Mon 4 Sept, S-Hertogenbosch................Dublin airport at 8am is not the ideal place to be. But once I ordered my first beer of the day, I was ready for whatever adventures lay ahead. Travelling alone, my most valued possession was a good book. I had Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre with me. I had started it a while back, but Asa took it off me to read, and I went back to Aleister Crowley for some light reading. This morning however I'm stuck into The Fourth Crusade And The Sack Of Constantinopel by Jonathan Philips.
By the time I arrived in Schipol in The Netherlands, I hadn't managed to get a wink of sleep, so I hurriedly boarded a train that hurtled me and my guitar and 2 bags to the strangely named S-Hertogenbosch, a pretty city by any standards. A friendly old lady approached me near the river side. She spoke little English, yet she insisted to accompany me through the labyrinthine streets until we located the All In Hotel. Check in, and go for a ramble, and seeing many fine footwear stores along the way, I bought a good pair of western boots in a sale. Japanese food for lunch was my second bargain of the day. Found a terrace for coffee, and feeling like a tourist, I rambled the winding streets back to the hotel. Played guitar for a while, before returning to the 13th century where the Flemish and Norman crusaders are trying to raise funds from the Venetians. I found myself in a world where places like Siena, Genoa, Bologna and Perugia are cites marked by a forest of tall stone towers. Political upheaval and religious madness is commonplace.I went down to The Rode Pimpernel, had a drink and dinner was served. Soundcheck, followed by walk around the town while the support act soundchecked. I enjoyed the gig, the sound was good and the audience appreciated what I did and at a few points the good folks in attendance helped me out whistling improvised melodies to some of the quieter songs, such as 'I Never Knew.'
Tues 5 Sept. Groningen....In the morning I met up with Andre for coffee. Well, he had coffee, I had Earl Grey tea. Andre had been at last nights gig and he suggested we hang out. We walked the short trek to his riverside abode. A musician himself, he was curious about some of my songs and the chord structures, information I freely shared. He sang a few of his own compositions and vague arrangements were made about future gigs in the area. After lunch we parted company and I hopped on a train north bound.
Dutch trains will often split in the middle, while a few carriages shoot off in one direction the rest of the train goes in another. And this is why I ended up in Leeuwarden, about 50K west of my destination. And so, I arrived an hour late. Peter picked me up and after a few glasses of white wine with Peter and his lovely wife Eva (pronounced Eefi) we settled in to a wonderful vegetarian meal . The gig was fine, a tiny place with a big vibe. I got the grand tour, upstairs to the lounge and up to the attic which was once a brothel. The walls and part of the ceiling are still mirrored. I felt at home !ly produced cheese on good wholegrain bread, and a bottle of water. I grabbed a
Wed 6 Sept. Voorst....Peter had made me a packed lunch, wonderful locally produced cheese on good wholegrain bread, and a bottle of water. I grabbed a quick beer before boarding the train and bidding adieu to Friesland. The Legendary Mark Gilligan met me at Apeldoorn and we had dinner and red wine at his place in Voorst, near Deventer. Upstairs we get to work on a new song Mark has written, which I think is called 'The Lodger Inside Of Me'. The song has a great melody, a country vibe, dealing with coming to terms with MS. We change some of the phrasing around, and I play acoustic guitar and we have a few takes. By midnight, we're on our fourth bottle of vino, so we came to the wise conclusion to take a break . Mark had earlier been complaining that Shane MacGowan hadn't contacted. Mark is new to the whole myspace world and had sent a message to the man of many words and few teeth. When he turned on his lap top while I flicked through his records, there it was, a myspace message from Mr MacGowan. So, everybody is at it !
Records were played, The Host, the theme from the Pink Panther, Horslips, Johnny Cash. Mark showed me a great photo....Ronnie Drew's rider. It consisted of a raw onion, a little salt shaker and a cup of tea. Apparently, there's nothing Ronnie loves more after a gig, than a raw onion with salt, a quick cup of tea, and back to the hotel as quickly as possible.Mark talked about his illness, death, religion , politics. I discover Mark is a BAD Catholic. He doesn't believe in life after death and never heard of transubstantiation, which is the means by which the bread and wine actually become the body and blood. There's no room for symbolism if your a catholic. The fifth bottle is opened. We had run out of red wine, so it was on to the rose. By 6.30 it was time for a lie down.
Thurs 7 Sept After a brief meeting with Marks horse, I caught a train to Amsterdam. The middle Eastern place I usually eat in had gone, so I grabbed some food at a stall near Mulligans, where tonights gig is. Met up with Danny Guinan, who I've heard so much about, but never met. The gig was fine, but feeling a bit weary, I decided to have an early night.
Fri 8 Sept . Amsterdam/Hengelo........A big long sleep, which involved some crazy dreams. I got some breakfast from the nearby market, and went for a ramble through the streets of this amphibious city, with its grey green canals spread out like a fan around the harbour. I had been unable to contact the folks in Hengelo. Does the place still exit ??? I had no idea. Eventually Mark got some news for me, and then the guy from the bar phoned, to sey its all happening. So, I eventually arrived in to Hengelo at around 8.30. Set-up and soundcheck. I noticed a 4 foot drop at the back of the stage, and with the place being so dimly lit, I made a mental note to be careful. Checked in to the Kajinsky Hotel, a nice clean place. The gig was fine, the good people of Hengelo seemed to enjoy it. All went well until I slipped off the back of the stage, having forgotten about the dangerous drop. Luckily, no bones were broken, but I did end up with a very bad bruise and a sore leg. Some guy afterwards told me how much he enjoyed the gig, and that he was going to try to find our music for free download on Limewire. He seemed to have no concept of theft.
