hardly have time to get over one trip before it's time to set off on
another. Less than a month ago I was in Decatur, Georgia, setting up
the first solo show of my paintings. I drove down there in a hire car
stacked with the paintings plus a couple of guitars and an amplifier
because I was going to do a gig while I was there.
always feel as though I'm on the lam when I'm driving off somewhere
in a hire car full of stuff that hire cars never seem to be designed
to carry. This
isn't real life
I'm thinking, and a distant adult voice echoes in my head – when
are you going to stop messing around and get a real job?
a bit late now. I'm six months off sixty – fifty nine and a half
years old. I often wonder how I've managed to get away with it so far but I gave up on
worrying about doing anything about it half a lifetime ago. The deluded
part of me makes these ridiculous intercontinental cross country
journeys because it thinks there's still time – and it's only a
matter of time – it thinks I'm going to make
become a big somebody in the heady world of rock and pop.
rational, non-deluded part of me knows this isn't going to happen.
I'm just trundling along, out-living a lot of badly abused vehicles
that were never meant to be driven so fast so overloaded, and for
such long distances. I used to hurtle along surrounded by full
ashtrays, beer bottles, cassettes and photo-copied maps. Now it's
apple cores, plastic water bottles, toothpicks, CDs and GPS.
fuck for the GPS. Before President Reagan proved he wasn't a complete
waste of space by giving this great gift to the world you could
easily add another hour onto a journey time just looking for the
hotel or the venue. It takes the mystery away of course, the are
we ever going to get there?
We'll probably get there at the time it says on the screen unless we
stop at another Starbucks and slosh down another inch or so of the
sour black liquid that passes for espresso in those places.
I drove down to Atlanta, or Decatur or wherever, stayed in a hotel on
the way somewhere south of Washington DC. As I was negotiating the
beltway around DC in post-rush hour darkness Amy called. I know I
shouldn't have spoken to her while I was driving but there wasn't
much traffic and we hadn't spoken since I left that morning. She was
very excited – it seemed that Lou Reed played Take The Cash on his
final radio show and said I was magnificent. I hardly know how to
process that information. Lou Reed inhabits / inhabited another
world, far away from the grubby, hire car trashing, sink or swim and
under the wire world that I operate in. Or did he?
in the summer we went to see his wife Laurie Anderson give a talk,
present some films and, along with Pauline Oliveros, perform a live
soundtrack for a couple of films that were actually fairly
forgettable in comparison to the music. The equipment broke down –
a computer malfunction. Pauline Oliveros played a couple of solo
pieces on an accordian hooked up to God knows what electronic
trickery while Laurie Anderson scrabbled around on the floor
unplugging and plugging things back in. I felt a kinship. Lou had
people to deal with that sort of thing, his wife didn't, and perhaps
given the choice neither would Lou. In Laurie's obituary for Lou in
Rolling Stone she talks about how their first date was at a recording
equipment trade fair – they met in microphones.
could tell you all about my exhibition in Decatur but I haven't even
mentioned the trip I made to Memphis the month before. Here's an
account I started to write back in October one glum evening in a town
out on the Illinois mud:
sitting here trying to recount the steps that have lead me to room
106 at the Super 8 motel in Staunton, Illinois.
arrived here in the dark having made a ridiculous detour around St
Louis. I should have listened to the GPS but we'd had a falling out
early today - she took me on a tour of interstate highways
surrounding Springfield, Missouri.
just want a fucking cup of coffee I screamed at her. A sign I'd
never seen before came up on the screen – you shook your phone
it accused me. It wanted to report me to Google, mount a full
enquiry. It was lucky I didn't throw it out of the window.
woman was adamant - ignore the signs for Chicago and carry straight
on. I was having none of it. She kept repeating the same phrase over
and over: take the next exit and make a U turn. You've
already fucked-up once today I yelled at her as I ploughed on
into the darkest depths of Bumfuk, Illinois.
out she was right.
