1994, Spring - Our First European Tour

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Our First European Tour
In the fall of 1987 John and I and our producer, Bill Krauss, embarked on our first tour of Europe, which was also the first time I had ever been there. At that time I think we had a vague idea that TMBG would carry more prestige as an exported product, or even that success in a smaller market like England or one of the continental nations would be a kind of springboard for us in America. Well, nothing ever happens exactly like you expect it to, for even as we boarded the plane for London our fate was being decided in secret meetings at MTV back in New York. Within months our American club dates had increased in attendance by as much as 30%, thanks to the influence of this nascent powerhouse, cable TV. By the next year we had tasted the sweet life, and it tasted sweet. Let's return now to those innocent days before our escalatoric rise into rock's mezzanine. Here are some excerpts from my diary of that first European tour.
by John Linnell
TMBG Info Club
Spring '94

FRIDAY, NOV 26, 1987
Performance at the Odeon in Münster tonight. Tour going exceptionally well, though we have no idea what to expect. The crowds all seem to understand enough English to have a complete grip on the show, as far as can be discerned from the emphatic response to each song and multiple encores.

In Paris I lost my wallet with $15 and my I.D., bank card, and worst of all, my address book, with the result that I don't know where to send most of the postcards I've been writing. Trying to pick up bits of German during the week we're spending here, doing as poorly as one might imagine.

Actually some of the Germans seemed to speak English better than many Americans. One spooky detail of our reception in much of northern Europe was that when we finished playing a song there was often a few seconds of dead quiet in the club, enough to convince us in that moment that there had been a complete breakdown in communication, and then the audience would begin, quietly, making a dog-howling-at-the-moon sound that would increase in pitch and volume until it dissolved into reassuring applause.

On a 20 hr. ferry tonight from Esjeberg to England. Scandinavia full of audiences which made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in size. Oslo is a city which has left a deep imprint on me. The hour and a half sunset on our left as we drove in, coupled with the simultaneous full-moonrise on our right and the layer of frost on everything in this weird light was only a portent of the stupendous city we were coming into.

I met a woman there whose name I'm not sure of, but I'll never forget her face or the musical language everyone spoke.

It pains me now, six years later, to say that I can't remember what her face looked like and have only a vague memory of the musical language everyone spoke.

In Hamburg there is a square with a statue of Hans Albers, holding one end of his accordion and letting the other end hang down. It stands facing the Hans Albers bar, where on the jukebox you can play Hans Albers singing "La Paloma" in German. Our promoter Joachim played it and some other songs and asked us if we'd like to do a tour at East Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest. Naturally we all shouted assent. This may happen next fall.

It didn't. Regretfully, TMBG has never performed in eastern Europe, and we missed the opportunity to visit the old Soviet satellites the year before the dramatic transformation of those countries. Happily, though, many of those places are relatively unchanged and are still in a state of desperate poverty and political turmoil.