During one of our last weekends in London, I played a gig in Harrogate, about 2 hours north of London. The local paper invited me to write a piece about my experience. So, without further ado, here’s the article I submitted to the Harrogate Herald.
“U.S. Rocker Dazed & Confused in Harrogate”
by Gordon Wright
I discovered Harrogate on the internet. Or rather, Harrogate discovered me.
Discovered me in the form of 60-year-old Charles Page, an IT project manager and Harrogate resident who was looking online for American blues and instead happened on a local pop/rock band, Fooled By April, from Boston, U.S.A. As the lead singer and the booker/promoter for the band, I was struggling just to get the band heard in our own country — I certainly didn’t expect to hear from a fan in Yorkshire.
So you can imagine my surprise when Charles sent me an email through the band’s website, asking to buy extra copies of our CD to distribute to his family and friends. But Charles’s enthusiasm was exactly the sort of jolt the band needed, and pretty soon he was a veritable Fooled By April U.K. promoter, talking up the band to everyone he met and assuring me that Fooled By April was sure to catch on in the UK, even if its Stateside fanbase was lagging.
When my wife, Karen, decided to pursue a master’s degree at the London School of Economics & Political Science, I knew I would have to arrange to meet Charles, our U.K. ‘superfan’ (as he was dubbed in these very pages) and play a show right in Harrogate. I asked Charles if he thought he could set something up…
Well, let’s just say Charles was up to the task. We arrived in Harrogate on the day of the gig to find the town awash with Fooled By April posters and propaganda, well-primed for my Yorkshire debut. The newspapers had already featured the gig along with some sizable pictures of me. Even as we stepped off the train from York, Charles rushed us over to meet his wife, Sheila’s, son, who happened to be the driver of our train. Poor Mike, he seemed a bit chagrined that a bona fide American rock star had been on his train when he was running seven minutes late.
Charles toured us through Harrogate, all along the way stopping in shops with posters of me in the window: the guitar shop, the music shop, the charity shop, the shoe shop, the pubs, the salons… even the butcher. Thanks to my superfan’s tireless efforts, it seemed everyone in lovely, idyllic Harrogate had heard of Fooled By April. Frankly, I was starting to get a bit nervous.
But my nerves were quickly calmed by the age-old British remedy: a proper cup of tea, made expertly by Sheila and consumed with crumpets and Marmite. Afterwards we relaxed into a newer British remedy: ‘Deal or No Deal’, a perfect segue to an expertly cooked dinner from M&S. Now I was definitely ready for showtime.
Shortly after arriving at the Tap & Spile pub, the crowd started to stream in, all of whom had heard my CD and knew the band’s songs. After busking anonymously in London for many months, this was quite a treat. Even the local radio personality, Clare Hopps of StrayFM, showed up to introduce me. I had worked for years to get this sort of fanfare back in Boston, and here I was across the globe. So I played my heart out, spurred on by the audience bobbing their heads to my tunes and even sometimes mouthing the words to the songs. It was such a good time that after enjoying several of the Tap & Spile’s delicious ales, I played another set of cover tunes, and all of us sang Beatles, Beach Boys, Kinks and Elton John songs together. By the end of that night, I had no doubt that I had found a musical home right here in Harrogate.
The next morning, Karen and I told Charles we would love to see some more of this beautiful area before we headed back to the big city. So we hopped in the car and headed to scenic Knaresborough, where I proceeded to take 100 pictures of the stunning railroad bridge. Then it was off to York. History buff that she is, Sheila gave us a proper tour of the place, regaling us with stories of Fawkes, Clitherow and Constantine, as well as showing us some of the best shopping around.
The climax of that day, though, was certainly the magnificent Minster. We arrived just in time for Evensong, and, while listening serenely to the mellifluous psalms, I realised it was a fitting end to our musical trip to Yorkshire.
The above piece appeared in a slightly abbreviated form in the Harrogate Herald on September 26, 2006.