Sun 21 Sept Goteborg....Today’s the day that we sent out '45' into the belly of the beast that is the internet, available for all and sundry to download for 99 cents. I received a few emails and myspace messages from folks saying they liked it. Seems I've still got a few friends out there. The weather has been really warm most days and we got more mileage out of the summer than expected.
A few days ago, John in Berlin sent me another strange link to a piece of film of some band doing a song entitled ‘Jesus Is My Friend’ a sort of metro sexual take on the born again genre. A bit like Soft Cell meets Daniel O Donnell. To clear the cobwebs from my mind, I got stuck into Peter Gray’s great tome ‘The Red Goddess’ a poetic exploration of Babalon (as opposed to Babylon) which arrived in the post along with 2 copies of Man Myth & Magic. Time is an abyss. Took a ramble over to the other side of town to see a cool country band called Little Green at the Musikenhuis on Johansgatan. A good gig it was too and I ended up dropping into a bar I stumbled across over near Järntorget. A few American tourists were hanging around, the DJ wasn’t as annoying as they usually are, and I was left to my own devices. Coloured liquid in a small glass never looked so good. Later I took the # 1 tram over and got off near Redbergsplatsen, got home, poured a glass of wine and put on a Joe Ely record, sat on the balcony.
Henrik and his lady had a crawfish party. I don’t eat those cockroaches of the sea, but I went along for the vibe. Ate the salad and drank the vino. Neatly printed pages were laid out on the table. The lyrics of those old Swedish folk songs that they sing at dinner make no sense to me. But every time they sing one in unison, you get to knock down a shot of schnapps. Some sort of yellow liquid that’s sweet but its got a strange kind of kick. It certainly creeps up on you. Not a cloud in the sky, darkness descended and the night was bitter cold in the specially erected marquee. I had been asked to bring along a guitar and do a few songs. I’d have preferred not, but I thought it would be rude to refuse. My fingers were like ice. It was difficult to play, but everybody was pissed and didn’t notice how sloppy I played. After I left a fight broke out.
Monday 22 Sept Berlin…Just as I got my baggage off the carousel the phone rang and it was Mark Mulholland with instructions on where to meet downtown. Just as well, Berlin is huge and still confuses me. Mega City Transport Paranoia caught me momentarily. Besides, I had flown into Tegel and I think I usually use the other airport, Schonefeld. The bus ride is about an hour long. Get to Mitte and meet Mark, grab some veggie food and a beer. Visit the Cannery Row office, say hi to Frank.Mark has to make a trip to the post office, so I hang around in some small bar. What else would you do? Meet up with Kevin (who is doing publicity for the label) and Abbey. Stories are told of the road, touring in Romania, Czech, life in the UK, Scotland, France, Germany….wherever , and it’s a real good time.
Joe from Two Dollar Bash is celebrating his birthday and there’s a party in his pad. We visit and the vibe is good. Later Mark wants to hear the mixes of the new stuff I’ve brought with me, but he nods off to sleep mid way through the second song. I found a sofa and had a lie down.
Tues 22 Sept Zeitz…A quick cup of tea and it was time to roll. Mark went to the airport, bound for Paris, I caught a train to Zeitz, reading William S. Burroughs ‘Place of Dead Roads’ as the train rattled and rolled through the east German countryside. It was a grey, bleak day. A sad and lonesome day. Zeitz Haupbahnhof ( train station) is a spooky place on a rainy Tuesday. Some of the platforms are overgrown with knee high weeds, water tumbling down from the cracked drainpipes. An eerie silence hung over the place once the train had pulled out and the few souls who disembarked had scattered quickly. Why would anybody want to live in such a place? Chance seems to have tossed them here like driftwood. I saw a little bar, the only sign of life. A beer set me back €1.30. The disgruntled moustachioed barman gave me the low down on how to find the Green Island Pub, the place I’m due to play in a few hours. I made a quick phone call ahead to the bar to check if they’re open. They are. Have a second beer. I’m beginning to feel ok. I need to charge up my phone, so I plug it in beside the poker machine. The barman is mumbling to himself as he cleans the coffee machine. An off-duty security man arrives on the scene. Not a word is spoken as he collects his regular coffee, sits at the table where my phone is being charged, lights a cigarette and stares at the monkeys on the TV. A nature programme. Monkeys are the stars of this episode.
