Friday, July 25, 2014

An Espresso Jolt Near Holt

Not that I want to start on a negative note but I'm immediately wondering if this is going to be yet another post that never gets posted. I've got quite a collection now, enough to fashion into some sort of redundant post medley. The last one was about Humble Pie – I was listening to their second album, Town & Country – my daughter gave me a copy for my birthday back in May. I was having a great time, lolling about on the sofa, hi-fi high and the lights down low and all that, recalling the time I saw Humble Pie in 1969 on their first ever tour – I seemed to be writing forever but it all feels a bit irrelevent and inconclusive now because so much has happened since and I haven't even written about suddenly being sixty years old yet. So I never posted it. I drove three and half thousand miles instead.

Weird - I was in Memphis the other day.

Now I'm in a place called The Art Cafe in a tiny village called Glandford on the North Norfolk coast. The Art Cafe sells tie dye scarves and landscape paintings, trinkets and hand-crafted teapots, stuff like that; and weirdly enough the best espresso I've ever had anywhere in Norfolk. I'm staying in North Norfolk for the duration of the Holt Festival so I'm in The Art Cafe every morning. Norfolk appears to have been completely taken over by well-heeled couples in late middle-age. The combination of these people, in their shorts, with their alarmingly gnarled legs, and a couple of excellent espressos has me quite confused.

I have to leave here now and go to the BBC in Norwich for a live interview on the afternoon show to plug my appearance tomorrow night at the Holt Festival. After that I have to go on Mustard TV, a prospect I find more than just vaguely terrifying.
I wish I could find the thing I wrote about Humble Pie, but I can't. A shame really because I think it was more interesting than this snippet of nothing, but at least this might get posted...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Twats on flights, solid-state amplifiers, nouveau middle-age, and a hotel

I hate this. The airport. Dumb fuck star-for-a day guest-listed fuck-wits, pink stetsons, earbuds, wires trailing from the head, dull-eyes staring at handheld devices, pudgy fingers prodding screens, oversized luggage (it's a hammock...) What the fuck would you bring a hammock on a flight for?

It's a guitar... that's right it's a guitar, it's my job and no, I can't check it because your beefy baggage handlers will drop an overlarge suitcase full of bricks on top of it, break it and render it unplayable thereby negating the very reason for my undertaking this hellish trip.

I wish I could make a guitar that folds down into convenience-sized piece of hand luggage. Right now I wish I played the flute. Actually no, I don't – I know a guy who plays the flute and he can't get a girlfriend.

Why do all these people feel the need to travel? I'm sure they'd be happier if they stayed at home. I was thinking that myself at one o'clock this morning, as I unbolted a guitar neck so as to fit it into a suitcase with my ragged scraps of clothing which I'm really only taking with me to pad the effect pedals, microphones and dismantled Telecaster that make up the bulk of my luggage. Sod this, I'd be happier staying at home.

There has to be a way to simplify this.

I bought an amplifier the other day, a pariah among amplifiers: a Vox Cambridge 30 watt combo with two ten inch speakers. A transistor amplifier, very light, no tubes, no big transformers. I think it sounds really good, hard and defined. Solid state guitar amplifiers have always been frowned upon but Wilko Johnson used one for years - an HH IC100 – I had one myself at one time but I had to stop using it when the circuit boards cracked after it fell down a flight of stairs, a fall which apparently rendered it deadly as well as defunct. I don't know whatever happened to that amp.

Joe Strummer used a Roland Chorus JC120, an extremely unfashionable amplifier with not a valve or tube in sight, but he got a great sound out of it, and so does Amy with her seventy watt version of the same amp. Lightweight, compact, loud and hard-hitting, I'm all for it.

I just have to develop the folding guitar that I can put in the back of the amplifier alongside the fuzz boxes. Modular, compact, easy travel...

It's time to board the plane.