Sat 9 Sept. Geel, Belgium............A long long hot day getting from A to B. A bus ride, taking the scenic route through north eastern Holland, down through the flat countryside, eventually making it to Geel at around 7pm. After a beer and dinner I was still not feeling up to the gig, but as usual, after I had gotten through the second song, all was good. The folks seemed a nice bunch and afterwards (one encore) I was invited to join a couple at a table. Sonja and Lieven turned out to be very nice folks indeed and we ended up drinking and chatting away for a good few hours. They come from Leuven, up the road, where Charlotte Bronte had studied while living in Belgium. I recently read here Biography, so I've got the Bronte's on the brain.
Later in the evening I briefly met local artist Bruno, who draws very detailed pictures on beer mats, pieces of cardboard, bar receipts, and either sticks them up on the wall of the bar, or carries them around in his pocket. The conversation turns to history and midieval times in central Europe. Then some sort of arguement breaks out....nothing to do with me, so I say goodnight and get 40 winks.
Sun 10 Sept. Amsterdam.....Not a lot to do. My luggage was too big to fit into the Left Kuggage lockers in Central Station, so I trundled up the street, turned right , and by chance I came across an internet cafe. Of course I had to check my space.com to see my new messages, and what Asa has been doing to it. Likewise the racketeers.com website. Emails, and off. I found a little bar down the street and I was just about to grab my first beer of the day, when I spied a chap beside me. "I konw you," I said. "I know you too, I've seen you around Rathmines." We chatted for a few hours, me and Johnny Savoy, mostly about art and the history of Dublin.
After much need brain stimulation, I grabbed a taxi to KHL. The room had A very high ceiling, yet great acoustics. I shared the bill with Skipperavond. I felt sorry for the bunch of Jeff Buckley soundalikes the poor audience had to endure. Without a Hotel for the night, I told the audience that I was up for adoption , only for a few hours , as I needed to get to Schipol airport early next morning. I chatted to people, had dinner and a few social drinks and time rolled on and not one local musician offered me a place to lay my weary head. The code of the road passed them by. The audience filtered home , and still, not one poxy Jeff Buckly clone said..'you can crash on my sofa'....what a crowd of cunts.
Promoter Marijn lived miles away, so I got paid, took a taxi to Central Station, train to Schipol Airport, arriving at 2am, found a seat and settled down to finishing my book on the Fourth Crusade. I fell asleep by 4. By 7am I was awake, suprised to be surrounded by the some massive collection of Ukrainian athletes in bright blue and yellow track suits. All in all, I had a 12 hour wait in the airport, so it was good to get home for a while.
Thurs 14 Sept. Sligo.............Ben Bulben looked splendid as we rolled in to Sligo. The sunshine was beaming down and I could understand why WB Yeats and AE (George Russell) used to spend time there. My driver for the day was Ruth. We had never met before, but she was a good driver, conversationalist and good fun. On arrival we got our stuff set up. Down at Shoot The Crows, I had a few drinks with Leon and his friend Gary. Dinner, red wine and beer in that order. I know you shouldn't mix the grape and the grain, but life is short. In fact, I've got a cool half written song called 'Life Is Long....If You Know How to Live It'. After sound check we hang around, Les and Chris smoke their last pre-gig cigarettes, and on we go. The sound is great, and although theres not many people in attendance, we enjoy ourselves so much, we played for 2 hours and 15 minutes !!!
Sat 16 Sept. Dublin...............It was good to see a lot of the folks that turned up for tonights gig at JJ Smyths. Patrick Freyne, who used to be in the wonderfully named El Diablo opened up for us. A good crowd was in, including a few from Mayo, but Sunday saw the Sam Maguire Cup go to Kerry and not Mayo. Cd's were sold, and afterwards a crew ended back at my humble abode, were drinks were drank and many old records taken out and given a spin. I think we ended up getting some shut eye around 7 am.
Tues 19 Sept. Staufen, Germany..........In Dublin Airport I met a guy whose name I can't remember, but I used to bump into him many moons ago, in various bars around town. Last time I saw him was on daytime TV when he was launching a line of salmon skin products, wallets, little bags etc. I enquired about his business and he told me it was no more. He had lost a lot of money on it, but he didn't seem too phased. He was more upset about being refused entry to the US for some minor misdemeanour 20 years ago, despite the fact they had let him visit the States last year. Thats bureaucracy for you. We had a drink together and I weas introduced to his new lady friend, as they awaited a flight to Malaga.
A few hours later I was in Frankfurt, where I ate a banana and drank a bottle of mineral water. A 2 hour train ride got me to Freiburg where Mick Morrissey met me at the station. The gig in Staufer was a quiet affair, as one would expect on a Tuesday. A nice venue called Martensheim, and American proprietor is a gentleman, which is more than can be said for JJ Smyth, the owner of the bar in Dublin. That lame excuse for a human being is one of the most ignorant asshole cunts I've ever met. And I've met a lot of assholes. But here in German, bar owners tend to respect musicians. As you can guess, we wont be playing that shithole on Aungier St Dublin again. There are better places, cooler joints. The world is wide and I'm feeling good. Word of radio play from Belgium and Canada brightens up our late night drive through the Black Forest area, bound for Freiburg.
