Last Modified On 21 Mar 2009
These are the Recollections of Lee Burrows who was Roadie for Praying Mantis from September 1979 to May 1980. Inspired by Mantis, Lee went on to form NWOBHM Obscurities Lyadrive who existed from May 1981 to May 1985. And have recently released they album they should have made. Sound clips Available
I had been a roadie for maybe 3 months by the time 1980 arrived, we had already played some pretty important gigs & had recorded Captured City with producer Alan Leaming. During which I had inadvertently made my recording debut! The band had sent me out to get them a pizza & when I got back, I rang the doorbell, as you do, only to find when they listened back to the track, that the doorbell had somehow been picked up on tape! So, if you listen out carefully to the version on the Metal For Muthas album, there is a moment just before the slow twin guitar harmony part, where the cymbal wash seems a tad overdone! That's because of me that is!
I'll have to check the facts with Tino, but I remember being on the bill with Budgie at the Lyceum in the Strand, with at least 2 other bands (one of which I’m sure was Angelwitch).I also remember a central London Hospital gig & the Music Machine in Camden being amongst the first at which I was officially a part of the road crew. Actually I was the only official roadie. To be fair though, Paul Williamson & Gerry Kelly had been helping out when they could for a while. I think my time as a roadie for my friends bands in the previous couple of years, proved a useful grounding for what turned out to be a hectic couple of months. However, it didn’t prepare me for long hours on the road which were to follow.
Gerry Kelly 2nd Left and Paul Williamson right corner at a Wimpy in July 1980
I started the New Year with my first really important career decision. Do I continue with a safe & probably in time lucrative British Airways, or follow my heart into the music business? I followed my heart, which with the benefit of hindsight & on balance, was probably the wrong decision. It was nonetheless enjoyable for that!
What I should have done, was taken a year off! But no, that was far to sensible an idea, I’m not coming back! I’m gonna make my fortune as a roadie! .... NOT!
I made this decision, because Praying Mantis had been offered the support on the N.W.O.B.H.M. Tour! A package put together by the management of Iron Maiden, to take full advantage of the burgeoning H.M. scene. Also involved was Neal Kay the DJ gaining national notoriety as the catalyst for the resurgence of grass roots, underground hard rock bands. The Tour was due to start with a full gig rehearsal at Shepperton Studios on Wed Jan 30th 1980. So looking back at my all to brief pocket diary from the time, I'd imagine that I must have handed in my resignation immediately after Christmas. The dairy suggests that throughout January, Mantis didn’t play any gigs, so unless Tino or Chris have kept a comprehensive list of every gig they did, ill just have to accept that as so.
So, Jan 30th arrives. We had to meet up at the base of the P.A. company (Muscle) just south of the Thames, in one of those railway arches. My dad gave me a lift, as we had to meet at the ungodly hour of 5am! I’m a little fuzzy on what happened next, sufficed to say we were due at Shepperton at 8 or 9am. The full dress rehearsal took place in a hanger used in the Bond films, which was huge! totally dwarfing the stage set up. This was no mean feat as this was a full 10k rig with a specially designed light rig,(later bought by Maiden for there own personal set up). If I remember correctly, this was the first time Mick Ransome (Mantis drummer) had use of this, prepared for the tour drum riser. An interlocking wooden affair, painted black for maximum effect. The set up looked & sounded great, everything seeming to go to plan. The arctic was loaded with all the Maiden & Mantis instruments, the P.A. system & the Lights. Just enough space! Everybody boarded the coach (except Maiden, who had there own Limo) & we set off at about 11pm.
With exception of the guitars this is the whole of
Mantis's Equipment In March 1980.
The coach we were in was, shall we say, on its last legs. It took 17 hours! to get to the first port of call, Aberdeen. We checked in to the Douglas Hotel at 4:30 PM. I didn’t sleep much on the journey, so I was looking forward to a decent nights kip ready for the real deal to come. I had to share with a guy called Keith, the guy who ran the official Maiden fan club & doubled as the merchandising guy for the tour. This guy was a huge lump of lard who, if I hadn’t been so tired on the occasional night that we actually got any sleep, I wouldn’t ever wish to meet again! (unless of course he was going to return my Mantis bootleg which mysteriously disappeared). The next day, it snowed! & this is where I learned about life on the road!
SCOTLAND (here we come!)
