Thursday 22 December 2016


Apart from the odd gig here and there I've never been a sideman but that's all changed now - I've just finished a ten date UK tour playing bass and guitar for my wife, Amy Rigby. Originally I offered to come over and drive her around as she's not confident about driving on the other side of the road and on the other side of the car and has limited experience of cars with manual gearboxes. I rather fancied myself in the role of Parker, Lady Penelope's chauffeur in Thunderbirds, I got myself all togged up in a grey suit, silk scarf, peaked cap and kid gloves. It was lost on Amy - she'd never heard of Thunderbirds until Lindsay Hutton spotted the resemblance up in Scotland and we subjected her to a classic episode involving The Shadows.

She said of course I'd have to play on a few songs. It made sense - we've always had fun touring together, and we'd just done a run of shows in the US as a three piece with Doug Wygal on drums and me on bass, so I knew the tunes.
It's been interesting - there's a whole world of paranoia and malcontentment hitherto unknown to me. I've gained a new perspective, an understanding of what makes the hired gun tick and why they can be such a drag to work with.
There's very little responsibility - I soon learned that if anyone asks you a question the answer is I don't know, which mutates into don't ask me, I'm only the bass player. A certain sulkiness sets in - you're not the star of the show and ideally no one's going to notice you or even remember you were there, lurking in the shadows, plucking out random bass notes. The star of the show turns and asks - can you play on this song now? and you say 'Mmm hmm, I can do that' with a tacit I can play anything you like as long as you're paying me.
You hang around before the show. The star is edgy, concentrating, preparing herself. All you have to do is walk out, pick up the bass and play it. You don't even have to get change - not much sweat involved out there in the shadows. So you leave in the same clothes you were wearing when you walked in.
There's not much to do so you stay out of the way of the star and chat with whoever happens to be around. The affable sideman. This must be the root of the oft-told story - the band were really nice, a great bunch of blokes, but she/he was a stuck-up cow/bastard.
It's obvious to me now that dressing rooms are furnished with cans of beers in an attempt to keep the band from cluttering up the bar before the show. I don't drink but I still found myself doing a fair amount of pre-show bar cluttering. It's not good for the mystique. The alternative is to sit and wait in the cramped backstage with the crampy star of the show. I understand now just how this tedium can lead to the drawing of a penis on the dressing room wall. Not that I ever succumbed to this activity. I understand though - this is the kind of existence that could turn a man into a moron.
To counteract the moron effect, sidemen have lame discussions about Proust, the Middle East, the latest Scorsese film... this often degenerates into an inquiry into the state of the drummers bowels or the lead guitar player's latest sexual conquest. And then it's back to drawing penises.
The set list arrives - she's taken out the one with the good bass line, my moment in the spotlight. A gentle enquiry: Er, you're not doing this one tonight...?
'No' comes the terse reply, 'not feeling it'
Self doubt creeps in:
Is it my fault?
Am I not playing well enough?
What am doing here?
Am I adding anything to this?
And paranoia:
They're loving her and wondering why the hell I'm here. Last night, just last night a guy was telling her how great it is that she's doing a solo show. A SOLO show. Everybody loves her. No one ever mentions my bass playing. 
There's a reason for that...
It's worse when there's a band and you don't know them very well:
The rest of the band think I'm crap. They think I'm only here because I'm married to the star...
The audience are obviously thinking exactly the same...
And the more it goes like this the worse the playing gets.

It wasn't at all bad in actual fact. Amy and I have toured and played together for years and we're well aware of each others insecurities and idiosyncrasies. We also know that whatever we're doing, whether we're playing together as Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, or she's backing me, or I'm backing her, we're on the same team. We make mistakes, amps get turned up too loud, then turned down too quiet, we play wrong chords, forget bits, but we never give each other a hard time about these things. We help each other through - that's what bands are supposed to do.
I was still surprised after one show on this tour when she told me that she'd felt convinced in the middle of the set that most of the audience were there because they'd heard I was playing. If that had been the case, and I'm sure it wasn't, she would have completely eclipsed me with her performance anyway.
She played some of the songs alone, and as there was no backstage at a lot of the venues I had to figure out somewhere to be. I didn't want to stand around cluttering the place up and diverting attention away from Amy, and neither did I want to step off the stage into the audience and risk having someone try and engage me in conversation, so I came up with the solution of sitting on a chair to the side of the stage and calmly listening.
It was a great place to be. Listening intently, enjoying every moment, and ready to spring up and get to work on the guitar or bass (with just that hint of sideman begrudgement of course...) It worked well, but towards the end of the tour I was complimented on my listening pose, and on the second to last night someone in the audience commented loudly when I took my scarf off as I sat there between songs:
'He's just taken his scarf off!'
I was getting too good at it.