Wed 20 Sept. Freiburg...........I walked aroundtown for a few hours, buying a new electric shaver, the old one having packed in business after over twenty years service. Grabbed something to eat, checked my emails. There has been a great reaction to the video for Rambling Jack which is up on My Tube, My Space, the bands website, and possibly a few other places too. Nicol and I worked on a song of his. He had a few chords and we both edited the sequence, I scribbled down some lyrics and it sounded good, Nicol on piano, yours truly singing....aaah ! the voice of an angel.....from hell ! With the bottle of red wine empty and all the cheese in our fat bellies, we headed off into the night, calling into the Drifters Club, Jos Fritz Cafe, where Gunthar plied us with lots of 'on the house' booze, before we finished up in Rattenspiegal where I got to hear the recent Dylan LP 'Modern Times' in its entirety.
Thurs 21 Sept. Freiburg.............Global warming is with us. Very very hot today. It was so good to meet my old friend Wolfgang again. As soon as the gig was over we had chance to have a chat. As usual, he was telling me about what new CD's he was listening to, who I should check out. (John Wasley Harding) The beer flowed, in Wolfgangs case, it was white wine that was flowing. Nicol had joined me for 'Million Miles Awy' and 'Dont Believe What They're Saying' blowing his big brass trumpet. A small crowd, but a nice atmosphere and a great way to spend a hot humid Thursady night.
Fri 22 Sept. Villingen........The song I wrote about driviing down from Villingin was reeling around my tired brain as we loaded into the car. " It's a long way to Sante Fe...it's a long way to Rockfield too..." The local football team were playing in Freiburg, so traffic is slow, but once we got off the Autobahn and onto secondary roads, Nicol was able to put pedal to the metal and we would our way through Christian heartland. Last time we made this journey , banks of snow 15 feet tall had been cut through by snow-ploughs. On this accasion, the windows are down, the sun-roof open, shades worn, but then again, I tend to wear shades in the winter a lot too.
We arrived in one piece. We were greeted by Marco and Jutte, had a drink on the veranda, Hartmud dropped by and it was time to drive over to Cafe Limba and soundcheck. Promotor Bernard Zipfel was there to greet us as was Super Mario...cool guy. There were lots of familiar faces hanging around. It was good to be back. The gig was great. We really enjoyed it . People came over to chat, to buy CD's. Nicol had the chance to catch up with his many old friends that live in this mountain top town, guarded by the medieval watchtowers. Cafe Limba - the coolest bar in the world !
Sat 23 Sept. Bonndorf......Another day another drink. After I had walked all around town, made a phone call, eaten friut and washed it down with two bottles of stawberry and pineapple flavoured milk, I went back to see if Nicol had surfaced. And he had ! We then amused ourselves with tea and bread with cheese and I then went to the computer and showed our genial hosts the video for Rambling Jack. The drive to Bonndorf was uneventful, but on arrival we met Bernard, set up, sound checked and went next door to the very traditional German Hotel Restaurant for dinner. I ate a local fish with potatoes. A great meal and I felt fighting fit for the gig in the Icecafe.
Bernard and I plot other eascapes together and I think I'm in the company of a good man. We made it into two of the local papers two, and they used a photo taken by Jack in New York with the DKNY sign behind my head. It's down on Houston in Lower Manhattan as you head towards the East Village. We were surprised to see the ammount of people of all ages show up for the gig. They had never had a show of any kind in the Icecafe, so the owner Salvatore has a big smile on his face. A great gig, acoutics were great, I performed well, no fuck - ups, Nicol was great, the audiene were great. Lots of CD's were sold and a good time was had by all. The best gig of the tour perhaps !?
Sun 24 Sept. Freiburg............Asian food in the afternoon brightened up my day. Word from home told me that 'Dont Let Me Fall' is # 4 in the CPU chart. Down at Rattenspiegal we meet Manfred who has been responcible for getting us into the local paper and he also plastered posters all around town. He also has a stalker....a crazy lady who has followed him around all day because she thinks he is Jesus. (Manfred has long, center parted hair and a VERY long beard) Mick played a short set, I do my thing, a good time is had by all. I played Hank Williams 'Lost Highway' tonight, simply cos I think its a great song. Bye bye Germany....see you in 2 weeks time.
Thur 28 Sept. Dublin.........Feels like Autumn is on the way. I managed to get o long long summer out of this year. Spent time in the South of France in May, great weather, just got back to Ireland as the Irish summer arrived. Off to East Germany....sunshine sunshine sunshine. Then, a 10 visit to New York and thereabouts. I spent mid June until September 1st in the Emerald Isle, getting the new album finished and playing the odd gig, so it was a long long summer, and I didn't go to the beach once ! Even last week in Germany everybody was mystified as to the nature of the heat. It's called Global Warming !!
I've been checking out You Tube on the Internasty. Film footage of the Stones, There's Wreckless Eric performing 'Whole Wide World' with Daey Payne from The Blockheads on sax. PJ Harvey making a LOT of noise at some fesatival somewhere, Rory Gallagher playing 'Bad Penny' on German TV. Or even The Racketeers doing 'Rambling Jack'. It's all there. Charles Bukowski reading his poetry and calling his wife a cunt to her face in a Swedish documentary. Johnny Thunders being interviewd on Nighthawks on RTE by Shay Healy. (A show I was on a few times myself....back in 1989 I think) The gig at the Belvedere was ok, as nights at the Belvedere usually are. Dave Conway from Trip Hazzard did a solo acoustic set, and we had a chat. A nice evening.