I'm going to be nice to her all day.
in Springfield, Missouri the night before. Twenty seven devout
disciples and soon-to-be converts turned out to see me. Taking into
account that Springfield is miles from anywhere, right in the heart
of the very dead centre of mid-western America I think I can count
that as a bit of a success.
Illinois doesn't look like a very nice place to live. It's muddy,
cold, dark and unwelcoming. There's a new plastic gas station that
can probably be seen from outer space, and there's a Hardee's Red
Burrito. Apart from the hotel reception these are the only two
places in the entire town of Staunton, Illinois that are still open at nine
thirty in the evening.
I try to
imagine that the place will look better in daylight
in the room until the last pick-up truck has left the parking lot
outside my window. I figure that an absence of people that travel in
pick-up trucks will make the breakfast room more pallatable. It
doesn't – breakfast finished with the last of the pick-up people.
imagine there's got to be somewhere I can get coffee on the this
highway, somewhere that is McDonalds, Burger King, Popeye's... A
Starbucks perhaps, or even Panera. But there isn't one.
almost an hour I resign myself to Cracker Barrel. It'll be an
adventure I tell myself.
is really homespun and pleased to see me, and very fucking nice.
Large and lumpy - shiny polyester stretched across enormous expanses
of backside. Big chins, white, teeth, plastic hair. This is a the mid
west just as I'd imagined it!
on, my teeth uncomfortably clenched in the aftermath of the sour
strychnine liquid that passed for coffee at the Cracker Barrel. Won't
make that mistake again, next time I'll stop at the side of the road
and drink water out of the ditch.
ago I was in Memphis for the weekend. Six days ago I was in
Knoxville, Tennessee. A number of hours before that I was in
Richmond, Virginia. I played in a place called Gallery 5. They said
it would be packed because a lot of people were disappointed to have
missed the show when Amy and I played there last February. They
didn't show up so I suppose they're still disappointed. I played to a
warm and welcoming crowd of almost thirty people.
I stayed with Amy's cousin Ceci. We hung out in her kitchen with a
friend of hers who knew more about obscure British underground bands
of the sixties than I do, and about two thirty Ceci wondered how far
it was to Knoxville. Can't be more than two, three, possibly four
hours I said. We all agreed that that sounded about right, but
just to be on the safe side somebody looked it up on Mapquest.
hours and forty seven minutes not including delays bought about by
I knew I
had to get up so of course I couldn't sleep, spent four and a half
hours supended in a semi coma and fell into a deep sleep just as the
alarm went off. Standard procedure really.
was running on empty so I got the nice GPS / Google Maps lady to
direct me to a gas station. There's only one gas station in Richmond,
a BP station on the other end of town. I set off in hot pursuit,
turning left and turning right until I got embroiled in some
roadworks that the GPS lady didn't know about.
occurred to me that a town the size of Richmond must have more than
one gas station. Ceci had actually directed me to one just round the
corner from her house but I didn't quite take in the information
because I knew that the GPS lady would set me right. The bitch set me
wrong, the bitch being the GPS lady, not Ceci who is without a
doubt my favourite distant in-law.
I found a Citgo gas station almost in sight of the BP one. It was an
unpleasant experience in a desperate neighbourhood but I noticed as I
passed the projected BP station that I'd save a couple of cents a
gallon. So fuck you Google Maps and fuck you BP. And fuck you too GPS
lady - you just put nearly an hour on the travel time.
the interstate and drove on in a tense silence.
in the mid-afternoon after a less than delightful culinary experience
in rural Virginia it occurred to me that I was going to be late for
the soundcheck. In fact, unless I got a move on I was probably going
to be too late for the show. I stopped in a Starbucks and loaded up
on coffee. The girl behind the counter loved my accent – said I
reminded her of Michael Caine. She asked me what I was doing in the
middle of Virginia, asked me how I liked it. I knew she was into
films - it's alright, but it's a bit squeak piggy squeak if you
know what I mean. She did. She fair swooned, said I'd made her
day. I half expected her to run out to the car, flinging off her
Starbucks apron and screaming take me with you...
didn't, but her and the coffee cheered me up no end.
onward at the speed of light being careful to observe the speed
limits and watching out for highway patrol cars.
arrived in at the Pilot Light in Knoxville just as the opening act
were about to go on. The opening act was Tim & Susan Lee or The
Tim Lee 3 minus 1, or possibly just The Tim Lee 2. Tim helped me load
my gear in before they went on. The Pilot Light was great and I wish
I could play there every Thursday. No soundcheck but a soundcheck was
hardly neccesary – I told the soundman what I wanted, strummed a
couple of chords, talked into the mic, and before I knew it I was
halfway through the set. And the place was full and the people
actually wanted to hear what I was doing.
