Seeing as though it is the start of my workweek here in Dubai, and I’m in need of laugh, I present this complete waste of time for you. Enjoy. Aplogies for the length.
It’s not easy being a child star. I should know; I lived the highlife for most of my youth. There was a time I was exchanging money for drugs for Drew Barrymore, but our paths were never really aligned. While she “wowed” the world as Gertie in ET, I was busy rocking stadiums around the world in the universe’s greatest air guitar performers.
I can clearly see a young Geraint Isitt, pre-Penguin days, sitting in the second seat, third row of Ms McMahon’s grade 2 class when I finally decided to listen to the voice inside my head, and on the urging of my teacher who so obviously had the hots for this Mick Jagger in training, that said I needed to audition or I’d regret it for the rest of my life. Regrets, my friend, are just opportunities missed, and I don’t believe in missing an opportunity, so I shuffled myself off to the Jubilee Auditorium, grabbed my number, filled out the form, and waited in the line-up of hundreds of hopefuls.
I had spent many a day planning for such an occasion in my basement so when I was called, asked who had influenced my work, and told to pick my weapon of choice, I had no doubts that I would leave an impression on them. And after the first salvo of Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones had assaulted their eardrums, the rest was, as they say, history.
From there, we converged in Toronto to pick the best of the best from Canada. The 20 of us left would be whittled down to 4 or 5, depending on the musical talents we had, and then it would be months of rehearsals before hitting the road. When all was said and done, we soon had our band of 5 – a drummer, a bass player, a keyboard player, a back-up guitarist, and me, the singer/lead guitarist. We were, without question the universe’s first and finest, air band.
The intense rehearsals nearly separated us as our manager, a man who would later go on to “discover” Milli Vanilli, insisted that I be the focal point because I exuded confidence, charm, and it looked like I had an armadillo in my trousers. (Thank you to Rob Reiner and the great Spinal Tap for providing that image). Not unlike the commotion surrounding Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, the other members of my band resented living in my oversized shadow. I tried my best to be with them; but management, and it started by casting me as singer and lead guitarist, wanted to drive our sex appeal up. He figured if Meatloaf had used his stardom to get laid, I would have no problems.
This was the early 80s, I was barely into puberty, but it didn’t stop our manager from predicting big things for me, I mean the band. We had been selling out small venues but he wanted bigger. The hair metal craze took over and we were duly primped and preened until we looked the part.
When the boyband craze kicked off again in the late 80s and 90s we had hit some snags. All the original band members had left me, to be replaced again and again by people who couldn’t handle living in the huge shadow I was casting. And as Bel Biv Devoe, the New Kids on the Block, and later Boyzone, N’Sync, and the Backstreet Boys burst on to the stage, we finally found the right line-up and my cultured stage presence, as I was now in my 20s and survived our Motown tribute era, brought us new fans when we should have just disappeared.
Miraculously we managed to cast aside their jealousy and my Oreo addiction to embark on an around the world tour. As we sat in the dressing room on the eve of our first sold out gig in Tokyo, the only place to kick off a world tour, I could have scaled the goose bumps on my arms. I was nervous, yes, but I was excited more. And as we lined up in the tunnel to race onto the stage and the announcer told a frenzied pack of school girls and geishas to “take off their bras and knickers for the world concert debut of Air Guitar Supply”, well, I had visions of living fast and dying young. Well, not as young as I once was; but I still had that Bon Scott and Jim Morrison dream.
The first show, a three-hour slugfest of rock and roll classics and some sappy ballads, all delivered with perfect timing and rhythm, catapulted us to legendary proportions. Back at the hotel, in the penthouse suite I was afforded, I burst through the door to see a half dozen half naked girls and more Coke (in the can by way) than one horned up super star could manage.
We played Tokyo for two more nights before heading to Nagano and Osaki. We ventured to China and Hong Kong, to Seoul, and even managed to hit Saigon and performed a show of 60s classics that had many of the locals running for their tunnels dug into their rice paddies.
Within a year we were on Letterman and had a gig on the Grammy’s postponed because MC Hammer didn’t want to have to follow us. The success of our first tour, culminated by a 6-show extravaganza in Rio, led to a second more profitable tour the following year. We had managed to share the stage with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Winwood, and Steve Stevens. There were no Steves left out.
But, it couldn’t last. We knew it couldn’t last. One of us, and I’m not saying who, uttered the worst words a band can utter and said “we wanted to be bigger than Bobby McFerrin”. From then on, we were cursed. We had just performed at the Prince’s Trust benefit concert, and I had managed to shake hands with the late Princess Diana and talked to Chuck about having his ears lowered. You know, he was a good sport about it all. This should have been the start of something phenomenal. But it wasn’t to be.
I had flown from London to Los Angeles on the Concorde, sitting where the co-pilot normally would as the captain’s daughter had posters of me all over her walls and he would be a hero for having an autographed pair of spandex pants for her from me, to appear on the Arsenio Hall show with River Phoenix and Phil Hartman. I wasn’t the musical guest just invited along for shits and giggles either. I was the third and most important guest. Yes, they were good days. And maybe I’m to blame for our demise.
We were winding our way through Europe doing a series of outdoor shows when one of our tour buses broke down because of excessive weight from all of my “necessities” – fresh towels, bottled water, milk for dunking my Oreos, a personal chef to cook me toast and pop tarts, and other things I thought vital. The band and I had been squabbling; my need for the spotlight was too much for them. We had gone from being the world’s finest air band to being Geraint Isitt and a bunch of other people. In fact, I wasn’t even Geraint Isitt anymore. I had legally changed my name to Craven Morehead by this time, and I would giggle every time a nubile young uninhibited European girl would ask me to tell them what it meant. Success didn’t spoil me; I spoilt success.
As our roadies stayed behind with our second tour bus, we continued to our next gig in Switzerland. We were putting on a show at the Hotel Pilatus, the highest elevation hotel in Europe. They had set up bleachers all around us and as we rocked out on the outdoor deck, under the sun, and surrounded by the majestic beauty of the Alps, I finally felt that I had at last found a venue as remarkable as I was. And then, God threw us a wobbly.
Without the crew around to set up our instruments, which for an air band meant blowing up the inflatable gear, we were forced to do it ourselves. I settled into the inflation process on my second guitar when I heard our drummer, Clayton Bagsweat, burst out, “Johnny, wake the fuck up!”
Clayton wasn’t a smart guy. Johnny wasn’t sleeping. In less than an hour, the tour was cancelled, and we would all be returning to our mundane lives around the world. Johnny, our bass player, was attempting to blow up his stand up bass, and being 14,000 feet above sea level, didn’t consider what the altitude would do him. Poor bastard blew himself breathless.
I came out of my self-induced retirement and exile to the island of Lesbos to perform one show, by myself, in 2006 at a Christmas party for a software company. The crowd lapped it up; many holding up posters of me from the past. And while it was good to reap the rewards of this appearance – a free buffet meal, it didn’t pull me in and spit me out. My days, unfortunately, were done. And I knew it.
When I look back on those days, usually as a guest on one of those “where are they now” television shows where addicted and over-ego driven former stars whine about what they don’t have anymore, I think fondly of the memories. I mean, I got to perform Back in Black for the Prince of Wales. My life will be a downward spiral after that.