And every night when she got to the line in Cynically Yours - and plus you claim to love my ass... I tried not to nod my head too enthusiastically. A sideman must remain a gentleman at all times.

Wednesday 31 August 2016

A Word From The Cunt That Created The Product

I received an email the other day from someone I'd never heard of at Demon/Edsel Records:

I hope this email finds you well.
I work for Demon Music Group and we will be reissuing the three Wreckless Eric CDs on the 9th September.
 I was hoping you would be able to post a picture/link and some info re the releases (which I can provide) on your facebook page please to let the fans know?
I look forward to hearing from you.
With thanks,

I wanted to reply:

Thank you very fucking much for telling me about this release - are you people always so fucking rude to the artists whose work you’re peddling?

But I didn't - I took control of myself and asked which three Wreckless Eric CDs she might be talking about, as there are rather a lot of them.

Turns out it's the first three: Wreckless Eric, The Wonderful World Of... and Big Smash - and only on CD though they might consider a vinyl release later in the year. I wish then luck with that - CD sales are at an all time low. Still, it might be nice if they sent me a box or two to sell at shows, give away to the family, or just to have in the archive. I'm wondering what the chances are - I'm still waiting for Union Square to send me a copy of the last Stiff Records reissue of my catalogue.

I could get quite upset about this kind of thing. No could about it in fact - I do, I get very fucking upset. Nice people - they really know how to treat the cunt that created their product. But there's nothing I can do about it so there's no sense in dwelling on it for too long because it's a waste of energy. Instead I tried to concentrate on what I can do to capitalise on the situation.

For the past few years I've been putting off re-editing my autobiography, A Dysfunctional Success, with a view to making it available as an ebook, and eventually a new print edition.
It's a good time for it to come out again with these latest reissues. You can buy my first three albums and read some of the background, not that I celebrated the hallowed Stiff Records - I think they've already done enough of that themselves.

The book is about being a child in the late fifties and early sixties, about growing up in middle-class suburban England, about not fitting in and searching for some sort of identity. It's about my haphazard and all too sudden rise to fleeting stardom in the seventies and what happened when it all went wrong - squalor, poverty, Thatcher's Britain in the 1980s. It's a pop biography by virtue of being written by a minor pop star but it's a million miles from the smarmy world of pop success. It's a testament to my own personal success - how I survived, came out intact and was even able to write a book about it!

Here are a couple of extracts:
extract 1
extract 2

It took me a couple of years because I moved house three times, possibly in attempts to escape from the writing. It was hard work. Twelve years later I think I might have worked even harder to make it available as an ebook. Now I'm working on another print edition, and if I still have a mind left having achieved that I might even write another book.

I've learned an awful lot about formatting in the past couple of weeks. I crawled over the manuscript, correcting mistakes that went un-noticed in the original edition, and created a lovingly handcrafted digital ebook thing. I cursed at Kindle and Smashwords and I-Books, and at my own inability to understand complicated instructions, but it looks like I've finally done. It’ll be available on September 4th from Amazon or iBooks.

I know some people hate the whole Kindle/i-reader thing - I resisted for years until I realised I could go on tour without dragging a whole library of rapidly disintegrating books along with me. Same goes for the i-pod - I'd love to take my entire album collection with me when I leave home for three months at a time but it isn't very practical. Especially on aeroplanes.

