New Book out…interesting. I am not flogging the book, thought you may find it interesting ..beats news on Justin Bieber, eh! My Mate Paul Sinclair from Goanna Audiovisual An All Australian Sound, Lighting and Video Production Company - worked with Chuggi back in late 90’s on ill- fated PCMC (ATP~ Redfern, the concrete was still wet in the venue, literally) – the attempted Oz version of South x South West (pity it didn’t take off – great idea).
I am the king. I must be the king because I'm sitting in the king's chair. Down at the other end of the banquet table is the queen's chair, but it's empty. The twenty or so remaining seats on either side are also vacant. Whole pigs, sides of beef, shoulders of lamb, chickens, ducks, turkeys, vegetables, fruit and bread lie waiting, begging to be eaten, but no one enters.
Champagne, brandy, wine and more crowd the parts of the table not occupied by food. Every night it's the same. I appear to be in a medieval tent, like something set up for a royal jousting carnival. It feels strange to be here alone, sad even, yet there's this amazing rush of wellbeing that comes and goes in my head. At its peak it feels like all I have to do is snap my fingers and anything I want - and I do mean anything - will be mine. When it subsides, futility and loneliness creep in.
This, you might think, is perfect fodder for the psychiatrist's couch; the recurring nightmare of a man who wants for nothing but who can't find happiness, a man too busy in the pursuit of money and power to appreciate the good things in life such as family or a few days lounging by the pool.
You'd be wrong. This is no dream. This is backstage at a Fleetwood Mac concert in Australia in 1977, nine months after their album Rumours went ballistic worldwide and just a few days after they arrived in the country for a tour that took in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Auckland. The man sitting alone is me, Michael Chugg, thirty-year-old tour director for Australian rock promoter Paul Dainty and the person in charge of supplying the members of Fleetwood Mac with their hearts' desires for the duration of their stay.
Top of their list is a medieval marquee, complete with flags, bunting and carpets, to be erected backstage at every performance so that Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John and Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood can indulge their newfound superstardom in a private and suitably excessive manner.
Also on their wish list is Gatorade, a drink almost unheard of in Australia at the time, which we have to import. They want limes, not readily available everywhere and, as with all fruit and vegetables, banned from certain interstate transportation. For the first and only time in my life I'm a lime-smuggler. Their tastes in alcohol, not surprisingly, are five-star French champagne, Courvoisier cognac, Tanqueray gin and Pimm's, a drink I knew about only because my mum liked one on special occasions. And for every show there have to be six dozen bottles of Heineken beer, another exotic taste in 70s Australia, in the dressing room.
These requirements are above and beyond the security blankets they have brought along with them from the United States, such as a mobile gymnasium, two grand pianos and a masseuse. Only the masseuse and one of the pianos make it out of their flight cases during the tour. There was also cocaine - lots of it - although I wasn't aware of that at the beginning. An assortment of interesting people turned up with it. In Mac world, at the peak of their vacuum cleaner capabilities, whatever went up their noses was never enough.
In March that year we had toured ABBA, which was madness in its own way, but this was different. This was down 'n' dirty rock 'n' roll. 'The promoter's rep will meet the band's tour manager in the car park of Sydney Airport with two ounces of cocaine.' That was the instruction from the band's HQ in Los Angeles prior to their arrival.
I had made a rule, round about 1971 when I first started smoking marijuana, that I would never do powders. It was just a thing I had about heroin and all the other as yet unknown dangerous substances. When I was 18 and I had just moved to Melbourne from Launceston, guitarist Lobby Loyde gave me a purple heart one night and I didn't go to bed for three days. I talked everybody into delirium. I was a big enough loudmouth as it was without having all that shit in my body, so I never did that again. Marijuana was my drug of choice. I wasn't best placed to go skulking around Kings Cross in Sydney or anywhere else looking for marching powder. I knew a man who could and would, though, and his name was Ray Arnold. Ray was one of the best roadies in the business and a key figure in significant parts of my life. There wasn't much he couldn't do or fix.
I rang Ray and told him what I needed and arranged to meet him in the car park at Mascot the following Saturday morning. The deal was completed before Fleetwood Mac had left the baggage carousel. As it turned out, compared to the illicit drugs that followed them to Sydney, our stuff was pretty shithouse. I know that because the feeling of euphoria I had while sitting by myself in the marquee wasn't brought on by feasting on roast pork and sautèd potatoes. I broke my rule. I chopped a few lines of the good stuff. I bowed to peer pressure. If you didn't do it you weren't going to be part of the mob. You were going to be banished. So I did it and that was that. Cocaine remained one of my partners in crime for decades.
I spent quite some time in that marquee during the Fleetwood Mac Rockarena tour, either on my own or with various members of the 67-strong crew, or with some of Santana, Little River Band and Kevin Borich Express, who were also on the bill. I was managing Borich at the time, as well as working for Dainty. Every night a gang of us enjoyed the lavish spread of gourmet delights and copious amounts of grog that otherwise would just have sat there untouched. Courvoisier and Coke became my tipple of choice and I was drinking it for years afterwards thanks to the surplus from the band's ridiculous rider. Lighting roadie Peter Rooney and myself commandeered and customised a couple of road cases, which became the drinks stash that would be divided up between us when Fleetwood Mac had gone home. If you gave it back to the caterer, they would still charge you for it, so no harm was done.
None of the band lobbed even once into that marquee, never mind that it was their idea. All of them were too wired to eat.
The excess was outrageous. There was just too much coke and too much weed.
Although they didn't touch the food, the Mac pack did make significant use of the Heineken. Before every show I would do the rounds of the dressing rooms and backstage area to make sure everything was in order. It had bothered me at the first show, at the Sydney Showground, that many of the bottles had been opened but the beer remained untouched. When I made the same inspection in Melbourne a few days later, the same thing had happened. In fact all 72 bottles had their tops removed but every one of them was full.
