It was the trip I had been looking forward to for months, possibly the trip of a lifetime, and it couldn’t have been any better.
All I could think about on the 13 hour plane ride was the OMD convention and what might happen over the next few days. I arrived at 9:30 am at Manchester International and finally got to meet Neil, Paul and Chris in person, face to face. They greeted me with a smile and a handshake and were more than helpful and kind to me during my stay.
The days leading up to the party were crazy around Neil’s house. Paul was pulling all nighters getting the slide show, and the convention gift boxes put together (unfortunately, we ran out of time for the slide show!!). Neil was balancing his time between playing gracious host to yours truly, answering the flood of phone calls from OMD fans arriving from all corners of the world, and trying to run his business. I still don’t know how he did it!! Chris and Chi, our very own Messerschmit Twins were busy practicing for their debut gig on Saturday night.
Saturday morning, after fending off a minor hangover caused by some of England’s finest bitters, we were off to Liverpool for the big party. It was a cloudy, overcast day, and I was dressed in shorts and a sweatshirt, which is not the outfit you want riding in the back of Neil’s car going 60 MPH with the top down, but I was certainly wide awake by the time we arrived at the hotel.
We checked in on arrival and started putting things away into our rooms and setting up downstairs. Fans were slowly trickling in beginning at 11:30am and checking in, getting room keys and such.
It was the beginning of one of an incredible day!!!
Once everyone had arrived, I began going around looking for some familiar name tags as I was anxious to meet the folks I e-mail with face to face. First person I saw was Carmen, whom I recognized right off from a picture she had sent me. She was very sweet and kind. We talked for a short bit and she introduced me to her friends, all of which were as kind as she was. I also ran into Mike Whelan, whom I have been mailing with for quite a while now, along with Paul Turner, both of whom live in the UK. They were both great, and I enjoyed talking with them, especially since they didn’t make fun of my accent. I then wandered into the bar, grabbed a pint of Fosters, and it was quite easy to spot Matthew Greenway, as he was wearing one of those attractive T-Shirts that are found at my Web site. We had spoken for about 30 minutes on the phone the day before, and I knew he was excited as I was for the convention, and he was even more excited on Saturday.
It was now time for the first event, which was the showing of the OMD in South Africa concert which was performed in 1994 in Johannesburg . I had already seen the video several times before I left, so I didn’t stay for the whole show. I took some pictures and did some filming, but it was obvious that people were still “getting used to each other”, as the room was dead quiet, except for Andy singing on the TV. The concert is the best show I have ever seen on tape, and there are less than 10 copies floating around in the World!!
After Andy’s encores, it was time to meet Kevin and Ian, who are the authors of the “Compiled” magazine, which is one of the best collector’s magazines I have ever seen. They are certainly the World’s experts on OMD records and releases!! Fortunately, I got to meet Kevin and Ian during the South Africa video showing and got to ask some private questions. They were both very helpful, and it was a pleasure to meet them both finally in person. The slide show went off perfectly, and I can tell you, they have an OMD record collection that makes the best collections pale in comparison. It was great to actually see some of the releases and items that most of us only dream of ever owning!
After the slide show, there was a bit of confusion as most people were standing around chatting, asking each other, “so, what’s next?” Most folks found their way to the bar for another pint, including yours truly, to chat and talk about OMD.
After a few minutes, people starting filing out of the hotel and walking down the street. I had asked, “what’s going on”, and someone told me to follow the group, we are doing a “mystery event.” I was game, so I hurried ot of the bar to join Chris and Ged at the end of the line. We walked, and walked, and walked, until I finally started wondering, “what the hell is going on here”. We made a right turn onto one of the business streets, then a quick left.
The group had stopped in front of a 2 story brick building. There was a red, convertible BMW parked in front, and at once I knew it was Neil’s car! As the door opened, and people started filing in, it finally dawned on me where I had seen this building before. It was the Pink Museum.
Once inside, I recognized the lobby from the 1992 Telegraph trip video. We stood around for a few minutes, with everyone’s cameras clicking away. I heard a door open to the right of me, and out of the door and down the hallway came Andy McCluskey. The only thing I could say was “holy shit!”
Andy stood atop the stair well and welcomed us all to the Pink Museum and said he would be happy to answer questions. There were questions blurted out from all directions, and Andy answered them all graciously. At this time, I noticed my camcorder battery was dying, and all the fresh batteries I had were at the hotel. I was definitely caught off guard, as my camera was also running our of film. Fortunately, Niel, being the life saver he is, had an extra roll on him and tossed it down to me! I would have paid $1000 for that roll of film at that moment!
Finally, I was able to get a question in, and as Andy turned to me, I said “Andy, my name is Pat Fetty and I came all the way from America for this..” Andy then came down the stairs, and right to me. He shook my hand and said, “it is a pleasure to meet you finally Pat.” He then went back to the top of the stairs and told everyone about Pat’s World of OMD, and said it was a great Web Site. I asked him why Universal wasn’t released in the US, and he told me the reason.
