I’m writing this from a hotel lobby in São Paulo as I’m currently on tour in South America. I absolutely love it here, but it’s the getting here – indeed, getting anywhere – that’s becoming harder and harder for us prog rock pensioners.
In the 1970s, travelling around the world was great fun. There was no security at airports, you were guaranteed a seat and, even more importantly, one that allowed room for the two appendages that stick out from the bottom of the torso, usually known as legs. I’m not complaining because I love what I do, but it does seem that airlines don’t fully understand that after coming off stage at midnight, you finally get back to the hotel at 2.30am, then it’s into bed at 3am and up at 5am before leaving at 6am for another flight. You are met with queue after queue at the airport. Before I’ve even boarded the plane, I’m overtired and feeling ratty but I try my best to keep calm. I finally get on the plane after a full body search and find I am in the middle seat with absolutely nowhere for my legs in the six inches of leg room allowed. The stewardess, who looks very old and scary, comes to my row and says: “You can’t put your knees under your chin, Sir.”To be honest I didn’t think I could either, so I ask her where she suggests I put them. “Are you trying to be awkward, Sir?” I point out I had merely assumed that my ticket allowed for my legs to travel with the rest of me. She says, “We actually have six business class seats and under the circumstances I can upgrade you at the small cost of $376.” Feeling smug, I follow her up the centre aisle, through the blue curtain, and I see exactly the same seat configuration but in a double row. “You’re in the middle seat,” she says. “But I can’t see any difference up here than back there?” I quip. “You get a choice of still or fizzy water.” So, with my legs under my chin, I tell myself it’s only a two-hour flight and could be worse. Then the pilot’s voice comes over the intercom and informs me it is. “Bit of a traffic control problem, I’m afraid. Just a short delay of four hours.” When we finally land we’re taken straight to the venue as we’re running so late. I’m ratty, tired, fed up and I want my mum. “Good trip?” asks the promoter. “Fuck off.” But amazingly, within half an hour we walk on stage, and you know what? I’m no longer tired or upset at having to hold my knees in a position that I used to try and get girlfriends to do. Suddenly the world is the most wonderful place, as band, audience and music become one glorious mass. We walk off stage feeling refreshed and are the happiest people in the world. You realise that you would go through airline hell every day just to play on stage. For the last 45 years and for many more years to come, that’s exactly what I hope to do. Dear Queasy Jet: all is forgiven.