Tues 8 July New York........After the usual stupid questions from the immigration officials at Dublin airport I got on the plane bound for New York. Slept soon after boarding and that’s the best way to deal with a transatlantic flight. I awoke in time for the horrible dinner, ate a bit of it, the bread, cheese and the desert. Wisely avoided the main course. I spent some time reading DBC Pierre’s Ludmilla’s Broken English. He won the Booker Prize and the Whitbread First Novel award a few years back for Vernon God Little. I read a few chapters and nodded off again, arriving into JFK a little later than expected, shortly after 1 o clock.After meeting up with Jack we go out for a bit of a ramble.
Up at Kim’s on St Marks I notice the vinyl section has moved downstairs and it’s been expanded too. Vinyl is making a big comeback, a wonderful two-finger salute to the record industry. Went down to the crazy old antique store on Houston where I got a cool pair of boots once upon a time, but today there was nothing worth buying, apart from a mummy sarcophocus, but I reckon Aer Lingus wouldn’t let me on the plane with that on the flight home. We picked up some Indian food at Punjabi. Later we watched the DVD documentary If I Should Fall From Grace with God, the life story of Shane MacGowan which was interesting and funny too, and sad.Slept for a few hours and a lady rings the doorbell. She’s collecting money for a neighbourhood family whose son was shot last night. A few bullets to the head ended his life. Gone gone gone at 17 years. Jack reckoned he knew him to see. Apparently it was a gang related hit.
As we strolled to the local pawnshop in a hunt for cheap guitars, we noticed the area right around the corner cordoned off by cops. Two rival TV crews were there filming their slots for the News. We didn’t find anything of interest in the pawnshop and Jack was feeling peckish so we swung down Delancey and into Chinatown. We visited some place renown for its good value, and had dumplings and pancakes. Re-fuelled we continued on our merry way in the hot summer sunshine. On Prince’s Street we came across a guy playing golf using empty half pint milk cartons instead of a ball. The object of the exercise was to get as many milk cartons as possible into a bin about 20 yards away. Nobody took any notice of him. Only in New York!
Bought four books for the princely sum of $2. Two by Thomas Hardy, one by Sir Walter Scott and one by Solzhenitsyn. I played guitar for a while, getting my head around a few new songs I’ve got on the go. Down at the Rockwood Music Hall I played a gig. Kevin Lynch arrived in big golden aviator shades and a new Mohawk haircut. It’s always good to see Kevin. I also chatted to Niall and Nashville Mike who used to work for EMI, then Virgin. I’ve forgotten who they’re with now, but they seem to want to do business and we talk shop for a while. Andy Fitzpatrick whose been living here for years showed up for the gig. He played with the harvest Ministers back in the day, and later with the Da Da’s. He told me Will Merriman had been over recently recording. I pass Will every now and again on the street in Rathmines and we wave at each other. Andy tells me that Will plays music, reads the Bible and gets on with life in his own way, and fair play to him. We later relocate to some bar called the International and later to Softie’s.
Another day, another cup of tea to wipe the cobwebs from my brain. Over at Academy Records I check out a lot of records, listening on headphones before I purchase. After a trip to Kim’s I’ve got in my possession, LP’s by Merle Haggard and Junior Parker. I’ve got 45’s by John Lee Hooker, Bill Justis, Jimmy Reed, Johnny Cash, Richard Maltby, and a great new single from Demon’s Claw’s. I also picked up a few interesting experimental / avant gard slabs of vinyl. A split 7 inch on the Black Horizons label featuring My Cat Is An Alien and Valerio Cosi. In the same vein, but sounding a bit more sinister, a bit like David Toop on bad acid are Devillock and Yellow Swans. Very good stuff indeed.Mexican food arrived as if by magic and we watched a movie, There Will Be Blood which was entertaining, a hell of a lot better than the Dylan film I’m Not There which seemed like a pointless exercise in feeding the myth. I’m so tired of rock stars complaining about their success and the trappings of fame. The whole premise of the movie seemed to revolve around complaining about being a spokesman for a generation. If you don’t want to be remembered as a ‘spokesman’ then why did you sing all those political songs, why hang out with Joan Baez, with the civil right movement singing at Martin Luther King rallies ?. To be famous? Fine, just don’t complain, stick with playing gigs for the pope.
The following morning was Jacks graduation and we were all very proud up at the Great Hall At Cooper Union. In the early days of the hall, audiences heard Abraham Lincoln and Sioux Chief Red Cloud speak. It later years Mark Twain, P.T. Barnum, Allen Ginsberg and Bill Clinton spoke from the Great Hall stage. Photos were taken, film was filmed and lunch was had. An email informed me that Darragh McCarthy was in town, and I should phone him, so I did. We chatted for a while and I invited him out to my gig. ‘I’m very tired’ was his reply. It was 4 o’ clock in the afternoon. I needed a lie down and Jack later woke me up saying we gotta go. Let’s try out a song, I said. We ran through Don’t Believe What They’re Saying a few times, Jack playing acoustic slide and then took the subway to Brooklyn. I played my set and some people had come in from Jersey for the night and it was all good fun.
