Excerpts from FOND, September 1977
Hope you enjoy this flashback to Neil's 1977 European tour. Included is the FOND
newsletter and many of the attached news articles.
How can I bring us together so we can be with Neil as he performed throughout Europe. If I could only superimpose every concert one upon the other so you could sense the immense and total mesmerizing effect your letters soaring in from entranced seats starting from the very first chord in Rotterdam to the vast 55,000-throated roar for Neil at Woburn Abbey have had on me. An impossibility, because I am inundated by a veritable flood of appreciative mail. And I love it. I will try to include as many varied reviews as possible in this letter, for those of us who weren't there. They will tell you better than I some of the things that took place.
But it is your letters that excite, please and sometimes overwhelm me. May I share a few of them? Those recounting gracious moments when Neil stopped or turned from his path (no matter the mounting stress of a performing schedule) to receive a bouquet from well-wishers, to share a friendly word before and even after an exhausting performance, at a bus about to depart, a hotel lobby, the hurried platform of a railroad station. I know only because you've unselfishly shared your chance encounters with me. Or hundreds, no thousands, writing they were unable to buy tickets, even after standing in queue for hours. Disappointing and sad news for them and for us. But yet understandingly, most still happy that Neil's music was there for them always whenever wanted, and many recompensed in part by seeing Neil's TV special, 'Love at the Greek'. (It was aired twice within five weeks in England.) Neil is always saddened when he hears of these disappointments about situations over which he has no control. And especially touched when he learned of a completely immobilized young man in a wheelchair insisting he be carried by friends to a Neil Diamond concert. Or of a young devoted husband who brought his wife painfully beset with muscular dystrophy to the Palladium. Or the police sergeant who had to regretfully return family tickets when he was unfortunately hospitalized because of injuries recieved in the line of duty. We would want to know, wouldn't we, that among others disappointed because they couldn't be at a Neil Diamond concert were many who were more fearfully handicapped and disappointed....but there is much going on so perhaps we'll all get to join in, in the not too distant future.
We've learned that Neil's first TV special has been nominated in four Emmy Award categories. And that Neil's next TV special is to be seen over NBC-TV this November. A camera crew, even a helicopter at times, were on the road with Neil filming sgements of his concerts. Hopefully we'll be seeing parts of Neil's tour that was. Also, there is to be another Neil Diamond album and it is targeted for release this fall. We hope these plans all turn out to be true! But werare cerain of the eye-witness accounts we've recieved of Neil in Europe. A very few: Neil dancing the Reggae with three beautiful Amsterdam girls, Neil gently extending his hand to a very young but charming German girl who had dashed on stage to take his picture and then froze in shyness, Neil quietly strolling along the banks of a Rotterdam canal, Neil and Jesse, takeing in the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Neil chatting with guest at parties after the Olympia and Woburn Abbey performances (I haven't recieved reprots from other parties friends may have attended as yet), Marcia and Jesse and Neil glimpsed here and there or speeding to concerthalls. And Jesse, if my correspondent is correct, getting to play the drums far back on the Woburn Abbey stage setting. (Jesse was also seen taking a tuurn at the Bongo drums prior to this.)
Whenever possible, I have added partial translations, knowing that you will understand the concerts and cities I haven't included in this letter are not due to oversight but to space. So only a sampling from stacks of stories, articles and quotes have been squeezed in. Neil was invited to stay at the homes of many wonderful people, the most unusual invitation coming from Northumberland, Englands 11th century Bamburgh Castle.
As you know, Neil will be giving (or already had by this time) another short series of concerts in the US. These, too, dear friends, have been sold out but some who couln't get tickets have transmuted their disappointments into a delightful alternative. I have just received a large green ticket, No. 4345, inviting me to their 'Greendale Music Theatre' Neil 'Music and Basement Party,' No refunds. No exchange. Of course, Neil regrets their absence at the PineKnob Concert but is delighted at their ingenuity.
Now I must save space for the articles I'm sure we'll enjoy so I will share only a few of your thoughts. 'Its hard to express ones feelings in a strange language, but it was the same as everywhere in the whole world, we were all one--'The Diamond Fanily', as one German reviewer called it. We felt with him, we sang with him, we cried and laughed with him...we love him.' 'Altogether an incredible, magical evening...' 'Well, Neil's performance, as you know, was magnificent, and he must have the most tremendous satisfaction from the so-called inhibited British public--and to my surprise, one of the most uninhibited was my husband. He said it was the most wonderful show he had seen in years...and to hell with his sciatica, he would sit on the grass at Woburn.' And one more: 'A world without a live Neil Diamond concert is like a world without love. ' I wish I had space to mention more of your beautifully expressed thoughts. We can only hope that half of what's planned for the 'Diamond Family' comes true. Among these are still undefined talks for a Far East Tour. BUT BEST OF ALL, Marcia, Neil and Jesse are expecting another Diamond in the family, hopefully some wonderful day around February......
