One of the good parts of a day like this though, is that you have a chance to catch up with some contemporaries who we haven’t seen for years, in many cases. I reconnected with Steve Sidwell, who was conducting the house orchestra; we go way back to 2002, when he orchestrated the original score for the musical ‘We Will Rock You’, when it opened at The Dominion Theatre in London. He also, coincidentally, organised the big band at my wedding in 2004. I was able to catch up with John Taylor of Duran, having played on their first 12” single, “Planet Earth” way back in the early ‘80’s and later toured extensively with in 1990. Then I bumped into Penny Lancaster (Mrs Rod Stewart) and reminisced how I was the bandleader at their wedding in 2007. It was a social whirl of name-dropping, showbiz bonhomie, networking and fake air kissing but it helped pass the time. My favourite moment though, was when a melée of security guards and make up artists signalled the arrival of Diana Ross (oops! Sorry) “Miss Ross” to you and me. She was escorted by a phalanx of attendants and stopped to receive the admiration and cooing from everyone, posing for some photos and it was then that I noticed she was sporting a clear face shield; looking as though she had come straight from a Star Wars film set as Darth Vader’s assistant. That was surreal moment no.2 which gave me a good chuckle.
Soon enough, it was time to scrub up and change for our ‘turn’. A few minutes before the scheduled departure time, we gathered in our band lounge, where my rehearsal keyboard was set up and we launched into a few well chosen vocal parts, in order to warm up and get our heads in the game. We were then, shepherded to the golf carts once more. This time, the cart I was directed to, had some dark netting dangling down all around it, resembling a mosquito net. When I queried it’s purpose, I was informed that it was there to act as a discreet veil to shield “Miss Ross” from prying eyes. From that moment I asked to be referred to as “Miss Spike” as I felt I was worthy of shielding too. I still have minor delusions of grandeur, apparently.
We had to pause while a convoy of Rolls Royces bearing The Royal Standard swept out from The Palace in front of us, causing all and sundry to stand to attention; then we were permitted to proceed towards the Palace Gates, where we disembarked in order to walk around the statue of Queen Victoria. It occurred to me that she would most likely be revolving in her grave, horrified at all this malarkey happening outside her former house. We waited tensely at the side of the stage, until the TV stage manager gave us the signal to take our places. We moved into position and the crowd started to murmur excitedly with the apprehension; they could see the drum skin with the “Queen” logo emblazoned on it, so they were all aware of what was about happen. There was an uneasy silence, until some smart arse wag yells out “who’s that old bloke on piano?” I assumed he meant me, so I turned, disdainfully and snapped, out of the corner of my mouth, “Elton John!”
At that precise moment, the screen burst into life and we witnessed for the very first time, the fabulous encounter between Her Majesty and Paddington Bear. It was endearing, funny and very moving. The final scene with them tapping out the rhythm on the tea cups was beyond priceless and then the military snares kicked in and we were off!
Adam Lambert began his long walk from the Palace Gates to the back of the stage and around the statue; all the time singing: thank God for the sound check because he could hear us perfectly and stayed totally in sync; avoiding all kinds of potential, musical train wrecks. Next, our attention was drawn up to Queen Victoria, where Brian May ascended on a lift to play the guitar solo: the audience went crazy because they all knew the significance and the connection with 20 years ago, when he played the national anthem on the palace roof. The crowd in front of us and the many thousands lining The Mall, plus the occupants of The Royal Box, all held their hands aloft for the “We Will Rock You” clapping routine. The song finished and the response was deafening; I waited for it to subside slightly then started tinkling the meandering intro to “Don’t Stop me Now”. This is one of the all time, favourite Queen songs and the crowd joined in lustily, as we launched into it at a rollicking pace. We were having fun now and so was everybody out there. All too soon I was starting the familiar chords to intro “We Are The Champions”. Flags were being held aloft and waved at us from as far as the eye could see and of course, everyone knew the words. It was a joyous moment and made me feel quite emotional. As we came to the final crashing chords, Adam delivered “Of the World” and then it was done: a massive roar from the crowd; a huge wave of energy rolled towards us and I was thinking, “crikey! This is only the first 10 minutes, I hope they can keep this up for the next 3 hours!” I reflected on how proud my folks would have been and how they would have been happy that those piano lessons had finally worked out!
We left the stage with the roar continuing behind us and stopped for some quick photos with the Palace as back drop. Then we were back down in the real world, wending our way through a bevy of dancers and performers, lining up ready for their turn. Many cheered and applauded us; which was very gratifying and as we neared the golf carts, a tall, menacing, security policeman, dressed head to toe in anti terror, tactical gear and holding a very imposing assault rifle, stopped me: I suddenly felt weird and a bit uncomfortable: had I been mistaken for some dubious unsavoury type? Was I on a list of undesirable miscreants and ne’er do wells?
He quizzed me, “Are you Spike Edney?” I felt anxious and nodded. There was a second when I wondered what he could possibly want with me? I prayed he wasn’t holding a stack of unpaid parking fines ready to slap on me at gunpoint! I held my breath and imagined being lead off to Wormwood Scrubs in leg irons: what an ignominious end to such an uplifting occasion!
Then he blurted out “Can I have a photo with you?” With a big smile on his face! My relief was tangible, “Of course!” I gushed. We stood together, posing; him with his bullet proof vest, armed to the teeth and me in a glittery jacket and sparkly shoes; looking slightly incongruous. As we stood there, waiting for his buddy to snap the immortal shot, he quipped, “of course it’s not for me…
It’s for my dad! He’s your biggest fan!”
Ah well that’s show business. All in all a very memorable day.
P.S There is more but I’m afraid it will have to wait for my book!
First published on Facebook – Updated as above with kind permission of “Miss Spike” .
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Spike Edney – SAS Band Official