A call came from the management asking would I be available to act as Musical Director for Heather Smalls appearance at the Linda McCartney Tribute concert at the Albert Hall, this was April 1999.
Two songs where needed. Heather and Myself decided on a new arrangement, by yours truly, of Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World, along with the M People crowd pleaser Moving on Up.
Snake Davis was away so I called Simply Reds Ian Kirkham on sax and brought in Shovel from M People on percussion. The rhythm section was supplied by Chrissie Hynde and her band, The Pretenders, Chrissie was acting as overall MD, and along with a small string section that was it.
Despite many telephone conversations, and a little reticence from the Pretenders camp regarding me wanting Ian and Shovel on board, it was agreed and a rehearsal date was confirmed at John Henrys followed by the show the next day.
Ian and I arrived at John Henrys on the morning of rehearsal, I pressed the buzzer, opened the door, and was immediately confronted by a very agitated Chrissie Hynde.
“ARE YOU PWAL BURCHAALL!”
“I am, nice to meet you”
“LISTEN ! I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THESE CONGAS AND SAXOPHONES AND STUFF, THIS AINT SOME SHOWCASE!!!”
“Oh, just want to sound great for the show”
Nice start to the day. Anyhow, despite some minor issues with tempo and feel, at one point , Heather came over and whispered “ I’m a little worried about the band” Everyone from crew, technicians and musicians where more than helpful.
The following day, we arrived at The Albert Hall, a sound check was under way for the evenings show.
Lots of familiar faces knocking about, we were shown to a dressing room, there sat Sinead O’Conner, she could not have been nicer, and very funny.
Eventually the call came for us to check. I was to play acoustic piano for Wonderful World, then I had to make my way onto a riser, stage right, for Moving on Up. As we ran Wonderful World, Shovel, wo was facing me stage left, gestured me to look to my right. There was a chap standing over my right shoulder listening, I looked up and realised it was Paul McCartney!! I said hi and he nodded back. I kind of regret it now, but I could not bring myself to speak to him, he as very friendly to everyone, but it was a surreal experience for me, plus as he has a great deal to do with fuelling my life’s obsession with music. I blame him for my overdraft.
All went well after a couple of runs of Wonderful World so I wondered up to my riser for Moving on Up, just before I counted the band in the string section gestured so I got up to speak to them, as I stepped off the riser I stood quite heavily on someone’s hand, this person was leaning on the riser checking a set list, “so sorry “the wounded person looked up from under his baseball cap “that’s ok” said George Michael. I scuttled off quickly before an injury claim came my way.
After the sound check, with time to kill I wondered about backstage bumping into legend after legend. At one point in a deserted corridor, a lady appeared, seemingly from nowhere and said “is it possible the bass is too loud? It was then I realised it was Marian Faithful, I asked did she think it was overall too loud or “no just during the second song,” she mentioned its title which I can’t remember, I pointed out I was not in her band, she said sorry, laughed, and disappeared.
Took a great picture of McCartney sound checking, within 10secs of my flash going off I was surrounded by 3 maybe 4 sharp dressed security men, the one who spoke to me asked who I was, I showed him my pass, he said that’s ok, but no more pics please. They then seemingly melted away.
It was beginning to feel like The Matrix.
Tom Jones coughed his way through his sound check. During the Green Green Grass of Home, the keyboard player had forgotten to transpose the keyboard he was playing string lines on, Tom stopped singing and coughing and said” what the f*** was that!!
On my way out, I walked to the exit with Mick Fleetwood!! There was the expected gaggle of photographers, I said to Mr Fleetwood they were there for me, he laughed, I bet he dines out on that one to this day…….
Here is a link Wonderful World . Albert hall 1999.