wonderful editor of the finished documentary) who grabs a priceless moment at the end of Roll Over Lay Down: Rick stops in front of us and shouts ‘Hello!’ as they crash into the ending. He’s hunched over, totally absorbed. Larry’s camera is literally two inches away from Rick’s guitar head. I have visions of him raising it for a final power chord and sending both the camera and Larry flying. Fortunately, Rick just freezes. After the gig he beams, “You got a great shot there!” And indeed, Larry did.
As the band leave the stage at the end of the encore, Francis and Andrew disappear into chauffer-driven cars almost faster than we can film. Rick and Rhino stagger back to the enclosure, arm in arm. It’s too dark to film now so we Wrap and wind-down for a while. I stand chatting with Rick in the twilight.
“I can’t wait to see this stuff,” he says. “And, John, any time you want to come and see us…”
What a gent.
“Rockin’ Ricky Parfitt,” I say, “See you around.”
We shake hands and I leave with my crew. It’s a poignant moment. The filming’s finished. Now I’ve got to make the thing.
Please God, don’t let me f**k up!…
The finished film and the DVD bonus materials are well received by the band. At the launch party at The Marquee Club in London’s Leicester Square, Andrew virtually pins me against a wall and tells me, “It’s the best piece of product we’ve released.” A sentiment echoed by Rhino, who assures me he’s not ‘blowing smoke up your arse.’
Naturally, I’m thrilled. I’m standing on a balcony with Rhino, Andrew and Matt, watching a promo of the DVD, when an interview clip of Pax flashes on.
“That’s my kitchen!” yells Rhino.
“No, it’s Mike Paxman” say I.
That did get a laugh.
Huge thanks to Ken Maliphant, Simon and Christine Porter, Peta and Persha, Bob Young, Mike Paxman, Chris West, Toot, Lloyd, Dave, Lynn, Mike Hrano, Patrick Rowe, Robin Fox, David Lascelles, Heidi and Status Quo – the greatest rock band in the world.
[I am pleased to report that the DVD, well reviewed and received, entered the UK music charts and No.3, the same week Live 8 entered at No. 1]
This concludes the 4-blog production diary of The Party Ain’t Over Yet.
Also see my blog: Rick Parfitt: The Video That Never Was.
Reader feedback is welcomed and appreciated.