July – September
July 4 – In Zurich Switzerland FIFA chose the United States as the venue to organize the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the United States won with 10 votes, surpassed Morocco with 7 votes and Brazil with 3 votes.
Danny and I landed at LA – X Airport at 3pm on 4th July 1988. We were met by Mark and the mother of his friend Matt (Mark’s parents were on holiday). Matt’s Mom was lovely and very kindly drove us to Riverside in her Ford Voyager people carrier. We were zonked and thrilled after the long flight, seeing America in real life for the first time. The heat, the sunshine, the heat haze, the cars, the accents and the freeways.
About an hour’s drive to Riverside. We thanked them for the lift and took our bags into the Mark’s parents’ house, where we would be staying. I had my acoustic guitar, it had been organised that Danny would borrow a bass.
Mark called a few friends to say that we had arrived – his girlfriend Sumyrh, Paul, Armando and Matt returned with the Ford Voyager. We hung out for a bit and then as it was starting to get dark, we all piled into Matt’s car and drove around Riverside. Down University Avenue, seeing the lights as the large stores and restaurants twinkled in the evening heat. We stopped off at Denny‘s on Arlington and got some coffee in brown mugs. Absolutely thrilling.
At about 10pm, we headed over to the artists’ gallery where Mark and Sumyrh lived in Downtown Riverside. It was an old brown brick building where several artists worked and a few of them lived. Their friend Ken lived there. Slightly older than us and full of energy, his job while we were there was painting huge plastic hams and vegetables that were to go on the outside of the large Safeway supermarkets in the area. We used to cheer when we saw them in place! Mark and Ken were organising an outdoor gig in Fairmount Park for Bluetrain and a few other bands to play – The Village Idiots were also on the bill. I had got some posters made in England at Publicity and Display where we got our Buzz Club posters done and we brought them over with us.
We drank beer and chatted into the night. Suddenly the fact that Danny and I had been up for over 24 hours hit us hard and Mark realised he should get us back over to his parents’ place to crash out. We were given a spare room and fell asleep instantly.
We started rehearsals pretty much straight away. Mark introduced us to Joey Stafford, a great drummer and totally laid back guy. Paul Kinsella was in another band with Mark and lent Danny his bass. Since Mark’s parents were away, we rehearsed at their place. I played my acoustic and also borrowed Mark’s lovely sunburst Fender Jaguar. Mark played his classic black Rickenbacker.
Paul came along to watch as did Sumyrh and Ken. Ken did some filming on his Super-8 camera (oh how I wish I had that footage). I recorded the rehearsal on cassette and have put ‘You Bring Me Back To Life’ from that day to this 1988 video footage I found of the I-10 Freeway which runs between L.A. and Riverside. I hope it captures some of the feel of it all.
Mark’s parents had a pool in their back yard so when we had finished rehearsing, we went for a dip!
July 20 – The Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia nominates Michael Dukakis as their presidential candidate and Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate.
We’d been there about a week when Armando and his girlfriend Shannon couldn’t believe we hadn’t done anything touristy yet and invited us to Disneyland. We drove in Shannon’s gorgeous orange Karmann Giah.
We realised we needed a car. It was impossible getting anywhere without one, so we started to search in the local paper. There was an advert for Chevrolet Corvair for $750. Mark said these were very cool so we phoned the guy and Mark (whose car been in Mexico getting a refit when we arrived) was able to give us a lift over there to see it.
The place was on the edge of town. A long road with different shaped houses with front porches and uncut grass every few hundred yards. Mark stayed outside when we got there. It was pretty run down. A few old cars out front with chickens nesting in them. We knocked on the door and were brought into the house. The Corvair was out back (more cars, more chickens). We liked the idea of the car so much, we didn’t even take it for a test drive!
It didn’t run very well, Mark had headed off and we chugged along. After a short while a police car appeared behind us and pulled us over. In America the car tax was displayed on a sticker on the back number plate. Ours was dated 1975.
We got out of the car and explained we’d just bought it and would be getting the tax straight away. When the policeman heard our accents he asked where we were from. ‘Is that anywhere near Reading, Berkshire?’ ‘Erm…..yes.’. ‘I’m gonna let you guys off as I once went out with a girl from Reading Berkshire, but you get your tax sorted and don’t let me have to stop you again.’
I’d like to say we sped off at this point but we coughed along slowly, frighteningly heading towards the freeway. As soon as we got back to the house we knew we had made a bit of a mistake buying this car and blowing a large part of our money. It was a pretty car though.