When I’ve got over the shock of publishing my first ebook I’ll get to work on the print edition. In the meantime you can pre-order the ebook and have it automatically delivered to your device at the stroke of one minute past midnight on the morning of Sunday 4th September. I’m not sure that there’s any incentive for you to pre-order except to help boost me into the bestseller lists - and of course that’s going to happen - but I’d be obliged if you would. You’ll be part of the making of my very own dysfunctional success and for that I’ll be grateful. That’s your incentive! Here are the relevent links:



And because I'm not churlish, and because even though they may not be my products they're my albums, here's a link to the Demon/Edsel reissues:

Wreckless Eric:
Wonderful World Of Wreckless Eric:
Big Smash: 

Wednesday 27 July 2016

amERICa Coast to Coast 6

Forty one dates and fifteen thousand miles, north to south, east to west and back again across the United States and Canada, just me with three guitars, an amplifier, two fuzz boxes, a cheap delay pedal and a dodgy looper that puts things backwards and cuts them to half speed. I broke four strings on my acoustic guitar and one on my telecaster. I ran through five sets of electric guitar strings, eleven sets of acoustic strings and close on a hundred guitar picks. I almost wore a hole in the top of the acoustic guitar. I had to keep brushing sawdust off the thing - I’ve never played with such consistent violence. I suppose it’s a reflection of the times we’re living in.

Now I’ve been home for a month and that old familiar just like I’ve never been away feeling is creeping back in. I'm hoping that in time we can make the house look a bit less like a depot. When either or both of us come home the house fills up with dirty laundry, guitar cases, leads cases, amplifiers and stuff. The laundry's all done now, guitar cases are stacked up in the garage, guitars are cluttering up every room and I'm busy writing songs for a new album.

The touring is fast turning into a distant memory and I'm left wondering if it all actually happened. I think it did. I’ve given up trying to single out the highlight shows - they were all highlights in their way - I blew people’s minds. That seems to be what I do, I blow minds.

I was sitting outside the club in New Orleans before I played. A tall guy strolled up accompanied by a good looking woman. The promoter scooted up and quickly explained that the guy was a New Orleans hotshot guitar player, Mason Ruffner. We were introduced and it was slightly awkward because he obviously wasn’t that interested, and who could blame him. They’d strolled by to catch a couple of songs because his wife liked Whole Wide World.

When I finished my set he came rushing over to me, wild eyed and exclaiming:
‘You just blew my fuckin’ mind man - I ain’t never seen one guy with a guitar do that! And plus, you don’t give a fuck do ya?!!?’
I played it cool but I was quietly thrilled - he’s a great guitar player and he obviously meant what he said.

I liked Marfa in Texas an awful lot. I’d been wanting to go there for sometime. A sleepy town on the edge of the West Texas desert - the minimalist Donald Judd bought some buildings there and a small artists community developed. I played in the Lost Horse Saloon. The owner was a real cowboy - a monument to the Wild West: seven feet tall in cowboy boots, a floor length duster coat, Stetson and a black leather eye patch. He had a German girlfriend called Astrid. The show had been organised by a lovely woman called Julie who escaped to Marfa from Austin. I found out later she’d held a bake sale to help raise money to put the show on. We stayed in her Air B’n’B and it was quite wonderful.

I had fun, I survived, and I think I got away with it:
  • I hung out by the ocean in Brunswick, Georgia, and narrowly escaped being murdered by a lifesize baseball bat wielding bunny rabbit
  • bought an early seventies Silvertone hollow body guitar in perfect condition for next to nothing from a pawn shop in a sleepy town in the wilds of southern Georgia 
  • visited the Country Music Hall Of Fame with Amy who flew into Nashville too late for my outdoor show at the fabulous Fond Object; 
  • spent a few days in Lafayette, Louisiana, hanging at with Tess and Patrick of Lagniappe Records and saw alligators in the bayou
  • caught up (albeit briefly) with the great Hartleroad brothers and cousin 
  • endured the desert heat of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona 
  • rediscovered the great tamale takeaway in El Paso
  • celebrated my 62nd birthday in Tucson, Arizona
  • had the greatest time I’ve ever had in California
  • played a show in Los Angeles with Jessica Espeleta and Bart Davenport as my last minute backing band 
  • had The Mantles as a cameo backing band for a couple of tunes in San Francisco 
  • caught up with Roy Loney in SF and Scott McCaughey in Portland, Oregon
  • met up with my old tour manager and soundman Tony Ferguson from the glory days of Stiff Records. He told me he was really proud of me and that meant a lot
  • almost lost my mind in the Canadian Rockies on a two day drive from Vancouver to Calgary 
  • reflected on the futility of existence over the thirteen hundred miles between Edmonton and Sioux City (broken up by a show in Winnipeg which looked like it might be a disaster but ended up being a triumph)
  • hung out for a day with Ryan Myers at Sioux City Guitars trying out his handmade amps and effects 
  • made my way steadily eastward and home via shows in Chicago, Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit and Rochester where I woke up in the same room where I’d woken up a year last May, terrified at the prospect of playing a collection of new tunes from my as yet unreleased amERICa album for the first time, at a festival in Toronto later that night - I was just a beginner back then.
Of course there's a lot more to it than that - you can read about it in previous posts. I try not to repeat myself.


