As I drive along all kinds of things run through my mind. I often find myself asking is this gruelling? People keep telling me it is - that’s a gruelling tour schedule you have there they’ll say, and I’ll do my best to look wan and heroic, all the time thinking that no, it really isn’t any more gruelling than anyone else’s job.
Everyday life is gruelling - getting up at some hideously early hour, climbing into a cold car; waiting in the rain to get on an overheated and overcrowded bus; going to a job you don’t like day in day out - that’s gruelling.
When I’m touring I generally get up late - admittedly I go to bed late - but I get up at perhaps eleven in the morning and take my time. In the UK I stay in Premier Inns. I don’t like them, I used to, but more about that later. It’s okay, they all look roughly the same, they’re usually warm enough, the bed’s usually comfortable, and checkout time isn’t until noon. They’re cheap too, as long as you book far enough ahead.
I answer the odd email, look into the coffee and breakfast options, plumb the address of that night’s venue into the GPS and off I go. I listen to the radio - the Archers, World At One, Moneybox Live, Woman’s Hour, local radio, Jeremy Vine (the thinking man’s man in the pub)… And apart from World At One and possibly Jeremy Vine it’s not exactly gruelling.
At the moment I only have a CD player in the car so the musical listening choices are narrowly dictated. I listen to what I pick up here and there. I was enjoying The Best Of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers until it got damaged in a falling-between-the-seats incident. Now I can’t get further than halfway through Don’t Come Around Here No More before it turns into a very bad digital remix. I’ve also been enjoying a Dandy Warhols album, the one with Bohemian Like You on it. Before you throw up your hands and start yelling at me please understand that these are not neccesarilly listening choices, they’re what I come by on my travels. You might be pleased to hear that I couldn’t get through 10 CCs Greatest Hits - I couldn’t get passed the phoney Americanisms of the early stuff - references to the Senior Prom, and the appalling (yes I know it’s ironic) line: I love to hear those convicts squeal / it’s a shame these slugs ain’t real. For me it hasn’t travelled well, though I do have a soft spot for Donna.
My favourite in-car listening at the moment is an album by my dear friend Robert Rotifer, The Hosting Couple, which I actually engineered and produced. it came out around 2009 on Edwyn Collins’ label and somehow disappeared without trace. Apparently there are enough copies in existence in the back of Edwyn’s wife’s lock-up to potentially turn the album into a bronze, silver, or even triple-asbestos smash. We’re working on a special fourteenth year anniversary reissue and tour.
Robert opened for me in London at the Lexington. He arrived in a very dapper lightweight tweed suit, went onstage with an acoustic guitar and delivered a fantastic thirty five minute set. He told me my audience were wonderful to play for. I’m inclined to agree but my obligation to remain curmudgeonly obviously prevents me.
There’s very little to complain about. Indeed, anyone who has food, warmth, a roof over their head and loved ones around them, who isn’t being shot at, bombed, bereaved or made to leave their home should think very carefully about what they complain about. The world is being run by evil men for their own benefit. Shares in arms companies are on the up. I’m sure everyone feels like I do, unable to do much of anything about it. We have to carry on doing our best, doing good things, and doing them with love and with pride. Because if we give up, if we stop, then the evil men will have won.
Now, if anyone’s got any Greatest Hits CDs they want to get rid of… It’s a long and arduous drive from Manchester to Hull!