WinterStorm Rock Weekender

Mantis - The Maiden Touring Years


Chris Troy recalls a couple of stories when Praying Mantis were supporting Iron Maiden in the early days.

“I still recall that day during the tour with Iron Maiden. It was a freezing cold day, quite typical of what Northern Scotland would get in the heart of winter but not expected by us unknowing buffoons! Iron Maiden in those days were beginning to get known but we were hardly in a position of a private plane, etc. Nevertheless, the Maiden band members travelled separately in their own luxury liner (well certainly more luxurious when compared to ours)! We had to endure a 50-seater old coach and I think the seat number matched its age! Together with Mantis and our small entourage, the coach also housed the full Maiden crew. So from recollection, there were a good 25 guys in total on the coach. 

“For some reason none of us was really dressed for the weather, which when looking back was strange … or just plain stupid! So there we were, trudging along on this long road journey.  As it was, the old coach, which although being a bit leaky, was still pumping some nice heat into the cabin.

“There we were, seemingly in the heart of the Scottish moors when calamity struck and the coach engine broke down. I believe it was the back axle or something pretty serious like that. At first it was all pretty hilarious and there was lots of banter going round with the Maiden crew and all of us. Jokes were flying left right and centre.

Also at that stage, the coach was still pretty warm because of the retained heat ... However, bit by bit the temperature began to drop, being that we were now exposed to the icy winds blowing across the plains and it was beginning to dawn on us that we were pretty much marooned!

“It's not as though we could just get out and jump into a cosy little coffee shop or anything! This breakdown spot really was in the middle of nowhere and was almost plucked out of a good horror movie setting. The driver had informed us that he would need to get out and go find a phone box. Yes of course, this was the time well before mobiles and public phone boxes were the only way to make a call when outside of your home. The trouble is, they could be miles away!

“The driver seemed to be gone for many hours but in reality, it was probably just a couple. When he did return, he told us that he had made contact with the coach company and there would be a replacement coach coming along shortly. At that stage, an almighty cheer went up from all of us as we were going to be saved! What we didn’t know at that time is that it would be many hours before the replacement coach would come. As the coach was now becoming uncomfortably cold, we realised that the engine could still be turned over and the driver occasionally started the engine to get some heat into the coach cabin, though to add salt in the wounds, we were also low on fuel.

“It is hard to describe, but those little periods of warmth were such an amazing treat and we welcomed it with open arms on each occasion … each time a little bit more than the previous. It was like a life-saving fix  that the body craved. The colder the coach became the more we became dependent on these small doses of life that the driver was in charge of. Many of us pleaded with him to keep it on for longer, but he was wisely aware of the fuel level and perhaps trying to hold some back in case the other coach didn’t materialise!

“As the coach temperature plummeted further, I could now see a few of the roadies hugging each other for warmth, as by that point they didn’t care about credibility or any cissy name calling .... keeping alive and stopping your limbs from falling off through frost bite was far more important!  And so this carried on for many hours…

“By this stage dusk was beginning to take hold and we were all conscious that the temperatures would really fall during the night. I really thought that at some stage there could be anarchy on board with the coach driver being tied and bound and with ringleaders taking over the heating control of the coach. Perhaps that was my vivid imagination ...! Lord of the Rings on a coach!

“Then when we were all beginning to give up hope, we could see in the distance some bright lights heading towards us. Was it perhaps a transit lorry passing or a UFO?? No, this time it was indeed our knight in shining armour ... our saviour!

“To date, there have been few occurrences (other than beer and sex) that I have relished as much as seeing that coach. Not only was it a relatively plush new coach with many mod cons, the most important thing was that it had come on a long journey and thus it was pipingly warm on board.

“I remember us clambering on to the coach, as there was almost a scuffle to get out of the broken down coach and on to the gleaming replacement service. It was bliss to get on that warmly heated coach yet by that stage it was as though the cold had well and truly got into the bones as I was still trembling. I recall sharing a room with Bob Angelo, the guitarist in Mantis at that time.

“It was a fantastic quaint little Bed and Breakfast with a lovely landlady who had an immensely thick Scottish accent (of which I only understood every tenth word or so)! We explained our story to her and she seemed so sorry for us and suggested a remedy of a hot bath, coffee with a dram of whisky and sticking on the electric blanket! Of course, that wasn't rock and roll but hey it worked a rare treat! 

This has stuck in our minds for all these years and is definitely one of those early memories of gigging in Scotland!