Down at the bar, doors are already open and a few people have arrived and laid down their hard earned cash. I meet Andreas the owner and after a very quick sound check I’m introduced to Heike who gives me a firm handshake and looks me square in the eye. She kindly drives me to the Pension Christof located at Geussnitzer Strasse 22. I quickly check in. ‘Your room is horrible’ she says. Its ok, I tell her, its just for sleeping, I’m not bothered with the crap décor. The proprietor is showing me to the breakfast room. I’m concentrating really hard in order to remember all this stuff…down two flights of stairs, turn left, there it is. Then, back up one flight of stairs to find the exit. Leave the key in the room. ‘Great!’ I say ‘We should be off.’. I swing around, open what I assume is the exit door and walk straight into his sons bedroom. Heike looks on disapprovingly. What a terrible sense of direction I have.Back at the bar, I have dinner, a beer and do the gig. A cool listening crowd. (well, they paid in to hear me, so it would have been bad if they talked all the way through) I sell quite a few CD’s and chat to some local folks. Heike re fills my glass. Time is sliding by, I have cash in my pocket and I’m a long way from home and I’m tired with small talk and I need to lie down.
Wed 23 Sept Nurnberg….It’s a cold and wet morning. Breakfast is the standard German fare, bread, cheese, a boiled egg and a slice of some sort of salami type meat product, which I avoid. There isn’t any tea, so I sip at the strong coffee. I rarely drink coffee, vile stuff after a night of beer. I grab a glass of water. Unsure which direction to the town centre, I wander aimlessly, but find the main shopping street by chance. Enough with the walking, I think to myself, so I hail a taxi and catch a train out of the ghost town.I got into Nurnberg with some time to kill before the gig. I had a slow beer in the train station and then took a taxi over to Pegnitzbuhne, where I had played a year ago. It was nice to meet up with Marcus and Bea again, who took such good care of me last time and were wonderful hosts. I played the gig and a small but appreciative crowd were there and CD’s were sold and signed and it was a good time. I remembered Yodan from last time, a gentle giant of a man, not a word of English, so we communicate by means of rock n roll telepathy… and he filmed the gig too. Met up with Robbie Krieger and Wolfgang. A singsong after the gig, over at the bar, was good fun. Later Bea arrived with a big pot of spaghetti, and we all tucked in. I had forgotten to eat since breakfast, so the food was much appreciated.
Thurs 25 Sept. Nurnberg…..This was to be a day off. A gig hadn’t materialized. Read my book, Burroughs powerful raging torrent of words. A mad visionary experience. Unsettling, funny and wild. I got a verse to a song that had been floating around in my head for weeks. Scribbled it down. Went out for a walk. Back to bed. I had a lot of sleeping to catch up on. Later, Dead Again were playing in the club and I played a set, before Marcus joined me on piano and the rest of the guys for a version of ‘Don’t Let me Fall’. We also did ‘All Along the Watchtower’…a very long version. It was good fun. Stayed up til 5am talking to Wolfgang about the Second World War.
Fri 26 Sept Greiz…..Tried to get a ticket from the station at Muggenhof, but I couldn’t understand the machine, although a kind Asian lady tried to help me. Then another kind lady (German) told me I could travel with her on her ticket. I asked how much I should pay her, but she said a ticket holder could bring as many as five guests for free on the S - Bahn anytime between 9am and 9pm. So off we go. Seven or eight stops later I was at the Central Station and I thanked the friendly kind stranger. I found a fridge magnet for my mother (she’s collecting them these days) and some nice silver earrings for my lady. At the same stall I found a ring for myself with a good black onyx stone, and I got a 10% discount. Not a bad start to the day.
