Monday, 18 May 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

Thurs 7 May Göteborg ….A few months back I had a drink or two in a bar / restaurant on Linnegatan. The place was filthy, dust everywhere… and the staff didn’t understand the concept of clearing the tables. When we asked a waiter for a drink, he mumbled something about somebody else coming to take care of us, but this never happened, so I went up to the bar and got the drinks myself. So, it was with great trepidation I returned to this kip to join friends for dinner.

The bar lady told me that the ‘beer special’ was Tuborg. A good quality beer at 25 Kr a bottle, I ordered 4. Dinner arrived, a selection of tapas and everything tasted good. Later, when Marie ordered another round, we were confronted with draught Heineken, at 49Kr a glass. While nobody else wanted to make a fuss, there was no way I could stomach this dutch piss, so I went up to the bar lady and said I’d prefer Tuburg. She told me I had to sit down and wait for the waiter who would deal with my problem ! I told her I wasn’t going to deal with any useless middle man waiter and that the problem could easily be sorted out straight away. She would take my Heineken and replace it with Tuborg. Doesn’t get much simpler than that ! Looking perplexed, she took my beer, didn’t pour it down the sink, but left it on the bar ready to be sold on to the next unsuspecting idiot, and handed me a bottle of Tuborg saying, ‘this is a little warm’ and briskly walked away into the kitchen before I could ask for ice. I could have thrown the bottle of warm beer at the bitch, but that might have upset my companions and invoked the wrath of the cops.

We obviously didn’t leave a tip, and made our way to Publik for a late drink. Last time I was in Publik was in the afternoon and they were playing Mikey Dread on the stereo. Tonight it was crap acid jazz. Reminded me of Dublin 15 years ago.

A few records arrived in the post. The Flaming Arrows ‘Where Can I Lay My Weary Head’ The Skatelites ‘Ringo’ Enforcer ‘Ride on Marcus’ and a couple of Big Youth singles, ‘Strictly Rockers’ on bright red vinyl and another great cut, ‘Screaming Target’ Apparently Thurston Moore dreamt up the name Sonic Youth in honour of his musical heroes, MC 5’s Fred Sonic Smith and the jamaican toaster who has made so many great records. My favourite Big Youth track remains ‘Marcus Garvey Dread.’ They don’t make them heavier than that. Put the record on and the whole building vibrates.

I went to the Brewhouse, a big courtyard full of artistic enterprise. A lot of film makers have offices there, as well as a recording studio where The Don Darlings are recording their album . I was born with the gift of a golden voice ( I had no choice) so when they asked me to do some backing vocals I put on a Leonard Cohen record and had a glass of wine. An email arrived with an attachment; a rough mix of a song called ‘ Restless Vanity.’ Sounded good to me, threw on a Gun Club record and had a long hard stare out the westward facing window.

When I got down to the studio I was met by Mads and Miquel (and two other guys whose names I cant recall, one being the engineer). Straight into it, 40 minutes later and its in the bag. We had played a gig with The Don Darlings in Storan in the center of Göteborg before Xmas, so it was a cool thing to contribute backing vocals to their new record.

Over on Kungstorget, I sheltered from the rain at 7an / öl hallen, one of the oldest bars in the town. I was on my own, so I took a seat at a table facing the window and looked out at the blue dome of the Food Hall across the way. If you took one part cerulean blue and two parts titanium white and mixed them together, that’s the colour you’d get. Against the stark grey sky it was a new kind of beauty. The rain was lashing down in a west coast fashion. Pretty girls with multi-coloured umbrella’s rushed by. The radio played a selection of classic hits….the Spencer Davis Group ‘Keep On Running’ Aretha Franklin ‘Rescue Me.’ I had this feeling that I should be someplace else, living some other kind of life. It was a vague, shadowy feeling. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The whole day had been illusory. Even the people at the next table seemed fictitious.

Fri 15 May French Riviera…. Took the rented car and drove from Nice out towards Monaco, stopping off at the village of Èze, which is apparently famous worldwide for the view out across the mediterannean. I read this on Wikipedia, so I’m instantly suspicious. Had a drink at the hilltop restaurant, but didn’t eat although the waitress with the best shoes I’ve seen in a long time tried unsucessfully to convince us to dine. Walt Disney used to hang out here, as did Friedrich Nietzsche, but not at the same time or else Cinderella might have ended very differently.
Down the hill, in between the Lambargini’s, Bentley’s and the Rolls Royce’s we found our Opel Corsa, got inside and took the winding road back to Nice. Checked out a few shops in the old part of the city, getting lost down the ancient narrow streets. White chelsea boots were affordable, but how long could I keep them clean ? Probably ten minutes. Found a great jewellery shop, a mad Aladdins cave of silver and gold. Rings, ear rings, pendants, necklaces, amythyst, ruby, carnelian, pearl, topaz, emerald, diamonds. Rings with massive tigers-eye stones, lapis lazuli on demand. But money was tight and I had to walk away empty handed. Maybe in a few days time when I review the situation. Drinks were had at the friendly bar over on Rue de Vincent.

Over at Corniche Belview candles were lit on the balcony, dinner prepared and gallons of red wine flowed freely. The planes were flying low, movie stars and annoying celebrity types were arriving for the Cannes Film Festival a few miles up the road. It was a hazy evening, the chatter of the birds mingled with the low chatter of the humans on neighbouring balconies. I had a few CD’s with me. Picked one at random and stuck it in the machine and Roy Orbison burst through the speakers.