16 years that’s how long it took to get Neil back to Australia, 16 long drawn out years. In between those years there were dozens of rumours, but being in the business I knew that’s all they were rumours. Finally when it happened I thought that the boss was pulling my leg and I told him so in no uncertain terms, in the end the poor devil was so infuriated he threw the press release at me. Finally I saw that this wasn’t a big joke and screamed so loud I think I must have done permanent damage to the poor guy’s eardrums. When I finally calmed down he asked me did I want to go on the tour. My initial response was, “are you talking to me?” I could not for the life of me process what he was saying, it just did not compute. It took a long while to sink in, a long while before I finally said I’d work for free if I could really go. The boss’s ears must have still been damaged from my initial scream because he did not take me up on the offer even though he is a known penny pincher (sorry Pauly but you know it’s true).
I had to get home and tell my father, my dad was my best mate. I had been a sick kid most of my life, my dad never once let me fall back on it and use it as an excuse. When I was in my last year of school I spent the first three months in hospital, I decided that it was too hard to try to catch up and would go back the following year. My dad’s reaction was too send me up the road to Woolworth’s where there were jobs going, no way was he going to allow me to sit and bludge for 9 months. Didn’t matter that I was still a bit crook, there were no excuses. I live by that today, he taught me well.
Of course in my usual fashion I go charging in the door, bellowing out that I am going on the Neil Diamond tour, he looks up from his paper and tells me don’t slam the bloody door, it costs money. I’m trying to tell him I’m going on the Neil Diamond tour and he’s worried about a stupid door that should have been replaced years ago. I explain that I will be going right round Australia and all he says is “That’s nice dear, have you checked with the doctor”. In my joy I hadn’t even thought of checking with the doctor. I had completely forgotten that I had this stupid tube thing protruding out of my one and only good kidney. I made an appointment with the doctor for the following day and spent half the night having a good talking to my kidney. I told it in no uncertain terms that there was no way I was going to let it do what it’s bloody mate had done to me in 1976, it must have worked because the doctor told me I was in great shape.
The day came when we were due to fly of to Adelaide, now Adelaide is only a 2 hour flight from Sydney but to me it was two hours of sheer terror, I hate flying. Nobody ever wants to sit with me because I am a nervous wreck. Luckily for my travelling companions the doctor had given me a couple of Valium pills, which kept me under control. Didn’t do me a lot of good when we got to the airport though, I was like a drunk and had to be assisted from the plane.
We got to our hotel and of course it was the usual cheapie, the kind the cockroaches won’t stay at because it is not classy enough. But what the heck I wasn’t here for a holiday I was here to see Neil Diamond. We got to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre just after lunch and Neil’s crew were already there setting up, since my role was nothing more than to look listen and learn I spent the day following my boss around like a lost puppy. It was quite boring really, not what I expected at all.
The following day we were back at the Entertainment Centre for rehearsal. The band came in and started to do a lot of jamming but there was no sign of Neil, apparently he was doing a couple of radio interviews and was not expected until after lunch so the band just mucked around. At one point, probably because I was the only one sitting around Vince comes up to me and asks me do I know where the men’s room is, I gave him the directions and off he went. He was gone for ages nearly half an hour, when he returned he comes up to me and in a really loud voice so the whole place could hear he asked me what my job was, I explained that I was here to learn the trick’s of the trade from my boss. He pulled out this map with and grabs my pen and says well now your going to learn something from me, he puts a big red circle around the place on the map where the men’s room is and says the men’s room is here, you sent me to the ladies room I could have been arrested. Everyone cracked up laughing except me. In those days I was really serious and got a bit upset, I wasn’t impressed with this bloke at all. I have always kept tour diaries and my diary entry for that day reads: “Hope I don’t have to put up with too much of that Vince bloke he’s a bit of a wacko”. Little did I know that by the time the tour finished I would be quite adept at the steel drums even if my hands felt like they were going to fall off. And more importantly I learned a valuable lesson, how to laugh, I’d forgotten how to do that. One of the final entries in my diary for that tour reads: “Boy I am going to miss Vince, I’ve never had so much fun or laughed so hard even if I am buggered”.
