Gigs of Our Lives – Chris Rea & Frankie Miller

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I wish I could give an exact date for this one, but I can’t and, as you’ll see, things got bit vague towards the end of the evening. I’m going for late ’78 (autumn term at Uni). It was probably November because it was bloody cold – who am I kidding it was cold virtually all the time I was in Dundee. I was at home in Mansfield between mid-June and October; whatever sun there was I missed it. Anyway, I arrived back in early October to be greeted by Steve Jenner, the very same Steve J that reviews live music (remember that) for Music Riot to this day. After the customary pub lunch of beer and a Scottish mutton pie (lukewarm on the outside, volcanic on the inside), Steve invited me to grab a handful of the summer promos that I had missed out on. One of them was the Chris Rea debut, “Whatever Happened to Benny Santini”, which I took a bit of a shine to, particularly the title song.

It got better; Magnet Records was putting a lot of oomph behind Chris Rea. They’d snagged a support slot on a tour by the newly-reformed and resurgent Lindisfarne, capitalising on their Top Ten single “Run for Home” and they were playing the Caird Hall on a Saturday night. Did I fancy being on the guest list? I did, but there was a little bit of a problem; Frankie Miller was playing at the Students’ Union that night and I didn’t want to miss that. I was sure I could work something out.

I got into the Caird Hall, did the guest list thing and took my seat in the balcony. Just after Chris Rea started his set, someone took he seat next to me and introduced himself as Chris Rea’s personal manager. No false modesty here, but it was obviously a slow night if a students’ union DJ was top of the VIP list. I wasn’t complaining.

We watched Chris Rea’s set, chatting between songs (as I vainly tried to grab a halfway decent photo) and at the end of the set, I was invited backstage to meet Chris, who was still wearing the Scotland football top that he’d worn on stage – that was a smart move, appealing to patriotism in Dundee. He was a good guy and gave me another copy of the album, this time with an autograph. I still have that album. That was followed by a quick visit to say hello to Lindisfarne before their set. After a very quick knock on the door, we walked into a frantic attempt to hide the jazz fags before the band realised it wasn’t a bust. Introductions done (nice guys again), we ventured back to the balcony.

A couple of songs into Lindisfarne’s set I had an idea. Why didn’t we both take the ten-minute walk up the road to see Frankie Miller? There wasn’t even any hesitation; let’s do it. After being entertained by Chris Rea’s team for a while, it was my turn for the hospitality now. Frankie Miller at that time was hot; his albums were good, but the live experience was something else. The band (which included Paul Carrack) was on fire and Frankie had just scored his biggest hit with “Darlin’”, which pointed in a new direction that the live set hadn’t yet taken; it was still rock and soul in equal measures and I’ll take that any day of the week.

So now it was my turn to use my DJ and entertainments crew influence. The gig was sold out (full house, if you like) and I really didn’t fancy drinking warm Tennent’s from the can bar. I grabbed a key for the unused fifth floor balcony, which had three massive advantages over the Union’s main hall. The view of the stage was perfect, the sound was pretty good (for a big box of a room with a high ceiling) and, most importantly, it was a few metres from the fifth floor bar and a good selection of beers served in proper glasses at the right temperature. It wasn’t the Royal Box, but it felt like it that night; sensational band at the top of their game and a steady supply of bevvies. I even managed to sneak away (after making sure that the beer supplies were adequate for my ten minute absence) to grab a few shots of Frankie from the wings before settling down to enjoy the gig and the beers.

You’ve probably guessed that it got a bit messy after that; a students’ union bar is a really good way to stretch out the per diems, and we worked really hard to get through that day’s allowance, wearing a path through the floor tiles to the bar. Great gig, great company and a thumping hangover the following day; does that sound familiar to anyone? It’s over forty years ago and about 500 miles away but hearing Frankie’s acoustic anthem “Drunken Nights in the City” takes me back there every time.

And the signed copy of “Whatever Happened to Benny Santini” and all of the Frankie Miller vinyl albums have survived eleven house moves.