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A day in the life of a roadie

A fascinating article from the April 17, 1976, issue of Sounds. They’ve sent one of their journalists to be embedded, as we might say now, with the crew of one established band and the crew of an upcoming one. The established band happened to be Deep Purple Mark 4 playing a couple of gigs at the Wembley Empire Pool in London on March 12th and 13th that year. The upcoming ones were The Stranglers playing a pub in Islington for the princely sum of £35.

It’s a long(ish) read, but on a topic rarely covered in such depth before or since.

I ARRIVED at Wembley Friday morning. The first truck containing the PA system and most of the lights had already been unloaded, and the PA speaker-cabinets set up on the rigs, slung from the Empire Pool roof. The stage was a chaotic jumble of cords, leads, boxes, cabinets and sundry other things which are doubtless indispensible to an occasion such as this, but whose function seemed, for the moment, unclear.

Ossie Hopper, the Purple tour manager, introduced me to Baz, the road manager, who introduced me to a semi-truck loaded to the gills with equipment and the idea of hauling the stuff off the truck and stacked neatly on the ground in readiness for being fork-lifted up on stage.

The two truck-drivers are helping unload the truck — taciturn guys who swing the equipment off with the sort of easy action most people reserve from downing beers. I find it necessary to pause every few minutes — strictly in the interests of journalistic research, you understand — to survey the growing mountain of boxes and cases, or to discreetly idle off to see how things are shaping up on stage.

Continue reading in Music History for Those Who Are Able to Read.

Many thanks to Geir Myklebust for keeping the history alive.

5 Comments to “A day in the life of a roadie”:

  1. 1
    RobH says:

    What a fascinating article, and well written.
    I was just starting to play in bands and getting into recording at that time, and it’s a period 5 or 6 years before I started crewing which I’ve been lucky enough to do ever since.
    For someone in the industry, it’s really interesting historically….things had already changed a fair bit by the early 80’s.

  2. 2
    MacGregor says:

    I have always had great respect at how the road crew get through their work. It looks & sounds like major fatigue & an extremely exhausting job. Not to mention accidents & the dangerous situations & the potential injuries they may pick up as well. On the upside, internationally they get to see parts of the world many wouldn’t & some may enjoy certain ‘benefits’ of the hedonistic kind at certain times. Good luck to them all, past & present & into the future. Much respect to them all. Where would we be without them? Cheers.

  3. 3
    Gary says:

    This was a great article of a time gone by. I remember watching some of these roadies assembling the stage from shows way back then. My favorite desriptions in this article was that of the DP sound; “That PA system, which has been churning out 125+ decibels of sound,
    mashing the brains of the first 35 rows into marshmallow” and my personal favorite; “anybody out there in the 8,000 who are about to have their brains charred into oblivion by the holocaust of noise”

    Well done!

  4. 4
    BreisHeim says:

    (They are) the road crew all right, the most important guys!
    Lemmy nailed it on the song dedicated to them.
    All hail!

  5. 5
    Uwe Hornung says:

    This here had me sigh:

    “Stewart is also responsible for Lord’s refreshments — a couple of bottles of Courvoisier and a packet of cigarettes which he keeps ready on an upturned case beside him as he squats behind Lord’s keyboards. Stewart knows Lord like Lord knows his brandy, and at a sign from the star Stewart is ready with a full cup or a lit cigarette.”

    Jon’s Courvoisier consumption in the mid-seventies reached a magnitude that had even DC remark on it in a post-split interview (in typical DC fashion he hit back at Jon after the latter had remarked on DC’s pre-gig alcoholic intake in Mk IV days: “If Jon thinks me having a drink before the gigs affected my performance, we should perhaps discuss his Courvosier consumption too.”). And like a lot of people who hit the bottle heavily he possibly paid a price for it decades later – pancreatic cancer is very much an aging rock star’s disease for having once led “the good life” all too much.

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