Neil Sparkles at Ahoy
....he turns out to be a first-class entertainer who manages to get the usually rather stiff Dutch audience swinging within 15 minutes! And you must be a top performer when 4000 people stand in their seats just for you...
Neil turned the usually chill and cheerless Edenhall into a place with a highly enjoyable atmosphere. He allowed three beautiful, blond Amsterdam girls to dance with him onstage during Reggae Strut. Slightly out of breath he sat on the floor and still singing, lay flat on the stage, composing an ode ot the 'Girls from Amsterdam'. No one could continue sitting still upon seeing and hearing this spontaneous song.
Sensational Success in the Olympic Hall
What do Americans like best in Bavaria? Beer and 'Gemutlichkeit' of course. Even Neil Diamond was no exception. After his triumphant success in the Munich Olympic Hall, the celebrated star, who is said to be shy and doesnt't like public display, was in high spirits until the morning came......Everything was at hand: The fresh draught beer in mugs, the cold buffet, and dancing Munich girls in their leather shorts and and dirndls. A truly Bavarian Beerfest in the pub of the Chinese Tower in the English garden, hosted by Fritz Rau, concert manager.
Neil Diamond in a fair leather jacket and jeans, mug in hand, rocked happily to the spirited music. Meanwhile his wife Marcia was dancing with Fritz Rau to the spirited tunes of the 'Bauer Band.'
There was another star there besides Neil. His son Jesse, whom Marcia had met at the Frankfurt airport a few days earlier. Jesse in a black T-shirt imprinted with 'Diamond' had been unable to resist joining King Errisson at the Bongos during the concert, and had played the Triangle excitedly while his father sang 'Beautiful Noise'. Honoring that display, Fritz Rau toasted: 'In the future we will have two Diamonds.' Jesse seemed to have tears in his eyes unwilling to leave the party with his parents.
Diamond in Hamburg: Celebrated and Cheered
The audience had some 35 minutes to find their seats and become acquained in the bright lights of the hall before Neil strode on stage. And there before his friends in Hamburg, Neil began the first performance of his long-awaited German Tour.
The singer who had arrived from America with his wife Marcia and 22 pieces of equipment, immediately dissipated the unease caused by his slight delay. In blue pants, a night-blue broad belt, a blue shirt, all glittering in the spotlights, Neil sang his songs for a full two hours to a tumultous reception. I myself was fortunate enough to sit beside a devoted fan of Neil's who joined him word for word in each song so that I had the feeling of hearing Neil 'in stereo.'
As he stode to and fro on stage his smoky velvety voice lulled you to a comforting sense of being free and unhampered by whatever may have been irritating or distressful.
This is the fourth Neil Diamond concert I've been at during the years. Neil's hair is shorter and he's slightly heavier. And the stage setting is completely new: Three arc lights, 119 brass reflectors which can create a scintillating prismatic atmosphere. Backgrounds of the California Daybreak, of the New York skyline or of the sky world of Jonathan. Electronic equipment included many amplifiers and speakers so that every nuance of the music could be heard. Neil's band consists of drummers, guitarists, pianist, organist, and a girl backup vocalist.
'Oh yes, oh yes,' Neil repeated continuously so that he could quiet the exhortation and cheering for him to continue his renditions of such favorites as 'Sweet Caroline' and 'Soolaimon'. Beside me, a fan was dancing wildly waving his motorcycle helmet over his head. During the concert, which maintained its intensity and precision, Neil asked some of his listeners to join him on stage. In Paris 40 girls had jumped at the chance but here the fans were shy. Neil then walked down holding his microphone so that some could join in. Werner Buttstaedt (who is in a German TV series) did join Neil in singing 'Song Sung Blue', although on crutches because of a broken leg, their rendition brought cheers. Two thrilling encores finally brought thde concert to an end, Neil moving off stage calling out again and again, 'Thanks you, Hamburg, Thank you...'
The Singer, Not the Song
There was no introduction. No orchestral fanfare. Suddenly Neil Diamond stood in the spotlight, smiling in a glittering peacock blue shirt, black jewelled belt and grey trousers.
As he walked to the front of the Palladium stage a blonde woman reached out and grabbed his hand telling him he was beautiful.
'But I haven't done anything yet' remarked on of the world's highest paid singers.
Before starting a two hour non-stop programme of his own songs he welcomed Princess Margaret, sitting in the Royal Box, to his concert and joked: 'I must apologise about the seats (the Royal Box is very near the theatre's amplicfication system). We have supplied some royal ear stoppers in case the sound is too strong.'
Then this 36-year-old Brooklyn born singer went in to action-and I really mean action. He seems to wring every emotion out of his growling, deep voice. He sounds as good if not better than his records. And here is a performer who really seems to care about his audience being entertained rather than giving an exhibition of self-indugence.
