It is 1999, in San Diego. The jumbos fly close overhead as the crowd go bonkers – John’s Children are crashing through their first Stateside performance. Chris Townson quits his drum kit and clutches the knees of guitarist Boz Boorer, while Boz assails his guitar with a mike stand. Chris makes a frenzied assault upon the foot pedals, picking them each up in turn, and throwing them into the air. Then he examines them closely, and then he examines the stage around them. Then he crawls slowly, but carefully, around the front stage area.
Perhaps it’s a psychedelic happening, maybe he thinks he’s an orange, or that he can fly. He crawls around the stage, apparently trying to snort the carpet. His crawling appears to climax, and he makes his way back to the drums. He lies down, hidden from view. Time passes. Suddenly he reappears, and launches straight back into whichever tune we are kicking to death.
Afterwards, I asked Chris about this rock’n’roll moment. Was it transcendental? Evidently not. As he’d had hugged the guitarist’s knees, the guitar caught him in the mouth, knocking out Chris’s dental plate and his false tooth. It fell somewhere around the front of the stage. Chris had to sacrifice either his credibility or the eighty quid it cost him to get his false tooth made. He told me that he considered both options carefully and then thought ‘Sod it, I want my tooth back’, and began the dental hunt. Finally he spotted the errant tooth underneath a foot pedal, stuffed it down his trousers and crawled back behind the kit. Rather than replace the tooth in full view of the audience, he hid behind the bass drum and wrestled with it, out of sight. It took a few moments but he emerged with dignity intact and of course eighty quid better off.
We head to the bar. A Japanese fan, keen to talk with Chris but not possessed of sufficient language or mime skills, asks him “where would be a good place to go for a holiday?” Chris does his best, at least for a while, but is not helped by the rest of the band standing in his eye-line making the woo-woo gesture behind the unfortunate fan’s back.
Later, but not much later, I find myself becoming extremely pissed in an unusually short time. Events take their predictable course. The following day, Chris confesses. Each time I ordered a Scotch at the bar, I actually got a quadruple. He has pre-arranged this with the barman, and goes back in the evening to settle up the cost of my four (or so I thought) drinks.
I spend the next day talking to Sparks fans who have journalistic leanings; they think I am inscrutable, whereas in reality I am just trying not to throw up in their nice yellow Volkswagen. We spend some hours in the blazing heat discussing What They Are Really Like which, as a hangover cure, could be improved.