Friday 7 June 2024

RIP Scott Cornish

I was driving to Birmingham - that’s Birmingham in the middle of England, not in Alabama. I stopped for a rest, got some bad coffee, clicked up Facebook on my phone. A post from Lindsay Hutton: RIP Scott Cornish. My first thought was that this was not possible, but that was wrong, because with Scott anything was possible. I was swept up in a jumble of thoughts and emotions. One clear thought shone through: Scott would not be showing up at the gig tonight.

I can’t remember when or where I first met Scott. It was at a show, probably one that Amy and I were playing. He just slowly became a part of our scene. He came to our house concerts in Catskill, the legendary Homemade Aeroplane. After we played, and people were leaving, someone said this guy was asking for walking directions to the Thruway entrance where he was going to catch a Trailways bus. We couldn’t let this happen  - it was midnight on a Saturday night and it it was a three and a half mile walk. Someone found him and we organised a ride. He was grateful, though he would have been happy to walk - he’d walked to our house from he Trailways bus stop earlier that evening after an afternoon show in Troy - and he was quite happy to walk back because the bus wasn’t scheduled until sometime after two in the morning.

We found out that Scott did this kind of thing all the time. He knew all the bus and train timetables, all the bus and railroad stations. We’d drop him off in the middle of the night at some far-flung terminus.

‘Will you be okay here Scott?’

‘Oh don’t worry about me, it’s a fine night - and I’ve got a sandwich from your rider.’

His planning was meticulous: he’d catch a bus to catch a train and enjoy breakfast in an all-night cafe while he waited for the first bus of the day that would take him the rest of the way home.

He was like a cartoon character come to life, square-built with chunky spectacles, stolid, with something intrepid in his demeanour. I don’t know if it was years of taking public transport on a grand scale that had made Scott into the calm presence that he was, or if he’d always been that way, and that’s how he managed to endure the rigours of the public transport system.

Calm, philosophical, with a hint of stoicism. I worried about him out there in the night, but really no need. Thugs, psychopaths, dangerous nutters, they’d be no match for that measured calm. I’m sure Scott could talk someone down off a ledge just by being there.

Going to see bands was what Scott did. He had a girlfriend for a short while but it didn’t last. He once brought her to a show I did in London. He spoke about the relationship with no bitterness - it just didn’t work out. Scott had a lot of friends but he was a loner He used to be the manager of a hardware store but the place went out of business. He fell into depression and suffered that the drugs that are foisted on to people who suffer that illness. I know these things because I enjoyed a number of long drives with him. He was easy-going, and had good stories. A great traveling companion. He amazed me with the bands he’d seen, his understanding of rock n roll music and its peripheries. 

On one drive he related his experiences as an official merchandise sales vendor at the disastrous Woodstock II Festival which happened around the corner from his house in Rome, New York. He jumped ship just before the dance tent was pumped full of raw sewage during Fat Boy Slim’s set. He said the organisers wanted to make it appear to be as much like the original Woodstock as possible so they’d even arranged a mudslide. He looked thoughtful, shook his head:

‘That mudslide - it wasn’t mud…’

He never got paid for the final day.

And of course, he didn’t show up last night in Birmingham, though perhaps he was there in spirit. I know I was thinking about him while I was playing. I’m unclear about how he died - complications of Covid apparently. I hope it was easy and painless, and he wasn’t alone. 

And I hope he got the bus alright.

Tuesday 21 May 2024


Apparently it’s a milestone. Or should that be a millstone? I can’t remember which because I’m seventy so my brain doesn’t work. My brain didn’t work before, but then it was down to crazy living. Now it’s down to living long enough to be crazy. It’s expected. 

Soon I’ll be pissing in my trousers and there’ll have a gentle word with me about my driving, and I’ll give the car away to a distant neice and catch the bus instead, and sometimes a kindly neighbour might give me a lift, and I’ll repay their kindness by ripping the display out of the dashboard as I haul myself out of their car thinking the display is a grab handle - because everything’s a grab handle when you get to this age, or that age.

Hell - I remember my mother grabbing hold of passers-by, floral displays, broom handles, anything to stop the FALL, steadying herself against the back of a stationary taxi which drove off and left her sprawled and concussed in the middle of Shoreham High Street, whizzed off in ambulances, and eventually losing her mind in a corner of the geriatric ward of some far-flung hospital.