Along with a car, we needed a place to stay. Mark knew of a friend of a friend called Heather who was looking to move out of her parent’s place so we met up with her. She was great and we decided to look for a place to share.
We found a large upstairs apartment in a wooden house, 3442, Lime Street, Riverside, in the Downtown area. We loved it.
Heathers’ parents lent Danny their Cadillac Seville, to take his American driving test. He went along to book the test, took it right then and passed. We got the Corvair to the new apartment, put an advert back in the local paper and resold it – explaining it didn’t have tax and was ‘bought as seen’. We lost about $100.
The Bluetrain gig that Mark and Ken had organised was fast approaching. Mark’s parents were home now so we were going to a rehearsal studio to get the set ready. It was very hot and there was no pool!
After rehearsals one night we headed up to the railway tracks and drank beer. We were joined by Joey’s friend Ulf.
We had met Mark’s Mum in England the year before. She came over to visit us in our apartment, giving us some ice cream bowls and cutlery to help out, worrying for us that we were Downtown.
Live on stage in Fairmount Park, Riverside, California
There weren’t many people at the gig but it was good to meet the other bands and play live.
We were hearing some excellent music.
We still needed a car. This time we got the opposite – really not an attractive car – it had been hand painted gray, using paint from a tin! But it was Japanese and had a great engine. A Datsun 100A. Here’s Danny giving it a wash.
Now we were mobile we could get ourselves to some gigs. The first one we went to was to see The Sugarcubes in San Diego on 18th August. It was about a 100 miles, so we needed a car that wouldn’t let us down. We called in to see Joey in Oceanside half way there, where he managed a record shop.
The Sugarcubes were supported by Hugo Largo, who had been produced by Michael Stipe.
Einar from The Sugarcubes threw some vinyl copies of their album into the crowd. I caught one and went to get it autographed afterwards. He took the album from me and hit himself repeatedly over the head with it before signing it and handing it back.
Just one more thing on the ‘to do’ list. Get jobs. Danny got one fairly quickly, delivering flowers for Queen’s Cabinet a beautiful shop in the Downtown area.
It took me a few attempts and I was beginning to get a bit disheartened when I saw this advert – and I knew I would get it.
Victoria’s Orange was walking distance from the apartment and near the legal firms. It was run by a wonderful couple – Pat and Helene McKeon. My job was in the ‘To Go’ window, where people who worked in the area would buy lunch. I had worked in the kitchen at Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green when I was still at school, so knew I enjoyed the restaurant atmosphere. One of my jobs at Victoria’s Orange was to prepare the special daily soup – Clam Chowder each morning plus whatever ‘guest’ soup was on the menu each day. It was here that I found out Gazpacho soup is cold – who knew?!
I loved working there.
September 17-October 2 – The United States participates in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea and ranks in third place, bringing home 36 gold, 31 silver and 27 bronze medals for a total of 94 medals behind the Soviet Union in first place and East Germany in second.
We drove into Los Angeles to a couple of gigs in September. It took nearly two hours in the Datsun. We used to listen to KROQ the alternative radio station as we drove. These were favourites:
We saw The Railway Children in Hollywood on September 22nd. We had last seen them support Lloyd Cole at Wembley Arena a few months before.
Dan, Heather’s boyfriend was a really great guy. He suggested we all go and see Fishbone, Schoolly D and Double D Noise on September 30th at the John Anson Ford Theatre a beautiful open-air venue in L.A..
Mark had some surfer friends who couldn’t believe we hadn’t been to the beach yet. They drove us to Huntington Beach and we sat on the sand while they went and surfed. We sat in the sun without any lotion and basically baked. There was no shade and no one else there. The car was parked a while away as we had walked the last stretch, we didn’t have the keys anyway. They returned a couple of hours later and we were already burned. The car journey back was awful in the small Honda Civic with the sand rubbing my red legs on the vinyl seats. Even having a cold bath when we got home hurt. This is me about three days later, my skin like leather!
Dan and Heather suggested we drive to Venice Beach, they had the idea at about 4pm one Sunday but we still jumped in Dan’s car and headed off, stopping in at a gallery while we were there.
September 29: STS-26: NASA resumes space shuttle flights, grounded after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, with Space Shuttle Discovery. The Space Shuttle Discovery goes back into orbit putting the US back into the Space Race, it deployed the TDRS-C satellite into orbit.