Friday 1st February 1980 Aberdeen University
This was a baptism of fire, or should I say water, seeing as how during the night it had continued to snow. The venue was on the 2nd floor & the only access was up a flight of stairs on the outside of the building. Of course no one had had the presence of mind to clear the snow, now ice, from the 20 or so stairs leading to the backstage area. The road crew manhandled a half dozen 6 by 3 by 3ft, fully laden flight cases, each containing either miles of leads, drums or light racks. As well as the speaker cabinets, the big bass cabs alone needing 4 burly guys each to negotiate the treacherous ice steps!
The concert didn’t proceed without the odd technical hitch (a regular occurrence, nothing ever goes that smoothly). The biggest hitch being that the main hall wasn’t adequately fused for a full scale major concert! Apparently, the minimum requirement for any venue on this tour was what is known as 3 phase electric’s. The university had to put out an emergency call for a qualified electrician.
I don’t remember the remaining hours between the 3 phase problem & the concert, so I assume everything was ok. Mantis must have gone down pretty well because my diary notes there was an encore & that the encore was not of the highest order! So, helped by a couple of Maiden roadies & university helpers, we shifted Mantis’s gear of the side of the stage, onto the landing at the top of an interior staircase, where I proceeded to dismantle drums etc. As I was doing this, Maiden had started there set. However, Maiden had forgotten to check the fire prevention systems & careered into there usual bombastic set intro. Disaster struck! The flashbulbs used during the bombastic intro, were detected by the venue smoke detectors, immediately cutting all the power, apart from the power to the air raid style fire alarm system!
Totally unaware of what was happening on stage, busy as I was doing my job, the sudden blackout & roar, of the less than 3 metres from my ears fire alarm, frightened the bloody life out of me! Pitch black, at the top of an echoing stairwell, I thought world war 3 had started! I found the door to the stage & went through, it was still pitch black. Then the emergency lighting kicked in and I was relieved to see that Maiden were still on the stage, waiting for power to be restored. Ever since that day, I have been jumpy around sudden noises, I'm sure I wasn’t before. Anything else that happened tonight I have forgotten due to the above.
Saturday 2nd February, it must be Glasgow!
All I've got in my scant diary is that Glasgow was snowy, didn’t even list the venue ....next!
Sunday 3rd February St Andrews College
I seem to be able to vaguely visualise going along the side of the famous Open Golf course before pulling into this venue, I also remember spotting some, at the time, state of the art arcade games in the lobby of the college venue (probably Pac-Man or something). It could be that this was the venue that I had recorded via the P.A. desk, the stolen live bootleg I mentioned earlier.
Monday 4th February Tiffany's, Edinburgh.
Again, not to much eventful happened at this gig though I have noted that the crowds were starting to get bigger. It could have been this gig that was recorded? It was definitely one of these two which had barriers erected just in front of the stage. As usual, we had packed away everything inside a couple of hours & were on our way by about 1am.
Tuesday 5th February 2:30 AM
We were all relaxing on the coach, some of us trying to sleep, some joking around, others just hoping to make Grimsby early enough to get our head down there. We had just crossed the border back into England when disaster struck! The coach suddenly coughed & spluttered to a shuddering halt. The driver spent a few minutes scratching his head before asking all of us to get out & give him a push! So here we were, on a windswept snowbound road, somewhere in the border regions, freezing our nuts off, trying to bump start a 40 seater coach. Needless to say, It didn’t work. Nothing for it but to wait for the coach company to send out for a replacement. This took some time, eventually arriving at the gig at 5pm!
Tuesday 5th February 5pm Grimsby
Yes the fun wasn’t over yet. Not only did we have to set up the gear in record time.(luckily the gig was in an old Church, so we couldn’t use the whole set up), Maiden’s singer Paul Dianno’s voice was playing up, so he couldn’t do the gig. It’s fortunate for Maiden that Steve Harris had a reasonable singing voice & that he wrote all the lyrics, Maiden played on Dianno-less to the biggest crowd yet & went down a storm!
This period of the tour was the most hectic. As you’ve read, we had little sleep last night due to the breakdown, now we had to pack up & head off to Bristol for the next gig.
Wednesday 6th February Bristol
We arrived at our Hotel in Bristol at 9am, due to arrive at the venue to start setting up at 11am! 40 winks, breakfast, then off to the gig. By my brief diary notes, it seems that the tour was gathering momentum, yet another increase in punter numbers. No time for a rest yet, another long journey back north, this time into Yorkshire.