Oh, I’ll handle it with aplomb:

‘Don’t worry about that’ I’ll say, indicating the passenger seat, ‘that’ll soon dry off.’

And off I’ll go to cause mayhem in the post office, or the supermarket.

Millstone or milestone…either way it’s a bloody nuisance. This wasn’t in the plan, The Grand Masterplan Of My Life which I’ve never got around to planning because I was too busy putting one foot in front of the other.



In front of the other



Another foot

In front of the other foot

Feet, inches, miles, minutes, days, hours, milestones, months and years. 

And finally this fucking millstone: 


It was supposed to be glorious. It was supposed to reach a crescendo, but this is the way the life ends: not with a resounding chord, but with a whimper.

They say seventy is the new forty-seven or some such nonsense. And it is nonsense because I remember being forty-seven and this is nothing like that. I was a boy, I had my life in front of me with plenty of time to fritter my life away doing stupid things, and doing nothing, and not getting around to things, and pontificating, and putting things on hold, and thinking about things rather than doing them, because I had all my silly life stretching out in front of me like an endless school summer holiday.

I know how all this ends. I lay on a gurney with a team of doctors and nurses working around me, saving my life. It wasn’t scary but it was definitely final. The will to live is what makes dying scary. Once that falls away i think it’s very easy.

I’ve woken up in the middle of the night stricken with some imagined cancer (who hasn’t?) and felt, not fear, but fury, because I’ve got shit to do and I’m not finished, and I still haven’t found out everything there is to know. It’s no good denying it, and resistance is useless. This is a finite thing and the end is coming into view. I’m not giving up, but there’s a definite slowing down. I’m not Mick Jagger and I certainly don’t want to be Mick Jagger. I’m seventy, I’m no spring chicken, and if I look in a mirror and see a fifty year old staring back at me I’m smart enough to know that I’m deluding myself.

Here's a list of tour dates:


30 SUTTON, SURREY - the Sound Lounge TICKETS



o6 BIRMINGHAM - Rock n Roll Brewhouse TICKETS

09 COVENTRY - Just Dropped In TICKETS


Wednesday 1 May 2024

Story Of A House

A house can take it out of you. When we got it, almost thirteen years ago, it was in a horrible state - a foreclosure, abandoned by the previous owners who apparently fled to South Carolina leaving behind debts and mountains of junk. We never knew how many of them there were - it’s a slow process of casual detective work. We've been able to tell a lot from the mail that still sometimes arrives for them. 

A neighbour told us he sent his kids to daycare at the house - another neighbour used to drop them off and bring them home. One day he picked them up himself, saw inside the house, and never sent them here again. He said the place was filthy. We knew that already - it took us years to clean it up.

There had been an above ground swimming pool but another neighbour took that when the house was empty. He also took the patio bricks. He came round shortly after we moved in to explain himself. He stood at the front door with a cigarette in a cupped hand, the burning end facing inwards - a jailbird smoke - and explained that he had worked for the previous owners, maintaining the property while it stood empty. As payment they had given him the patio bricks and the swimming pool. I said I wasn’t aware the banks paid neighbours to maintain their foreclosed properties, but he hardly noticed. He waxed lyrical for a moment: 

‘When we got that pool home and set up lil Danny’s eyes were shinin’…’ 

He broke off, took a clandestine drag of his cigarette, his eyes darted around, he lowered his voice: 

‘I don’t know what the neighbours around here have been telling you, but none of it’s true.’ 

‘Oh’ I said with a magnanimous gesture, ‘they’ve had nothing but good to say about you.’

We never were friends. He died a year or so ago. We sent a consolation card but we never heard back. We’d see Neighbour Dan, as we called him, busy cleaning his gleaming white pick up truck in the autumn sunlight when we were raking leaves. ‘Just imagine every one of them’s a hundred dollar bill’ he’d yell, and we'd reply with a sort of ahh whaddya gonna do? gesture that one of Amy’s brothers, who has lived for years in a suburb of Pittsburgh and knows how to handle these things, taught us. 

I sometimes thought the only reason for having such a large back yard was to keep the neighbours at bay. We could see them - keep an eye on things - but they were way off in the distance.

