Jack Bruce, marriage and potential castration
I was the support act on a Jack Bruce tour in 1975. Because I was on for the first half, Jack had never seen my contribution to his show. When we played the Apollo in Glasgow, his home town, he was more socialble . . . He was out front for my set which was half on the guitar and half on the piano.
JACK started his set solo at the piano as well, under a single spotlight, playing and singing a wonderful song called Can You Follow?. Seeing my set he decided I was stealing his thunder by sitting at the same piano under the same spotlight.
That night we were catching the overnight sleeper from Glasgow to London to play the Crystal Palace Garden Party, a big open-air festival.
At one o’clock in the morning I was sitting on my banquette in my compartment when the door burst open and a wild-eyed Jack Bruce exploded in. We were nose to nose, eyeball to eyeball.
‘How d’yer think yer going to sound at the piano with no bollocks?’ Jack snarled.
‘Not very good,’ I admitted. ‘But I don’t think that’s going to happen.’
‘Well, I think it is gonna happen. Because I’ve got something in my pocket. And I’m standing right here. And by the time I leave, you are going to be able to start practising with no bollocks!’
Realising that he was serious I decided to strike quickly. I stood up, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and pushed him out of the compartment into the corridor. I swung him round and kicked him in the back, disappearing into another compartment before he had time to turn on me. I spent the rest of the night locked in with two loverly women, A journalist from the NME and A press officer from Robert Stigwood’s office, until we reached London and Jack announced that there was “no fucking way Robin Millar is playing on the same bill as me!”
So, during the festival I was at a loose end, with an all-areas pass and nothing to do but hang around the tents backstage. Wandering into the press tent with a French friend who happened to be a girl, looking for my companions of the night before, I spotted a woman I didn’t recognise hovering around the door.
‘Wow,’ I said to my friend, ‘I’m in love. Look at that girl, she’s beautiful.’
‘She’s great,’ my friend agreed. ‘Go and introduce yourself.’
I walked over and introduced myself but the girl didn’t say a word, just turned round and walked off. I returned to my friend. ‘I don’t think she speaks English,’ I said. I tried several more times to engage her in conversation, but still I was being blanked out. Right at the end of the gig I saw her at the entrance, chatting to a group of people, and I heard a Texan voice. She was American. So why had she refused to speak? I couldn’t get her out of my mind.
I made enquiries and found out that she was called Ellen and worked at Robert Stigwood’s press office with Helen, one of my companions from the train. A few days later, on a hot afternoon, I bought a load of ice-creams and ice lollies, blagging my way into the office to see Helen. I spotted Ellen with her eyes studiously down on her desk and went over to her.
‘How come you keep ignoring me?’ I asked. ‘I thought you couldn’t speak English.’
‘But you were with your girlfriend,’ she replied. obviously embarrassed.
‘I can explain,’ I assured her and immediately asked her out on three dates so that she couldn’t refuse. She was my Annie Hall. One of a kind. Nothing like any other girl I had ever known. She was Spanish and had been to the New York School of Visual Art. She had won the Metropolitan Museum art prize two years in a row. She had wild, woolly dark hair and sticky legs in funny multi-coloured socks and little boots. I thought she was amazing. I still do.
She was not telling the truth when she said she had ignored me because I was with a girl. In fact, I eventually discovered, she had been on several legs of the tour and had fallen in love with me from watching me on stage. When I walked up to the tent and spoke to her she couldn’t think what to say. She had opened her mouth and nothing had come out.
We were married four years later and, by co-incidence, she started running the Rolling Stones’ London office. Keith Richards played in the band with me and Ellen at the wedding party.