News & Insights 9 May 2007

The threat of a full-body cavity search

Wednesday 9 May, 11.30am (Terminal 4, Heathrow Airport, London):
America. The big one. The CONFEDERACY. The motherload. Many Brits have sought to conquer its vast shores; many have tragically fallen and returned home abashed and empty-handed. But those who have successfully tapped into its rich mine of resources have gone down in the annals of rock history as legends amongst men. Will the USA welcome back The Lightyears with open arms, or will we be chewed up and spat out like so many before us, left squirming, bruised and helpless in the boggy mire of rejection?

Difficult to say at this stage, but provided I am given the opportunity to eat myself to death on Taco Bell whilst we’re out there, I shall consider the trip a success. 

Here we are then. 3 wide-eyed Lightyears, our loyal soundman Danny and our intrepid tour manager Jenny, gathered excitedly at Terminal 4, awaiting the allocation of our boarding passes. Those of you who have read my previous blogs will remember that I take a Liz Claiborne designer lady’s handbag on international tours, as it happens to be exactly the right size to transport my precious sound module in. The ribbing I receive for this has, over time, mercifully abated, my fellow band members having concluded that the sheer ignominy of carrying around a bag your granny would be ashamed to own is punishment enough for the crime. Now, as the steward hands out our tickets, she asks “So it’s 3 males and 2 females, right?”, a error you might think could be attributed to the handbag. But no. It seems that she has mistaken Danny – who has rather long, rather lovely, hair – for a girl. This is brilliant. I mean, this is really brilliant. I’m carrying a woman’s handbag and Danny’s the one who gets mistaken for a lady. It may be hard for you to understand quite how delighted this makes us. One day Danny will seek revenge for the constant teasing we wreak upon him… oh, wait. Yes, he’s wreaking that revenge now. He’s pounding me on the arm. Yep. Fair enough really. It’s his way of expressing love.

We get split up on the plane. This is a terrible shame, although at least Danny can’t give me a dead arm from the other end of the cabin. For a while I make a genuine effort to wade through British Airways’ unparalleled collection of mediocre rom-coms without spitting blood but it’s not going to happen. Instead a combination of the new Tom McCrae album and an inexhaustible supply of tiny bottle of wines sees my safe passage through to the USA. 

The Lightyears have landed.

Thursday 10 May, 1.30am (Customs, Newark Airport, USA):
Oh, jeez, of course – we have to battle through the infamous front-line of US customs before we can truly consider ourselves “landed”. Last time I narrowly escaped a sound battering from a lady with a big stick, so I’m not holding my breath.

Actually, we all get through fine. Well, except for Danny, that is. Which is kind of my fault. Due to having more bags to carry than him, I gave Danny my sound module flight-case to take through customs. Most of you won’t know what one of those looks like but, suffice it to say, it looks like a bomb. I mean, no holds barred, it does look like a bomb. Which is why the following conversation – that took place between Danny and a particularly hard-line customs official – could well have heralded the end of the tour before it had even begun:

US OFFICIAL: “Hey there young man. What’s that you’ve got there?”
US OFFICIAL: “That case. What is it?”
DANNY LIGHTYEAR: “Not really.”
US OFFICIAL: (eyeing the case) “Well, what’s inside it?”
DANNY LIGHTYEAR: “I don’t know.”
DANNY: “No.”
US OFFICIAL: “How can you not know what’s inside it?”
DANNY LIGHTYEAR: “Well, it’s not mine. Somebody just gave it to me to carry through customs.”

And so on. 

Danny is still alive. Just. The threat of a full-body cavity search was, thankfully, never fully realised.

We’re here! New York, USA. I need a sandwich.

Next stop – Riverton, New Jersey…

Chris Lightyear

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