Neighbour Dan’s neighbour, an Italian American called Denise, ran a daycare next door to them. Seems like everyone ran a daycare. From our bedroom window we could see processions of cars in the early morning, pulling up, discharging children, driving off. Denise would sit on her front step and conduct telephone conversations that rang through the neighbourhood. She sold up and moved away last year. No more daycare. There are new people now, we haven’t met them but they’re having their basement done - you know these things when you’re a neighbour. We’ve seen a truck in their driveway with All Things Basementy on the side.

We absolutely loved our next door neighbours, Al and Tammy and their son Alex, who used to cut our grass. Tammy grew up in the house. Her mother, who was in her late eighties, lived with them. We’d see her on the back deck smoking a joint. Tammy told me her father had been a pharmacist. He distilled gin in the basement. In one of our earliest encounters she told me how on her eighteenth birthday he had presented her with a phial of grade A pharmacutical cocaine and told her to go and enjoy herself. She grabbed my sleeve: ‘Eric, I nearly shit my fucking pants!’ And to underline the point she reiterated: ‘I…nearly…shit…myself’. All this in a loud voice in the street. She was my first experience on an American neighbour. I was thrilled to bits.

One day during our first summer there I asked Tammy if we made too much noise. She said not at all - she really liked hearing us play music - they loved having us as neighbours. She said it was the first summer in years that they’d been able to open the windows on that side of the house. The previous owners kept dogs in a kind of dog pound in the back yard. Apparently they hardly ever let them out and they never cleaned the cage. Then there was the swimming pool - Al told me it was full of stagnant, green water with frog spawn in it, but the kids still jumped and splashed around in it. I thought perhaps they were trying to get clean having spent too long in the house. He agreed that that was very likely.

A wily old lady called Roberta lived on the other side. The kids were all scared of her. She knew everything that went on, and on the occasions that we talked to her she told us every detail, right down to her friend in the next street, the one with the prolapsed rectum.

Roberta had a clear view of our driveway from her back deck. When the hillbillies, as she called them, moved out the junk they left behind was hauled away by the truckload. A twenty foot dumpster was parked in the driveway, and when that was filled up another took its place and that was filled up too. They were hoarders. The basement, which they’d tried at some point to turn into a party venue, was filled with their crap. They’d built stud walls down their, insulated with fibreglass roof insulation, and lined with with plasterboard. The house had no gutters so the rain water drained into the basement and turned the walls of the party basement into a rotting, rancid mess.

In the first month we lived there I cleared out the basement as best I could, tore down the sheet rock and removed the soggy insulation. I dismantled a hideous structure that was intended to be a bar - it was built out of left over two by fours and offcuts, held together with four inch nails. It was probably meant to look charming and rustic, but it was just a filthy mass of nailed wood. We dealt with the basement most of the time by keeping the door shut and only going down there when the heating furnace broke down and had to be coaxed back to life.

Eventually we got hooked up to gas and waved a less than fond goodbye to the old fuel tank. We ran out of fuel on a regular basis, dug our way through to the tank through three foot high snowdrifts, and poured in red diesel from the gas station, five gallons at a time, in blizzard conditions. The mains gas hook up was absolute paradise after a few years of that.

We had the roof replaced, and when we’d got over the shock of that we had work done in the basement to make it dry and watertight. We finally made the effort and got rid of the remaining junk that was left down there, most of which was a large, rotting sound system left over from when the previous idiots tried to make it into Catskill’s most happening nitespot. While I panelled, painted and finished things that we’d left half done Amy painted the basement walls with special basement paint in fresh shiny white, and having done that she painted the entire basement floor with utilitarian grey floor paint.

I used to find the house quite daunting, but only if I thought about it too much. For ten years I would lay in bed, morning and night, and plan how I would replace the bedroom door with something that wasn’t the horrible, brown-varnished hardboard slab that wouldn’t close properly because there was no door frame for it to close into. I’d do the job twice a day in my head. It became an immense undertaking, a constant irritation, a niggling daily depression, a testament to my failure as a homeowner and as a human being.

One morning I could stand it no longer. I took the door off it’s hinges, carried it downstairs to the garage and came back up with the panelled door I’d been saving for all those years. It only took three hours to build a door frame and hang the door.