Having indulged in this episode of retail therapy I walked through the throng of people, transitory souls, in search of the ticket office.The ticket I bought was a confusing document, which included an unexpected bus connection, and I neglected to get the itinerary details clarified before I boarded the train from platform 12. The result being, I missed the connecting bus at Reichenbach. A phone call to Norbert fixed this problem. I hung around and waited, as one does on tour, and eventually the car arrived and we drove the remaining 10 kilometres to Greiz. I met with Gentleman Daniel who was slowly but surely, in a zen-like methodical fashion, putting the PA together. Then I did the sound check and had a beer. Daniel told me about his band. I had plans to go to the Pension for a shower, but that plan soon went out the window. A great meal of spaghetti with green pesto arrived on the table. I realized there was time left to go for a ramble.One can only assume this was a once glorious city from the many majestic buildings, two castles and the long wide avenues of apartments, each building sturdy as a fortress. But many of the stately homes and municipal buildings are now vacant, weeds growing on the balconies, dust on the windowpanes. I wouldn’t be surprised if tumbleweed rolled by. Street lights buzz and crackle. There’s a sadness in the town at this time of year. The old abandoned hotel is full of the ghosts of long dead Nazis. As usual in Peanuts, I sold a few CD’s and met some good people. Afterwards I ate a cheese sandwich, drove to the Pension and had a much needed shower, slept a few hours, maybe four. Fate decreed a restless night of tossing and turning. No rest for the wicked I suppose.
Sat 27 Sept Berlin…..An unwelcome fast sprint down the platform at the train station was the final wake up call. I had got through the breakfast like a chore. Bread and jam, no tea available. Last night’s dreams of old junky friends haunting my every nerve. Once on the two-carriage train, I grabbed Norbert’s hand and we had a firm, real man’s handshake. Two men from polar opposite life styles, but with an understanding of each other. See you later alligator. I had to ask a lady on the train how to get a legit ticket from the machine, the train driver eyeing me in the mirror all the time. They don’t get many foreigners ‘round these parts.
I got off at Gera, and went in search of a small bottle of cognac, the best cure for my bad stomach. Couldn’t find the required medication. Went back upstairs to the platform to await the connection to Leipzig. A young lady approached me and asked if I want a free ticket to Leipzig. I told her that I had got one all the way to Berlin, but I thanked her for the offer. She explained that her job just bought her 5 tickets, but she was quick off the mark and in the few minutes that it took the train to roll into the station she had made a few calls on her mobile phone (or handy, as the Germans call them) and a few of her friends arrived to avail of the free trip. Who can tell what they intended to get up to in Leipzig, but a Saturday night in Leipzig’s gotta be more exciting than a Saturday night in Gera. There’s no competition.
I tried to ignore the razor pain in my gut. I had 20 minutes in Leipzig train station before my connection to Berlin. I careered down the platform, a man on a mission. Found the bar. A few quiet types there. Ordered the cognac. Cost me 1.80. Down the hatch. Went back down the platform feeling healed, like Paracelcus of yore at home on the highway. Was I deluded? I didn’t care.By the time I got to Berlin I was feelin’ mighty fine. I hailed a taxi and we set off for Friedrichshain. Suddenly the taxi-driving lady pulled over. ‘ I can’t go any further, there’s a police barricade,’ she complained. Just then 400 roller skaters hissed by. Several streets had been blocked off for the race. Another 57 whizzed by, all decked out in their tight fluorescent shorts, knee pads and helmets. I hopped out of the taxi and made my way to Gartnerstrasse via train and U Bahn. Met up with my host Tom, had a beer, sound checked, grabbed something to eat, did the gig. A nice crowd came down, John and his buddy, Joe from Two Dollar Bash and assorted friends. Anna, Hank, Dugald. Some folks I had met last Monday night. A few head cases were hanging around too, as you’d expect in Artliner. Later I went to Corona’s DJ gig down the road. The Kinks, old rockabilly, Holly Golightly all got a spin, and not a CD player in sight. Chatted to Dugald from Oz about records and producing and his lovely lady and with Hank about all sorts of things.