The Jalopy Theatre is run by Jeff and Lynnette, good folks who moved down from Chicago a while back, but have plans to eventually move to Zanzibar. For the time being, Jalopy functions as a cool venue, with a music store up front, where they repair and sell old guitars, fiddles mandolins, harmoniums…you name it. Jack joined me for the last song and it was great to perform in public together for the first time. A great vibe indeed. Lynnette arrived with a big chocolate cake and we let the good times roll, dogs running riot, beer bottles getting spilt, stories being told. Later, much later, as we took a taxi back across the Brooklyn Bridge I felt a tinge of sadness. The New York skyline looked magnificent, lit up like a Christmas tree, but I knew I wouldn’t be back anytime soon.
Sun 22 June Dublin……Spent most of the night cruising through the mad labyrinth that is the internet looking for alternative ways to package CD’s. Im not too fond of those jewel cases that always end up scratched and sometimes broken. I threw out a spread of the Tarot and the hours came and went. Kelvin L. Smith played on the stereo as dawn broke and the sun rose slowly in the east with the help of Lucifer. I went for a lie down at around 9 in the morning, but set the alarm for 10.30, as I had a train to catch. I was just after buying my ticket at Heuston Station when I got a phone call to tell me that Mark Griffin had dropped off a copy of The Hexagraph for me. This was a one-off Zine that I put together back in ’93 when I was in a band called Captain Hex and we thought it would be fun to publish something instead of doing a record. I had been in touch with Genesis P Orridge’s crowd, The Temple Of Psychick Youth and got permission to publish extracts from their booklet Television Magick. The Hexagraph also had a piece on the record label, Micky Rourke’s Fridge, a comic strip and amogst other things we published poetry by Pat Boran, Larry Cosgrave and Bil E. Kinnarney. I wonder whatever happened to him ? I hadn’t seen a copy in a good ten years, and as I boarded the Westport train I tried to remember what the issue looked like.
Tuesday was spent cycling around twisty rural roads, visiting the eerie Kilcolman Graveyard, and exploring laneways that led nowhere. I even managed to crash the bike, and ended up with a bruise on my knee and one on my arm after I took a fall. Hours were spent reading John McGahern’s Memoir. Very readable, if a bit depressing. Strangely the Ireland of the ‘40’s that he describes so well lasted into the early 70’s. There’s a lot I can identify with.
Back in Dublin I spent the afternoon mixing tracks in the Trinity College recording studio and later after cider at the pavilion bar we visited another pub and eventually had dinner at the Millstone restaurant on Dame Street, where the red wine flowed freely. Went home and fell asleep. On awakening a new day had dawned and the mixes sounded good. I flicked through my long lost copy of The Hexagraph and the memories came flooding back. I was late arriving and missed the first half hour of Holly Golightly’s gig. She was great, a bit tired, but still wonderful. They’ve got a hectic touring schedule. It being the solstice we got the artwork finished and the missus got It Doesn’t Matter At All over to the folks at downloadmusic and it’s available as a single for 99 cents. As all this stuff was being sorted I felt the creepy cabin fever feeling one sometimes gets. The city was in the grip of a slow creeping dampness. My least favourite form of rain ruined the day. The drizzle lasted for hours. I met Les in an Asian place on the north side and caught the oldtimey session in the Cobblestone and then on to a makeshift art gallery for an opening and the obligatory free red wine. Indian food followed and I fell asleep. In a few hours I’ll be on my merry way to New York City……..
Thurs 12 June, Dublin…..I was rooting around on the shelf looking for a pen when I found my 1,000,000 dollar bill. I was handed this phoney note in Etobicoke on the outskirts of Toronto last summer and had completely forgotten about it. I recall that I was strolling back from the liquor store with two bottles of cheap red wine. I was touring at the time but we had a night off. It was probably a Monday night, can’t be sure but I remember it was one of those hot and humid evenings. It had been raining all day and not a breeze stirred. I could hear the seagulls down at the lake. A well-dressed lady walked by and handed me the note, never said a word and slipped into a hardware store. On the front of the note is a picture of a non descript middle aged man, a sort of ‘town elder’ type, the Canadian maple leaf over his shoulder and the 1,000, 000 sign to his left, underneath it says…ce billet non cours legal / this is not legal tender. The flip side has a picture of the Toronto skyline with seven fighter planes flying overhead in formation. Off to seek vengeance on the infidel no doubt. All around the note in small text is the “million dollar question.” It reads….Will you go to heaven? Here’s a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain ? Jesus said “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If you have done those things, God sees you as a lying , thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that you are guilty and will end up in Hell..”Well, it looks like I’m royally fucked. I’m not into theft, apart from melodies, but I certainly have lusted after several women in my time and thoroughly enjoyed my lustful activities.This god of the Bible seems so cross, not much fun at all. Give me the great god Pan any day. It’s also interesting that the Christians use a phoney one million dollar bill to get their message of misery across. Which reminds me, didn’t the mythical Jesus say “Blessed are the poor. “ I’ve yet to see a bishop live in a bedsit.
