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Formed in 1979 by schoolmates Norman Rodger (vocals and guitar) and Ally Palmer (guitar) along with bassist Neil Baldwin and drummer Colin MacLean, the post-punk/new wave band seemed to have a bright future ahead of them when he released his first double-sided A Playing With Fire/Shattered By It All in 1980, but just two years later things had taken a decidedly downward turn…enter, The Rolling Stones.
Recalling how the band came to support the biggest rock band on the planet, the TV21 frontman recalls: “In 1982 we were led by John Kalinowski, better known as Kelloggs, who had started his career as a road manager for Procul Harum before working with people. like Joe Cocker, Nick Lowe and Madness. “Through his connections in the United States he had heard that the Rolling Stones were going to embark on a European stadium tour and would give three theatrical performances in Scotland as a warm-up.
“At that time, TV21 was in trouble, having been abandoned by our record company and, in fact, we were all back on the job. Kelloggs thought getting those gigs as an opening act would be the perfect way for the record companies to see us. He was still friends with a number of people in the Stones camp and it was suggested that we send our album to Mick Jagger, who took responsibility for choosing the backing band. To our surprise, he liked it and we were offered all three concerts.
Rodger continues: “Growing up as Stone fans, it was amazing to be selected, especially since it was Jagger’s personal decision. It was a real boost for the group, because we were quite low and it gave us real focus.
TV21 would support the Stones at the Capitol in Aberdeen, the Apollo in Glasgow and the Playhouse in Edinburgh. Recalling Aberdeen’s sound check, Rodger says, “The convention is that the main act checks the sound first, and then the support should do theirs between finishing and opening the doors. We arrived on time but there was no sign of the Stones. They were late. This at least gave us time to settle into our dressing room – literally a broom cupboard under the stage. “The group finally arrived. The last was Keith Richards, who stumbled upon it, a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand. “As he approached his guitar tech, he took one last sip from the bottle as the tech deftly simultaneously slipped the guitar strap over Keith’s shoulders, as he handed him the bottle. and immediately transformed into a rock god, launching into the opening chords of Start Me Up. It was truly impressive. Then we were treated to our own private show. To top it all off, Mick Jagger ran down the aisle, all the way to the end of our row, to check the sound for itself by singing a few feet away from us using what was then fairly new technology, a wireless microphone.
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“The Apollo show in Glasgow was interesting. Our lodge this time was even more upscale, the toilets under the stage, which when we arrived was a foot of muddy water. Eventually we got access to Mick Jagger’s personal gym on the condition that we had to come out as soon as we were done, so he could do his warm-up before the show. The gym was also well equipped with fresh fruit and a very well stocked bar – I seem to remember we freed up a bottle of vodka.
Then came the fateful night in Edinburgh, at the Playhouse. “I warmed up for the show at the Playhouse by going to the allowance office that morning, to sign on, hoping no one would recognize me from the night before at the Apollo,” the singer recalled, adding: “Contact with the Stones was pretty minimal. Jagger was watching us from the balcony in Aberdeen. You could spot him a mile away, so it was a bit unnerving. After the first gig he’d come backstage and just had said, “Hello, I’m Mick, great show guys…” and that was it. I was in my underwear at the time. It’s not often you meet your heroes dressed like that. Other than that, we haven’t had any other contact with the band, which I still find a bit disappointing.
Looking back, Rodger admits they were all a little impressed when they did the first gig with the Stones and definitely “a little nervous.”
“We got over that the second night – I was more nervous about Ally’s mom and dad being in the audience than we were playing with the Stones,” he adds, reflecting, “Listening to the tapes of the shows, the Glasgow and Edinburgh concerts were much more confident than the opening concert.
“To this day, the experience is one we all cherish and have dined on many times over the years, but not a single record label has taken up the offer of a free ticket and so, discouraged, we made the decision to call it a day and split the band, backstage in a dressing room – a real one – at the Playhouse, halfway through the Stones set. beautifully.” He concludes, “I was walking past the Playhouse the other weekend, 40 years ago, to the day of that last show. We may not have reached the heights we intended to reach, but not many bands can open for the Rolling Stones.