So long, Letterman

This week David Letterman retires from The Late Show after thirty three years as host. We had the good fortune to be musical guests back in 2011. I've dug out some words that I tapped into a computer's face at the time for you here -

September 2011


So there we were, all lined up for a spot on 'The Late Show with David Letterman' ahead of our US tour. After months of back and forth and ums and ahs and maybes, we finally received the green light from the producers - we were in, welcome aboard, please prepare your best rocking trousers. This was undoubtedly a huge opportunity; one of the biggest shows in America fancied a bit of JJR action and we'd be delighted to supply it. Cos that's what we do, you see. The plan was to drive to Paris for a festival, fly from there to New York, do the tv show then tour America. Perfect.

And then Hurricane Irene came along.

Like a belligerent drunk crashing a wedding reception it lurched violently in; decidedly uneasy on its feet and with an evil look in its eye. It lumbered around stupidly for a bit in an unpredictable fashion, making threatening gestures at passers-by and stealing all the wine. Finally and inevitably it crashed headlong into America, sending things flying all over the place and generally making an utter arse of itself.


Thankfully this didn't happen. But imagine if it did.

And then the dreaded news arrived - our flight wasn't going to happen at all. Nobodies was. No way, no how, no sir. New York was shut, please leave a message and they'll get back to you during business hours.

Shit. We had a show to do.

We hastily pursued alternative strategies. Hot air balloon over the North Pole and parachute in? Attach ourselves to a rocket and fire it across the Atlantic? Or how about flying to Australia and burrowing through the centre of the earth?

It was no good, there was just no way around it. We'd be too late for The Late Show. The irony was terrible.

Dejected we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that we still had a tour of America ahead of us. It would be great fun and we were also to be joined by the brilliant Kid Congo Powers in support. But as it happened all was not lost and the Gods of the Network were smiling down upon us. Another slot on the show had opened up and we were back in the running. The was a minor problem in that we would be on the west coast of America on the filming day. Some heavy logistics and a whole lot of air miles were going to be needed.

So we went ahead with the first part of the tour from Vancouver down to Seattle, catching a red-eye via Dallas to be in New York for the taping. Dazed and confused we crashed out in a hotel near to the studio. Tomorrow was going to be a long day, there'd be no time for jetlag.

Without the luxury of a full road crew we'd have to be there early to set up. So at 7.30am we meet in the lobby and walk over to the legendary Ed Sullivan theatre. Through the hallowed stage door we file into a somewhat cramped reception to be meeted and greeted. On the walls photos of an incredible roster of previous guests gaze down - humbling company to be in. The Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones - they've all been here. I enquire who's going to be on the show with us tonight.

'The Kardashians.'

I come swiftly tumbling back down to earth.

We stroll out onto the set and it's the first surreal moment of the day, walking through the black rectangle into telly land. I'm actually a little surprised by how shoddy the background set looks close up, all held together by bits of gaffer tape and string. You'd never know, though - that's the magic of television right there for you.

We set up and check our sound levels. The Letterman crew are very accommodating about our outrageous volume requests, unlike the BBC who are terribly strict about that sort of thing and will wag their fingers. So we whack it up loud and run through 'High Horse.' Sounds nice and beefy.

There are various run throughs and camera tests to do, although Davey boy will only be there for the recording. Then it'll be a one-take affair with any cock-ups broadcast direct to the world. So, no pressure then. I won't deny my nerves are on edge as the clock slowly counts down. I consider hitting the liquor but opt for a clear head instead. And before we know it, it's time...

The second 'is this real?' moment of the day as we take to the stage and I see ol' Dave sat in his chair cracking jokes to the audience. The adrenaline hits a peak and BANG! we're off.

It's over in what feels like a flash - you can see the results here.


The alarm jerks me from my sleep with a sickening jolt, as welcome as being attacked with a rotting haddock. My eyes creak open. A solitary thought is hovering in the air, bleary and unfocused. I have to be somewhere, and quickly. My heart is furiously pounding in an attempt to get things moving, far too noisily for my liking. I quickly scan myself for a damage report. All systems are operational but there's been a hell of a ruckus in the brain and liver department. The solitary thought slowly begins to move into focus. Airport! I have to be at the airport. And soon. Peering through the numb fog enveloping my head I work back through the preceding night's events whilst blearily throwing socks at my suitcase.

An irritating noise interrupts my churning brain. What is it? Brrring brrring bloody brrring. Telephone! A telephone is ringing. I fumble and flail, eventually picking it up. It's the lobby. A cab is waiting. It's time to leave.

"Thank you", I say.

'Die', I think, aiming myself at the shower.

We had finished the recording by about six, the show being broadcast to the nation later that evening. It'd be past midnight before our bit would be on, so we had a few hours to kill before we could see it. The plan was to go to a nearby bar and perhaps raise a toast with a small glass of shandy. Just the one, mind. A gang of our lovely friends had been gathered, full of cheer and praise and yes thank you I'll have a vodka. Oh go on then, make that two. Someone knew a quiet joint we could continue our celebrations on in style, so off we trotted. A bit pricey but what the hell, this doesn't happen every day. Yes, I do think champagne would be appropriate at this point, cheers.

Exotic boozes sidle up to my table and flirt, one after another. Apparently they'd heard there was a bit of a gathering going on in my stomach and were wondering if they could join their friends down there? I'm a polite chap, so down they went. By a curious coincidence, I'm lightly sozzled by the time midnight rolls around. The TV is tuned into the show and rounds of drinks appear as we watch the action. And suddenly there we were, up on the tellybox for all to see. And the whole bar is cheering, more shots are lined up, and still more. By now things were getting a bit rowdy down in my stomach and the neighbours were starting to complain. More intoxicants enter my system and my liver threatens to call the police. Thankfully at some point someone calls a cab and pours me into it as by then I don't give a damn about very much any more.

Three hours later, I do give a damn. Very much. Brrring brrring bloody reception again, yes I'm on my way down. Who are these sadists and why do they persecute me so...?



The story continues with a horrifically hungover flight to San Fransisco for a gig that night, drug fuelled paranoia in Los Angeles and then a return to New York two days later to hang out with Ian Hunter. Good times.

(special thanks to Jo Murray, without whom...)

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