Thursday 7th February Wakefield
Once again, not much sleep, but at least the transport over the last couple of nights had improved. I have a hazy recollection that our hotel here was a little downmarket from some of the previous stops, but was of little consequence when all we wanted to do was crash out! Anyway, Wakefield was an excellent gig, the crowd were superb, really up for it, in fact they invaded the stage during Mantis’s set! It was a real good gig all round. To cap it off, the next gig was real close, so we made the hotel in no time & all got a well earned nights kip.
Friday 8th February Huddersfield
Refreshed & raring to go, things were just going better & better. Another bigger crowd, even attracting the local nutters, some bloke turned up here with a snake draped around him, Christ knows how he got in! I really wish I'd written more notes in my diary but hey! I was pretty busy most of the time.
Saturday 9th February Manchester
Another big crowd here & by all accounts (well my paltry diary) a very noisy crowd, over 700 apparently made it to the show.
Sunday 10th February London, The Lyceum
This was the penultimate gig of the tour & the home town gig for both bands. Could be that there was another band on the bill to open the show, but don’t quote me on that. Biggest gig of the tour, well over 1000 people there. Must have gone down well here as both bands major following up until this tour were from around the London area. A brief bit of backslapping’ ensued before we all headed back up the motorway for the final night. It was bound to be a good night as everyone was in party mood.
Monday 11th February Mansfield
My diary entry says, & I quote, "Last gig Mansfield, went down well!" Can’t say fairer than that. The major event of the night for me was that we got to travel home on a proper tour bus. Swivel chairs, Video, Fridge full of beer & Bunks at the back! Finally I felt like the real Macoy. We arrived safely back at the drop off point at 5:30am, I was happy but shattered. I had been paid next to nothing, been deprived of sleep & deprived of a well earned bootleg. What an experience, when I finally got home & hit the sack I slept for almost a day & a half uninterrupted. Looking at my meagre diary once again, it would appear that Mantis had no gigs for a couple of weeks enough time to recharge my batteries, do some temporary work & hang out with some friends.
Friday February 29th Burton On Trent 76 Club
The Venue was a tiny club, the band set up on a raised area to the side as you walked in, normally just a raised section of floor with a railing sort of wild west style, an awkward couple of steps & no room for lighting. The band went down pretty well. Stayed in town tonight as the next gig was relatively close.
Saturday March 1st Corby Raven Hall
Good crowd, travelled with SWAMP P.A. guys back to Oxford/Edwin/ home via Baker Street Another good gig, I was approached by a stunning young lady whilst the band were soundchecking. She beckoned me over, telling me she new members of Van Halen & Bad Company & could she see the band. Well I was impressed! 18 & a true novice in the ways of the woman. (nothing new there, married with 2 kids 18 years later & still know next to nothing about them!). Anyway I let her through. I never saw her again tonight & can honestly report, have no idea what happened once past me. Returned south straight after the gig with the guys from the P.A. company (SWAMP), crashed at their place in Oxford, before taking gear back to Edwin Shirley Trucking storage, in East Ham East London. Mantis were sharing storage space with Queen & Genesis. I say sharing, the Mantis gear took up about 15 foot square, the other 2 took up the rest of the Hanger!
Wednesday March 5th in Norwich
1st of 3 dates supporting Nazareth, good gig. That’s what I have written in my diary & I have no further recollections.
Thursday March 6th Dunstable Queensway Hall
Not quite such a good gig. Same as above!
Friday March 7th Newcastle Mayfair
I have some recollections of this gig, a couple of which are related elsewhere. My more personal memories are as follows. I had become a bit of a celebrity myself, thanks to Sounds coverage of Neal Kay’s HM Soundhouse, in particular Geoff Barton’s patronage of headbanging band Wellie & the Galoshers. While I was packing away the leads from Tino & Bob’s amps, some guy shouted to me from the Audience! My first (& to date last) fan!
Once again I travelled back to Oxford with the P.A. guys. We arrived back as the sun was rising, why they couldn’t go straight to Edwin Shirley’s then on to home is beyond me. So instead of me getting mid morning, it was 5pm when I got back. The manager (Geoff Crook, I kid you not!) rang me that evening to tell me we should have taken the gear to Muscle Music anyway!
Wednesday March 12th Music Machine Camden
Thursday March 13th Lincoln Drill Hall
Friday March 14th Wolverhampton Laffyettes
Very sparse crowd, the band enjoyed themselves anyway. I seem to remember Tino’s guitar strap came off mid song, which took me by suprise, Tino struggled manfully on for a few bars before I got the message. I don’t remember what was said but there were some hecklers at the back tonight, water off a ducks back.
