FEATURE: A Pub, a Garden and Queen Vic

Spike Edney in front of Buckingham Palace
Photo courtesy of Spike Edney

Please enjoy Spike Edney’s ‘essay’ – with of recollections of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Concert
– With thanks to Spike

A Pub, a garden and Queen Vic

by Spike Edney

Sat 4th June 2022 was a very special day in my long and varied career.

I started out playing around Portsmouth and the South, in youth and social clubs during the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. Then, in what seems to be the blink of an eye, I find myself performing outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, for the Sovereign’s Platinum Jubilee. I have to admit that this has given me pause to consider what a strange, wonderful journey it has been. The road from Portchester to this special place and occasion, has been full of surprises, twists and turns.

For the record, it’s not the first time that I’ve been in this kind of situation.

Back in 1977, during The Silver Jubilee, I was press ganged into playing the piano for a street party outside a pub in Gosport! I had a ball. Then twenty years ago, I had the good fortune and honour, to appear in the back garden of “Buck House” for the Golden Jubilee celebrations, so I guess this most recent event could be regarded as a return gig!

Having had the good fortune to be (the band) Queen’s touring keyboardist since 1984, I’ve been present at a couple of other memorable shows; Live Aid; Nelson Mandela’s birthday concerts in Capetown, Hyde Park and Radio City (New York)- all big events in their own right but I have to say that as an Englishman, I was very moved and deeply honoured to be part of last Saturday’s performance.

Queen are in the middle of a UK/European tour that has been rescheduled from 2020, due to the pandemic. A two year break had naturally created a bit of a ‘rusting’ effect on our abilities and most of us, having had covid at some point, were definitely feeling a lack of energy and mental sharpness when we convened, back in May, to dust off the cobwebs.

We had played 2 nights in Glasgow with a planned day off before starting a 10 night stint at The O2 in London. The invitation to participate in “The Platinum Jubilee” was obviously much too good an offer for any red blooded, patriotic Englishman to refuse; so any thoughts of the consequences of 5 shows in a row, were immediately banished to the “we’ll worry about being knackered later” file. After the second show in Glasgow on Friday, we “did a runner” from the stage straight to the jet and were whisked off to London, checking in to the hotel, just off the Mall, at 1:30 am. There had been some merriment on the flight but we were all very aware of what lay ahead and the toll that this non stop run of shows, would take on us both physically and mentally. At this juncture, I must point out that three of us (i.e. 50% of the band), are septuagenarians and ought to know better than to be spending their waking hours gallivanting around the world’s stages!

At noon on Saturday, partially rested, we set off for the Palace and were taken through various stages of security, where lively ‘sniffer’ dogs enthusiastically checked out our vehicles, running around the outside, banging their tails against our van and creating a weird rhythmic effect – that was surreal moment no.1.

We were delivered to the backstage area, which was a portacabin “village”, located at the bottom of Green Park, bordering on Birdcage Walk. The cabins were in parallel lines and we had our own private cul de sac, as everything was laid out with covid precautions in mind. Most of the artists had been there the day before, so we were the last to sound check. Over the years since Live Aid, Queen have developed the policy of either appearing first or last, at such events. This policy has served them well and it especially worked on this occasion, as having sound checked last, our set up was left untouched until we performed, which is highly desirable; less to go wrong! The TV director wanted us to run our segment several times in order to get the camera shots lined up but this was so tedious because we know the tunes and it saps our energy to just keep repeating them, plus there are always voyeurs, staff and volunteers who enthusiastically react to the first performance but their enthusiasm wanes by the 3rd or 4th run through. This can be a bit of a downer.

Once everyone was satisfied with the sound and vision, we traipsed backstage where we boarded several golf carts for the 2 minute journey back to the village. This is the worst part of the day because it’s just about hanging around and waiting, whilst trying to avoid the temptations of boredom eating and endeavouring to stay away from that table full of complimentary drinks!

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