Lunch came and went and still there was no sign of Neil, then he finally appeared. At first I didn’t even realise it was him, he was just a bloke that walked in dressed in a pair of jeans and a baseball cap. He came over and my boss introduced me, hi was the only thing that came out of my mouth. All the years of waiting and all I could get out was hi. I will my mouth to open and say all the things that were in my head but it stayed firmly shut and all too soon the moment had passed. He got up on the stage and threw his jacket off and got straight into the rehearsal, it seemed like only a few minutes but it was more than 40. All too soon he was gone and it was back to the hotel.
The following day went so quick, everything was a buzz, preparations to be done checking and double checking. Neil spent most of the day doing interviews. Then it was time opening night, I’d waited 16 long years to see Neil Diamond in concert and now I had a front row seat. Here I shall quote from my diary on the experience.
What a show, I can’t believe this from start to finish it was just bloody fantastic. There were times I when I was just staring at him thinking this is bloody real. I was really certain when the he stepped out on stage that my heart had skipped a beat or two because I felt the dam pacemaker kick in
There were 2 more shows in Adelaide, then it was off to Sydney. Here is where my boss floored me yet again.
I was to handle the backstage area, what I was suppose to do I had no idea. Thank goodness for me the whole thing rang like a well oiled machine because it anything had gone wrong I have only made things worse.
The whole area was abuzz, people shooting off left right and centre. Neil was called upon a dozen times to shake hands with local identities and in between he was telling people what needed to be done. I felt like a bit of a twit really because I wasn’t doing anything. Oh yes I did get Vince the evening paper.
Here I am going to quote from my diary April 13, 1992:
Whoever said men can’t multi task obviously never met this bloke, he’s telling everyone what he wants and how he wants it done. He’s greeting people and getting himself sorted and 1 minute before the show he’s done everything and walk out on to the stage like he’s been sitting on his bum out the back doing nothing for the last hour. I’ll bet he doesn’t keep this up for the whole tour.
I was wrong he did keep it up for the whole tour. I had never before seen a performer run his own people like Neil did. Usually the manager or promoter is doing all this stuff.
The five concerts in Sydney were brilliant.
The next three shows were in Brisbane, and then it was off to Melbourne for another 7 shows. By the third night in Melbourne I was getting pretty buggered I wondered if I could keep up the rest the pace for rest of the tour. There were another 5 nights in Sydney to go after Melbourne.
Here again I quote from my diary April 27, 1992:
I don’t know if I am going to make it through to the end of this tour. I can’t seem to cope with 15 hour days. I feel like I have lead weights attached to my legs they just don’t want to move. I am dropping into bed the moment we get back to the hotel. These guys must be fit to keep this up, they spend heaps of energy on stage and none of them are under fifty. Remember I was only 30 then and 50 seemed a long way off, now it is only around the corner.
I dragged my way through Melbourne, slept on a couple of bus trips to the Dandenongs and Phillip Island and it was off home to Sydney.
Now I was feeling a little better, a good nights sleep in your own bed is a wonderful thing. I went to see my doctor and he gave me some vitamin pills which helped as well.
The last five shows in Sydney were great, I got my mates tickets for a couple of the shows and took them backstage to meet Neil and the band. I was really showing off.
On the second night in Sydney my boss tell me to look at a certain spot in the crowd, you could have knocked me down with a feather, it was my dad. Now my father had never been to a concert or any sort of show in his life before, the only music he ever seemed to like was Al Jolson. When I asked him what he was doing there he said he wanted to see what I did and he kind of liked Neil. Must have been all the records I had invaded his head with over the years.
After the show I literally begged Neil could I bring my dad backstage to meet him and of course he obliged. My dad got his photo taken with him and he autographed a program for him. A few days later he told me he showed them to the boys at the pub and they were impressed. Less than two years later my father died after an arduous battle with oesophagus cancer,
Apparently on tour there is a tradition that everyone gets dunked in the swimming pool at least once, no matter who they are. Everyone that is except me because it was clearly explained that I was allergic to chlorine. That of course was not going to save me from being drowned, on the last day of the tour one of the crew decided I needed getting so he climbed up onto the rafters and poured a bucket of cold water over my head. Everyone thought it was hilarious but none more so than Neil who could not stop laughing.
The last show was bitter sweet, I couldn’t believe it was all coming to an end. After the show we all said our goodbyes and it was over 31 days and 23 shows.
To this day I cannot hear Mountains of Love the opener for the shows without those memories flooding back.
I thought then that Neil Diamond had a huge impact on my life but then I didn’t know what was going to happen 4 years later.