Sun 28 Sept Berlin….Had a long sleep and rambled through the market a few streets down the way. The place has some good record stalls, mostly vinyl, but nothing cheap. You can buy food, key rings, microwave ovens, bad cheap footwear, cutlery, fridge magnets and postcards. Other stalls sell old jackets that nobody with style would contemplate wearing. Old yellowing angling magazines, rickety furniture, cool art deco furniture, dull musty furniture, clockwork mice, snow domes, cold war era gas masks, dog collars, cassette tapes, automobile spare parts. Vases of every size, colour and shape. An old metallic device for mashing vegetables. Cans of spray paint, household appliances, phials of mercury, remote control racing cars ready to roll. Paintings, books and jewellery. I picked up a few singles, something by The Staples and ‘Talkin’ ‘bout My Baby’ by The Impressions which has got one of the best snare rolls I’ve heard in a long time. A wonderful warm sounding record. Bought some good quality incense from the bald chap who stands at his stall smoking joints all day. We had a little chat. His buddy shook my hand when he learned I was Irish.I later found a street lined with restaurants and made a beeline for the Thai joint. Sat outside, it was still warm enough to do that, and slowly made my way through a big Prussian blue plate of vegetarian noodles with tofu. Washed it down with cold H20, and made a phone call to HQ in the Nordic world. I was feeling content, all alone in this city, a place with such a tragic history. A place where I always feel ok. No street hassle, do your own thing, and nobody bugs you. A place where people understand the concept of minding their own fucking business.
Back at Artliner I had a few beers and a cognac and along comes Andy. He’s the guy I met last year who runs the open mike session. He asked me up to jam with him and we did a few old rock n roll songs, and a few country things. Good fun. Then Patrick from Belfast, who sounds a lot like, and looks a little like his hero Townes Van Zandt, got up an did a set as did Kevin and the night rolled by. Matt Le Harp, just in from Prague joined us for a while at out little table. By 4 am it was time to make my way to the airport, so I grabbed my two bags and guitar, shook hands with Tom who was getting ready to close the bar, and hit the road.
At the airport I found a comfortable seat in a café and caught a few hours sleep. Wasn’t feeling too bad when I arrived into Goteborg at around 1.30pm. Freja’s hearty laugh and big bright smiled cheered me up as I had a quick beer in Central Station. There’s a Swedish dish where you get cooked cold potatoes, leek, bits of meat or tofu, egg and plenty of soya, throw it all in a pan, and fry fry fry ! I call it Peter Pany, but I can neither spell it properly nor pronounce it properly (pyttipanna editors.note). Never the less, this is what I cooked on arrival at my humble abode over near Redbergsplatsen. The autumn leaves had been tumbling down and in the week I was away, the view from the balcony had been altered considerably. The trees, all ochre and burnt sienna, looked lost and lonesome. The sky was an ominous slate grey. I needed a cup of tea.
Tues 30 Sept Gothenburg….. The invitation arrived. I’m to perform a few songs on K103 FM, a local college radio station. There will also be an interview and a chance to plug our gig at Storan, the big white Victorian theatre here on the Avenue in town. I threw on the Two Dollar Bash CD and boiled the kettle. Records by Bobby Bland, Charlie Feathers and Inneke 23 and The Lipstick Painters were played at top volume. ‘Waiter Of Your Sleep.’ A great song. The Coasters singing ‘Down In Mexico.’ It was time for more tea. There was no need to pack my bag, I hadn’t bothered to unpack.
Wed 1 Oct Stuttgart …After 36 hours in Sweden it was time to go back to Germany. A different plane than last week apparently, and my guitar wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin, so it had to go in the hold. The flight was delayed for over an hour, so I kept on reading Burroughs. Arrived into Berlin late, grabbed my guitar off the carousel and thankfully its in one piece. On the way from Terminal A to terminal C I got caught in a downpour, and I was then given the wrong information on the gate for the onward flight, but I figured it out and got to Stuttgart ok. Navigating the S Bahn isn’t easy, but following a phone call to Nicol, I figure it out and get the #2 train to Bad Cannstad, passing through twelve stations along the way. Nicol was there to meet me and his new pad is up around the corner on Seelbergstrasse. Here he lives with his new lady Iris, on the seventh floor of an otherwise vacant building.So, we dragged the gear up seven flights, lift not working, and he showed me around his huge apartment.
