BLACKIE LAWLESS addresses his health during the recent W.A.S.P. tour in Europe.
I feel the time has come to address what has become an ongoing situation here in Europe for the “40th Anniversary World Tour”. It has become obvious to many of you that either watching the shows live or on YouTube that there is something physically wrong with me. There is. I’ve done my best to hide it, but there are times during many of the shows the pain is overwhelming, and it then becomes impossible to disguise. I come from a sports background that while growing up we lived with mantra’s like, “no pain, no gain”, or “don’t explain and don’t complain”. Right or wrong the last one here is what I try to live by. As boys we’re told if you get hurt to “spit on it, and rub some dirt on it”, and just keep going. Most of the time we can. But, there are times, regardless of our desires, we simply cannot. I’m in the middle of one of those right now and I’m going to be as transparent as I can be to let you inside, and to let you know why you are seeing me at less than 100% in these shows. In addition to the physical pain there is also the personal pain and aggravation of knowing I’m giving you the fans less than 100% of all I’m capable of giving. For a performer like me this is extremely hard to do and also to admit to myself.
For about the last 3 weeks I’ve been doing these European shows with a herniated disc in my lower back. For those out there thinking this is somehow age related, I assure it is not. It’s been an ongoing situation stemming from when I broke my leg 10 years ago. I won’t go into detail but I had a Doctor here in Europe do what should have been a simple procedure on me and he screwed me up really, really badly. Besides you all see me crawling up and down on Elvis all night and that something few people can do at any age. An MRI done at a hospital in Berlin 2 weeks ago confirmed this disc problem. Not being a doctor I’ll try to explain the best I can. When a disc becomes herniated it pushes out a jelly like substance against its outer ring. Then the wear and tear against that outer ring develops severe nerve pain as it begins to put pressure on the Spinal Cord. This creates mechanical compression of the nerves and releases chemical irritants that then lead to severe nerve inflammation. The MRI clearly has shown that the little holes that the nerve roots that attach to my Spinal Cord are extremely inflamed. Effectively the root nerves at the Spinal Cord are being choked and that leads to even greater inflammation that then moves from the Spinal Cord and can eventually go all the way down the leg and reach into the foot, causing numbness, weakness, and honestly… pain you cannot imagine. These doctors have all told me that nerve pain is the most severe of all pain. I am now a believer.
Rest is one of the most common prescription’s for injuries like this. But, this tour has suffered postponement after postponement. Never again will I have a “40th Anniversary Tour”. I told the Doctors, the Band and the Crew, if I can stand, then I’m going out there! Additionally I knew the fans, would never be able to understand why I just walked away in the middle of a tour like this. So now the time has come to tell you what these Doctors, my Band and my Crew have done to get me ready EVERY NIGHT to finish this tour. There have been several nights on this tour after the shows I could not walk again until the next day.
After the MRI was completed it was determined I would need a series of Spinal Injections called “Epidurals”. These are complicated injections that require the patient be in either a hospital or surgical center to receive them. The reason for that is if any of the injections go directly next to the Spinal Cord the patient can be paralyzed. It’s an extremely tricky procedure. I promise you every time you’re lying on that table you look around the room and see all that surgical equipment those thoughts run through your head. There’s no way to avoid it. I received 2 Epidurals on the first day and then traveled to Tampere Finland to do the next show. I felt better than I’d felt in weeks and did the whole show, running around and climbing on Elvis and basically everything I do during the show… and it felt WONDERFUL!
But, about an hour after the show I could not walk. So the next day we speak to the Doctors in Berlin and apparently I had undone most of the progress the first 2 Epidurals had done. I was told to take it easy during the show and I thought I did… but apparently not enough. I was then given an oral steroid that was strong enough to get me through the show in Helsinki. But 5AM the next morning I was back on a plane to Berlin, got 3 Epidurals at 11AM and was back on a plane headed for Sweden at 3 PM.
These Epidurals are painful in themselves because when the medicine is injected it puts pressure in and around the Spinal Cord. When we were there on Saturday the pain was horrific and the nurse looked at the table I was on and it was covered in my sweat. The injections take about 20 minutes and it hurts badly the entire time. This nurse there saw my whole body was shaking and while the Doctor was doing the injections she reached over and started gently rubbing and caressing my left calf. I could not see her face but she could see the pain I was in and little she could do for me to stop it. I’m a big man, but I swear that I wanted to cry because here was a woman who had sworn an oath to help people anyway she can. It hurt so damn bad but just her touch was telling me she knew what was happening to me and that she was there for me. It was like an eternity of absolute hell and tenderness all at the same time. I will never forget her and that moment for the rest of my life.
For the Band and Crew, you all don’t see what great lengths these guys have gone through to get me and this show ready every single night. I see them all giving 110% trying to pick up the slack and there are times during the show I’ll look around at all of them and I’ll lower my head knowing what they are going through and pushing themselves to “make it happen”!
We are absolutely committed to finishing this European Tour. I’m scheduled for 3 more Epidurals in Berlin in 2 weeks.
But there have also been logistical nightmares along the way that are direct results of the pandemic that still plague us and every other Band trying to tour in Europe. Those will be addressed in the coming days.
So now if I haven’t seemed to be quite myself on stage hopefully you’ll better understand. I’ve been given every assurance by our Doctors here in Europe and in L. A. that I will be fine for the upcoming U.S. Tour. I’m a warrior and I pride myself as such.