“Being the support act to Iron Maiden, we were placed pretty much up the front of what was a small stage when compared against the others we played on that tour. Perhaps it was such a small stage or that Maiden seemed to have a lot more gear than normal hence our equipment seemed to be shoved really close to the front of the stage. In some ways we didn’t mind, as there would be some good intimacy with the crowd.
“I recall that whether it was constructed specifically for the show or another event, at the central section of the front of the stage the organisers had constructed a temporary make-shift stage extension where one or two of the bands could venture during the set to strut their stuff and shove the guitar necks towards the heavens. It was probably only about 3 x 1 metres.
“What I failed to add is that the whole stage was pretty high, something like about 8 feet off the ground. At the base of this temporary stage construction I could see a few cross-braced scaffolding poles, which I trust were there to hold the thing up!
“Then show time came on and there was a really healthy crowd, who you could see were really up for a good night and were in fine voice. We went through a few of the main numbers that were featured on the ‘Time Tells No Lies’ album such as ‘Children of the Earth’, ‘Panic in the Streets’ and ‘Lovers to the Grave’. The songs were going down a storm!
“The more the crowd cheered, the more confident we became, and by this time I was merrily traversing between my dedicated part of the stage in front of the bass amp and the projected temporary section of the stage. On each occasion, I was so conscious of how high I was up on that stage and the relatively small passageway that existed for me to get between the section of stage in front of the bass amp to the super trooper section!
“I reckon I did that perilous journey some 7 or 8 times during the set without putting a foot wrong … and I suppose almost becoming proficient, or so I thought!
“Then perhaps it was due the sweat dripping down my forehead into my eyes or the euphoria of the night but reality seemed to get lost for that crucial moment. There we were now playing the final song of the set ‘Captured City’, which so many of the fans knew as it was the song that effectively got the ball rolling for us.

“Those that are aware of the song will know that it has plenty of stop start sequences where you can get the crowd clapping and get them involved. It was those final few notes at the end of the song where I went for it, head tossed backwards and the guitar strap taken off so that I could raise the bass above me. With this action, unfortunately I took a step backwards and to my horror my foot didn’t land on terra firma! All the euphoria of the night was swept away in a millisecond and something in my head went “this is serious”! It must have looked like something out of a cartoon as one foot remained on the stage supporting my body, whilst the other jigged in mid air, desperately searching for something solid to achieve balance. But reality was dawning on me as my body now began to arc backwards as, Newton’s law of gravity well and truly took hold!

“As my body arched backwards, the only body movement I seemed to be capable of doing was to do swivel my body a little so that at least I could observe the horror that was unfolding … and see where I was going to land. It seemed to happen in extreme slow motion yet at the same time there just wasn’t a single thing I could do to save myself.
“Now flying through the air, it was just a damage limitation exercise and I was hoping to goodness this wasn’t ‘goodbye world’ but if it was, it was a good way to go! Haha!

“The sight of the scaffolding poles coming towards me was actually pretty terrifying and I still recall that vision vividly to this day!
Then the horrible smash as the side of my head seemed to be the first thing that hit something hard and my eyes were still wide open to see the whole spectacle. It wasn’t the scaffold poles thank goodness but the lovely wooden parquet flooring of the hall which incidentally was very nice! The bass guitar also came crashing down almost in synchrony with my body and I saw a few machine heads fly off the neck and skate across the floor. My legs were tangled between the scaffolding so I looked like some sort of trussed up chicken!
“Unbelievably, up above at stage level, this complete scenario seemed to somehow go unnoticed? How? The reason was that I had fallen down during the very last note of the last song of our set and the rest of the band had gone off stage via the other side so they didn’t notice by rather odd and painful stage exit.
“As I laid there wallowing in extreme pain and self-pity, wondering exactly what damage I had done to myself  (would I ever walk again?) I thought surely someone must have noticed what went on?
“The crowd were still cheering us and I heard commotion above me and clumping of the boots on the stage as Tino and the rest of the band returned, no doubt with the objective to play an encore. I though surely they will have noticed that I am not there? 1, 2, 3 …. I heard Tino count in the song ‘The Ripper’, then suddenly he stopped the band and stated to the audience, “ Apologies, we seem to have a technical problem in that we have lost our bassist! At that stage a couple of roadies finally noticed the trussed up chicken and gradually untangled me from what could have been my scaffolding tomb! They checked me all over for any broken bones or back but miraculously there were none! Some guardian angel indeed must have been watching over me. The bass was in a very sorry state but somehow I had emerged relatively unscathed, albeit I ached for many weeks after and had plenty of bruises to prove my story to anyone that hadn’t witnessed it.
“The quote of the night was when fans asked, “Did Mantis go down well?” Yep, they sure did and the bassist went down really well!”

WinterStorm Rock Weekender

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WinterStorm Rock Weekender

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WinterStorm Rock Weekender

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