Now I lie in bed staring at a slight imperfection, a gap between the top of the door frame where it doesn’t quite run parallel with the low attic ceiling, and dream of pieces of trim that might somehow even it up. I shouldn't be hard on myself. I built everything in the place - walls, shelves, the front porch, the entire kitchen, and even the dining table. The house has worn us out and could quite possibly drive us insane if we stayed there.

But now it’s official - we’re leaving - we’re gone. We have a realtor, or estate agent if you’re in the UK. We’ve spent the better part of three months making the place into a saleable proposition - mending, finishing, cleaning, painting, decluttering… 

The other week I took the definitive step of I dismantling and packing up the studio ready to roll it into a shipping container. It took four days and I found it emotionally draining. It was a great sounding room. I made a lot of records in then - A Working Museum with Amy; my last four albums: 'amERICa', Construction Time & Demolition, Transience and Leisureland; The Old Guys for Amy; her latest album Hang In There With Me due out of Tapete Records in August; an unfinished reworking of my 1985 album A Roomful Of Monkeys; plus a whole load of tracks for compilation albums and tracks and albums for other artists. 

The room looks wonderful now, with only a Wurlitzer electric piano, a celluloid bikini mannequin, and a couple of armchairs and a coffee table added by the realtor, but it sounds like the acoustic disaster it was when I first tried to record in there. I remember driving hooks into the ceiling and tying an old quilt above the drumkit with string meant for wrapping Christmas presents. It sounded a lot better but it looked dreadful. It stayed that way for three years until I took the matter in hand and built some nice looking acoustic panels. It took years to get that room sounding right.

The sale listing went live just yesterday. We love the place but it’s time to start a new chapter. We couldn’t stay any longer - everything we needed was in storage and quite honestly the place was beginning to intimidate us - every smudge, every speck of dust… I’d love to live in such a beautiful place, but it’s up to someone else now. Here's a link for the listing in case you're interested in buying the place, or if you're like us and enjoy looking at houses for sale:

And here's a list of tour dates:



18 HOLT, NORFOLK - Community Centre TICKETS

30 SUTTON, SURREY - the Sound Lounge TICKETS



o6 BIRMINGHAM - Rock n Roll Brewhouse TICKETS

09 COVENTRY - Just Dropped In TICKETS



Wednesday 10 April 2024

Remake / Remodel


I would have said architrave but no one seems to know the word, so I’ll just say door trim instead. The point is, when I fit a new door trim or architrave should I take off the difficult-to-completely-remove label with the barcode on it? Or will the future owner of this house be disappointed when they tear off what they thought was a period feature only to find a chain DIY store bar code on the back of a piece of suspiciously new-looking kiln-dried pine? 

How long is this stuff going to last? Will this remodeling outlive me? Will it be discovered by an archeologist, a descendant of the Trumpian Bloodbath survivors: a creature rolling around on castors (five for safety), with a distended scrolling digit sticking out of it’s chest, and one large, myopic eye - a scanner for reading digital information? Will the creature be disappointed? Will it malfunction when it tries to read the barcode. This shit keeps happening - these barcodes they’re fucking dangerous - like the phosphorous we used to find washed up on the beaches, courtesy of the second world war, when I was a kid,. As soon as that stuff dried out it burst into flames. Better not put it in your pocket. Don’t read the barcode, creature! 

A drawer full of rusty drill bits, nuts, bolts and stray screws. What should I do with them? I’m not taking them back to England with me. I swear some of these came over from France thirteen years ago via a rental van, three different storage spaces and a container ship from England. This is some well-travelled junk, its carbon footprint is a disgrace. What should I do? Some of these bits might be useful. 

I’ll give them away…

I’ve got just the thing for you

Fuck it, I’ll dump them. Are they bio-degradable? How long will they take to re-amalgamate with the planet? How much damage will they do? Is hardened steel an element? This is harder than I thought. 

If I close my eyes as I sling them in the skip it’ll all be okay…

Books. What the fuck do I need books for? To show that I’m an intelligent, educated, and well-rounded person. Oh yeah? Where did all the cool books go? An Ann Cleves Vera mystery keeps jumping out at me. Amy sent it into me when I was in hospital during the pandemic recovering from a heart attack. Just the thing for solitary confinement in an intensive care isolation unit. 

Did all that shit really happen? Yes it did. I built a porch on the front of the house, feeling extremely unwell, and completely unaware that Covid had done so much damage to me that I was about to die from a heart attack. Do we ever know what’s around the corner?