Saturday March 15th in Hitchin
Again support to Girl
Friday March 21st Dudley JB’s Club
Members only crowd, not very responsive, again band enjoyed themselves onstage
Saturday March 22nd St Albans City Hall
Support to the wonderful Pat Travers Band. Went down really well, missed most of PT packing away gear. Stopped punter trying to sneak in, very jobsworth
Friday March 28th Newport Village Inn
Monday March 31st Sheffield Genevieve’s
Good gig, some of Leppard & black comedian Charlie Williams in attendance. Chatted to some Heep fans
Sunday April 6th Cheltenham Town Hall
See gig review elsewhere
Wednesday 9th to Sunday 13th Drummer Auditions
Final 3 included Dave Potts & ‘feathertouch’ Les Binks (ex-Priest). During the auditions, in a lull in proceedings, I jammed with the Mantis boys for 5 mins! It must have sounded terrible as I was a complete novice at this point.
Saturday April 19th Muscle Music
Went to see Mantis rehearse with new drummer Dave Potts, immediatley impressed
Friday May 2nd Marquee Wardour Street
Dave’s first gig, a nerve racking headline show, couple of pictures elsewhere
MONDAY 12TH MAY----SACKED!
Rang management to find out details of forthcoming Maiden tour, said they would ring back. Rang back to tell me I was no longer required.
Thursday May 15th?
Recieved call from Tino, saying he had only just found out. Offered me the job back after the tour, my bruised ego said no & he was very apologetic. Never blamed the boys, it was as far as I was concerned a management decision.
A brief explanation (by Lee) is in order here, the first 4 reviews were whilst I was still in the employ of the boys. Subsequent reviews were strictly as a fan, although thanks to their generosity, nearly always on the guest list. I also watched various other bands at the time, featuring guys who later became members of Mantis. I shall list gigs (in chronological order) as they were listed in my personal gig review book. Right here goes:
August 79: Reading Festival: Little Bo Bitch: 65%
(Featuring one Steve Carroll) The best opening band I’ve yet seen at Reading. A good tight pop/rock outfit
December 79: Lyceum, The Strand: 70 %
Praying Mantis have an Americanised HM sound & some nice original tunes. This was one of the last gigs with the guitarist from the Captured City recordings Pete Moore.
(Budgie/ Girlschool/ Angelwitch/ Praying Mantis)
February 80: Lyceum, The Strand: 80 %
Much improved with some new songs & a new line-up. The new guitarist is one Bob Sawyer, to be known for some reason as Robert Angelo! The place was pretty full with a crowd of around 1500.
(Iron Maiden/ Praying Mantis)
March 80: Mayfair Ballroom, Newcastle: 80 %
Tonight was a good night, the band played well tonight & got a really good reception. Unfortunately due to time constraints were unable to do an encore.
I never saw this myself but was told about it afterwards, Nazareth were all apparently 3 sheets to the wind, when they decided as a band to jump over a very small perimeter wall. The drummer Daryl Sweet managed to clip the wall & land flat on his face! Cruel I know but you’ve just got to laugh!
(Nazareth/ Praying Mantis)
April 80: Cheltenham Town Hall: 70 %
This was the last gig for (handsome) Mick Ransome who crowned his Mantis career off with his usual array of mistakes. Unfortunately tonight this seemed to affect the band, who were unusually loose tonight. However, the crowd loved it & the band encored with The Ripper which went down a storm!
(Praying Mantis/ Sledgehammer)
(This was the last gig I recorded in my gig book before I was dropped by the new management in favour of a ‘real’ professional road crew. So from here on in this is a fans eye view. Read on Macduff.
June 80: The Rainbow, Finsbury Park: 85%
This is interesting, I finally get to see the band from out front, new drummer Dave Potts really has added something to the band. A fine set & some good shape throwing from Tino & Bob, good to see Chris moving about too!
(Iron Maiden/ Praying Mantis)
(Iron Maiden were reviewed at this gig as well, here is what I had to say.)
From the Bandwagon to the Rainbow in 1 year shows how good this band are. They played an excellent new number called Killers & Dennis Stratton was on top form, he should be on (TV show) The Comedians!
July 80: The Electric Ballroom Camden: 78%
Mantis are turning into another Rainbow! They now have another guitarist to supplement Tino, his name is Steve Carroll ex of Little Bo Bitch. Considering he had only been in the band about a week, he did an excellent job. The band are certainly much tighter since Dave Potts joined.