He has supreme confidence and is superbly backed by exquisite arrangements for his numerous hit songs. 'I Am...I Said, I've Been This Way Before, Beautiful Noise, The Last Picasso, Stargazer', and his film score 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull,' were played by his own group on stage made up of three percussionists, four guitarists, a pianist, synthesizer, and a girl singer on tamborine.
His appearance was appropriately framed in a backcloth of a New York skyline at night, which later switched to a mirrored curtain reflecting the entire Palladium audience.
Diamond can make the simplest words seem important. Simple lines like: 'I am the sun, you are the moon you are the words I am the tune-play me.' They often verge on being pretentious. But with his intense dramatic performace they become pure energy and emotion.
I Almost Flung a Flower Myself: Neil Diamond at the London Palladium
When it comes to middle of the road singers, its usually not a question of whether I'll like them, but when they'll put me to sleep. But Neil Diamond is in another class entirely. Though he plays to the same gallery of female flower-flingers, Diamond is tougher and more down to earth than Jack Jones or Glen Campbell.
Backed by a rock band, not 101 strings, Diamond's highly personal songs are exciting rather that swoony. His voice attacks rather than soothes.
His show at the Palladium over the weekend was a celebration of rhythm and emotion for those hopoing to put off middle age indefinitely. No, Neil is not for the young....Neil people are thrusters, who have made some progress in transforming themselves from frogs into kings.
Thats Diamond's self-description. Its true, he does exude inordinte amounts of self-love, but he works so hard to bring everyone into this circle of love I almost flung a flower myself. 'A Beautiful Noise' was Diamond's up-tempo opening, and he never stopped exuding for two hours. Latin beats predominated. In his hands even a downer like 'The Last Picasso' seems uplifting.
A Beautiful Noise, Neil Diamond at Woburn
Superstar Neil Diamond cruised into Woburn Abbey at the weekend in a Rolls-Royce with black windows. By the time he left yesterday evening he had given this stately home, its owners, the Marquis of Tavistock and his Marchioness, and 55,000 fans, an experience they would never forget. How far it all seemed from the open air rock concerts where young people fought among themselves, drugged themselves to stupefacation and left in their wake a trail of destruction. This Diamond Rock...let it roll!
When the big time British rock bands play, the cry from fans is 'O, Yeah, O, Yeah.' But when Coney Island born Neil Diamond conquered ancient Woburn Abbey at the weekend, and had his personal standard run up on the flagpole, his cry was subtly different...
His rought, gritty voice amplified massively by a sound system which took ten days and 60 men to set up, Diamond cried to the worshipful 55,000 'Oh YES'. Their sea of arms waved in the sun, and their roar ruffled the leaves in the landscaped gardens: 'Oh YES'
Oh, yes indeed. This was no ordinary pop concert. The popocracy met the aristocracy.
More than 20,000 cars converged on Woburn Abbey, and the happening there quite outdid that exciting occasion 22 years ago when the Duke of Bedford staged the World Nudist Convention...
Woburn's master, the Marquis of Tavistock, 37, surveyd the scene with his wife Henrietta, the bankers daughter whose name is now synonymous with debutante. They wore matching black suits with 'Diamond' written on them in yellow.
They were delighted. For not only did they earn 20,000 lbs for the evening, the concert attracted a host of stars like Mick Jagger, Jeanne Moreau, David Frost, Tony Greig and rival aristocrats like the Duke of Marlborough and Lord Montagu.
And while the happy sounds filled the night through to wee small hours there can be no sweeter sound than the gnashing of one's teeth. In the words of Diamond's latest recort...'A beautiful noise.'.......
Diamond...pranced across the stage and attacked his guitar with great energy. But between songs, I thought the poor man may have been giving too much of himself. The amplification effectively revealed to people many miles away that this young man was breathing hard...and the occasional 'oh yes' sounded a bit muted....Luckier was the fan who proved Diamond remembers the razzamataz of pop-she was hauled up on stage for a kiss....
The choice of Woburn by promoter Robert Paterson was an inspired one. He had looked at Blenheim, Beaulieu and Knebworth before settling for Woburn's landscaped lawns, which slope into a perfect basin.
The evening was warm and the sun still shining when Diamond hit the stage. He had, the hour before, had a thrill few performers experience. From the Woburn windows he was able to watch his fans stream in.
Before darkness fell, and the vermillion sun set, two hot air balloons wafted by overhead. Totally unconnected with the affair, but totally in order. Then, darkness, came the huge battery of coloured lights-lights which, glancing off the star's sequined blue shirt and crocodile belt, caused Diamond to dance like a firefly before the multitude.
In the warm gloaming, couples canoodled (editors note: what are these two words?)and some smoked curious materials which I took to be the new synthetic tobacco......The beautiful noise wafted out over the peaceful, smiling people; and when it was done they got into their cars and drove home with happy hearts.
Lord Tavistock told me last night:'It was everything I wanted and more. I was talking
to Neil Diamond well into the small hours and he was as pleased as me.'
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