That was like a bad dream. Seven hours in a narrow seat surrounded by demanding passengers. The ever-so-slightly camp steward told the woman next to me: 
'I'll attend to you when I've finish serving tea and coffee, I've only got one pair, if you know what I mean.' 

I knew what he meant.

I like British Airways, as much as it's possible to like an airline. I prefer them to Virgin. British Airways stewardesses always find room for my guitar in the first class wardrobe where it gets to fly with the coats and hats of the rich and famous, and once even a wedding dress. I sometimes wish I was my guitar - much loved, strummed and cossetted, admired by girls, boys, men and women alike... Travelling in a luxury wardrobe while I suffer the indignities of an economy class seat – a New York City bus offers a higher standard of comfort.than the economy class cabin on a transatlantic flight.

I'm in the hotel.

It's one of those modern post-sofa-pub hotel pubs, an aspiring gastro-pub where the white painted saloon bar doubles as the breakfast room. Hand-painted lettering above the fireplace reads: life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's learning to dance in the rain.

A modern day take on middle-age. I look back wistfully to the days when men had comb-overs and women wore stretchy beige slacks. I think I was looking forward to wearing the outfits. But today you've got to let your freak flag fly, get in touch with the real you... middle-aged women of today dye their hair bright purple while the menfolk hang a dream catcher off one ear and fashion any remaining head hair into a ponytail, or worse – a pigtail. And everybody dances like nobody's looking.

Please, don't. I don't want to see that. And yes, I know, that's a sweeping generalisation. But not in Shoreham-by-Sea it isn't.

When I arrived they couldn't find my reservation. The punky older lady manning the desk told me I couldn't have booked on line that afternoon because they were already fully booked. Then they found my reservation just as I was about to show it to them on my laptop. The girl in charge took me to my room which hadn't been made up because the cleaner had left at one o'clock because they weren't expecting anyone to be staying in the room that night (fully booked?). They bought me back downstairs and offered me a drink of my choice on the house while they sorted things out.

I was upgraded at no extra charge to An Even Nicer Room. I didn't even have to tell them I was on my honeymoon, which is a good trick if you're traveling alone. If it's a restaurant of course it helps if you can let it slip that your dying of a very rare contagious disease, but the honeymoon works in hotels, they'll shut the fuck up and leave you alone.

In fact was quite touched by their repeated apologies for the inconvenience - I really didn't mind - it was nothing compared with the inconvenience of spending the night on a Jumbo 747 or whatever it was. And I was amused by being referred to constantly as This Gentleman, and happy to sit back and enjoy my complimentary glass of orange juice.

The manager even carried my suitcase up the stairs which was good because I don't think I could have done it. Surprisingly there were no chocolates on the pillows. I spent the rest of the afternoon moving the largest number of scatter cushions off the sumptuous queen sized bed – it was labour intensive and I was running out of places to put them. And I still didn't find the chocolates.

I pulled back the king sized poly-cotton duvet and found the sumptuous queen-sized bed was really two mattresses zipped together. So I was glad it wasn't actually my honeymoon. If I'd have told them it was my honeymoon I would have had to have gone downstairs and complained, and I really couldn't be bothered, I just wanted to lie down on my side of the queen-sized single mattress collective and sleep off the jet lag.

And just in case anyone doesn't know why I'm doing all this here's a link to my dates where you'll find links to buy tickets and make some sense of this idiocy: dates

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Getting Ready

I feel I should make a list. A list of what I need to take with me, a list of things I need to do before I set off, a list of things I should be putting on the various lists, a list of lists....

This time feels even more weird than usual – it's not just the countdown to going on tour, it's the countdown to The Donovan Of Trash reissue which comes out next Monday, May 5th - four albums in five months, I love it and I can hardly believe it's happening.

And it's the countdown to being sixty – I don't know how that happened: I've lived for twice as long as I was originally planning to, and now I feel like I used to as a kid watching the approaching end of the summer holiday. I never wanted the summer to end, and now that old age is becoming a not too distant reality I don't want my life to end. I'm not scared of dying which is just as well because it's inevitable, but I'm certainly not ready to leave the party just yet, I'm having too good a time.