Fri 29 Sept. Waterford.......This You Tube phenomenon is something else. While I was supposed to be making phone calls and packing, time is racing by while I watch obscure footage of people like John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and many others on my computer screen. There's Horslips from the 70's. I'd seen THAT before, but I was out of the country when TG4 did the live show. Somebody told me it was crap, but I always like to judge for myself, and it wasn't crap. 'Ghosts' was better than on the LP, 'Furniture' had a new arrangement, and 'Mad Pat' was sung with great conviction by Charles O Connor. He sang it like Pat was about to slide through a wormhole in space from the 16th century and assault one of the TG4 camera men and then steal Aengus McAnally's drink, before generally running amok around all of Dublin. Bringing on all those guests for 'Shakin' All Over' wasn't such a good idea. Who was that twat playing low-whistle out of tune all the way through ?
Im at the bus station when Ashley Sheehan phones me mumbling something about not enough publicity having been done on the gig, which is rich coming from him, as he's the fucking promoter. He's also organized a gig just down the road where his local band always pulls a crowd. A quick call to the owner of the venue Im in, and the gig is back on. Philly Grimes turns out to be a great place but the gig isn't anything to write home about. If Ashley Sheehan ever plays in Dublin, and I'm in town at the time, expect the place to be fire bombed ! Still, I always like to enjoy life, so drinks and a chat in Philly's with the few folks that show up is fine, a short performance (of sorts) then taxi to my crash pad, John is still up and wine bottles are opened and tales are told til 6.30am or thereabouts. Another day, done and dusted.
Sat 30 Sept. Wexford.............A wet wet day in Waterford. Went out on a ramble in search of a breakfast, but I was reliably informed by my waitress that it's now 3pm, and breakfast ended at 12. So, a sandwich from Centra had to suffice . Down at Nell's along by the Quay, I had a drink or two. My old friend (and proprietor) Mick, was nowhere to be seen. The bar lady had Johnny Cash on the stereo. 'All is good' I thought to myself.. The heavens opened, and the Blessed Virgin was NOT descending, instead torrents of cold Irish rain lashed down on the Saturday shoppers. I luckily had an umbrella, and quickly made my way back up the hill , past the Hypercenter, whatever that is !! Down past the house painted in black gloss paint, (obviously the abode of a gang of bikers.... or Satanists....or both !
Down past Bolgers pub and on to Conor's house, a bit damp, but not too wet.It took an hour by bus to get to Wexford, a place populated by many friendly and mad people, but mad in the right way. I met the guy who used to play with Hummer just after I arrived at the Sky and the Ground, a great old bar. My old friend J. didn't show up, so Jamie, who I'd never met before, offered me a place to stay. I met up with his many friends, had a few drinks, and got down to the business of doing the gig, and very enjoyable it was too. Afterwards, we ended up at some petrol station eating sandwiches, and we somehow managed to cajole the guy in the shop to sell us a few bottles of red wine.
Out at Jamies house we partied until the small hours of the morning. I have a vague recollection of lying down on the sofa at around 7 or 8. My alarm clock rang its vicious little ring at 8.50am. Hopped up, in the kitchen a few folks were still smoking, drinking and looking more than a little wasted. I phoned a taxi, but I was informed that there was an hour to wait. As it turned out, Ruth, one of the all nighters, had a taxi on call, as she hasdto go straight to work. I didn't envy her. We shared the cab back into Wexford town, arriving at the bus station just as the 10am bus was getting ready to leave for Dublin. Thanks to all the folks I met in Wexford. I had a great time......see you next time.........................
Wed 11 Oct. Dublin.........Trying to overcome my addiction to Youtube.com. The latest obsession being the Moon Hoax. Did they really go ? not sure. Who can you believe, what can you believe these days. I'm reminded of Thin Lizzy's "Don't Believe A Word" from 1978. Phil was a prophet, ahead of his time. Now that virtual reality is old hat, where do we stand. I posted a few packages to DJ's here in Ireland, where the new album seems to be getting zero airplay. The Canadians however , are playing it, as are the Germans. We rehearsed and Chris crashed out in my pad, but being a bit wired, Mr Teusner needed a few beers to settle down for a bit of kip, so I think it was 1.30 when I got into bed. Chris stayed up later. The alarm rang at 4am and off to the airport we went............
Thurs 12 Oct. Berlin...........After checking in to The Circus we decided to grab something to eat. Outside on a sunny Berlin morning I heard "Hey Eamonn, how are you". Swinging around I saw it was Aiden from Dublin, a DJ by profession, a nice guy by nature. Had a little chat, went on a ramble, grabbed something to eat and a drink. By chance we bumped into Frank from our German label, Cannery Row Records. Later, I had a lie down, I was much in need of some shut-eye. Les's friend John helped us find our way to tonights venue, the famous Tacheles down on Oranienburgerstrasse. I'd never been there before. The wonderful Impure Thoughts were sound checking when we arrived. The sound is good... and loud.
We sound check and it was good to see Mark again. Frank had organized an interview with a radio station, so that was recorded in the dressing room before dinner. We really enjoyed our gig. It was one of the best of recent times. Old friends like Carmen and Eb, Anto on the door.....all a good vibe.Seeing Impure Thoughts live for the first time was great. The really have it all together. A party atmosphere took over the dressing room, bottles of whiskey were passed around, John and I discussed Austin Osman Spare, and other topics. With Mark Mulholland, the idea of touring the Czech. republic was talked about....the rest is a bit hazy. Back at The Circus, there was no sign of Chris. I awoke around 7am to find him in bed across from me, still in his coat. Apparently, feeling a bit under the weather,he had gone outside Tacheles to get some fresh air, but instead of recovering, he collapsed and was later found by the bar staff after everybody had left. Lucky to be alive.....