I made it through the night in room 622 of the Sioux City Howard Johnson. I got into bed and even though it was a warm night I kept all my clothes on. I was beginning to feel itchy and I was hoping it was just psychosomatic. It’s not just neurosis - I once contracted scabies from a hotel very similar to this once, and that was a very distressing and debilitating experience.

I made the room as ok as I could - selected a couple of pillows from a mis-matched collection of six, three on each queen-size bed. They were the sort of cheap pillows that are filled with chunky off-cuts of foam from an upholstery factory Nothing felt clean, the bed covers and pillow cases were creased and rumpled as though they’d just come out of storage. The carpet was gritty and stained. There was a two inch gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. I rolled up the bath mat to block the gap - this is standard practice - you don’t want the outside world intruding - draughts, light, cigarette smoke, mice… so you roll up the bath mat and block the gap. That’s what the bath mat is for.

I should pass on a few survival tips culled from years of road experience:
  • Put the plug in the sink and fill it up past the overflow. The overflow pipe quite often holds trapped water and unless it’s change it goes stagnant, and that’s part of the reason hotel rooms often stink.
  • Open a window if you can. The air conditioning unit might well replace the air but it’ll be passing through dirty filters and layers of greasy fluff. Best not to dwell on that.
  • If there’s a microwave don’t open it (a precautionary measure - you don’t know how clean it might not be). Unplug it if you can so that the light from the clock doesn’t keep you awake. 
  • Do the same with the fridge. You don’t need the noise of the fridge kicking in every forty minutes. If you can’t unplug the appliances without moving the furniture or reaching into a grubby and undusted recess put a folded towel over the microwave clock and turn the temperature control in the inside of the fridge to the off position. Make sure you shut the fridge door properly.
  • If the bed has a plastic mattress cover under the sheet you’ll need to remove it or you’ll wake up in a lake of your own sweat. I’ve thought about this rather more than I’ve really wanted to but it has led me to a fairly positive viewpoint: any spillage by previous occupants of a sexual, menstral or incontinent nature will most likely have been intercepted by the plastic sheet because no one else will have had the foresight to remove it, so the chances are that the mattress underneath will be pristine, not that you ever want to actually see the mattress. YOU NEVER WANT TO SEE A NAKED HOTEL MATTRESS. What you don’t see doesn’t exist.
  • This is how you remove and dispose of the plastic sheet without ever seeing the mattress: Open the wardrobe door. Go to the back corner of the bed furthest from the wardrobe, gently lift the fitted sheet, without looking remove the fitted corner of the plastic sheet, and (still not looking) push the plastic sheet under the undersheet and the fitted corner. Repeat on the other corners, and when you get to the last corner which should be the one next to the open wardrobe, quickly pull the whole plastic sheet out from under the sheet, stuff it into the wardrobe and shut the door on it. Try to do this without breathing. Replace the fourth corner, wash your hands and try very hard to think of something else, something wholesome, something pleasant.
  • If the hotel room is too grubby and it’s too cold to go and sleep in your vehicle, or you don’t have a vehicle, you could forgo performing the plastic sheet trick and just sleep on top of the fully made up bed in your clothes and whatever you have in the way of an overcoat. This is also a good solution for beds where the mattress is completely shot and you’re just lying on springs covered with a threadbare expanse of piss-stained poly-cotton and an undersheet.
  • And one final tip: when you take your socks off remember to put each sock into the shoe to which it purtains. If you don’t do this you run the risk of putting your socks on the wrong feet and after a week or two wearing the same socks you’ll get blisters.