This is Part Two of a (majorly delayed) series I’ve entitled Rock Fiction Primer. I’ve read some head-clutchingly inaccurate descriptions of some of the basics of the world of rock ‘n roll in recent fiction, so I thought I’d give you a peek at what some of it’s really like. I’ll be covering the tour bus, custom jets, backstage, the itinerary, and the crew. If there are any subjects about rock bands (on tour or not) you’d like to know more about, just shout out in the comments.
When Heart of Gold is released this coming Tuesday, you’ll catch some action that occurs in the aircraft Illicit hired to ferry them around on their Romancing My Stones tour. While the majority of rock bands don’t spring for the big V.I.P. jet like Illicit, some of the biggest ones will. (And Illicit is, in my books, the hottest rock band on the planet, and the most successful, so yes, they’re gonna go for the big plane.) There are a lot of options for charter jets used by bands, so let’s take a peek at some of them. We’ll begin with the one used by Illicit. (By the way, click on a pic to get a better look.)
I put Illicit in a Boeing 737-200 V.I.P. jet for two main reasons: it could seat the band, their manager, and all their security detail as well as the two flight attendants and any guests the band might want to take along, like reporters, etc., and because of its headroom. Rhys James is the tallest member of Illicit at 6’4″ and I didn’t think it would be fair for him to foot part of the cost of a charter jet in which he’d have to walk hunched over. Plus, I liked that this aircraft can land on any type of runway, paved or not. Hey, my boys may be fictional, but I want them to be safe if their plane has to make an emergency landing at Bob’s Airfield or something.
The charter of the luxury jet—with its luxury price tag—had its perks, one of them being adequate headroom. Even though he had two inches on Drew, he was able to stand upright, though he had to duck his head to avoid the Exit sign on the cabin’s ceiling. He halted just inside the plane’s rear section where Parker McKay was already stretched out on one of the two curved sofas that faced each other across the aisle.—Heart of Gold by Juli Page Morgan, ©2017 by Juli Page Morgan, All Rights Reserved, Carey On Publishing LLC
The photo above is what I used for the layout of Illicit’s plane. Those who charter these V.I.P. aircraft can have them configured any way they like. The back lounge area can be converted to a bedroom, etc. at the client’s request.
A jet this size is not the norm for most bands. This would be used by, say, The Rolling Stones. But this type of aircraft is the one most people think about when they think touring rock band, mainly thanks to Led Zeppelin and The Starship in 1973 and 1975, and Caesar’s Chariot during their tour in 1977. Both of these aircraft were owned by entertainment companies, and were purposely designed over the top, especially The Starship. From LedZeppelin.org:
Inside, the main cabin contained seats and tables, revolving arm chairs, a 30-foot long couch running along the right hand side of the plane opposite the bar, a television set and video cassette player; an electronic organ was built into the bar. At the rear of the plane were two back rooms, one a den with a low couch and pillows on the floor, the other a bedroom, complete with a white fur bedspread and shower room.
One of the back rooms even sported a fake fireplace which was a big deal in those days!
Caesar’s Chariot was just as opulent, and just as accommodating to debauchery as The Starship.
Even the Boeing 737-200 I gave to Illicit is now pretty much outdated. The very best charters for V.I.P. flight is the Boeing 737 MAX. With 7′ of headroom, even Rhys could jump up and down in the aisle. And brother, are those jets pricey to charter! I think even Illicit would have to sit down and think that one over before signing on the dotted line.
Again, though, this type of jet is rarely used by bands unless they’re the mega-super-bands like The Stones or my Illicit. Most bands simply don’t have that kind of money to burn, and don’t particularly need that much room. So they go for a smaller option.
The Super Midsize Jet
If you’ve ever seen the television show Criminal Minds, you’ve seen a Super Midsize. It’s the aircraft the show’s BAU uses when they go “wheels up.” These jets can seat up to 12 people, and can fly up to 3,600 miles, depending how how laden they are. You’ve probably heard of them by manufacturer name: Challenger, Citation, Gulfstream, and Falcon (and just an F.Y.I., a Falcon was what Led Zeppelin used before they chartered The Starship. The Falcon, being a smaller jet, was prone to a lot more turbulence than the jumbo airliners, and certain members of LZ were just as uncomfortable flying as Illicit in my books.)
Though these Super Midsize jets are smaller and more prone to turbulence, they’re every bit as luxurious as the big V.I.P. airliners. They’re also a lot cheaper to charter. There is also a Midsize jet option that seats up to 10 people. And while the Midsize does have a roomy cabin, it’s quite a bit smaller and more narrow than the Super Midsize.
As a side note, The Convair CV-240 in which members of Lynyrd Skynyrd died in 1977 would now be considered a Super Midsize, even though it sat more people and at that time was even being considered for commercial use.
Super Light Jets
This is the smallest aircraft you’d find a rock band using. It’s kind of the modern-day equivalent of the jet Stillwater used in the movie Almost Famous. It seats up to 6 people comfortably, though you can crowd 8 or 9 people in if you have to.
While still comfortable and opulent by airline standards, Rhys would have to walk bent over to avoid bumping his head in these Learjets, Citations, and Gulfstreams. Plus, they can only fly about 1,100 miles without refueling.
If a band isn’t using the tour bus and they don’t want to charter even a Super Light jet, they’ll fly commercial. Lots of times they’ll book the entire first class section of a jet, and the curtain between it and business class will remain firmly closed and in place. This is a big inconvenience for bands, though, and it will only occur if their schedule is screwed up enough to have them playing venues at a large distance from each other on consecutive nights. When this happens they’ll fly commercial to that second city while their tour buses and equipment trucks drive overnight and all the next day to get there. Then the band will resume the tour in their bus (or buses) and probably fire the incompetent fool who booked the shows so far apart.
So that’s how the modern-day rock band flies the friendly skies, if they fly at all. Gone are the days of jumbo jets packed with groupies and the rock press and all manner of hangers-on. Those days died about the time Led Zeppelin turned in Caesar’s Chariot at the tragic early end of their 1977 tour.
The next time I add to this series we’ll go backstage with a rock band. Next to the inaccuracies about tour buses in rock romance fiction, the descriptions of the backstage areas are the most rife with errors. So I’ll take you back and show you what it’s really like.
Oh, and be sure to read the first part of this series, Rock Fiction Primer: The Tour Bus, and find out why no freaking rock band is going to have a bathtub, sunken or otherwise, on a bus. I mean, a little fantasy is fine, but a reality check is always a good thing. Like Tom Clancy said, “The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.”
Don’t forget, Heart of Gold hits the digital and literal shelves next week, on October 24! It wraps up Rhys and Rhett’s story that began in Sister Golden Hair. You can pre-order Heart of Gold now, and pick up Sister Golden Hair for your e-reader for just 99¢.
Again, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter, because there’s always good, fun, happy things in it just for you. And if you’d like to be notified when a new blog post goes up, you can be notified by email by just signing up for that, too. The link to sign up is over to your right on the sidebar. I’d love to have all of y’all along for the ride, because it’s a fun one