Sunday 7 July 2013

Dead End Fallen Rock Zone Bump

It was May and we were in Fargo, on our way to Winnipeg. Now it's July and I'm here at home on a Sunday morning waiting for Amy to get ready to go to Hudson to get a decent espresso.
I don't know where the time goes (does anybody?) - there we were motoring all over the mid-west, from Winnipeg where we played to sold out shows at the Stu-Dome, one of the wackiest homemade venues, to the pointlessness of Omaha. We played to an audience of two people in Omaha. Two people, the bar staff, the club manager and the opening act, two young twits who twittered, twattered and nattered as we struggle through a short set. We played for the two paying customers, otherwise I would have played to shame the manager.
The doorman told me that the club had had a falling out with the local press. Something was wrong - the place had a sound system that must have cost more than a building, and immediately after we finish playing two men in suits came in and cornered the manager. They didn't look like they'd come for drinks and a good time.
I don't think we'll be going back to Omaha in a hurry.
We came home via St Louis and a show with The Bo-Keys, Willie Mitchell's house band. It was my birthday. The bass player, Scott Bomar, said he'd seen us at the Hi Tone in Memphis. After our set he complimented me on my bass playing. I went into our shared dressing room and their singer, Percy Wiggins said immediately 'Man! You guys have got a great blend!'
Best birthday presents ever apart from Amy's tickets to see Kris Kristofferson at the Tarrytown Music Hall. Kris was a bit challenged vocally - too many gigs in a row - but magnificent nonetheless. He did two sets, started up with Feeling Mortal from his new album.

He dusted off Me & Bobby McGhee quite casually round about the third song in. Help Me Make It Through The Night and Sunday Morning Coming Down came and went with no fanfare. When he found he'd put the wrong harmonica in the rack he laughed as he tunelessly tooted and sang what might have been a harmonica solo. His daughter, who could have been anywhere between fifteen and thirty-five, sang and played the banjo on a few tunes and apart from that it was just him with an acoustic guitar and a seemingly random selection of harmonicas. Perfect.

My mother flew in from London for a visit. Her flight was scheduled to arrive in Newark, New Jersey, at 3:35pm on Tuesday. It was a simple operation – breeze down to Newark, wave excitedly at the arrivals gate, pop her and her suitcase in the car, drive home up the New York State Thruway, dinner, bed.

It didn't go according to plan.

The morning was glorious – brilliant blue sky and perfect temperature. We were still a bit tired from a marathon Sunday trip – leave home at nine in the morning, drive down to Baltimore, set up, soundcheck, play a set at five in the afternoon, pack up, drive, arrive home at three in the morning... I think we might have been slightly mad at this point.
We hauled ourselves back into the car the next day - slightly later the same day that is - to collect her from the airport. Torrential rain came down in sheets as soon as we hit the New York State Thruway. It was still coming down when we got to the airport.
I rushed into the terminal while Amy parked the car. The flight had arrived almost an hour ago. I looked all around but my mother was nowhere to be seen. So I went to the information desk, explained myself and listened fom a weird distance while an official told me that my mother hadn't been feeling well so when the flight landed they had her decanted into an ambulance and taken to a hospital.
I wanted to know how unwell but the official had no details though he did volunteer that he'd been there at the gate when the flight landed and he hadn't seen anything that in his opinion looked too dreadful.
I got the hospital details and off we went.
They were very nice to me at the hospital - horrible to just about everybody else as far as I could see, but nice to me. Amazing what an English accent can do for you. In no time at all I was through to the inner sanctum of the emergency department. The place was littered with large people reclining on reinforced trolleys in various states of distress and undress.
My mother looked tiny on her trolley, parked next to a wall, forlorn, dejected, ashen and frightened under a pale blue hospital blanket. She'd been sick on the flight. The night before, what with the excitement of getting ready, she couldn't remember how to set her alarm, so at two o'clock in the morning, fearful of missing the flight, she'd decided there was nothing else for it but to stay up all night. She was worn out, dehydrated, and she hadn't eaten properly. The airline food disagreed with her.
She was shaky so the nice doctor, who addressed all his questions to me in the assumption that my mother was at the very least slightly senile, was ready to diagnose the early onset of Parkinsons. They wheeled her into a private room and, having relieved me of a credit card down-payment of six hundred dollars, proceeded to give her every test imaginable. Healthcare practitioners swarmed around her like mechanics at a Grand Prix pitstop.
They hooked her up to a drip, drained vials of blood from her, stuck electrodes all over her and measured her heartbeat, blood pressure, bio-rhythms body mass index, height to weight ratio, bone density... They booked her in for an X-ray and started talking about giving her a brain scan - an MRI.
'I don't want a KGB,' I heard my mother say in a weak voice.
The X-ray guy came along and addressed all his questions to me - 
'Can she walk?'
'I don't know, why don't we ask her.'
And so on.
He put her in a chair, wheeled her to a dark and eerie corner of the hospital. He propped her up against a metal slab in a grubby room. He took her stick away so that she had nothing to hold on to. He made me go in the other room with him where we could see her through a thick glass screen, clinging to the metal slab, looking desperate.
He had to do the x-rays, front, side and back, twice, because she'd been wearing a Saint Christopher medalion and he hadn't noticed.
Saint Christopher: patron saint of travellers.
They wanted to keep her in overnight - twenty four hour observation. I asked if she could have a glass of water, explained that she had jet-lag which usually results from, or results in, dehydration. The doctor had to think about this for a minute, jet-lag not being a serious medical condition. He agreed that she could drink some water and a kind nurse came and gave her water in a paper cup which she took with extreme gratitude.
Another nurse who looked remakably like Godzilla burst in and took it away from her.
'She can't drink anything! Who gave here that?'
I had a talk with my mother - she was tired of being treated like a half-wit or a geriatric and wanted out of there. I called the doctor back in. He was adament that she needed twenty four hours observation. I said she needed a good nights sleep which she wouldn't get in a hospital in Newark, New Jersey, and we agreed to differ.
Godzilla came back with some paperwork and having got the neccessary signatures told us to leave as soon as possible.
The place was a hell-hole. A man ranted, raved and strutted the corridor in his underwear - 'give me back my fucking clothes!'
A man, a woman, a banshee - I don't know - kept yelling 'let me the fuck oudda here'
Beached whales were wheeled back and forth on the reinforced trolleys and a woman in the next room took quite a shine to me. She listed the contents of her handbag:
'I never leave home without my insulin, my cigarettes and a bottle of diet pepsi...'
She was in for a suspected heart attack.

