Wed Jan 20 Göteborg, Sweden……theres that creeping madness that seeps into your veins as you watch the flakes do their slow motion routine. The snow plough is king around here. Sitting in Lilla Resturangen down at Olskrolen, its falling outside in a city that rarely succumbs to the travel chaos other places have to endure. Its one of the longest winters in years with non-stop freezing conditions, today even the trams aren’t running properly. Elvis is on the stereo and the guy from the local record shop is sitting alone at the bar with a beer. Two guys are discussing Roxy Music and a couple at the next table are speaking in hushed tones. No need to. I haven’t a clue whats been said. Another language, a different tribe.
I had to walk back home, minus 17 degrees but thankfully there was no breeze. A still day with the snow flakes falling vertically in dead straight fashion. Back indoors I wrote some emails and listened to the Two Dollar Pistols ‘Hands Up’ album, good old fashioned honky tonk. Got a good mix of ‘Time Is All We Have’ and lay on the sofa reading Edgar Allen Poe and I was off someplace else.
Up cock crow and located the phone and spoke to Peter King in New Zealand about cutting a record. He claims he’s cut one and a half million records in his time and he’s just after drinking fifteen shots of bourbon with a local band who are visiting him in his rural hideaway from where he cuts these records on three lathes he built himself. He used to be a drummer, so that explains a lot. Our conversation left me feeling inspired by his dedication to his craft, which isn’t really a job, it’s a vocation. It was 9am in Sweden (but 10pm in New Zealand) and I got back into recording a few new songs I’ve been working on.
After a while I needed a break. Put on a record, Okerville River who sound a bit like an American countrified version of Planxty on amphetamines.
Mark Lanegan gets played too, “I Hit The City” with Shelly Brien on back up vocals. A cool lady but a lady of mystery. Where did he find her ? and where did she go. No web presence , a bit like Tony Tuff.
Spent the night out in Tollered, following Jessica Carlsson’s exhibition in Lerum. Tollered is like a picture postcard under four feet of snow. Got back to Göteborg the following day and put on the Detroit Spinners ‘I’ll Be There’. Sweet soul music to ease me out of hangover trauma.
I had a gig in Henriksberg opening up for the Don Darlings. (I sing on one track on their new album). The venue is three floors up, over near Masthugget. The place is packed and there’s a real good vibe. The bar looks out over the harbour where we can see chunks of ice the size of snooker tables floating off to Denmark.
Mon Feb 22….The melting snow melts deeper and the rust is gaining ground.
The local postman is a strange cat. Its minus 12 outside and he doesn’t wear a coat, or a jacket or a hoody….he wears a T shirt. Obviously immune to pneumonia (and the mythological swine flu hoax) he came to my door with a cardboard package bearing round pieces of vinyl. I tore it open and discovered 7inch records by King Coleman “Alley Rat”, Arthur Big Boy Crudup “Mean Ole Frisco”, Fleet Foxes “Mykonos” Earl Williams, Buster Smith And His Heatwaves, Betty James “Im A Little Bit Mixed Up” and Dave Bartholomew’s “Mambo Gumbo” which reminds me of the theme music from the 60’s TV show I Dream Of Jeannie. And that’s ok. I used to fancy Jeannie in a bottle when I was six. Another package arrived with the two first White Stripes LP’s and Dex Romwebbers single which happens to be on Jack Whites label. Apparently White has produced an LP for the over-rated Wanda Jackson. I checked out her website. She’s calling herself the Queen of Rock. What will Courtney Love think ? I could think of other people more deserving of the title. Chrissy Hynde, Patti Smith. PJ Harvey.
Out on a ramble, I was approaching Stockholmsgatan tram station. I saw lady staring up at the full moon. She was singing to herself, or to the moon. Was this a witch at work? As I got closer I was disappointed to learn she was singing “The First Cut Is The Deepest.” Sheryl Crow did a version a few years back, but Rod Stewart’s version is the one I know the best. Rod had a big hit with it in the 70’s, but I think the original might have been by PP Arnold. The lady, who probably wasn’t a witch, got on the tram and I got on and discovered I had book of short stories by Virginia Wolf in my pocket. Took it out, read a few pages. The girl sitting across from me has one of those cold storage smiles.
Mon May 3 Tollered, Sweden. ….. Decided to have a look at the Irish papers on the internet. A bad idea. Nothing but bad news. I see that there are to be 40million Euro cuts in Health Care. The directive from the government to dentists is to cut back on fillings for folks on medical cards. The plan is 181,000 fewer fillings, instead they should just pull the teeth out like back in the 1950’s. Maybe the cuts can pay for another few fancy hotel rooms for Mary Harney, or a years supply of vodka.
I needed something to slake my thirst. Dropped into ICA, which is a supermarket chain, not a branch of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association. Bought a bottle of black stuff called Cocka, a sort of cola I presumed. I was making my way up the steep hill in Lunden overlooking the tall turquoise spire of St. Pauli Kyrka. Feeling the uncomfortable thirst, I took the bottle-opener out of my pocket, snapped the cap off the bottle and took a long swig. A tall blond lady approached smiling and said something to me in Swedish referring to the bottle of black liquid in my hand. “Im not sure what this is!” I replied. She took the bottle in her hand, looked at the label and switching to the Kings English said “I don’t know either, but you won’t get high on that.” “I can take care of that later” I said . She laughed and wandered off down the hill.