I put the dollar bill back on the shelf and off I went on my merry way to the recording studio deep in the bowels of Trinity College, which was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Jonathan Swift all studied here. Back in the dreaded 80’s I played here at the Trinity Ball a few times, and if somebody told me I’d attempt to mix an album in the studio one day, I wouldn’t have believed them.We got some mixes down, and it being a hot sunny day, had a drink at the Pavillion Bar over near the cricket pitch. Later I had a drink in the Lincoln Inn around the corner, followed by dinner in some Italian place on Parliament Street. On arriving home, I found that The Gun Clubs’ Las Vegas Story had arrived in the post. And I was pleasantly surprised to see it’s on bright green vinyl.The following morning I was up bright and early to pick up a CD of mixes in town and then dropped into Spindizzy Records in the Georges Street Arcade to pick up the current issue of The Devil on 45 Zine, which comes complete with two free CD’s of prison blues, folk songs and spirituals from the John Lomax collection, dated 1939.Phone calls were made, emails answered, and as usual there’s more stuff going out than coming in.
A cheque arrived as a result of the Rambling Jack video getting some TV action the past 18 months. Has it been that long ? Yes, it has. TG4 played it a few times and apparently Channel 6 have played it 127 times, so I owe Elton and Co a pint. Flicking through a freebie paper I discovered that Holly Golightly will be playing here in a few weeks, so I can’t miss that. Johnny Cronin sent me a text message to say he had bumped into Bruce Springsteen in the Temple Bar pub in town. They had a chat and Johnny gave Bruce a copy of The Aftermath’s new album. It’s been on my stereo a lot the past few days. I spent 2 days listening to the B side of Bowie’s Low . Occasionally the A side got a spin too.
Friday I was back in the studio and some of the stuff sounds good and some sounds crap. That’s just the way it is. Back to the drawing board. Saturday was a hot day in Dublin. I phoned a few people to see if they could put me on the guest list to see The Legendary Shack Shakers who were playing Andrews Lane Theatre. It was all looking good, until I got a call from Seanie Foy saying, hey, phone this number. I did, and it was the promoter offering me the support slot. When do you want us there ? I enquired. In an hour was his swift reply. At such short notice it was definitely going to be a solo set for me. There was no way I could have got the band there in time.My set was short and sweet, but bitter too, the way it should be. The sound was good, and I was pleased with everything. Shack Shakers frontman JD Wilkes certainly seemed fond of spitting all over the place, even into the audience. A bit like a ’77 punk gig in reverse. They were a good band though. I’ve got one of their albums, but it didn’t get played much. A bit too frantic for my liking. We ended up in some club underneath the Stephens green shopping center, which might have been called Rocket 88.The following morning I recorded some organ onto a song of mine, and that was my week.
Thurs 15 May, Dublin…..My old friend, and promoter Pat Cannon had sent me an early morning text. I replied with a phone call after I scrambled out of the sack, my instincts telling me he wanted to meet for a beer, and how right I was. We met in Madison and apparently he’s buried the hatchet with Slattery’s and he’s promoting a gig there with the bass player from Dire Straits and wants me to open up. Safety in numbers, so I agree to do it. We re locate to another drinking establishment and then I ramble home in the sunshine.
The postman has brought me a few surprises. The first is a letter from Justine Scott in New Jersey. She’s sent me a few photos of yours truly performing at Kenny’s Castaways in New York City, an establishment famous for a Bruce Springsteen 7 night run of gigs in the early 70’s and the place where The New York Doll’s held down a residency in the same decade. My one-off gig there a few years ago didn’t however make much of an impact on the history of rock n roll. Justine also enclosed several photocopied pages from a book by Douglas Monroe called The Lost Books Of Merlyn. A fanciful title of course, because there are no lost books of Merlyn or Merlin depending on how you want to spell it. I can imagine the author arguing with the publisher and the marketing department over the title, and the author losing out. Such is life when somebody else is putting his or her money on the line. Some of the information is interesting, such as the connection between the use of pumpkins at Samhain and a spell unearthed from The Book Of Pheryllt, a rare 16th-century text. Much is written about the Celtic cult of the severed head. There’s even an Invocation of the Sidh from The Book Of Ballymoat, but you might need to think twice before you try that one out. Still, fair play the likes of Mr Monroe and people like him for taking the time out to translate old document and spend days in libraries pouring over medieval manuscripts. I tip my hat to RJ Stewart and Peter J Carroll and all the other psychonauts out there.
