The West End was now behind me and I was looking for something "cleaner" and after responding to an ad in the Melody Maker I was called for an audition with the band appearing at the Park Lane Hilton's top-storey nightspot. It took no time for the band leader to realise that I had everything that they needed from a keyboard player (after all, I had had years of experience playing the type of repertoire that was needed) and I was booked for the six-nights-per week residency. We were to complete another month or so and then do a four month tour of Finland, to be followed by six weeks in Switzerland, then France, then perhaps back to London.
Talk about the United Nations - the band leader was Swiss-German, the sax/flute player Lebanese, the guitarist French, the drummer English, the bass player from Ireland and me, a South African. We ended up using French as the common language and I had to listen carefully to get the gist of what was being said, slowly gaining some understanding of the language and its nuances.
Off we went (Linda, Kingsley at 2 years old and I) to Scandinavia on New Year's day (mid winter!) - first by train to Harwich, by boat across the North Sea to Esbjerg, south by train to Copenhagen (misty frozen countryside flashing by while listening to Steely Dan's wonderful Gaucho album), back on the midnight train crossing the water on the ferries, destination Stockholm, then killing a day waiting and freezing before boarding the Silja Line's ferry across the frozen ocean to Helsinki. As we arrived I saw nothing but ice and snow! But what a beautiful place.
We played at the Hesperia Hotel alongside Machito's big band (featuring Celia Cruz) during the samba festival which was to follow us around the country for the next four months. This must be why I love the samba so much - there I was in the presence of some of the greatest latin artists of all time. Did I do enough to absorb it all?
From Finland we ferried across the Baltic to Traveymunde, then drove through the night to Luzern to start our
six weeks of seven-nights-per-week nightclub work to include Basle and then finally Montreaux (which I had to leave a week before the festival! Talk about bad timing ...) This was really classy gig - playing nice repertoire in classic art deco interiors with great sound systems to people who all seemed normal! We did our fair share of sightseeing by day and had some great times.
But when the six weeks were up and we drove through the border to France the contrast was stark. Plus, I was now receiving no support from the band leader by way of organising accommodation, and for the life of me, getting even some basic conversational French remained out of my reach.
So I quit, and we drove through France back to England, again another non-stop journey lasting something like 36 hours. We arrived back in London feeling some relief, but taken by the general state of decay of all the infrastructure of the inner city. But, as they say, if you're tired of London you're tired of life, and we were indeed pleased to be back.