Mon Oct 16. New York...Arrived in Sunday night. Uneventful journey. Rarely allow myself to get into a conversation with unknown fellow passengers, but this time, after a few hours of Charlotte Bronte, I got involved in a conversation with the businessman who sat next to me. An ok guy. Knew his music AND his marketing. Off the plane, onto the train. Down on the Lower East Side it was great to see Jack again, and he showed me a few new tricks on guitar. He played Zeppelin's "In My Time Of Dying" note perfect, playing slide in the dropped D tuning. I’ll have to get him to give me guitar lessons!
A ramble around some of my favourite record shops proved fruitless, until I arrived at Rockitt Scientist on St. Marks. I picked up records by Linda Jones, Roy Orbinson, Steeleye Span, and the Four Tops. Also got a shrink wrapped, brand new pressing of The Velvet Underground And Nico. I used to have this, years ago on cassette (!!) so once I spied it on vinyl, I had to have it. How could you say no for $12. When you can pick up an LP of somebody like Linda Jones for $4 you know your doing well. If you were lucky enough to find such a slab of vinyl in Dublin it would be in the collector section for 25Euro.
Tues Oct 17. Philadelphia... Called in to see Simon in Puck Fair. We drink tea, strike a deal, and I have a gig set up for November 15 in NYC. Down in New York's mad hustling Chinatown, I boarded a bus for Philadelphia PA. The rain was coming down like it meant business. Even the biblical Noah, in all his former glory would have had difficulties navigating his way around these chaotic streets. Umbrellas of every colour poised to take your eye out. On board the half empty damp bus, we drive on out to the desolate industrial badlands of New Jersey. Past the Tunnel Diner, the neon sign boasting "Open 24 hours since 1942." That’s a long shift, a big electricity bill, a mountainous pile of receipts for hot dogs and thick black coffee.
We rolled onto the New Jersey Turnpike. It always reminds me of that Springsteen song from Nebraska. The title of the song escapes me now, but I can hear the rumble of it in my tired brain below the clink clank sound of this typer. The rain meant business. Traffic was slower than usual, not a good idea to jam on the brakes too suddenly. Onwards and onwards, past the sign saying, "Welcome to NJ - Governor Jon S. Corvine". So that's how Mr Corvine spends the taxpayers’ money, on self-congratulatory road signs.The gig was at Tritone, and I was settling into my second beer, when Wendy arrived. My old friend and host while I’m in town.
The sound guy was lazy. After my crap inedible dinner, we wandered to a bar up the road, a sort of pick-up joint. I got talking to the bar lady, Anne Marie from Glasnevin, Dublin. She told me she used to go out with a guy called Colin from a band called The Garden Hasn't Changed Much. I remembered the name but never saw them. This was back in the early 1980's. I told Anne Marie that a friend of mine has one of their posters up on the wall of his pad in Dublin. My friend Cormac Figgis. "O, I know Cormac...we used to hang out" she exclaimed. Small world etc..etc...
Back at Tritone, which is actually a nice venue, the second support act is finishing up. I sorted out the sound desk myself, before I went on, did the show. Shook hands with folks afterwards, a little chat here, a little chat there, and off we went. A late drink in Johnny Brenda’s. Chatted to the bar lady who owns the Bambi art gallery. We discussed mostly Outsider Art, and my drinks were on the house. Back at Wendy’s house I get to meet the 3 pussycats, which I instantly re-named Elle McPherson, Kate Moss.... and the black cat had to be Naoime Campbell.
Wed Oct 18. Philadelphia...Breakfast was enough for 3 fat people. We had gone to a local place, not far from the very dodgy neighbourhood where I slept last night. A mix of Jewish and Southern food, I have a tofu scramble with chips, and about a gallon of water. I ate as much as I could, and floated down the street. A drink in a quiet bar, can't remember its name, and then the macabre event of the day. We were stuck in traffic outside a big Catholic Church, when Wendy told me there was some saint inside in a glass coffin. Being an atheist Jew, she had never bothered check it out. "Lets do it" I said, or words to that affect. Parked the jammer, in we went. In the gift shop (the Catholics always like to make a few bob on the merchandise spin-off from Saints) we watched a very boring 11 minute video about Fr. N., born in what used to be Czechoslovakia, immigrated to the US of A as a child, became a good god fearing priest, helped the poor, etc...died, became a saint. After 4 minutes we gave up on the video and went to the chapel to see the man himself. His body had supposedly been "preserved". Disappointingly, his head resembled a Halloween mask. In fact. It WAS a rubber mask. He wore gloves. Absolutely no evidence that what lay in the glass coffin was nothing other than a regular decomposed corpse. In the museum we could find no information on any miracles he had performed, a prerequisite for a saint. In fact, it all seemed like a scam, and not very macabre at all. I needed a drink. ´
Around the corner in a little club called The Fire we had a drink and listened to Mavis Staples being interviewed on the radio.Later I visited a record store or two. Bought Nikki Sudden's new CD "The Truth Doesn't Matter" I had heard rough mixes of it last February, but if you’re a regular reader of these pages you'll know that story well. If not, check the archives. I also picked up a John Lee Hooker Cd as a present for Jack in NYC. He's going through a big John Lee phase and that’s good for the soul, the ear and the rock n roll heartbeat. It was great to meet Dave Dowling for a chat. Good times. Then a lie down back at the house, listening to "Green Shield Stamps."