Once all questions were answered, Andy, being the great pop star he is, offered autographs and photos for everyone. We all queued up and Andy obliged everyone. I finally got to talk to him personally and he was very kind. He thanked me again for the work on the Web site and I joked with him about kissing him since I had been asked by some female fans to do so. He told me, “how do you say in the States, let’s not and say we did”, I laughed and agreed. So we took a picture, shook hands and parted company.
Needless to say, those 2 hours made the entire trip, but it would just get better as the weekend went on.
From their, it was back to the hotel for a break in the action. I went up to the room and took a brief nap to prepare for the evening. I had to get all my stuff together to set up a booth downstairs to sell shirts and CD’s.
At around 8:00pm, the doors opened to the downstairs, which was beautifully decorated with stalls of OMD merchandise for sale, and candles and balloons on all the tables. Once the doors opened, everyone rushed downstairs to get their hands on OMD goodies. I sold quite a bit of stuff, and bought quite a bit as well. My goal of making the extra bag I took lighter, was not met with all the stuff I brought home!
Once the selling frenzy died down, dinner was served. People were now warming up to one another, with the help of the bar downstairs no doubt, and everyone was in a great mood. I will never forget looking around the room at a room full of fans from around the globe all coming to a small hotel in Liverpool because of the band that they loved. It was an amazing feeling and even more amazing to see!!
Shortly after dinner, our gracious host grabbed the microphone to introduce the night’s tribute band, The Messerschmitt Twins. They played their opening intro, then broke in to Almost.
I will tell you, and not only because I consider Chris and Chi friends of mine after this trip, that they were excellent. This was their first proper gig (Chi sporting an Andy McCluskey circa 1978 wig, bass guitar, and all the McCluskey moves he knew and Chris in white shirt and thin black tie behind the keyboards) And the crowd loved them. Every song they did (including 2 encores) were very well done, and they did a set that spanned the last 20 years, including an awesome medley of songs to close the show. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on their demo tape (which will be worth millions over the next few years and have listened to it several times, enjoying it every time. They couldn’t have kicked off the evening any better!
Once the boys finished signing autographs and sorting out all the women’s underwear that were thrown to them onstage, it was Karoake time.
I missed this part of it as I was putting things away and getting ready to enjoy the rest of the evening. From what I heard though, Andy’s job is VERY safe!!
Shortly after came the raffle, which featured excellent prizes, including framed autographed photos of Andy, and even some Louise Brook’s prints that Andy donated from his home. I didn’t win, but those who did, definitely got their money’s worth.
After the last prize was given away, DJ Stu Craner started cranking out the OMD hits. It started with “Sailing on the Seven Seas”, and didn’t stop until “Stanlow”. Personally, this was what I was waiting for this evening since it was really what brought myself, and everyone else, to Liverpool was OMD’s music. The music was the common bond that lie between everyone in the room.
The dance floor was packed for most of the next 4 hours, with just about every upbeat OMD song you can imagine being played, including remixes and B-Sides. Stu had the crowd going non-stop, and it was great.
My favorite song during the night (which is actually one of my least favorite to listen to), was Tesla Girls. EVERYONE was singing the “No No No”, and the obligatory “Yes Yes Yes” that followed it. I was on the dance floor with my camcorder capturing it all, and it was awesome. I will never be able to listen to Tesla Girls again without thinking of the Convention.
After the song “Stanlow”, it was time for the actualy trip to see the refinery that inspired the song. I missed out on this as I was in the restroom when the bus left, but from what I hear, it wasn’t that great. I guess if you’ve seen one oil refinery, you’ve seen them all!
After a final drink with some friends, it was off to bed for a well deserved rest.
Sunday morning started with a full English breakfast (which is actually very good and I have been eating here at home. See Neil, again, you weren’t lying J
Once fed and showered, it was off to see the OMD sites starting with Eric’s club on Matthew Street in Liverpool.
There was a small group that went on the trip as most were either still asleep, or had seen the sites before.
While on Matthew Street, rumor has it, Andy was actually in one of the buildings helping a friend move some equipment, when he looked out the window and spotted a group of tourist snapping pictures and such. He didn’t really think too much of it, until he noticed an OMD T-Shirt, which was being worn by yours truly. He decided to keep a low profile and not come down to say hello!
From Matthew street, it was on to the famous Red Frame/White Light phone box, and the Railway inn. It was neat to finally see the phone box in person, but not so much fun for Damiano, who went inside to make a phone call as our bus was leaving onto the next destination! Fortunately, I convinced the driver to go back and pick him up and he is at home safe and sound now J
From the phone box, we went to the waterfront in Meols, where they filmed bits of the Forever Live and Die video. It was a beautiful, and the last destination for the OMD convention.
Once we returned to the hotel, it was time to check out and bid farewell to the Solna hotel, and the 1997 OMD Convention.
It was a time I will NEVER forget, and an experience that would have never been possible without the dedication and hard work of Neil and Paul. Others who’s hard work made the evening enjoyable were Chris, Chi and Stu, without whom, the entertainment could have never been as memorable.
I would lie to extend my warmest thanks to “The Nucleus” (hands folded in front of me, bowing my head slowly) who were ever gracious hosts and made my first stay in England one I will never forget.