By the time we got to Floda it was getting chilly and the rain had started. The only bar was a Chinese restaurant called China. We waited for Jessica and had a drink. We then drove out to Tollered where food and drinks awaited and plans made for a joint exhibition of our paintings.
I went out for a ramble in the morning, walking through the town down by the old mill and in through an inviting doorway looking for the restaurant. Met a couple who had rented the place out from the local bikers. Drum kit and a few amps set up on the stage, chairs here and there. There had been a private party on the previous night and they were in the process of cleaning up, although the place looked clean enough to me. The guy handed me a bottle of beer…on the house. We had a little chat. The usual sort of chat one has with friendly strangers…., where I was from, what I doing here, why was I here? I wasn’t sure I could answer that one. Could I phone a friend, or ask the audience? Tricky question that. Ah yes, child care is affordable…..and Ireland is bankrupt. Yes, now I remember. There are other reasons too, but I simply thanked them for the beer and off I went.
A few hours later we were in Alingsås. Checked out a café (can’t remember what its called) and the plan is that we will hang a few paintings here in November and I’ll play a short set and that will be that ! Further down the street we were going to eat in a Greek place, but they weren’t open, although all the staff were hanging around smoking cigarettes and drinking espressos. Around the corner I found a Chinese place and we ate there. Took the train out of town and headed west into the sunset.
Sun May 9 Cefalu, Sicily…. Arrived into Trapani Airport in the afternoon, located on the north western coast of Sicily. Got the tickets, a couple of bottles of water and boarded the bus. Timetables don’t mean much in Sicily. It took over an hour before the bus moved, and when it did we had to pull over and let a guy on who had managed to miss it. He was running frantically across the car park trying to catch-up before we exited the airport grounds. He got on, all sweaty and panting, and off we rolled, Jack taking in the sights before burying his head in a Henry Miller book, Freja and Åsa arguing about seating arrangements. Hazy grey/blue sky, dusty roads and rusty bridges. Cacti growing alongside the viaduct. We passed by Partinicio and rolled on through the countryside. The heat was intense and the past sure is tense. We were over an hour late arriving into Palermo. Located the old train station and got the necessary information concerning our tickets and departure time mingling with gypsies, crooks, wide-eyed tourists and diseased pigeons. Down a side street we found a deserted restaurant. I had tagliatelle with mushrooms in a creamy sauce, not sure what my travelling companions had, something with meat. Washed it all down with a litre of wine and made a beeline for the train. It was like a scene from the 1950’s. Steep steps led to the narrow door, then down the long corridor rocking back and forth, we found our own cabin. This wasn’t first class, we were travelling on the cheap yet in antiquated style. I remembered I had a Nikon camera so I took some photos as we sped along for a few hours, before arriving into Cefalu just before sunset. Of Greek foundation, the city evidently derived its name from its situation on a lofty and precipitous rock, forming a bold headland (Κεφαλὴ) projecting into the sea. The place looks and feels great.
This partly being a sort of occult pilgrimage I was conscious of the fact that Aleister Crowley would have walked down this very platform, the station having changed little since the 1920’s. AC was a regular user of the train as he took his trips over to Palermo to pick up prostitutes of both sexes, to break up the monotony of life at his Abbey Of Thelema where he schooled his disciples. He made his first train journey from Palermo to Cefalu April 1st 1920 with his merry troop of libertine companions to begin an experiment in hedonism, sex, drugs and magick. It came to an abrupt three years later when he was deported by Mussolini.
The town it a lot smaller than I had imagined. Located the hotel out on Lungomare Giuseppe Giardina along by the shore. Checked in, cracked open a bottle of wine. Went out, found a restaurant and ate again, and washed it down big time, the powerful waves rolling in from the Tyrrhenian Sea. I raised my glass to Perdurabo, Ankh-f-n-khonsu,The Beast 666.
In the morning Jack and I, armed with a map and bottles of water to combat dehydration, set off up the hill to try and find the ruins of the Abbey Of Thelema, and there we found it near the football stadium. It was a strange feeling approaching it. I had read so much about the place, seen the old photos and thinking of the lives that were lived here I was still conscious that the locals don’t take kindly to strangers and certainly don’t want foreigners visiting the old house. The front door, the original one too, was boarded up, as were all the windows except for one. We climbed in, and it lead straight into the Chamber of Nightmares, which was the main Temple. Some of Crowleys paintings are still to be seen on the wall. I set about taking photographs. Filmed the place as well, inside and out, the sound will be used on some recording I’ll do in the future. Some furniture is scattered about in the kitchen, cooking utensils, bottles, chairs, cupboards…old rusted beds are still in the bedrooms, and the place is in good nick even though the roof has fallen-in over the main hallway.
Tuesday May 10, Trapani, Sicily…..Trapani was founded by the Turkish tribe, the Elymianss to serve as the port of the nearby city of Erice (ancient Eryx), which overlooks it from Monte San Giuliano. The town took a hammering from the Allies during World War II, but some of the streets obviously survived. Its still got charm.
Less charming are the ATM’s which don’t want to give me any cash. Credit cards aren’t my style, and walking around in the sun all day isn’t my style either. Eventually, with the aid of some locals we found the hotel with its perspex lift and roof-top views of concrete jungle sprawl. This could be anyplace mediterannean. Took some photos, read a bit of Edgar Allen Poe, scribbled notes in my note book for some song whizzing around in my head.