You might assume that the touring world of vocal mainstays Manhattan Transfer was a sophisticated and demure place, in keeping with the elegance of their discography and live performances over a 50-year-plus career. The latest episode of uDiscover Music’s continuing series Beyond The Bus series proves that has not always been the case.
In the new clip, the group’s Janis Siegel, who has been in the line-up since 1972, tells the story of what happened one night on the road with her bandmates and crew, and how their saxophone player Don Roberts fell victim to an ambitious prank.
The scene was Zurich, where Manhattan Transfer and their touring crew were for a show, and where, in recognition of their prestigious presence in the Swiss city, their record company threw a big party for them at the hotel. “We like to have fun on the road,” says Siegel, setting up the scenario. She is seen in the clip, along with the animated story, with the group’s Alan Paul.
“There was a whole banquet table,” she says of the party, “and the centerpiece of the banquet table was roast pig, a complete roast pig. You know, the head with an apple in its mouth.” “Horrible,” adds Paul, not unreasonably. Siegel goes on to explain that she and their road manager of the time, Marsha Winnick, thought it would be fun to play a practical joke on Roberts. “We thought, ‘We’re going to get him, we’re going to get him tonight.’”
Winnick, who had already befriended the front desk staff, got them to call his room and tell him he was wanted on the telephone. When he came downstairs to take it, and was told it was a mistake, his “colleagues” got hold of his room key.
“I took the pig’s head and put it in a bag, went up to his room, and put it inside his toilet looking up, because we knew that he would get completely drunk, and he’d have to piss in the middle of the night. Apparently, there was a scream in the middle of the night when Don went to the toilet and opened up the top of the toilet, and started to have a piss, and he saw the pig’s head looking up at him.
“The next day he said, ‘I’m going to get you girls,’ and he carried that pig head around with him and yeah, he was already plotting, ‘I’m going to put bugs in their bunks,’ or whatever…he never did get us back, and he never really did know who did it. But I guess it’s 50 years now, I’ll spill the beans, what the hell?” Siegel concludes: “I regret nothing.”
Buy or stream Manhattan Transfer’s current album Fifty.