Someone's probably reading this and berating me for being morbid but I think that's more their problem than it is mine. Anyway, I'm hoping I've got another twenty or twenty five years of good health and creativity. Anything beyond that may or may not be a bonus.

When I was young I could remember with clarity everything that had happened in my life, sometimes right down to a stain on a cushion cover, a creaking door, the pattern on a floor tile that suggested a waterfall or an express train... As time goes on the experiences and attached memories stack up until looking back is almost overwhelming. And confusing. My life doesn't feel like just one life, more like a mismatched set of mini-lives, a collection of short stories, a succession of tracks that I hope will one day add up to a good album. I can't imagine how I got to where I am now and I'm surprised I've got away with it for so long.

I'd better get back to the list, try and find my passport...

14 BRIGHTON, The Prince Albert
15 BBC 6 MUSIC, Marc Riley Show
17 LONDON, The Lexington
22 HUDDERSFIELD, Vinyl Tap instore
23 LEEDS, Belgrave Music Hall
25 MANCHESTER, The Castle Hotel
26 LIVERPOOL, The Lomax
27 EDINBURGH, Voodoo Rooms
29 PARIS (tbc)

14 ALBANY NY, The Low Beat
15 BUFFALO NY (tbc)
16 DETROIT MI (tbc)
17 COLUMBUS OH (details to follow)
19 MEMPHIS TN, Murphy's
20 KNOXVILLE TN, The Pilot Light
21 COLUMBIA SC, The Conundrum Music Hall
21 RICHMOND VA (tbc)
23 WASHINGTON DC, The Black Cat
24 ASBURY PARK NJ, The Saint
25 NEW YORK NY, The Mercury Lounge

12 HASTINGS, EAST SUSSEX UK (details to follow)
26 HOLT, NORFOLK UK, The Holt Festival with The Bad Shepherds

Monday, April 28, 2014

Wenchin' 'n' Benchin' with The Schoemer Formation

There was a jazz fusion group on before us. The front man sported a piece of driftwood fashioned over time by mother nature into an approximation of a bass guitar with a battery compartment and an extra wide neck vaulted by six big strings. Amy quite liked them, said she admired their nerdiness. I thought they needed to lose two strings and a ponytail.

The group that came on after us were God awful – drums and a percussionist, chick singer strumming an inaudible baritone ukelele, an abundance of beards, flat caps and shapeless, pseudo-Peruvian clothing. And a three man -sorry, boy - brass section with a dizzying amount of metalwork: tuba, French horn, trumpet, trombone, saxophones... hey looked like music students.

The band seemed very pleased with themselves, especially the bass player – disgusting active bass sound, all bonk and doink, very unsexy, no throb. And again the wide neck with the surplus string problem. He'd evidently practised long and hard but he wasn't a player, no soul and no real groove.

Apparently this band are much loved in Albany. I thought they were smug, boring and not as good as they thought they were, though they obviously thought they were hotshots. None of the members of the other bands were particularly friendly towards us so I don't feel bad saying these things.

'I hear this is only your fifth gig,' one of them said to us in a somewhat patronising manner.

'Yes, that's right, we're newcomers to all this, unlike your goodselves. We'd always planned to buy a mobile home when we retired but I said to my wife, "You know, I've always dreamed of being in a rock band," and to to my astonishment my wife said "well, that's a coincidence because so have I." So we put the mobile home on the back burner and bought a backline instead. We've got a lot to learn but do you know what? We're absolutely loving it! Living the dream!'

In Olden Tymes, long before even my time, bands would finish the show and while their roadies cleared up the debris the band members would be off looning and wenching. At least this is the mythology that has been handed down. Karen Schoemer comes to the business of being a rock group vocalist a little late in life but she's a keen student and eager to learn everything she can from load-in to after-show party. So I'm doing my best to school her in the ways of rock.