It was a
change from the last time Amy and I were in Knoxville – we played
in a beer hall for students not long after Michael Jackson died. Two
girls were dancing in front of the stage as we set up. They were
obviously high on ecstasy, flowers painted on their faces, swooshing
long scarves around, embracing anything that moved, that kind of
thing. Do y'all play any Michael Jackson? one of them asked
me. I told her I was terribly sorry but y'all didn't play any Michael
Jackson. They stuck around anyway, swooshing their scarves, flailing
their arms and occasionally going Wooo! in a gamely
half-hearted manner. They lasted two and a half songs before one of
them wandered off and the other fell in love with a pillar. By that
time we could hardly hear what we were playing over the noise that a
lot of beer drinking students in a place with a high ceiling makes.
this time though. No swooshing scarves or flowers painted on faces.
Just a very nice crowd of all ages.
then I drove across Tennessee to Memphis. Took me two days. I stopped
in a town called Cookeville. I needed gas, and maybe a cup of coffee.
And then I thought I might as well stop for dinner. It was only five
o'clock, a little early and there was very little choice but I was
dreading the culinary roadside delights that might be lurking west of
Nashville. So I stumbled into the Olive Garden and ordered the
waitress kept calling me Buddy. She noticed that I was looking tired
and suggested that if I wasn't in a hurry I should stick around. She
probably thought I was on holiday, some silly English retiree living
the dream, working out a deluxe Kerouac fantasy. She put the idea in
my head and in no time at all, in between the salad and the main
course I'd got my phone out and Hotwired my way into a three star
hotel on the outskirts of town.
gave me a ground floor room with the usual fixings, double bed,
reclining chair, fridge, microwave, coffee machine, flat screen TV, a
huge air conditioning unit under the window... and next to the bed
where you'd normally have a night table with a telephone and radio
alarm clock, a big dehumidifier that was turned up full. I was
somewhat disturbed by this so I called the front desk and asked for
of their proximity to the swimming pool, the rooms on that side of
the hotel tend to get a little er... moist.
noise it made was deafening so I turned it off and hoped the room
wouldn't get too swampy.
the next day I drove to Memphis and played at Gonerfest. It was an
almost eerie experience. The audience was in rapt attention. During
the quiet bits I could hear aeroplanes flying overhead and the sound
of distant traffic.
a weekend in Memphis I drove through Arkansas to Missouri and
Springfield. And you know the rest.
and I are playing in Montclair, New Jersey on Saturday then I'm on my
own - flying to London for a one-off reunion of The Len Bright Combo.
And a few solo dates. I'll be gone for three weeks. I don't think Amy
and I have ever been apart for that long since we shacked up
together. I hope she doesn't enjoy life without me too much!
30 MONTCLAIR NJ The Art Garage
7:30 PM TICKETS
(Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby)
05 THE LEN BRIGHT COMBO live session on The Marc Riley Show, 6 Music
06 THE LEN BRIGHT COMBO live at The Lexington, LONDON
WRECKLESSERIC SOLO UK TOUR DATES
08 WORCESTER, Marr’s Bar http://www.marrsbar.co.uk/
12 GLASGOW, Woodend Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club tickets
13 EDINBURGH, The Citrus Club, 40-42 Grindlay Street http://www.citrusclub.co.uk/gigs
14 GATESHEAD, The Central http://www.theheadofsteam.co.uk/gateshead-live-music/
15 LEICESTER, The Musician www.themusicianpub.co.uk
16 BRIGHTON, The Prince Albert