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At Work and At Play 

Parade Magazine has posted a lovely video of our performance of Cherry Cherry at the Greek Theatre in 2012, from the upcoming (the 17th) release of Hot August Night III. The band is featured in this video, so I have an airtight alibi for that night, even if you claim to have security camera footage of me stealing your hubcaps.

 

Dueling Invisible Pianists 

After Alan Lindgren retired from touring in 2012, his rele in the band went to Mark Le Vang, who did a great job. The photo above was taken at Calgary's National Music Centre, just one more thing Canada has figured out that continues to elude this country. The photo shows Mark and I sharing a piano in a non-traditional way.

In our mutual backgrounds, Mark and I share another thing which you may not be aware of. At one time, each of us was an invisible pianist. Let me explain:

One of Mark's early gigs was playing and taking requests from visitors to the Magic Castle in Hollywood. The Castle is a club for magicians, frequently visited by tourists who can finagle an invitation, and a very entertaining spot on its own. One of its features is "Irma," an invisible pianist (who was actually Mark, behind a wall and unseen by the audience.) Irma would communicate by means of little piano flourishes, and playing songs, some by request, and some whose titles became part of the conversation.

I learned about this fascinating part of Mark's history after we'd been on the road for a while, and I had to share with him a similarly bizarre part of my employment history:

A year or so before I was asked to become part of Neil Diamond's band, I was playing on a television game called "Name That Tune." One of my duties was the "Bid a Note" section of the show, in which the contestant would bid on the number of notes it would take him or her to recognize a song. If the bid was, for example four notes, I would play the first four notes of the  melody on the piano. The funky old, otherwise unused, piano and my fingers were shown in a small circle at the top of the TV screen. Otherwise, I was not seen.

So Mark and I had that shared experience, but I one-upped him. A few years later, on a hiatus from the tour, I played piano on the pilot for the series "2½ Men." Like Mark at the Magic Castle, I was on the back side of a wall. But in this case, the other side of the wall was occupied by Charlie Sheen, who was pretending to write jingles at the piano. I was required to do a kind of mind meld that would allow me to intuit what Charlie would play if he was actually playing.

In retrospect, doing a mind-meld with Charlie Sheen doesn't seem like the safest kind of mental activity, but it seemed to go pretty well. However, by the time the series was picked up, the hidden piano conceit was gone, so I was unneeded. Also gone was the fine Broadway actress Blythe Danner, who had played the part of Charlie's mother. She had been replaced by Holland Taylor.

The Larry King Show 

For the last thirty years, I've published a newsletter on each show day. One recurring feature of the PBI, as it was known, was The Larry King Show, a comic strip about the adventures of saxophonist Larry Klimas and percussionist King Errisson. Here is one such strip, a study of the variety of snack items provided on one of our charter jet flights.

Song of the Day 

July 4th has always been a big day for our band, with a lot of memorable performances over the years. 

The last couple of fourths, however, have been rather wistful because of what’s been done to the country by the unskilled people charged with running it. So I’ll just have to rely on memories for this time around. 

Those memories begin for me in 1976 in Las Vegas, our first fourth as a band. That was, among other things, the day that our guitarist Richard Bennett Tina got hitched to his wife Tina Ward Bennett in our vocalist’s suite before the show. Fireworks later followed (no irony intended), which we watched from the roof of the Jockey Club across the street after our show at the newly-opened Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts, which is now newly-demolished. It was the bicentennial, and worthy of a big party, and we had good reasons for one.

Flash forward many years to Dubin, where our caterers served up a holiday themed spread for a rehearsal day, albeit one with a bit of Asian flavor. Any day in Dublin brings fun, and this one was no different.

 Another year we were invited to "our home in England," Woburn Abbey, where our friends threw an American-style Independence day party for us, even though we were in England, the place we got our independence from.

Then there was Boston in 2009...The 4th is a jolly time in Boston, so we jumped right in, performing with the Boston Pops (that's conductor Keith Lockhart hanging with the vocalist above), for an evening hosted by the brilliant Craig Ferguson (below, next to an unidentified Muzoid). 

Above, our vocalist says "Hi, Pops!"