Half of Philly looks like it could topple over and crumble at any moment. Desolate streets, people living in camper vans up on Front Street, where the train runs over the length of the thoroughfare, blocking out the sunshine. You got permanent dusk down on Front St.
Dogs on the prowl, folks drinking out of brown paper bags, burnt out cars, sirens blaring. The gig at Fergies was great, although the PA was a bit dodgy. Met some good people. Eric, my old friend from Dublin, many moons ago and his lady. Toothless George and his one-man rock n roll extravaganza. Ready to fill the shoes of Hasil Atkins. Dave, Anne Marie...all good fun, and I did the show to the best of my ability, and I got a return invitation, so I must have done something right.
Thurs Oct 18. New York...Did a 20 minute interview with CKCU, a college radio station in Canada, via phone from NYC. I was on Joe Reilly's show, we chatted about the new record, touring, song writing etc. He played Rambling Jack, as well as Don’t Let Me Fall and Nobody Home from the Silver And Dust album. Good publicity and good fun. The gig at the Sidewalk Cafe wasn't exactly the highlight of my rather topsy turvy career. The highlight of the day was watching episodes of Night Gallery, a spooky TV show from 1969. I vaguely remember the pilot episode; it freaked me out when I saw it as a kid.Sat
Oct 20. New York.... At Kim’s Records I got my hands on a great 7" by Jimmy Lee Fautheree entitled "I Got The Cake." Most of the day however was spent recording, an as yet untitled instrumental written by Jack (he plays all the instruments too) and a song I wrote yesterday, a slow ballad, which could be called "There Goes Maryanne", but I’m not sure about that.
Mon 23 Oct. Ottawa (Canada).........Last night I took the 11pm over night Greyhound bus from Port Authority, New York to Canada, stopping off to be interviewed by customs officials, 45 minutes before we reached Montreal. I passed the interview with flying colours. Still, not the most pleasant of experiences at 6.30 am on a bleak wet and windy morning. I had to endure a one hour and thirty minute stop over in Montreal, before continuing to Ottawa, Capital city of this far flung nation. Got chatting to some local folk in the bus station as I drank tea and tried to read a city map. The African lady, told me about her parents had been refugees from Rwanda for 30 years. She had been brought up in Burundi, but now was married with kids here in Ottawa. Smithy is a local tractor driver.... and a musician. After a while, Smithy and his friend drove me to the bar where I’m playing, The Rainbow Bistro. Later I checked into a Pension/Hostel. I've already forgotten what it's called, but I know where to find it, just up around the corner. It used to be a jail (no kidding) so I was a bit spooked when I threw my bag into my cell ! Time for a lie down before sound check.
Thurs Oct 26. Toronto...Monday nights gig at The Rainbow Bistro in Ottawa was fine. It was nice to meet Nick Danger. A good guy. He played a cool set, and his song "Cincinnati" really stood out. The sound was good, and I performed a set that was short on bum notes and big on good vibes. Cd's were sold, and I joined Nick, his lovely wife, and a bunch of his friends for a post gig bite to eat. (I didn't actually eat anything...I had a few drinks instead)
The following morning I arose too late to get breakfast, and having forgotten some apparent vague arrangement to see Nick before I hit the road, I ended up rambling out into the lonesome cold Ottawa morning in search of a cab. We drove to the bus station on St Catherine St., stopping off at the liquor store along the way. On arrival at the station I grabbed a cup of tea and a blueberry muffin, ready to settle in for a two-hour wait to get the bus to Toronto. I then noticed that there was a bus leaving at 11.30, so I hopped on board, two half bottles of red wine and my beloved Charlotte Bronte as travelling companions. The 5 hour journey was uneventful, I spent most of the time reading "Jane Eyre" and sipping my wine. In Toronto I found myself in what looked like the financial district, but soon learned it was the Hospital district. I followed my nose and found a bar. Read the Toronto Star cover to cover, not one but three giant flat screens TV’s right over my head, all with the sound turned down, thankfully.
After some time the kind bar lady allowed me to use the phone, so I spoke to my old friend Robert O Neill, told him my whereabouts, and down he came. We hadn't seen each other in ten years. Back in the day, we were buddies in Art College when we both lived in Galway, west of Ireland, five lives ago. It was good to see him. Drinks were knocked back, we drove off towards Empire Avenue, my base for a few days.The next two days were spent having a look around this huge sprawling city, five million people, that's a lot of people. Tall skyscrapers everywhere, tall enough to rival those in NYC. One day, we drive up to see the Niagara Falls. It was pissing down rain, and cold, and for a while we couldn't find them. I took a few photos. Generally I'm such a bad tourist. I saw a big waterfall, OK ?!!
Fri Oct 27. Toronto.... Tonight’s gig was at Allen’s, down on Danforth Avenue. On arrival I'm greeted by John Maxwell, a gentleman of the first degree. He introduces me to everybody, brings me next door to Dora Keogh's bar for a drink, I meet Dora herself. Back in Allen’s a good crowd has gathered. Andrea who runs AM to FM Promotions who have organized the tour, has brought down a bunch of people, Robert and his lovely wife Kate are in attendance. The sound is good and it being Friday night there’s a good vibe all around.