Amy had been all over the airport in the meantime, trying to retrieve her mother-in-law's luggage. Somewhat surprisingly United Airlines were extremely helpful, but it became apparent that the luggage wasn't going to be with us until the following day. So Amy bought her a change of clothes and everything she'd need for the night and she left the hospital looking like a Newark delinquent courtesy of the local Target.
We stopped at Burger King on the way home - it was the only place open. My mother wolfed down a portion of fries and declared it the best thing she'd ever eaten. She had the best nights sleep she'd had in weeks and was on top form for the whole time she was with us. We made sure she had an early night before she left to go home and took her for lunch at a good restaurant on the way to the airport. She thoroughly enjoyed the return flight and when we spoke on the phone the following day she sounded like a teenager.

By mid June we were more worn out than we were on the drive from Winnipeg to Omaha and I wondered if it would ever stop raining. I recorded a version of Little Child from With The Beatles for a Mojo magazine CD, We're With The Beatles.

For some strange reason - nothing strange about it actually, they fucked-up - it was credited to Wreckless Eric & James Nicholls. James runs the London office of Fire Records. I'm signed to Fire now, or at least my back-catalogue is - they're going to start re-issuing very shortly.
James and I have no plans to form a group together. In fact he left the group in a fit of artistic temperament shortly after the magazine came out. I sent him a very nice email suggesting he reconsider:
even though you're not technically on the recording you've always been the spirit, even the soul of the band, whereas I'm merely the engine room and mouthpiece. And by the way, you still owe your half of last months rehearsal room rent.
He slunk away muttering something about Wham. I haven't heard from him since.

I built some book shelves so we could unpack our books. Amy keeps showing photos of the shelves - like a proud mother. A bit embarrassing for me. The other night at Maxwell's she showed the photo to Ian Hunter's wife:
'Wow!' she said, 'I wish Ian could do that sort of thing.'
It's been quite a month for heroes - the other night we went with David Greenberger to see Ian McLagan at The Bearsville Theatre in Woodstock. He was fabulous, just him on the piano and his bass player, Jon Notarthomas. I didn't know what to expect and it was a pleasant surprise. I talked to Jon Notarthomas afterwards - he was pleased that Amy and I had come , then Ian came over and hugged us and he was glad we were there too and we were mates almost immediately and called each other old cunts in the way that only English blokes can. I was in a stupor for days after - I've been a Small Faces fan since the very beginning, and a Faces fan after that. I'd just met one of my oldest heroes.
And then we played with Ian Hunter. It was one of the last nights at Maxwell's so it was quite emotional. We did a stripped-down thing, Amy played acoustic guitar and I played my Guild Starfire through a fifteen watt Fender Princeton with no effect pedals. It was very rock 'n' roll. We did a different set - The Downside Of Being A Fuck-up, Please Be Nice To Her, Young Upwardly Mobile & Stupid, Summer Of My Wasted Youth, Another Drive-in Saturday, Genovese Bag, All I Want, A Darker Shade Of Brown, Do You Remember That and Whole Wide World. It went over well. I switched to bass for Do You Remember That. A great, wacky guy called Unsteady Freddie filmed it. I usually hate films of us live but I think this one's pretty good:

In between lounging around with the stars, hanging about in hospitals and building bookcases I've been painting again. I've got a new website dedicated to paintings. There are loads for sale but you don't have to buy anything. I've been doing paintings of detergent packets - they make the site look like a supermarket and I'm not sure that anyone likes them. Take time to fill out the pointless survey while you're there - the address is:
It took me ages to think that up.