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John Hamel, assistant & roadie, from Club Sandwich 47/48:
A beautiful sunny morning as I’m driving with Paul and Linda to the airport. The rest of the band are all waiting at customs. While we’re walking across the tarmac Eddie’s there with his camera videoing everybody.
‘It’s fantastic flying weather and we’re off: myself, Eddie and the band and Alan Crowder and Lindy Ross, our wardrobe lady. (See Meet Mike Ross.) We’re heading for Nice airport, because we can’t get into San Remo – well, we can get in, but we can’t get out again after seven o’clock in the evening. At Nice airport we had three limousines waiting for us, but the problem was they couldn’t come onto the runway. So Trevor Jones, who was already out there, had to sort out courtesy cars to pick us up, get through customs and into the limousines.
“We’re taking all the mountain roads through Monte Carlo to Italy and going through the mountain tunnels. It’s an unbelievable day, about fifty-five to sixty degrees – I thought I’d need an overcoat, which I didn’t. Eddie’s got his big video camera in the car- we’re in one car with Paul and Linda, everybody else is in two other cars. So he starts shooting, as we go through the tunnels, some orange and lemon trees. We see millions of greenhouses all over the hills and they seem to be growing flowers.
“The drive to San Remo takes about an hour and the scenery and some of the villas look fantastic. You see all the marketplaces and people working, but the other thing Eddie and I noticed was lots of observatories up on the hills for looking into the skies at night.
“We go through a few tunnels and then come to the Italian border. I get out with all the passports; Trevor and I talk to the customs men. The EMI man, ‘Beppe’ (Joe Ciraldi of EMI Italy), is there and everything’s fine. We go through the two checks and on the other side there’s two police cars, one at the rear and one at the front, to escort us in. We thought, ‘Great, but do we need it?’ We did need it, as it happens.
“As we come up into San Remo, the place is packed: traffic jams, little roads, everything. The police car that was in front of us pulled all the traffic over, so we had to go down the other side of the road to get through. They’ve got these special ‘lollipops’-white sticks with a round top which is white and red-and if that comes out, you’ve gotta move.
“We’re going to the theatre where Paul and Linda and the band are gonna do the two numbers (‘Once Upon A Long Ago’ and ‘Listen To What The Man Said’) and there are streets of people, screaming and shouting for Paul, cameras flashing. Eddie was totally flipped out and started taking film of all this. We get into the theatre complex and out of the madness. There’s more people, waiting to say hello, and we get straight onto the stage. I get the guitars out, plug ’em in and we start rehearsing.
“That lasted about an hour and then Paul had a couple of TV interviews and a lot of press to do at the Hotel Royale, half a mile back down the road. There were so many people out front when we got there, then when we got into the front entrance there were more people inside than outside: press again, millions of cameras, tons of craziness. Linda got pushed back behind the crowd and Paul got pushed into the middle. In the end we managed to get them back together and into the elevator to the second floor, where we had a suite overlooking the Mediterranean and some palm trees: terrible view!
“We meet up with Richard (Ogden) in Paul’s room. I order some tea and we relax for about fifteen minutes before we have to go down to the press reception. Richard and Trevor nip downstairs, then come back up and we decide to go. Paul’s all ready – bit of make-up for TV – and down we go. There’s two TV interviews, each for about twenty minutes, which worked out pretty good. They were sensible questions and Richard was there to oversee and make sure things didn’t get too crazy.
“Then we had Beppe come back in. He insisted that there were at least eight journalists; the second time he came back there were about twenty-eight journalists. So we got all the tables together and made a big square, put some green velvet cloths on and had a mini-press reception: it’s the only way to deal with this amount of people. Some of the journalists had seen Paul in England last year when we were doing a bunch of press stuff and there were no problems. Paul does a photocall with EMI people from France and Italy and that goes down very well.
