Issue No.20 – Sopot (Part 2) 

 

 

Our hotel in Sopot was home to pretty much everybody who was (or wanted to be) part of the big event. So not only were there song competitors but also guest artists, organisers, management (with an alarming number of personal secretaries?) and a selection of other people who were either hotel residents or just wanted to see what all the fuss was about! I’m pretty sure Hansel was in there somewhere but I don’t think Gretel had managed to make it out of the forest.

It seemed a little strange to us, but apparently quite normal in the Eastern Bloc, that the local authorities had placed a 9.00pm curfew on the town. So from that time on the streets were completely empty and we were all confined to the hotel. To be honest, this wasn’t all doom and gloom, because despite some language barriers, we were able to make a load of new friends and by and large the hotel bar turned out to be a pretty good spot to hang out.

 

 

One of the guest artists we met up with was Chris Montez and by some strange twist of fate (and after a few beers) we all ended up performing an impromptu rendition of (remember it?) Let’s Dance. I somehow ‘acquired’ a guitar, Dave bashed out the drum pattern on a coffee table and Chris (obviously) sang the song. I’ve never been one for name dropping but I have to say that Mr. Montez was a really lovely guy and that short time spent with him will always be one of my fondest memories. 

 

 

Most of the days there were taken up rehearsing for the forthcoming live performance. Send Me A Letter had been scored out for the resident orchestra and backing singers so we had to get used to being led by the conductor and this proved quite a challenge. We were used to being a band of three, now we were a crowd of thirty! The size of the venue itself was also pretty daunting as the festival was to be (as it apparently always had been) at a large auditorium in the centre of a forest on the outskirts of the town which had seating for over two thousand so with hardly anyone in there it was still quite intimidating. 

 

 

Luckily I am not normally prone to stage fright, but I have to say that when the big night arrived I was pretty nervous. The venue held a packed audience and there were television crews all over the place, plus of course organised (?) chaos backstage. Then the moment came, the orchestra was ready so out we stepped. Don’t even bother asking me how it all went… I remember Mick had learnt to say ‘hello, good evening and welcome’ in Polish for which he got a very nice round of applause. After that I just went into automatic pilot and before I knew it we were bowing to the crowd and beating a hasty retreat. Pickettywitch were guest artists that night and they followed us. As I recall they sounded pretty good but in all honesty The Beatles could have been there and I wouldn’t have taken a blind bit of notice. 

Needless (and sad) to say, we didn’t come away with any trophies (the winners were Corvina, a good band and a nice bunch of lads), but looking back I think we gave a pretty good account of ourselves considering we were on a very steep learning curve. Watching the footage of the concert now and realising it all happened a half a century ago is very strange indeed but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and if you’re feeling brave you can witness that very performance right here now!

 

 

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