I loved everything about Dublin except for two things. The poverty
and trying to find your way out of the place in a hurry.
Absent Friends had performed for two nights at the "Point
Theatre" to the warmest, most enthusiastic crowds we'd played
to anywhere in Europe (with the possible exception of Glasgow.)
It was in fact the last two nights of the" INXS Europe '90
Tour" and quite frankly I think everyone was relieved that
the end was in sight. (Those that were still standing.)
five or six days to Xmas and as I walked around the streets of
Dublin I watched the old ladies and children on the street selling
Xmas paper and thought how poor they must be. I was also thinking
about "The Dubliners" and then amazingly came upon the
statue of James Joyce. There are a lot of statues in Dublin.
Somewhere in amongst it all I literally bumped into Rhett Hutchence
coming out of a shop. I don't know what Rhett's official job description
was on the tour but to all and sundry it was "Being Michael's
Brother." He did it well. He rode on the Absent Friend's
tour bus a few times "slummin' it". We visited an art
gallery together in Milan to see an exhibition by the artist/architect
me as a witty and congenial sort and his philosophy seemed to
be summed up when he said, " He who says no to champagne,
says no to life!"When
we collided, he was in fact shopping for Xmas presents for his
brother Michael and for Kylie Minogue. It struck me as being a
particularly daunting task.
Absent Friends seemed dogged by disaster on those final days of
the tour. Wendy Matthews looked like missing the last night's
performance after having emergency dental treatment, Sean found
out that his ticket to Canada hadn't been booked and Dave had
American visa problems. I had discovered that not only had our
tour manager lost my passport in Dover, but now I had lost my
wallet (probably in Bath when I bought the Van Gogh "Sunflowers"
T-shirt.). It contained cards, bankcards and various memorabilia
but most importantly my only remaining identification, my driver's
license. I was going to have big trouble getting home in a few
I was feeling a bit sorry for myself when out of the blue I was
approached by a couple of Irish school girl Absent Friends fans
who told me how "grand" we were. That certainly lifted
my spirits and once again vanity triumphed over self pity.
On the last day of the tour, a special Christmas dinner was organized
for everyone involved and a surprisingly shy Michael Hutchence
made a brief thank you speech. The food was up to it's usual high
standard. We gave the catering people a card and a couple of bottles
of Dom Perignon. I remember bemoaning my passport woes to John
Farris (INXS's drummer) and he firmly believed that losing a passport
was, for a tour manager, a sackable offence.He couldn't believe
our tour manager wasn't sacked for losing it. I thought that was
a little extreme at the time but I could see his point later when
it turned into one big hassle.
But first we had to get out of Ireland alive.
our hotel, the "Tara Towers", by 6.30 am. and our destination
was Rosslare. From there we would board the ferry that would take
us to Fishguard and then we'd drive on to London and hopefully,
eventually, fly home.
It took quite a bit of fumbling and bumbling around in the darkness
before we realized that none of us could read the map of "Dublin
City and Suburbs." We began asking locals for directions.
In fact we asked six different people and got six different dead
ends. It was an hour before we paid a taxi driver to lead us out
of the maze. This made us late, and we couldn't afford to be late.
Dave, our navigator, was tired and confused and still fighting
off the pneumonia he'd caught in Amsterdam. Mal, our tour manager,
was not only tired but also angry at all the shit he'd had to
deal with and frustrated and panicky at the possibility of missing
the 9.00 am ferry (there wasn't another until 9.00pm.) It was
always going to be an edgy ride.
Finally free of the city of Dublin, Mal stepped on the gas and
our hired van carrying six band members and two crew was hurtling
and careening through the classic greens of the Irish countryside,
exquisitely back-lit by the first rays of dawn. It was all-important
that we make the ferry on time.
I was falling in and out of consciousness, opening my eyes every
now and then taking a sleepy mental snapshot of the view. I was
aware and vaguely concerned that we were traveling too fast. I
felt reassured that in case of accident I was at the back of the
coach. We passed a sign that read, "SEANKIL" and I looked
over at the back of Sean Kelly's head and thought about bad omens.
I drifted back in to an uneasy sleep.
I'd never heard of "black ice" before. It's where ice
forms on the road and becomes invisible. Well, at about 8.45 am
our van hit a patch of "black ice" as we took a corner
at speed. The van snaked and skidded, spun around, left the road
and ploughed into an ancient stone wall. Such a terrifying experience.
and screaming and then
Miraculously, no one was hurt. We all emerged shaken though there
had been some perilously close calls. Wendy Matthews had a bottle
of very expensive champagne Michael Hutchence had given to her
as a "start of the tour" gift which turned into a missile
when the van became airborne. It missed her head by centimeters.
I was in the seat behind her on the side of the van that slammed
into the wall. We saw it coming at us in slow motion although
it all happened so quickly. It was hard to believe it had happened
at all until you looked at the van, which was a right off.
We'd all been given the same black denim tour jackets with attached
grey fleecy lined hoods. We were all wearing them hood up and
must have looked like eight druids in the misty morning. We wandered
around in circles for those first ten disoriented minutes in the
rural Irish landscape, in shock.
It actually turned out to be a little town called Camolin, and
eventually we knocked on the door of the local tavern until someone
answered it. They took us in and gave us coffee and toast and
as the shock abated we tried to work out what had happened and
what we were going to do.
Word got out amongst the locals that there were celebrities at
the tavern and soon we had kids autograph hunting and toe truck
drivers bidding to take our van to Rosslare, all with the wonderful
Irish accent. We got to meet Jim Somers who apparently "runs
the town" and was a great storyteller. He told us an interesting
tale and his accent made it almost believable. He said it wasn't
the first accident to happen on that corner.
As it turns out, our van ran off the road opposite an ancient
two story stone house that had been abandoned for a hundred years.
The locals swear it's haunted. Listening wide-eyed, we all agreed
on two things. That we didn't believe in ghosts and the need to
leave at the first available opportunity.
It would be another five hours before the bus back to Dublin would
come by and take us to a freezing bus depot where we would wait
for another hour for a bus to take us to the airport and on to
it was good to be alive.