In 1978 Gilbert set out on a 20 date tour of Ireland and the U.K.  Backing him was a four piece band called Wilder.  At the time Wilder had been together for a year playing clubs and colleges and supporting various major groups.  The band consisted of Bill Cuthbert on guitars and percussion, Richard Houghton on bass guitar, Neil Carter on guitar, keyboards and woodwind and finally Stuart Heeley on drums.  Two backing singers were also recruited. Two sisters in fact, , Doreen and Irene Chanter.  So that was the line up.  The tour started in Belfast and ended in Slough.  Along the way they also recorded a BBC television special called Sight & Sound which was recorded on the 28th January and broadcast on 11 Feb 1978 and featured 9 songs.

09 Feb 1978

10 Feb 1978

11 Feb 1978

14 Feb 1978

16 Feb 1978

17 Feb 1978

18 Feb 1978

19 Feb 1978

20 Feb 1978

21 Feb 1978

23 Feb 1978

24 Feb 1978

26 Feb 1978

27 Feb 1978

28 Feb 1978

01 March 1978

02 March 1978

03 March 1978

04 March 1978

05 March 1978

- Ulster Hall, Belfast

- Dublin Stadium, Dublin

- Savoy Cinema, Limerick

- Wyvern Centre, Swindon (Charity Show)

- City Hall, Newcastle

- Guildhall, Preston

- Davenport Theatre, Stockport

- Empire, Liverpool

- City Hall, Sheffield

- St. Georges Hall, Bradford

- A.B.C., Peterborough

- Town Hall, Birmingham

- Theatre Royal, Nottingham

- Gaumont, Ipswich

- De Montford Hall, Leicester

- Guildhall, Portsmouth

- Colston Hall, Bristol

- Winter Gardens, Bournmouth

- Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

- Thames Hall, Slough

In the BBC TV programme Nationwide from Feb 1978, Gilbert spoke about the up-coming tour

Tours frighten me; I get very frightened of tours.  I must say I don't really like it whenever a tour is in prospect.  Probably if I had the choice, I'd stay at home and write songs and make records.  The tour won't be a failure; we wouldn't do it if it was.  There is a team of 35 people on this tour. That's just crew alone, sound crew, lighting.  You wouldn't believe it.  I mean I didn't when I saw them.  I saw all these people at rehearsals and said who are they?  Can we not get rid of them?  Get rid of them?  They are with us for the tour....all with their GOS anoraks on them!

Gilbert went on to talk about his back up band for the tour: Wilder.

They're not a new band, they are a semi professional band.  With session musicians you get that perfect.  They play very well.  You need to rehearse maybe a day before the tour and they read the music and get it off perfectly.  But with a band who are not professionals, who don't read, you are taking a risk in using them because maybe they lack the experience.  But what you're gaining is that kind of enthusiasm, you get the odd wrong notes and things but I think it adds to it, and it gives it a kind of freshness.

As webmaster of the website I was fortunate recently to make contact with drummer Stuart 'Nip' Heeley and I took the opportunity to ask him about his memories of the '78 tour.

Stuart 'Nip' Heeley

How did you get the tour?

Wanting to avoid what he saw as the soulless professionalism of session musicians and desiring a proper band, Gilbert organized an ad. in the Melody Maker, then THE forum for Musicians Wanted.  I think it was Bill Cuthbert who answered it.  No I'm sure it was Bill in fact.  We auditioned in front of Gilbert in a rehearsal room just north of King's Cross in London and he came to see us play live at Dorking Halls in Surrey.

Did you play any of your own stuff or did you just back Gilbert?

We just backed Gilbert.

What was it like working with Gilbert?

Great.  I was 26 and thought myself to be quite an experienced musician, having played lots of  gigs and worked long hours in dodgy clubs in Germany, though looking back I was young and fairly inexperienced.  Next thing I found myself [ without the band ] playing Fats Domino tunes alone with Gilbert and his upright piano in his house in St. George's Hill,  Weybridge.  Having started as a drummer Gilbert was particularly keen that the drums should be right.  In fact the only thing aside from his vocal and his keyboards he had in his stage monitors were the drums.  We then rehearsed as an ensemble [not yet joined by Doreen and Irene] in what had been the recording studio at  Gordon Mills' very cold house, near to Gilbert's in St George's Hill.  I remember the bizarre sight of a tiger in a big cage in the snow covered garden.  Gilbert didn't know if there was anywhere to eat or not in Weybridge, but we found an Italian place.

