(Re)Collection #44: RIP Paul Brandreth
Updated: Mar 31
"Youahhhight?", Paul asked me as we loaded our bags into the van at Heathrow Airport in January of 1996.
I had no idea what he just asked me.
"What's that again?" I responded.
No idea what he was saying. This is odd because I had been abroad a few times and spent time all over the England, Scotland and Ireland and generally was ok with accents.
"I don't understand," I finally said.
"Are you alright, mate?" Oh, now I felt like a dumb ass.
This is my first memory of Paul. He was a shortish, roundish guy from Reading, England. From 1996 to 1999, he was our tour manager for all UK and European dates.
Over the next few months and years of knowing and working with him, I learned scarcely little about him. We spent countless hours in cars, vans and buses together. Festivals, regular club shows, interviews, tv appearances. He was there, mobile phone in hand. Sorting things out, as he would say.
What I did know was that he lived in a very English attached row house not too far from the city center of Reading. His house was small, spartan and chilly. The walls in the living room were covered floor to ceiling with CDs.
We basically lived there for parts of our first 2 month tour and on subsequent tours when it was necessary. When we were within a 5 hour driving radius of Reading, we would come back to his place after the show. This cut down on tour expenses. Although, to be honest with you, I never paid much attention to what those expenses were and how much we were getting paid.
I think I was just excited to be there for free. Yeah, I was a bit of a simpleton then, and in that way, I haven't changed much since. I felt like I had won the lottery, and I was carefree. Why worry about it when my mind is being blown by all these new experiences?
I thought like this: Wait, you all are going to pay for us to tour in the UK and Europe and play in front of people who want to hear our music because it is being played on the radio? Sign me up.
To this day, I only recall that we got paid a per diem and ended tours with a little money in our pockets. Other than that, we could have been losing money, breaking even, or making money for Paul and our labels. No freaking clue. And I don't really care either because this was the most significant thing that had happened to me in my life up until that point. Money be damned. I just knew we were being asked back again and again and people seemed to care.
Touring abroad with my band? I dreamed about it but never really considered that it might come true. Actually being there and doing it in itself felt like a dream.
Anyway, back to Paul. Paul "looked after us." He dealt with all the details of our tour: transportation, lodging, promotion, show details, radio/tv/print interviews and appearances. He made sure we were there on time, got paid and sorted out any issues in the process. Yes, he looked after us well.
When we had days off, which weren't many, he would make sure his buddies Marc, Stevie G, Charity Dave, the boys from the band Bennet and a few others would take us out to the pubs and keep us entertained. His friends were all cool and very welcoming. We entered into his personal world when he was our tour manager.
In retrospect, I can't really remember hanging out with him much. He seemed to be busy and elsewhere most of the time. I have a clearer memory of playing Doom in his front room with John our bass player or drinking pints at the Purple Turtle than I do of hoisting a beer with him.
That's to be expected to a certain extent when you are in a band. If the band and the organization around it are an extended family, then the band members are definitely the children. The children needed looking after and coddling. A bunch of needy, full-grown adults. Or at least that is the version of the relationship dynamic that I experienced.
So Paul spent most of his time seeing if we were "aaahight." I really have to thank him for that. I guess I waited a little too long to express that since he died a week or so ago. In a very Paul-like fashion, the details were not made clear to me.
Apparently, Paul had been battling some demons, but he was getting back on track. Then he had an accident. He fell into a coma, came back out of it and then had a massive heart attack.
Paul was younger than me. I am 53. It is a shame I never got to know him outside of the group/manager context. I always liked him. He genuinely wanted to take care of us on our tours and worked very hard.
And Paul is responsible for me becoming a West Ham United fan, for better or worse. He gave each of us an Premier League team jersey when we did our first tour with him. I got the West Ham jersey. I vaguely remember him saying that that was his team, but now I am not so sure. It doesn't matter at this point because I support them and cannot back any other team.
The Paul I knew was not about drama. He was about taking care of business and was reticent to get personal and share thoughts and feelings like we Americans love to do. I guess this is very English. Just get on with it and do your job. Carry on.
In my life, I have been fortunate to have a good number of friends. Some I have kept for the long haul, others have drifted away, and a few I have fallen out with.
Paul's passing reminds me that I want to make a better effort now to not just let people disappear from my life if I care about them. Every once in a while just reach out and ask, "Youahhhight, mate?"
RIP Paul. I miss you, man.