Sat Oct 28. Toronto.... A wet and windy day.... cold too. So many emails and myspace messages to attend to, and not enough time. The gig up in College St doesn't bring in as many students as expected, just a handful of very loud ones. A few people are ahead of the posse and are in Halloween costumes. They take Halloween VERY seriously here in Canada. It a big event, as big as Xmas. And why not. The last big blowout before winter kicks in its icy cold pointed boot. A festival of the dead. We invented it (the Irish) and now it’s our biggest export, bigger than Bono, bigger than Riverdance and bigger than Guinness. There’s no getting away from the angel of death.
Sun Oct 29. Pickering.... Windswept Pickering, out at 1400 Bayly St. we found the bar. It looked desolate from the comfort of our truck, but on entering we found it bustling with activity and an old country session going on. Its an early one, I'm on at 4pm.I enjoyed the gig, had a few drinks, change the set around from the last few gigs for my own amusement, sell cd's, sign cd's, get paid and get out of dodge..
Mon 30 Oct. Toronto...A day off, so a sleep in was the order of the day. A slow ramble around Kensington Market. Bought a new 'A' harmonica for $17, half the price of what they are in Ireland, and a T-Shirt in Chinatown for $2. While walking into the supermarket in Etobicoke, a lady casually passed by Robert and I, saying in a slightly sinister voice "Detox, for sure." We looked at each other.... was she for real ?? Very bizaare. Was it a case of this lady seeing the rather dishevelled state of the two Irish men, and thinking out loud to herself, or was she a messenger from the trickster god sent to mess with our minds. (In Canadian mythology the trickster figure, is a woman, sometimes known as the Fur Queen, and in Manitoba they have a Festival in her honour.) On we went and bought some groceries before dropping into the liquor store on the way back to 10th Street. If your gonna do detox, you gotta EASE into it.
Tues Oct 31. New Market.... Samhain. Festival of The Dead. The Angel Of Death himself looks on in amusement, perhaps conscious of the irony of it all. What is there in death to celebrate? I suppose it's a time to remember those who have gone, but surely if they were worth worth their salt we would think of them all the time anyway. Hallow'een, a marker on the big wheel turning. The Celtic end of summer and beginning of winter in their two season cycle. What the pre-celts got up to at this time of year is unsure. A strange tribe, the Tuatha De Danann, shadowy folk. I've heard you can still find their descendants in the west of Ireland.
Newmarket is a one-horse town. The gig is at The Hound on the edge of a shopping mall, but it’s a good night. I play for exactly 60 minutes and they're a young tough audience, but I win them over. Promoter Josh is there and the owner of the place plies me with tequila, goldschlanger, and beer. A lot of the folks in attendance are in costume and there's an air of madness in the place.
Thurs Nov 2 Guelph...The TV tells me a cargo ship is slowly sinking in the Baltic Sea. I've crossed it several times myself, taking the one and a half hour sailing from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia. I was seated in the Lucky Dice diner on Shoredrive Road in Etobicoke waiting on my cheese omelette served with potato chips, toast and a cup of tea.
The place is just as you'd imagine a Canadian diner to be. A moustachioed man at the bar sipping beer, big gold rings on his fingers. The guy further down the bar with red lumberjack shirt, and trademark baseball cap. He was wondering how long he could endure before slipping out into the cold for a cigarette. It had attempted to snow earlier but the sky held onto its load. A cold bitter wind blew in across Lake Ontario. Maybe the guy in the red lumberjack shirt was was thinking of the dreams he had as a young man, that lie unfulfilled in a bleak haunted recess in his mind. Maybe he was wondering why the young folk use the word 'awesome' all the time to describe any kind of vaguely decent event or happening. Perhaps he was worried about retrieving his brother’s angel-grinder from the pawnshop. . It could be a case where he's wondering why Susan Sarandon gives him a hard-on. Then again, maybe he wasn't thinking at all. He had reached that mystical meditative state where all thought has ceased to roll. The internal dialogue stopped dead in its tracks.
The drive out to Guelph was another drive on another highway, listening to CKOC broadcasting out of Hamilton ON. Played the gig and drove on.
Fri Nov 3 London...A long long drive, that should have taken three hours but actually took five due to a huge car crash on the motorway. Three cars are still there as we passed by, one so badly sandwiched, nobody could've survived it. Sometimes you gotta count yourself lucky to still be above ground. Luke, who runs the joint I'm playing in is a nice guy, a youthful entrepreneur, with a good taste in music, plays the drums in a band. I sold a good few cd's and meet the local folks.
Dylan had played two doors down and that's stiff competition, after his show more people arrived in. We chatted to Rhonda, on her way to the local reservation to spend some time with the tribal elders. She's part Mohawk, but later claims to be party Irish too. We're still flavour of the month, the Irish.
Sat 4 Nov Windsor.... Drive down through Chatham and Wallaceburg, and on through Rodney. Ripe cornfields stretch for miles. A herd of goats doing their thing. On and on through the flatlands of Ontario. Arriving into the dark industrial city of Windsor, we checked into the Airport Motel. I bough a shirt (black) and a few LP's in a thrift store. We both had a lie down but sleep was unforthcoming. The gig was a fine affair, many good decent people in to listen and to chat to afterwards.
Sun 5 Nov Toronto.... We were listening to Dylan singing "Handy Dandy" from "Under The Red Sky," an album I'd never heard before. That long drive from Windsor to Toronto, beer in my hand, talking of friends from fifteen, twenty years ago. The "where are they now" scenario. So many have disappeared, like melting snow. It was the day of my first ever 'house concert.' And it was fun. A thank you to Robert, Kate and family for putting up with me for the past two weeks. And a thank you to Cindy, the part Saluki dog who shared the sofa with me most nights. I've been told that Cindy is descended from a long line of Egyptian hunter dogs. After a few drinks and selling and signing cd covers, I took a taxi to the bus station and boarded the 9.30pm Greyhound bound for New York City.