Iris has a baby grand piano in one room, Nicol has his office, there’s a spare bedroom for yours truly with a huge balcony. I could see the Ferris wheel from the window and just about hear the sounds from the fair ground. There was a festival on and all the streets were lined with May Poles, or an Autumnal version of these pagan phallic symbols.The building used to be an office block. They’ve got no neighbours, so we could make as much noise as we wanted, but we ended up having a quite civilized evening. We cracked open a few beers and had a chat. Iris started to prepare some food, and the first bottle of red wine was poured into three glasses.
Fri 3 Villingen……Yesterday I rambled the streets of Stuttgart, it being my first time in this city. . Bought some gel crap to put in my hair, bargain vitamin pills, and took the train to Hauptbahnhof and wandered the totally modern city centre. By chance I met the lady photographer from Villingen last year. She’s in town selling postcards, and so I met up with Bernhardt in a bookstore as he attempts to sell merchandise to the manager. Bernhardt, by coincidence happens to be promoting Saturday nights gig in Bonndorf. We go for a drink to a bar where he thinks business can be done at some stage. It’s all part of the never-ending hustle for gigs. Later, on Charlottetemplatz I found a good record shop and bought records by Ronnie Hawkins, Chuck Berry, Alan Stivell, Buddy Herman, Larry Clinton….good Big Band stuff, a blues compilation with Bessie Smith, Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ida Cox. I bought twelve LP’s in all, retail therapy baby. Mr Noodleman, who has a stall outside the main entrance to Bad Cannstad station provides me with a € 3 box of vegetarian noodles.Iris had a gig, and afterwards she joined Nicol and I as we wandered from bar to bar in the rain. At Kap Tormenso we see a not very interesting punk band playing. We chatted to the owner Tobias, who seems interested in doing business. As we have a few drinks Nicol tells the story of a gig we played a few years back in Staufen and the ‘situation’ concerning the bar tab. Since when did a musician in Germany have a beer tab ? Of course it turned out the guy who ran the bar in was American. Did we pay? No we didn’t. When he asked me to pay what did I say? “Fuck off.” I don’t recall any of this, it was a long time ago. I believe Mick Morrissey, who was with us on the night was a bit shocked.
Taxi back to the apartment and crashed out. This afternoon we hit the road, driving on up to Villingen. After sound check Mario handed me € 70 and said, go have a meal. So we went down the street to the restaurant on the corner, which happens to be owned by his brother. I had pesto spaghetti, can’t recall what Iris and Nicol had, but there weren’t any complaints. Superb food.Back to Limba for the gig. The club owner, Super Mario is celebrating his birthday, so there’s a party atmosphere. I played the gig but the crowd was drunk and real noisy. But Mario is happy, although he’s got his hand in a bandage as a result of an ‘argument.’ Marco and Jutte are down, as is Hartmut and Tom, who filmed my last gig here. At some point in the evening I was chatting to some people in the corridor, when one of the bar men opened up the cellar door (a metal hatch in the floor) and climbed down, not leaving any barricade or warning sign. That looks dangerous, I thought to myself. A lot of people were out of it. Ten seconds later Mario came running in cos the cops were outside and he tumbled straight into the hole in the floor. I couldn’t believe it, right before my eyes. It all happened so quickly. I shouted out to him, but he didn’t hear and next thing he was down in the cellar. Luckily he was ok. A bit shook up, no bones broken, and certainly lucky to be alive.
