Alex’s Surprise Birthday

GIG: Alex’s Surprise Birthday Bash
DATE: January 31st 2009
VENUE: Newburgh Golf Club & Premier Inn, West North Street, Aberdeen
COST: Airfare to Aberdeen, one night in the hotel
RATING: Electric

Photo provided courtesy of Viv Drewett

It was an early start to a cold Saturday morning, and at 8.30 am at London’s Heathrow, we were stepping onto a tiny BMI plane flight to the North East Coast of Scotland. Brian’s guitar was safely in the hold and with our 2 good friends, Viv & Laurie, we were on our way.

Arriving at the Premier Inn hotel at 11 o’clock meant we had the whole afternoon to wander around Aberdeen before meeting up with everyone else in the hotel bar. We entered the hotel bar at around 6.30pm and found the party-goers were already assembling. Time for a quick drink and then we piled into the coach Alex’s wife, Sheena had organised to bus everyone to the Golf Club, which is about 15 miles outside Aberdeen, along the coast, in Newburgh.

The band set up, Brian on guitar, Laurence on acoustic guitar, Bobby on bass guitar, Paul on keyboards, Sean McCreavy on vocals, Alan and Dan on backing vocals. Then we heard Alex had arrived and was parking the car…. Positions everyone! Cameras at the ready, to capture the moment Alex walks through the door. He thinks he is coming to the golf club for a family meal to celebrate his birthday. He has no idea the people waiting for him in the room have travelled from Hemel Hempstead, Uxbridge, Liverpool, Essex, Fife, Edinburgh, Galashiels, Worcestershire, Twickenham in order to be part of his 65th birthday celebrations.

Finally the door opens and Alex walks in and stops dead in his tracks as we all yell “surprise”, and camera flashes go off left right and centre, capturing the pure delight on his face. “Bastards” he says, as the band strike up with the intro to “California Girls”. With no hesitation, Alex peels his jacket off and heads straight for the microphone, in time to start “Well East Coast Girls are hip….”. At least the defibrillator wasn’t needed!

The band played for 2 sets (with a buffet break in between), covering songs such as “God Only Knows”, Surfin’ Safari, “Surf City”, “Forever” (with Brian on harmonica), “Fun Fun Fun”, “Do It Again” and “Surfin’ USA” with the ease and familiarity of having played these songs on many previous occasions at similar get togethers. A couple of non-Beach Boys numbers were thrown in, ”Runaway” (with Kazoo interlude) and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”.

Ambient lighting (ie low side lights and candles) meant that anyone filming the band on their mobile phones / camcorders didn’t have enough light to get any visible film, rectified only by turning on the main lights.

A nice moment was when Bob Lizik phoned to wish Alex a happy birthday.

The gear was packed up by 10 o’clock and we boarded the coach for the return trip to the hotel where the party was going to continue. A scene from a Carry On film sprang to mind, as Bobby headed off with his bass towards the car park… only to walk back a few minutes later with a puzzled look on his face. He headed off in another direction and returned for a second time with an even more puzzled look. Turns out he had “lost” his car!!! Panic over when it was “found” in the overflow car park, and we all headed off back to Aberdeen.

The hotel bar came alive to an “acoustic” set, with the music not restricted to Beach Boys, but included, “Please Please Me”, “Ask Me Why” and also “Pretty Flamingo”. The bar closed at mid-night but it was another hour after that before the party started to disperse.

The next day was cold and windy and there was a promise of snow. After a brisk walk to the beach, we returned to the hotel with Viv & Laurie to relax before we needed to head to the airport for the flight home. A group of our party chums were just leaving in a taxi, and an ambulance and 4 police cars were parked in the front of the hotel….. police uniforms throughout the hotel reception, talking to members of staff. We settled in the hotel bar, with cups of tea and coffee, and eavesdropped on the conversations between the police and the staff. Didn’t pick up too much – the gist being a body had been found in a room by housekeeping that morning (had there been a murhdher?). A daily trawl of the Aberdeen local news on the internet has revealed no further information.

It may have been a 1200 mile round trip for some of us, but it was well worth it to celebrate a special birthday of someone who means a lot to so many people.