Wed Nov 8 New York.... A few days rest does the trick. I needed to re-charge the batteries and that's what I've been doing. Jack and I watched a bunch of repeats of Da Ali G Show on the Comedy Central TV station, which put us in the mood for a visit to the cinema to see 'Borat'. It was hilarious, and scary at the same time. America IS a scary place. You gotta see Borat at the rodeo in the Deep South, or hanging out at an evangelical prayer meeting to see what I mean.
Rambling the streets of NYC I picked up records by Charlie Rich, Mary Wilson and Lorraine Ellison amongst others. Ate cheap but wonderful food at Punjabi on Houston Street, and at the more expensive Taj Mahal up on 6th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue. My mobile phone doesn't work on this side of the Atlantic, and I've been getting on fine without it. We watched "Breakfast At Tiffany's" the other night, starring Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Buddy Epsen and Mickey Rooney. A collection of poems from 1946-1966 by Bukowski is keeping reality very much right in front of my nose. Sweet dreams.
Thurs Nov 9 Boston...The four-hour bus ride to Boston actually took six. Traffic was crazy. I arrived at the venue (Toad) at 9.25pm. I was due on at 9.30! Still, I took time to get my head together, set up, have a drink etc. I performed to a warm reception from people who had no idea who I was. But all was good, and I chatted to folks afterwards who went out of their way to come over and say how much they enjoyed my 60 minute performance. With Andrea Gillis, I went to a club to see a punky country band, can't remember the name of the club, and then off to the Druid for a nightcap.
Fri Nov 10 New York...Down at South Station Bus Terminal to catch the midday bus to NYC.... a long day on the road. The five-hour trip gave me plenty of time to get my teeth into 'Living To Tell The Tale' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I had started to read his book in Berlin last June when I spent a few days there using Jimmy Cinders flat as my base before I headed south into old east Germany. Not being the sort of person who steals (or borrows) books, I left it behind in Jimmy's room. The memory of it stayed with me and as much as I tried, I couldn't locate a copy in Ireland. I looked for it in Canada a few weeks ago, but no luck. Back in New York, some food sorted out my pangs of hunger (I hadn't eaten anything for 18 hours.) A bottle of red wine kept me company while I got stuck into replying to emails and checking out a catalogue of wonderment on youtube.
Sun Nov 12 Boston......Yesterday I found a suitable pair of cowboy boots to aid in my on-going recent retail therapy problem. Found them on sale on Houston Street, the guy was looking for $50, I offered 40 and the deal was done. With Jack, lunch was at the little Thai place up the road on 1st Street. A ramble up to St Marks resulted in a few CD purchases, and a few slabs of vinyl too. This morning I was up bright and early ( 8.30) to catch the Lucky Star bus to Boston. By 9.30 I was standing on the corner of Chrystie and Hester waiting to load up. A young Chinese mother walked by slowly with her son. He was five or six and she explained in a very matter-of -fact, no-nonsense kind of way, that 'No' he didn't have to get married, in fact some people don't get married until they're very old, and some people never get married. The little guy was taking it all in.
The traffic was beginning to swell up the streets, folks played basket ball across in the courts. However, there was nothing lucky about the Lucky Star Coach Company. The bus broke down before we even pulled out, so we had to change into a much older model. The wagon looked like it had been around since the 1970's. It was battle weary for sure, too many sharp turns, too many hours ticking over in never ending traffic jams. The windows rattled and the heat didn't work. As we got out onto the highway heading north, the rain lashed down. Inside the bus there was no way I could get some sleep, I was way too cold.
Arriving into Boston, I grabbed some Asian food to warm myself up. Before the gig, I met with Pedja, from Siberia, a good friend of Mark Mulholland from our German label Cannery Row Records. We had a chat and after the gig I joined Pedja and his friend for dinner, where I saw the biggest array of meat on one table in my life. He had a few drinks, and good chat and Pedja was a gentleman and drove me down to the bus station, where I hopped on board a bus that DID have heat, and off we drove to New York.
Wed Nov 15 New York......On youtube I've been checking out Townes Van Zandt, Kid Congo Powers, Johnny Thunders, Judy Mowatt. I got a great version of Van doing 'Streetsof Arklow' from the Hollywood Bowl last April. Also, Joannie Sommers doing the Northern Soul classic, 'Don't Pity Me', Betty Lavette singing the sultry heart breaker 'Let Me Down Easy' Barbara Lynn 'Your Gonna Lose A Good Thing' and the fine Dee Dee Sharp singing 'I Really Love You'.
Tuesday night we went over to Crosby Street to check out the second hand book store, but somebody was having a book launch with catering ! This resulted in a few hours hanging out, mingling with book publishers, eating some vegetarian finger food and knocking back copious amount of vodka. Later, I was sufficiently organized to cook a fine dinner, pasta with a creamy garlic/tomato sauce, before retiring to Sofie's Bar for a few glasses of red wine.The gig at the Swift Lounge was a strange affair. A loud talking bunch of people seemed to sort of ruin it for the people who came down to listen, but in the end it all worked out fine, and I managed to charm to people who had no idea who I was, to get into the vibe. And so, after 10 weeks and 39 gigs, the tour has come to an end and I survived it in one piece. Home boys, home.