“By now it’s seven o’clock, so we go back up to Paul’s room by the fire escape. (Beatlemania stuff, this.) Pasta has been ordered and Chris, Gary, Hamish and Linda are already up in the room. Paul doesn’t bother to eat, but everyone else does. We have tea, coffee, orange juice. By this time the make-up lady’s in and Lindy’s there with all the clothes. While all this was going on, the five police outside wanted a photo with Paul, so we managed to get that organized. They gave him a lovely badge and thanked him very much.
“Eddie went downstairs with the video camera to be at the bottom of the elevator for when we got out, but it got so crazy we went down the back stairs. We still had to go through the lobby and it was madness, madness, madness again. They had these revolving doors: you get more than a couple of people in there and you’ve had it! The car’s there – I’ve already loaded it with everything we needed-and we just pile in. Eddie and Trevor and Alan were supposed to be in the car behind, but there was some sort of commotion and I saw Trevor running down the road with Alan and Eddie and get into another car. We have another crazy half-mile journey with police car sirens going.
“Eventually we get to the gig and they open the big gate that goes into the Ariston Theatre. (Most of the other acts were on at the Parla Rock Theatre.) We dive into the theatre and find we have about five minutes before we go on – it’s about 8.45 and there’s an Italian gold medal skier on the other channel at nine o’clock. (The San Remo Festival is a major TV event in Italy.) Paul and Linda go into the dressing room, the band go into their dressing room and there’s this lady and gentleman on the stage doing their little compering bit.
“I checked with Paul how he wanted to do the guitar. He wanted to walk on with his guitar on, but by the time I had time to get any equipment on the stage the band were already down on the stage, so I rushed to give Paul his guitar and plug it in and get the bass ready for the changeover.
“While the changeover is happening, the compere (Miguel Bose) comes on in a very long coat and does a little talk with Paul.
“It was very good, the people loved it. It was all a bit hoity-toity: the people looked like lords, ladies and gentlemen with their jewellery and dinner jackets. Unfortunately, the wrong people were inside – all the fans were outside and all the people with the money were on the inside. This is life: what can I say?
“So: finish the show – it went down a storm – get the guitars packed away, fly off the stage, grab the leads, load stuff into the car. Go upstairs, Paul says ‘Are we ready?’ We go back through the mayhem. On the stairs we’ve got this reporter who’s talking every step Paul’s doing into this radio, via a radio station and it’s all happening, happening.
“Eddie’s trying to follow with his camera, which is nigh-on impossible with all these people. He gets into the front of our car, I have the back door all ready for Paul and Linda to dive in. As I was just going to shut the door, Alan jumps in with us too. We’ve got two cars in front and a car behind-police cars. Open the gates: another crazy amount of people screaming and shouting for Paul.
“As we go down the streets, seeing all the beautiful houses with the big shutters, it’s all lit up beautifully, like a big seaside resort really. There were a lot of lights shaped like all the different playing cards down one street, I noticed, and people just milling around. This was the last part of the four-day festival and Paul was headlining the whole show. Other artists on were Joe Cocker, Whitney Houston and a whole bunch more.
“We pass the Royale as we’re driving back out and just go straight through, all the way to the customs, where the police leave us. Go through and drive for another half an hour through Monte Carlo to Nice airport, where our aeroplane was sitting on the runway waiting for us. So were Trevor and a couple of the French guys from EMI who’d gone ahead of us to make sure everything was OK. We had a lovely flight back, went through customs in England, jumped in the cars and drove off home after a great day out in San Remo.”
Mission accomplished – an important mission too: other artists included Rick Astley, Bon Jovi, Terence Trent d’Arby and Art Garfunkel. All but four of the artists then in the Italian charts appeared and ninety acts were televised, a third of them non-Italian.
But this wasn’t Paul’s only venture sur le continent after the release of ‘Once Upon A Long Ago’. With a similar band (Stan Sulzman was on sax this time), he had flown to Germany on Sunday 20th December to appear on Wetten Dass, a major TV show, saying a few words in German to compere Thomas Gottschalk. (See Pascale Becker’s letter in LWFS.) We can only hope the performing bug has bitten him good and proper in the process. We can be sure the McCartney bug has bitten much of Europe – ouch!
This was the 1st and only concert played at Ariston Theatre.