'What do we do now?' she asked after our first show, a packed-out affair at The Spotty Dog in Hudson. I didn't want to disappoint her so I told her we'd be off a-wenching.

I was worried that there was something sexist about that idea but she seemed to like it, so off we went, me, Amy and Karen, a-wenching as best we could. Amy had a glass of whisky that she couldn't finish while Karen and I each enjoyed a ginger ale with a cocktail cherry. As far as I'm aware those were the only cherries that were popped that night. I don't think The Schoemer Formation are very good at wenching.

In order to bring wenching up to date a female equivalent had to be invented. I thought long and hard for nearly five minutes and came up with benching, as in nice muscles – how much do you bench?

And even though we're not very good at it I'm thinking it's an odds on bet that we could out wench and bench any of the bands we played with the other night in Albany.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hanging Out In Public Places

We've just spent two nights in succession at the BSP Lounge in Kingston, down the road from us here in Catskill where according to Mojo magazine we live in bohemian squalor. They pulled that from a biography piece I wrote and somehow the word splendour got translated to squalor. So just for the record we live in Catskill NY in bohemian splendour.
Except when we're practically moving into the BSP Lounge.
We went down on Thursday night to see Laura Cantrell. A captivating set – just Laura and an acoustic guitar player who's name escapes me for the moment. Two acoustic guitars, a harmony vocal and a bit of acoustic lap steel. They started with Amy's song Don't Break The Heart and ended with an Amy Allison song – a mesmorising set book-ended by Amys!
I only wish the people at the back hadn't been talking – it was like a bus station in there. I don't think people realise sometimes how loud they're being, and I think they forget why they're there. They meet their friends, get excited and the evening turns into a social occasion with music in the background.
One has to be forgiving, they don't mean any harm, but I wish they'd shut the fuck up.
We didn't have that problem last night when The Schoemer Formation opened for Purple K'nif. I think there may have been as many as ten people in the audience and most of them were a dancing Jane Scarpantoni. Jane is a great cello player, and one of my favourite people to hang out with.
I'm writing this in my preferred coffee place, Swallow on Warren Street in Hudson. It's not the ideal place to be writing on a Saturday morning. I'm getting increasingly annoyed by a rich, middle-aged, house-hunting gay couple at the next table. One of them keeps reading stuff out loud from a magazine that must be called Sumptuous Homes or some such drivel.
I'm going to have another espresso – it's a two espresso day.
The Sumptuous Homes out loud reading guy seems to have put a sock in it, he could probably hear what I was writing. They're leaving so I'll drop it, except to say that there's got to be a cut-off age and weight for wearing a candy striped blazer - he looks like all of The Troggs poured into one garment.
It's not a pretty sight, unlike the young hipster couple making out at one of the other tables. Oh to be young again.
We're playing with The Schoemer Formation tonight at The Low Beat in Albany NY. For anyone who doesn't know - which is almost everybody in the entire world - The Schoemer Formation is the writer Karen Schoemer delivering poetry and spoken word, backed up by Amy on keyboards and electric guitar, and me on the bass guitar, fuzz boxes and echo units. According to our bio which we wrote ourselves we're a three piece in the tradition of The Doors, Suicide and Two Lone Swordsmen.
Here's a link for a new Wreckless Eric Radio Show – I really should have played The Doors, Suicide and Two Lone Swordsmen so that everyone could have admired the synchronicity and integration of my act, but I hadn't thought of it then so I didn't and haven't.