A royalty cheque was safely tucked away in another envelope I opened, and a package from Germany contained two DVD’s of two gigs of mine from last month, one in Spaichingen and one in Villingen. Both were filmed and edited by Tom, so thanks Tom. See you next time.On my way down to the gig I bump into Johnny and Mick Cronin from The Aftermath, apparently trying to locate my flat. They accompany me to the sound check and subsequent gig and we all have a good ole time. Went home straight afterwards with a clear head and the guys drive to Mullingar. Slide into my bed and read some F.Scott Fitzgerald and quietly and without much fuss, I enter the Land of Nod.
Friday 16 May, Dublin…An early start, and following a healthy breakfast and three cups of tea I got myself into Trinity College in the city centre, where Les and I set about trying to mix a few tracks. Unfortunately the session had to be cut short following a phone call to say that Les’s young son was sick and needed to see the doctor. In fact, he had to be taken to hospital. I went home and had red wine with lunch while we grooved around the flat to The Aftermaths fine new album Friendlier Up Here. Later we went out for a ramble and I picked up a few canvases, as I plan to paint next week. Called into Russell’s down the road and relocated for a beer or two in Anseo on Camden Street. Got a phone call from Leo in Portugal to say that he has postponed the Button Factory charity gig until October. The new date clashes with a solo gig in Germany, and that’s a pity. I really wanted to do the Button Factory show, it’s a cool place, and I’ve never played it. Oh well, it’s out of my control. Dinner over at Mario’s in Ranelagh cheered me up big time.
Sat 17 May, London….Arrived in Gatwick around 1 in the afternoon and Les argues that we have no guitars, we have no schedule, so lets have a beer and relax, no pressure. I agreed and that’s what we did. We were in London to shoot a video for a new song 45, which will most likely be a single, in some shape or form or format. I phoned my old friend Fi Shanks who made the video for Rambling Jack which resulted in us getting on TV for the first time in seven years. Fi gave me no nonsense instructions on how to get from A to B, so we took the black line tube up to Camden Town and walked the short distance along the crowded street to the Elephants Head pub. Fi arrived with his camera and new lady (who’s name alludes me) Les had a cheese sandwich. We all had beers.The rain came down at a steady pace, the bars and streets were buzzing with action.
Up the road at the Camden Market we flicked through records while Fi filmed. At one stall I explained to Les what a dorje was. I held on in my hand. The guy at the stall informed me that dorje was the Tibetan title, while Indians called it a Varja. This I already knew, but I enquired if my explanation was accurate, as I had talked about sorcery and thunderbolts etc. and he concurred. I decided there and then to purchase said item, and following a simple transaction involving £6 the metal item was in my pocket.At another stall I tried out a cool old Burns guitar. It looked great but the fret board was way too wide for my fingers. Les was going to buy it , as he’s one of these musicians who can’t go into a foreign music shop without buying something, but changed his mind at the last moment. We got chatting to the stall owner, an Armenian chap who asked us where we were from. When we said Ireland, he said Ah!! I lived there. He then pulled out a photo of Leixlip Castle, saying he used to live beside it. Then he insisted we guess his age. I reckoned he was 46; Les wasn’t as kind and guessed 52. The guy smiled….he was 62.The rain wasn’t taking a break. We needed one, so Fi took us to some bar and I had to talk to a guy from a record label on the phone and then we took a bus someplace. Dropped into an off licence to pick up a few crates of beer and made it to the big rambling house that Fi shares with the singing star of Daisy Chainsaw and Queen Adreena. The drummer from the last line-up of The Clash also lives here, but all are away in France, on tour I presume. Pizza seemed to appear as if from nowhere. Fi has just joined The Popes and he played us new recordings from Shane McGowan’s old backing band.
I once again took my phone out of pocket and got it touch with old friend Andy from Sweden who by chance lives just down the road. He called over to help us drink the beer. I grabbed a red Hofner guitar and we filmed more stuff for the video.Later we checked out two gigs at the Cross Kings, can’t remember the names of the bands. It was a late night and after about 2 hours kip, we had to hit the road. At one point we were on a tube going the wrong way. Les kept saying, we’re gonna miss the plane. I said, it’ll be fine. And it was fine. We caught it by the skin of our teeth. Back in Dublin, I slept for a few hours during the afternoon and then on VEOH I watched a documentary on magicians down through the centuries, the mythical Hermes Trismagistus, Paracelsus, John Dee, Crowley etc. Veoh is the new website run by the same people that had stage 6, but that proved too expensive to keep going apparently.I felt a few new songs coming on…….time for more tea, and perhaps a good nights sleep.