And there was the very impressive one in 1986, on Governor’s Island in NYC, when we re-opened the Statue of Liberty after it had been refurbished. The ferry ride back from the island was one of those rare moments when everyone on the boat was the most important person there.

I hope our country gets back to normal sometime soon, so we can celebrate it the best way possible. We’ve got a really good song for it, one about immigrants traveling here. 

Perhaps you'd like to hear the fine version of it that we did at the Greek Theatre in August of 2012. It will appear on our upcoming Hot August Night III package, coming in August. Here's a link to see it right now.

Last Tango in Glasto 

On June 29, 2008. The Arch Angel touring organization wrapped up phase one of its plan for world domination with a performance for an audience of wild-eyed youths and a few adults who managed to sneak past security at a festive gathering in Glastonbury. 

The late afternoon performance was telecast live by the BBC to a nation hungry for another look at us, or perhaps it was just hungry. It was tea time, after all. 

"It wouldn't be Glastonbury without the mud," we had been told, but still our vocalist was promising to the press that we would deliver some California sunshine to the site. Somehow, he was able to deliver. 

As it was, our performance—which had the potential to be something akin to a gig at the old Hollywood Tropicana, the saloon at Hollywood and Western where the main attraction was mud wrestling—was a sun-kissed love fest. The sight of 130,000 or so people, depending on who’s counting, waving their arms during Sweet Caroline was one that Touroids won't soon forget. (Those 130K audience members weren't there just to see us--Jay Z, John Mayer and Leonard Cohen were among the others on the bill.)

Nor will they forget our unplanned break in the middle of the show, when electricity for the audio system went away for a while. King and Ron kept the beat going, which was all that was required for most of the audience and the Beeb, so when the juice was restored, the vocalist leaped in at the exact spot where the interruption had occurred, with a look on his face that could have been interpreted as “I meant to do that.”

Convincing a jury that the extended percussion solo was entirely planned was made a bit more difficult because of the puddles of sweat accumulating around Bernie Becker’s audio work station. But Bernie is such a grizzled veteran that he knew how to make us sound like we were doing just what we intended.

After the show, traffic made it necessary for us to a swift exit (we call it a "runner") with our police escort. We had planned to have dinner on the bus, but a little culinary miscalculation, resulted in our having to enjoy a sumptuous banquet of potato chips and peanut butter. Mmm, my favorite!

Later on, the reviews from our appearance began to roll in, and while that little moment out of time had been noticed by some, the spin tended described as “Diamond Triumphs over Technical Glitch.” Which, in retrospect, was exactly what had happened. Bravo, British journos, you got it right fer once.

Fake Osmond Alert! 

Picutred above, Left to right, are: Donny Osmond, Jimmy Osmond, Alan Osmond, Tom Osmond, Jay Osmond, Ron Osmond, Wayne Osmond, Marie Osmond, and Merle Osmond. 

Two of the individuals in this portrait are not actually bona fide members of the Osmond family. Yes, it's an extended family, but it doesn't extend quite that far. Perhaps you can spot the fake Osmonds if you look closely. If you do, write down the names of the two Osmonds you think are bogus and put your entry in your bedroom wastebasket. Then watch for your mail. If your answer is correct, you will receive an absolutely FREE advertising circular from a major department store in your area! Good luck! 

Full disclosure: We were doing a TV appearance in London a decade ago, and The Osmonds were guests on the same Jonathan Ross show as our motley bunch. Ron Tutt and I, who had played on a lot of records with various Osmonds a long time before that, took advantage of the opportunity for this little reunion picture. None of us had aged a bit, except some of us.

Alas, poor Birmingham 

When we played Birmingham, (the one in England, not the one in Alabama or the one in Michigan)  in 2008, the PBI lamented the sad state of the town and bemoaned the loss of its most remarkable landmark. We were there last year, and they were working hard on trying to restore Centenary Square, but it still lacks the feature that made it special. Read about it in my blog from then.

VERY basic training 

Dipping once again to my blog of 20 years ago, here's the story of a train trip in England, and how the train service in 2008 wasn't what it used to be back in 1999. And, of course, train travel today isn't what it used to be back in 2008—so I figure the takeawau is that things never are and never were what they used to be. On the other hand, we had Vince Charles on the train with us in 1999, so a good time was had by all. You can read about it by clicking here.