Sat 4 Oct Bonndorf ….Hartmut and Marco had cappuccinos, I had a beer. We were in a little bar in Villingen. I needed to lie down, so that’s what I did, checked emails and later re located to Café Limba where I spoke to Christoff about gigs and I met Super Mario who was limping around the place, with a sore leg and bruised ribs after his tumble into the cellar. Bernhard collected me and we drove to Bonndorf. The gig was in the Ice Café. I had played here before about two years ago. Souncheck, dinner, a few drinks, and then the long wait . Hanging around, that’s the main thing that happens on the road. Hanging around for the plane, hanging around for the car, hanging around for plug board, hanging around for the audience to arrive. Most of the gigs start an hour later than advertised. I noticed I’m in the local paper; there was a photo, and a blurb claiming this is the recommended gig of the weekend.I enjoyed the show. Played well, got a nice vibe going with the audience and sold CD’s and we all hung out afterwards. Had a good time. Made some new friends I hope.
The drive after the gig is a bit vague. There were long winding roads through rough terrain, farm houses, bridges across mountain streams, the odd luminous road sign guiding us on the road to wherever. We eventually arrived at Bernhard’s girlfriends house. A starry night, I could easily find the Plough, but no sign of the moon. It was hiding its face from the extraterrestrials. On entering this quiet as a mouse farmhouse I discovered that Sabina had kindly made up a bed for me in the living room. It made sense to crash out straight away. It had been a long day. Several hours later I awoke in stygian darkness. I was bursting for a pee big time. Felt my bladder was going to explode. All that free German beer and Mexican gold tequila. I fumbled around in the dark looking in vain for a light switch. Instead I found a doorknob. Twisted it, gently opened the door. I could hear the steady breath of people sleeping. Still couldn’t see a thing. Aware that Bernhard hadn’t told me where the toilet was, I was doomed. I found a window, opened it out and felt the fresh cold air. Emptied my bladder, closed the window and back to my bed.Several hours later I awoke to the sound of young voices. Bernhard and Sabina’s kids were up for breakfast, so I got up and we had tea and toast and I confessed about my window-pissing incident, which they found amusing, thankfully.
Sun 5 Oct. Freiburg ….Following breakfast I rambled down the country road, up towards the river. The sweet musty smell of the brown cows, sleeping in the midday sun, just like the John Cale song. A little brook over yonder, the low buzz of grasshoppers, Hansel and Gretel lost in the woods. The road sign read Sommerau, 5K from Bonndorf. Although this is the middle of nowhere, there’s a 5 star hotel perched on a hillside. I walked through the reception and into the restaurant / bar area. Felt out of place. While Sunday hikers roam the hills, posh folk pack the bar and most of the tables are reserved. But that indeed was a blessing in disguise. I took my 30cl glass of cold pils outside, found a table in the autumn sunshine, got a phone call. Nobody around. The distant rumble of a jet. Fat German middle-aged cardboard cut-out man lights a cigar. The incense of death. Kali unwittingly invoked. Azrael on the speed dial. The sun was cutting through the ozone like a blowtorch.
Back at the farmhouse we had lunch, I showered and watched Bernhard’s daughters’ award winning short film.It won first prize at the Hamburg Film Festival. We drove to a little town, can’t remember what it’s called, passing the Rauthous brewery along the way. We had time for a beer before I boarded the train for the slow ride to Freiburg. Manfred met me at the station. He’s been promoting the gig, and it’s my first time playing at White Rabbit, a cool club with a seriously big PA. Sound check is painless, despite the fact that the sound engineer is obviously very very stoned.After an enjoyable gig, I chatted to Mick, Ziggy, some American guy and a few others. It was a late night and a taxi ferried us to Mick’s place where I slept peacefully. The following morning, he kindly gave me his copy of ‘ A Riot Of Our Own’ by Clash tour manager Johnny Green, with illustrations by Ray Lowry who did all the cartoons for the Sandinista LP insert. By the time I got to Stuttgart I was on chapter 5. I had a stay over, and got up at 4.30 am to catch the S Bahn to the airport. More time spent hanging around. Found myself in Berlin, and a few hours later I was in Gothenburg city airport.