What were the two female backing singer's names?

Two sisters, Doreen and Irene Chanter [their real surname!].  Very accomplished session singers who'd worked with a number of music biz heavyweights whose names I can't remember now but I know for a fact that Doreen worked with Roxy Music and sang on Roger Waters' "Amused to Death".  And very well too.  They were familiar with the etiquette of touring, which I  wasn't.

Doreen and Irene Chanter

You did the "Sight & Sound" BBC TV programme, but where was that shot?

In a BBC venue in Golders Green, north London, next to the bus and Underground station.  It had been an old Music Hall called the Golders Green Hippodrome and they'd taken out the seats in the stalls to accomodate cameras and production crew but had left the seats in the balcony for a live audience.

Did they film a complete show or just what was shown?

We rehearsed those specific songs for the show and it was done in one take and broadcast in it's entirety.  We'd had one production run- through in the afternoon, then had to hang around for hours until the actual recording, which I think was around 8 or 9 o' clock.  Chris be Burgh was the, as then unknown, support act.

Did you do any other TV?

An item was shot in production rehearsals at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park for a slot in the BBC evening news and features programme called "Nationwide".  We also had production rehearsals at Pinewood Film studios and at a theatre in Harlesden, north London.

What happened to Wilder after the tour.

Neil Carter left to join a band formed by ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson before working with Gary Moore.  He's now a music teacher in Brighton.  Having been the focal point of the band Neil's departure precipitated a decline and things, as they can, fell apart.  Richard has his own decorating business and Bill started his own showband and entertainment agency.  I moved to France for an original music project [always my main interest] with my own band called the Actors.  We were managed by the Beatles' Alistair Taylor and signed to Tony Visconti's production company.  After that I worked with Dave Berry [Crying game etc] for a number of years as a member of the "Cruisers".  Then some friends and I formed another original band called "Lisahall", named after our singer, and we got signed to Warner Brothers Records and Chrysalis Publishing in America.  The title track of our record  "Is this real?" was featured in the Nicole Kidman / Sandra Bullock film "Practical Magic".  We are still writing and recording together.  Meanwhile I toured with the folk/rock "Albion Band" and recorded with their founder member and ex-Fairport Convention bass player Ashley Hutchings.  Along with a friend, Paul Hopkinson, who runs the Foundry Studio I'm busy with various sessions and production projects.

Any memories of the tour.

Being part of Gilbert's band was a privilege: I still think "Nothing Rhymed" and "Alone Again (Naturally)" are beautiful songs, in fact "Nothing Rhymed" was my favourite song of them all to play - I loved the togetherness of the drums and that rhythmic piano part.  I remember the tour with great fondness and I enjoyed working with everyone connected with it.

  • Being onstage at Sheffield City Hall where I'd seen the bands that had influenced me the most; I saw Hendrix there.

  • Gilbert's personal manager, Gerry Maxin, unknown to anyone, hiring an actress to confront one of the road crew during a soundcheck to pretend that a one-night stand he'd had with her daughter had resulted in pregnancy.  The deception lasted some time.

  • Driving past the Guinness brewery on the way to the Dublin Stadium gig.

  • Flying into Belfast and realizing it was by the sea - in my naivete I hadn't known.

  • The audience reception at the Liverpool Empire gig, the best of the tour.

  • My parents, now passed away, proud to be introduced to Gilbert backstage, who remarked on my resemblance to my mother.

  • Peeking into the newly built James Bond soundstage at Pinewood Studios during a break from rehearsals.

  • I learnt you can still play a gig successfully after staying up very late drinking cognac with the road crew the night before - even if you feel like death - which leads me on to......

  • A retrospective apology to Bill Cuthbert, who I shared a room with, about staying up late [he didn't], smoking [he didn't and I've subsequently stopped], etc. etc.

  • It's been no problem revisiting the memories of 1978 Brian, it can be quite cathartic. Nothing like a look at the past occasionally to give you a perspective on the present eh?