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MEET KEITH SMITH
Photos: Bill Bernstein and David Modell
There was a special tour bonus waiting for Keith Smith after The World Tour ended.
A veteran of many a major rock tour, Keith was well-used to the bonus system - by which the show's stars thank their crew with a generous pay-off - but this was different...
The "bonus" weighed 716. 2oz. and she bounced into his life on September 10th when Keith and Su Smith's first child, Chloe, was born.
Like every new dad, he's not stopped beaming since.
"They say a baby changes everything and she has", says Keith, "You walk around with this lovely warm feeling inside, never wanting to be anywhere too long without her.
"I'm having a flight case built for her toys now, in preparation for the next tour".
For Keith, becoming a father rounded off the most special year of his rock and roll life. Even with his considerable experience on the road, he admits there's not been a world tour to match Mac's one.
"Going out with Paul wasn't like just doing another big tour, there's really no comparison to what Get Back became.
'"With other big acts, you can feel 'Oh I don't really want to see them this time, I'll catch their next tour' or 'Well, I don't reckon it'll be as good as their last gigs'. But this wasn't just a biggie, this was one of the big biggies of the last 10 to 15 years in rock".
As the band's guitar technician and the head of the backline crew, Keith's role on the tour was pivotal. \n charge of setting up all the stage equipment in readiness for Macca's arrival for the show, there were times when the job came close to inducing cardiac arrest.
"The toughest part of a job like this was the freighting, making sure that all the equipment arrives at the venue when it should... I could certainly have done without the New Year's Eve experience; when a few essential cases were in Paris when they meant to be in Birmingham for the opening night of the English shows", says Keith, now Paul's Technical Manager.
It was at times like that when Keith, whilst not entirely losing his rag, earnt his tour nickname "The Anti-Keef" - created for his capacity to be rather voluable when the occasion necessitated.
At every soundcheck it would be Keith who would first take to the stage, tuning and testing Robbie's guitars for the PA - and yet this 'guitar technican' admits he can barely play a note.
"My father bought me my first guitar when I was nine, 26 years ago. But I stiff can't play... I can only ever manage a couple of chords and could never hold a song together from beginning to end.
"That's how I got into this side of the business in the first place. When I was a kid of 10 I was in a band - but only ever playing the same one chord over and over. It took me a year to learn that all I knew was how not to play.
"By the time I was 16, knowing ever better how not to play, I was still obsessed with the idea of being in a band. Yd grown up listening to all these Beatles numbers and I couldn't think of a better life".
So Keith joined his first proper band - Clemen Pull - as van driver, PA mixer and all-round roadie.
"Our first gig was at Kingston Poly, supporting The Groundhogs", he recalls, "We were bloody awful, they never booked us again".
A chance meeting four years later with Simon Townshend - brother of Who guitarist Pete - legged him up towards the big time. Pete had lent Simon a mass of PA equipment and the younger Townshend needed someone to run it for his band.Keith got the job as roadie until The Who reformed and Pete asked for the PA back.
"I just went with the equipment, like a job lot, and ended up working for The Who on five tours between 1978 to '82".
When The Who split up, Keithstuck with bassist John Entwhistle before getting bored, as Entwhistle had had his fill of touring, joining Andy Taylor's Power Station for yet another tour.
"I spent a year with Andy in Los Angeles, organising everything for him - getting him a house, a car, a new lawyer - but I came home burnt out".
But you can't keep a good man down and soon Phil Taylor of Pink Floyd was on the 'phone asking Keith back out on the road.
"After a year out with The Floyd, I got back to hear that Dave Gilmour had been speaking to John Hammel - Paul's right-hand man -and he put my name up for Macca's world tour.
"I've just been lucky; the old thing....right place, right time".
Keith joined Paul's team in February of '88, excited to work at last with the inspiration of his rock dreams as a nine-year-old.
"I remember watching Paul and the band performing Sergeant Pepper for the first time at rehearsal and thinking 'this tour is going to be brilliant'. For a guy like me, who'd grown up such a huge Beatles fan, it was wonderful to see those songs being done on stage - let alone the ones like Pepper and Hey Jude that'd never been performed before.
"And my first impressions were right; it was the most exciting and enjoyable tour I’d ever been part of - with magic moments from watching the pipers in full uniform going up the ramp to the stage in Glasgow to Rio and that huge crowd filling and filling and filling the Maracana.
"It was great to just be there. I was well chuffed".