And before I go a ticket link for my 60th birthday bash in London on May 17th: TICKETS!
And here come the tour dates:

14 BRIGHTON, The Prince Albert
15 BBC 6 MUSIC, Marc Riley Show, session with band
17 LONDON, The Lexington – Eric’s 60th Birthday TICKETS all star band spectacular!
23 LEEDS, Belgrave Music Hall - - wegottickets
25 MANCHESTER, The Castle Hotel
26 LIVERPOOL, The Lomax
14 ALBANY NY, The Low Beat
19 MEMPHIS TN, Murphy's
20 KNOXVILLE TN, The Pilot Light www.thepilotlight.com21 COLUMBIA SC, The Conundrum Music Hall
23 WASHINGTON DC, The Black Cat
24 ASBURY PARK NJ, The Saint
25 NEW YORK NY, The Mercury Lounge

26 HOLT, NORFOLK UK, The Holt Festival with The Bad Shepherds TICKET LINK

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Getting Ready To Go On Tour

How do you get ready to go on tour? If I put a capital letter at the beginning of every word in the title perhaps it'll assume some kind of importance and I'll be galvanised into action. The day of departure always seems a long way off but then it's suddenly looming up like a brick wall in a car crash. I'm a deer frozen in the glare of headlights. I'm anticipating the point of impact, airbag white then near silence, just the ghastly tick of distressed metal trying to settle itself... I like these car related similes. Better than the para-military ones so beloved of mediocre rock writers -  the first song is an opening salvo, with their first album the group stick there heads above the parapet, and by the tenth album they're weary battle-hardened veterans, casualties of active service... and so on.

I didn't do anything much to prepare for battle today. I phoned Andre Barreau and told him Barry Payne will be joining us for the band shows at The Prince Albert in Brighton and The Lexington in London. Barry played the bass guitar on my first album when he was fifteen. He still plays the same bass, a Mosrite copy that he bought for twenty one pounds in Woolworths in 1972. And I bet it still sounds great. I hope it does - he got other bass guitarsbut he's using that one for old times sake. And because it sounds great. Here's a photo of it that Barry posted on Facebook:

I talked with Andre, posted a boastful Facebook post on about an article that arrived today in the magazine Uncut, and sent a tentative email to the manager of the one special guest I want for the Eric60 / Fire30 birthday show on May 17th.

Then I drove up to Troy to meet my friend Jim who runs the River Street Beat Club, one of upstate New York's best record shops. Jim called me because one of Troy's pawn shops is shutting down and selling everything off cheap. They didn't have much, the usual collection of crappy, solid state, budget guitar amps. Controls that crackle and cut out, cheap rattling speakers, broken knobs, built-in dermatitis...

We had lunch at an old Troy luncheonette that's about to close down. We found an amplifier for Jim's son in a guitar shop I never been in before. We went back to the record shop where Jim gave me an Artie Shaw album for Amy and I bought a Wet Willie album that may or may not be any good.

I left a few copies of the latest Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby album, A Working Museum, vinyl and CD, and drove home.

Brian Dewan called. Laura Cantrell's playing at the BSP Lounge down in Kingston tonight. We're going in the Buick, picking up Brian on the way.

I'm no closer to being ready to go on tour than I was this morning.

Not that I'm bragging or boasting or letting success go to my head but here's the Uncut review. If you want to actually read it I expect you can click on it and blow it up to life-size but you don't have to because I've already learned it by heart:

And if you got that far here's a ticket link for the Lexington show on May 17th: Ticket Link

And one for Leeds on May 25th (I know I'm pushing it): Leeds Ticket Link

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A 1966 Cherry Red Gibson 330

I think I'm in a phase of reinvention. I recently acquired a Fender Telecaster. I've always shied away the popular makes and models of guitars. I traded my 1966 cherry red Gibson 330 for a massive store credit at one of the few remaining civilised and independent music stores, Parkway Music in Clifton Park NY.
The Gibson had been hanging on the wall for two years, gathering dust. In previous years I've used it to create feedback drones that sound vaguely like a French horn. I almost used it on the track 1983 on our last album, A Working Museum. But I didn't because I've got a Guild Star fire that does everything the Gibson can do and a lot more.
When I bought the Gibson I really wanted a Starfire but the Gibson was there, I had the cash, and I needed a decent guitar.
It was London, 1990. The Gibson was hanging in the window of Macari's on Charing Cross Road. It was a Friday morning. They wanted twelve hundred for it. I had seven hundred in my pocket because that's what I'd decided I was going to pay for it. I made the offer which was refused out of hand. I pulled the money out of my pocket and started counting it. The guy in charge told me to put it away but I carried on counting.
Money was scarce in England at the time.
'That's our wages,' I heard one of the assistants say.
The manager told me I was wasting my time but I carried on counting out the money, laying it down on the counter. When I got to five hundred and he said I could have it for nine.
'All I've got's seven hundred,' I said.
I'd got to six hundred and sixty in used twenties by the time he capitulated.
'Alright, seven hundred, cash, you bastard.'
I never much liked Macari's.