(Girlschool/ Praying Mantis)
August 80: Reading Festival: 88%
New guitarist Steve Carroll fits Mantis really well, helping the band get back the ‘heaviness’ missing since Pete Moore’s departure. Mantis were the first band to get the crowd really moving on Sunday, no mean feat. Paul Williamson, Gerry Kelly & I managed to get down to the front where we were spotted by Tino & Chris.
August 80: Reading Festival: Grand Prix: 70%
(featuring Bernie Shaw) This band should go down real well in the States. A sophisticated sound not unlike Kansas. Like Kansas, will have only a selective appeal here, as proven by the sheer apathy shown by the crowd.
September 80: The Marquee, Wardour Street: Grand Prix: 80%
Very eventful gig this one. Firstly, some punk threw a beer plastic at Bernie which cut his forehead! Next 2 flashbombs went off on cue, one of which set light to one of the bands monitor stacks! This just seemed to spur the boys into action. The set just seemed perfectly paced, starting out like a heavy Foreigner, progressing into the more dramatic pomp of say Kansas! Very enjoyable.
(Grand Prix/ Kashmir)
February 81: The White Hart, Acton: Lionheart: 63%
First time I’ve seen Dennis Stratton’s new band, quite impressive, more Hard Rock than H.M. I liked some of the riffing but have to say that I was less than impressed with the vocalist.
March 81: The Marquee Wardour Street:86%
The boys were doing a short promotional tour for the release of ‘Time Tells No Lies,’(not before time!) This would easily have been there best gig to date, if it wasn’t for the old Marquee jinx. Hassles like Tino’s tuning problems, monitor feedback, Steve nearly losing his guitar when his strap came off causing a horrendous din & they cocked up the end to ‘Lover’s’. To redeem themselves however, they played a song called ‘The Story’, one of the best tracks I think I’ve ever heard! Tremendous! We even gave Dave Potts a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to celebrate his (cough)th birthday! to cap it all the second encore was ‘The Ripper’.
March 81: Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road: Grand Prix: 75%
Playing a support set tonight, they opened up with a couple of new numbers which didn’t impress on first listen. After that however they were on fire! The other new songs aired tonight were much better, especially a number called ‘Trobadour’. This was the last night of the headliners British tour, so as is traditional the road crew were playing around tonight. During one number, a roadie taped the keyboard players legs together whilst various others wandered around the stage with clipboards doing what looked like an inventory of all the equipment onstage! certainly raised a smile or two from the crowd.
(Mannfred Mann/ Grand Prix)
November 81: The Marquee Wardour Street:90%
Boy! This is really unfair! A band this talented still playing in a poxy hole like this. To there credit, it doesn’t seem to worry them. Musically, they go from strength to strength, now a 6 piece adding keyboards & ex Grand Prix vocalist Bernie Shaw to the line-up. More new material of undoubted class including an excellent opening instrumental. Still they have problems with the P.A. here at the Marquee, but that is a minor quibble on an otherwise excellent night. This band have got, I repeat got to make it!
August 82 : Reading Festival: 88%
Having seen the boys in action at the Marquee the week before, I knew roughly what to expect. Of course the obligatory line up change, back to a 5 piece, Steve Carroll now departed. Also the direction has been shifted slightly, with a more Airplay oriented sound. 10 songs, only 3 of which were from T.T.N.L. They released an E.P. to coincide with today’s show, playing all 3 tracks off of that.
Of the new tracks played the stand out tracks today were the ballad ‘Raining In Kensington’ & the Saga like pomptastic ‘Enough Is Enough’. Again Mantis were the first band of the day to get an encore, so they rattled out ‘Flirting With Suicide’. Another fine gig, the only reservation I have was the sound balance which was weighted toward the keyboards rather than Tino’s guitar.
(I have one more review to share with you, this was the last time that I saw Tino & Chris until March 98!!)
March 84: The Marquee, Wardour Street: 80%
Clive Burr’s Escape are essentially Praying Mantis with ex Iron Maiden drummer Clive & a different keyboardist. As you’d expect from Tino & Chris the stage presentation was impeccable & musicianship undeniable. The new material however, whilst still quality, lacked that spark that Mantis always had. In fact the best tracks tonight were the tracks left over from the Mantis era, those tracks being ‘Raining In Kensington, Enough Is Enough’ &one of the tracks off the ‘A Question Of Time’ E.P. This could of course be early days but unless the material improves dramatically, I don’t see C.B.E. getting anywhere.