Some tours are uneventful while others can be extreme. The Rockin’ All Over the World Tour began in Ireland in June 1977 and continued to the European leg which started on January 6, 1978 in Rouen, France. The whole tour will last sixteen months, all tickets are sold out!
This leg will be rough. The weather was rough and many tours were cancelled. As a result, we were the only ones that season who covered the distance without canceling a single show. But the weather shouldn’t have been our only problem.
We’ve switched to real tour buses – no more vans, and we don’t even drive a Range Rover between gigs. Drivers and sleep berths have become the new normal. It’s amazing how quickly we adapt to change and it makes me wonder why we fight it so hard at times. Maybe because we don’t automatically get smarter with change.
We had a day off to get from the show in Essen on February 12th to our next show in West Berlin on February 14th. This required us to drive through the border checkpoint at Helmstedt-Marienborn and along the stretch of autobahn that gave access to West Berlin. The checkpoint was actively patrolled by both the East German and Soviet armies. You didn’t want to mess with those boys.
The stop was Verboten on the autobahn, and this distance was given a maximum of four hours. That was, unless for some reason your trusted bus driver ran out of fuel. Seriously? Yes, so we were looking for a gas station in the corridor, because the only thing worse than not having gas is not having it. On the third attempt to stop, we were approached by a military patrol and eventually taken to a gas station escorted by an armed escort.
A small supply store was attached to the station, and being both bored and curious as we waited for the driver to sort things out, we went to have a look. Just as you shouldn’t stop, you definitely shouldn’t shop, but the temptation of Western currency was too much for the beleaguered shopkeeper; he opened his cages to release an unheard-of quantity of alcohol from the West.
Resuming our journey, we tried several of these concoctions. The Jägermeister was the clear winner – in fact, we decided we needed more. We convinced the driver to stop again so we could buy more of this herbal elixir. We did not back down, convincing him that it was primarily his fault: if we had not run out of gas, we would not have found Jägermeister. The next stop went smoothly, and the next one after. Then we spotted a store not far from the road and, full of Dutch courage, rushed to it.
The East Germans decided they had had enough of our antics. They followed our movements and opened fire on our bus without warning. Just! Well, damn it! In fairness, if we had been politely asked then, we probably would not have obeyed. We were all in complete shit after our first and very detailed introduction to Jägermeister.
After the soldiers dragged us off the bus and confiscated cases full of the sinister potion from us, we were sent on our way with stern warnings about what would happen to us if we stopped again. My German is not very good, but I swear I have heard some mentions of us, travels and Siberia.
When we finally arrived in West Berlin, we all decided that we needed a decent meal. We chose the Italian restaurant, feeling good about our escape from the hallway. But the staff in the restaurant didn’t feel good about us. It was awkward from the start and quickly went downhill. Sort of Fawlty Towers on steroids. While the argument was going on, one of the waiters approached us brandishing a bottle of wine and the next thing I knew was that my nose was broken. I still don’t know exactly what happened, or how I ended up being the one who was koshed. The government later closed the restaurant and deported the Turkish staff – it seems we weren’t the only victims.
The next day we went to the concert with Bob Young, Quo’s tour manager, holding the West Berlin newspaper, which talked about what we did on the day off. I can add more details. It was February 14th. Happy Valentine’s Day to me!
We set course for the next stop on the tour. Back in West Germany and feeling safe away from East Germany, we stopped at one of the gas stations to refuel. To the side of the entrance stood two military tanks; these were American World War II vehicles paraded by the Army as a show of force. We have witnessed such demonstrations: the Americans were driving along the Autobahn in one direction in a column of tanks and trucks, while the West Germans were driving in the opposite direction with the same column. How strange to find these tanks abandoned.
I had to endure an incredibly cold night to use the restroom at the service station. The staff directed me down a wide staircase to a long, tiled hallway that looked like entrance tunnels to the London Underground, clearly much older than the building above. Halfway down this corridor, I came across a group of American soldiers who looked like they were homeless. When I asked them if they were all right, I thought they were about to cry. They jumped up in awe that someone was speaking to them in English instead of scolding them in German.
It turned out that they were participating in one of those stupid exercises when two tanks broke down. Army law dictated that they must remain with their equipment until it was repaired or removed. What should have been a one-day exercise turned into a five-day challenge. They ran out of money on the second day when the staff wouldn’t let them sit in the restaurant’s heated room. They were directed to the tunnel as it was dry and slightly warmer than their tanks.
I felt sorry for them, and I took them to my bus. We fed them and gave each a blanket along with Status Quo merchandise to keep them warm: hoodies, T-shirts, scarves, hats. We also gave them a couple of shots from our newly stocked bar to keep them warm.
I had to ask: “Well, what about inside the tank?”
One of the soldiers replied, “Why don’t you come with us? We can show you.
We all spent the next hour or so playing inside the tank. How it was? Uncomfortable, cramped and cramped. The most interesting thing was to play with a pistol, which, as the soldiers explained, could hit the target from a very long distance, which made the discomfort justified. I tried to convince them to let me fire just one round, which they apparently refused. However, they confessed to two things. Firstly, that these Sherman tanks were constantly breaking down here; they were configured for the desert of North Africa, so they would fly apart on hard pavement. Secondly, they never carried live ammunition, so all these pissing matches were just that.
We left our soldiers at the truck stop with their clean, warm clothes meant for the Kuo Army, not the US Army, and whatever money we had to see them through until someone came to pick them up. their bases. A week later they showed up at our gig and volunteered to help us unload as a thank you.