What the fuck am I doing all this for? I could be spending my last hours doing something I might be remembered for, like making another record. Instead I’ll be cursed by future generations of home remodellers, just as I curse the former owners of this house who even had the temerity to sign some of the worst of their handiwork. Skirting boards held in place with four inch nails: 

‘Hah right, that ought to hold it…oh it split…ah well, never mind…’ 

Fuck you, you fucking morons.

Our neighbours, who really are delightful, recommended a plumber. To be fair, Len seemed to know what he was doing when it came to plumbing, but I think it was a mistake to get him to strip the upstairs bathroom down to the studs and do a total refit. His re-hanging of the old bathroom door, complete in its splintered and sharded frame was a classic. He stood back and surveyed his handywork, looked pleased with himself:

‘Yeah, it’s got character’ he said.

I had to re-do it when he’d gone.

I liked Len, even in his Go Brandon! sweat shirt. People believe what they believe and all you can do is try to meet their beliefs with kindness and decency. He showed up and got the work done with a minimum of disruption. He took care of everything, got us the cheapest shower, toilet and vanity. I tiled the splashback - lined everything up and did the straightest tiling job I’ve ever done, but of course it looks crooked because Len had installed the sink and vanity on the piss, one side a quarter of an an inch lower than the other.

A work of utter imperfection all the way to the flimsy plastic toilet seat. It boasts no slam, so it won’t clatter down in the middle of the night and wake the entire household. It doesn’t actually go down at all - unless you force it. All it can manage is a thirty degree angle. It would take it an entire day to come to a horizontal rest, so most of the time it looks as though the toilet is about to say something.

In amongst and around all this I’ve been recording. I have to do it to keep my sanity and to stay in practice. It’s amazing how quickly I forget how to do things in the studio that were second nature only months earlier, so I like to be working on something. Even when I’m really pressed for time I like to make sonic doodles with whatever’s lying around. When I was in England getting ready for the release of Leisureland and the subsequent touring I had a Tascam M12 permanently ready to go with a Roland JX8P synthesiser, a Watkins Copicat, a few pedals and an old Conn bossa nova beatbox. I’d spend half an hour as often as I could making some kind of mindless musical doodle or sketch. I like my sonic doodles but they’re a bit random.

I’ve been recording tracks with my friend the neighbourhood drummer, Sam Shepherd. I’ve mixed some tracks for him. Sam plays everything and he’s really good at it. With me he plays the drums. He played on Leisureland, and also on Amy’s new album (due out in August On Tapete Records). Here's an out-of-focus shot of him from the last session in the Catskill studio:

I knew I wouldn’t have time to write anything so we’ve been re-recording an album I had out in 1985, A Roomful Of Monkeys. It started out as me doing new versions of a couple of the songs, just to see if I could. That album bugs me - I wasn’t in a good state at the time - I was drinking myself to death. I’ve always felt that the songs were good but the performance and recording are abysmal. The album is rooted in the Medway Towns and features in the last part of A Dysfunctional Success. It was all a bit of a fuck up, so it’s good to revisit.

After a hard day of cleaning, decorating, repairing and despairing, Sam would drop by and we’d record another backing track and maybe mix one of his tunes. I seem to have a basic tracks for whole album which I can finish up it England. Now I’m packing up the studio ready to make the room look like normal people could live here.

The insanity of getting the house into a saleable condition has to come to an end soon - I have to leave for the UK next week to get ready for the re-publication of my autobiography, A Dysfunctional Success. It’s gently improved from the first edition - I think it’s worth buying again though some people have told me they’re sticking with their original copy. That’s up to them, but at the very least they’ll be missing out on the extensive new introduction. I’m doing some shows playing, appropriately enough, in Hull on the day it comes out - May 17th - and at the Community Centre in Holt up in the wilds of North Norfolk on May 18th, which just happens to be my 70th birthday.

Here's a list of tour dates:



18 HOLT, NORFOLK - Community Centre TICKETS

30 SUTTON, SURREY - the Sound Lounge TICKETS



o6 BIRMINGHAM - Rock n Roll Brewhouse TICKETS

09 COVENTRY - Just Dropped In TICKETS

20 LONDON, WALTHAMSTOW - Rock n Roll Book Club

more to follow