I went completely berserk, as I have been known to do in stressful situations over the past forty-five years, screaming 'What the fuck is going on?' to anyone who would listen. Eventually one of their roadies took me up on stage, where they had two small tents, one on either side. In each of them there was a card table laden with bottle tops, sitting in neat little rows, with two caps pushed together, one on the bottom, one on top, to form a kind of capsule. I lifted one of the tops and saw the cocaine inside. During the performance, each of the band in turn would wander off to get a little card table action; all of them except drummer Fleetwood. His needs were somewhat greater than those of his colleagues, so he had his own card table within arm's reach just behind him.
I could have bought Fleetwood Mac enough bottle tops to fill ten dressing rooms for what they had cost with imported Dutch beer attached, but I guess that wasn't the point when you were as fucked up and successful as they were.
That was the most over-the-top, insane few weeks of rock 'n' roll debauchery I had been witness to in my career at that point, certainly from an act enjoying that level of success. That's not to say I had been a good boy myself up until then; far from it. I'd been living the life for about thirteen years, either on the road with bands or hanging out in the pubs and clubs of Melbourne or Sydney, working with people like Michael Gudinski, Roger Davies and Michael Browning, among others, all of us trying to mark some territory in the fledgling Australian rock business.
But for me that 1977 tour was the beginning of a new era, the entree to many wayward nights on the rock 'n' roll circuit with Guns N' Roses, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Billy Idol, The Police and a thousand others. At its most outrageous, the nights rolled into days and just occasionally days turned into weeks. In the 70s, 80s and 90s any night could be party night and there was always something, or someone, on hand to make it go with a bang. Show me a joint and I'll show you a line of coke as long as your arm.
The Rumours tour was hitched to the back of an album that had its roots in the diabolical personal affairs of the participants. Nicks had split with Buckingham, the McVies had done likewise and Fleetwood had gone through a divorce with his wife Jenny Boyd Fleetwood. Their artistic expression of these break-ups made them rich beyond belief. They were crazy by then, mind you, but they had hit the ground running in that respect, if you ask me. And yet they were really nice people too. When I went to Los Angeles the following year to set up camp with Borich and Richard Clapton, whom I was also managing by then, they were incredibly helpful. Bob Jones and Richard Norton, the two Australian security guys on that Aussie tour, ended up going to the US to work with the Mac camp.
When I look back on that period, I can see a few parallels between Fleetwood Mac and my own career, although I've toured more often than them, flown around the world more often than them, probably slept with more people than them too. I've been just as reckless, probably more obnoxious and on the odd occasion just as drug-addled as they were back in the day. And, just like them, I've survived. I've toured some of the biggest bands in the world and taken drugs and gotten drunk with many of them. If my life were to be defined by famous albums it would be a blend of Rumours, Highway to Hell and Blood on the Tracks, with a nod to my best mate Billy Thorpe's 'Most People I Know (Think That I'm Crazy)'.
I've been promoting, managing, courting, bullying and championing rock acts since I was a fifteen-year-old know-itall in Launceston, Tasmania, running dances and calling dog races to make a few quid. I've lugged gear, driven vans, collected door money, put up posters, nursed and endured egos, schmoozed, boozed, dined and done deals in every corner of the music world. I've made and lost millions on tours by international acts. I've helped raise millions for various charities. I've haggled over cents on a tour budget. I've abused people if I thought they weren't in the right and sometimes when they were, just because I could. I've made a habit of raising my voice to get my own way and I've earned a dubious reputation for invading the stage at hundreds of concerts I've promoted to mouth off at the audience. My singing voice is rubbish, but I can tell people in a crowd of 30,000 to sit down and shut the fuck up more effectively than anybody, if I think it's appropriate.
Oh, and I once had a gun pulled on me by a gangster, but I talked my way out of the situation. I'm quite good at talking.
That kind of resumè might slip perfectly onto the psychiatrist's couch at the beginning of this prologue, but that's just a small part of the story. I have spent a lot of time alone, in aeroplanes and hotel rooms, wondering what the hell I'm doing, but it would be wrong to paint myself as a solitary figure snared by my success. My life has been incredibly rewarding in all manner of ways. I have a young grandson. When something as wonderful as that happens, it puts everything else into perspective.
That said, doing what I do, promoting shows, I have been surrounded by the bizarre, the unscrupulous, the egotistical and the astonishingly talented, both on the stage and behind the scenes. I have seen excessive behaviour that you wouldn't believe, and half the time I was the ringleader. I have chased money for most of my life, but it has been incidental to what I love doing, which is putting on shows and seeing the excitement on people's faces. I genuinely love that. It gets me up in the morning.
I try to be as honest and straightforward as I can with people. It's not always the best thing to do, but if you don't, it just gets difficult. You tell someone what he or she wants to hear and it will come back and bite you on the arse every time.
I'm a poor boy from Tasmania who got lucky. I arrived on the streets of Melbourne in 1965, just at the right time, when rock 'n' roll was up for grabs and precious few people knew what to do with it. I still appreciate that opportunity and value it, just as I value many of the people with whom I started out and who are still around doing it because they love it.
I've been broke and I've been rich. In this business you can never guarantee anything. I've had bad times; times when I thought I had no future in the music industry. But I'm still here. And I love the limelight. I've been planning this book for a long time. I want to document my life and times. I want to be on the stage. That has got me into a lot of trouble in the past.
This time, I suspect, will be no different.
“Hey, You in the Black T- Shirt” by Michael Chugg with Iain Shedden. Published by Macmillan Australia. 1st October 2010. RRP $34.99