The problem with owning a 1966 cherry red Gibson 330 in perfect condition (with chrome pick-up covers) was that crowds gathered round it. Fat blokes, blokes with beards, checked shirts, shapeless brown corduroys; balding blues players, blowhards, nerds and manual readers. I thought the Gibson was going to be a chick magnet but I was disappointed.
It sounded pretty good, especially when I discovered the front pick-up. I played it through a fifteen watt Ampeg Jet combo amp. It put out a fierce signal, distorted the pre-amp stage, horrified sound engineers in th more sedate venues.
 In 1991 I played it with The Pretty Things. Dick Taylor turned to me between Midnight To Six and Don't Bring Me Down – 'I can't believe the sound you're getting out of that guitar.'
It was one of the greatest moments in my musical career.
But still the guitar had to go.
The last time I used it live was on The Rutles tour in 2004. Since then it's hung around, waiting to be of used, and making me feel guilty as I churned out tracks using less valuable, less sought after guitars. I tried to put it out of sight but never relegated it to its case – I would have felt even more guilty knowing that such an asset was stored beyond potential and effortless use. 
And anyway, I was using the case for one of my other guitars, one that I could smash into the front of my amplifier in a wailing cacophony of distressed wood, metal and plastic.
You'd never do that to a 1966 cherry red Gibson 330.
The Gibson made me a better guitar player, mostly because it gave me confidence. I no longer suffered the disdainful looks that real musicians reserved for the young men and boys who gamely scrubbed away behind lesser instruments, with their questionable intonation and bow and arrow action.
I would get my axe out, and once I'd learned the swagger, the assuredness of one who has invested money in their calling, those fuckers knew I meant business.
But there was no fun in it.

So finally I took it along to the music store and we thrashed out a deal that made us all happy. The 330 went to a collector in Japan where I'm sure it'll adored and fawned over in a manner that suits it – that guitar was always a bit of a Prima Donna so I'm sure it's having a great time.
As for me, I've had a load of equipment repaired, I've got a Tascam 38 1/2” eight track machine with Teac heads in practically perfect condition, and a Mexican Telecaster. Stuff I can use! And I've still got store credit.
I spent a long afternoon trying out every Telecaster in the store. The ones made in Mexico are good but the pick-ups are shit. There's no point even plugging them in. The trick is to find one that feels good and has a good acoustic sound.
I found a second-hand one with all the tags and guarantees still attached. Plugged into an amplifier it sounded disgusting but it felt good so I took it. I sanded the lacquer of the back of the neck, changed the bridge saddles for brass ones, lowered the action, replaced the pick-ups, rewired it and changed the tone control capacitor. Now it sounds great – my first Telecaster!
I used it the other night at Atwood's in Cambridge, Massachusetts. People told me afterwards how good I sounded, but nobody commented on the guitar. I finished the show with a full five minutes of intense feedback and ended up swinging the guitar between the amp and the mic stand in a whirl of oscillating feedback.
You wouldn't do that with a 1966 cherry red Gibson 330. You could, but you wouldn't.
It might not be a chick magnet but I obviously mean business with my customised Mexican Telecaster. I've already chipped the paint in a couple of places. I was going to sand off the metallic red finish but I think it might just take care of itself in time. It'll end up looking like the big green Microfret.
I'll tell you about that one another time.