Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Thursday July 15, Göteborg…
Toyed around with a Sony T-630 Reel to Reel ¼ inch tape recorder I got my hands on a few weeks ago. It’s three-speed, with built-in amp and original 1960’s speakers. I need to source tape. I happened to have one virgin reel lying around since the 1980’s, pre digital age, but I need more, so more shall be bought. Next on the shopping list is a record player that plays 78’s.

Going to the drug store / apoteket / pharmacy in Sweden is an experience. For a country that is collectively so vehemently anti-drug, it looks like a great percentage of the urban population are doing an Elvis on it. Self-medication is the new jogging. All the pharmacies have cues miles long, with white-coated experts rambling around the aisles to offer advice and guide you to your pillbox of choice. All I wanted was Treo, a hangover cure.

Joe Fournier, the great Canadian country rocker was doing an in-store over at Dirty Records so I went there with Damon from the Don Darlings, stopping off for a few beers along the way. Met up with Thomas from Little Green too. The barman in Jazza - the Jazz club where they rarely seem to actually play Jazz, was kept amused by Damon’s banter in his genuine Texan drawl. Hours drifted by and I somehow managed to end up on Hissingen having taken the wrong tram. Hissingen, an Island off the west coast, yet still part of the metropolis, is the Swedish equivalent of stab city Limerick. If your in Göteborg and you want to get killed just go to Hissingen. I got out of there as fast as I could and didn’t look back. I played a gig there once…. before anybody told me it was dodgy. But I was older then.

Saturday July 17, Åmål…Breakfast comprised of The Gourds ‘Ghosts Of Hallelujah’ album at top volume. Then some Kitty Wells, and as my egg was boiled good and hard I put on the incomparable Malcolm Holcolm.Central Station was unnecessarily confusing as usual. I had bought a train ticket but it turned out a bus would take us to Trollhattan, and then we were to change to a train. But of course the announcements in Central Station are only in the Kings Swedish. Never in French, or English or Danish. No time for tourists or foreign residents here. I was lucky to figure it out and get on the bus in the nick of time. Read some of Gustav Flauberts ‘Salambo’ on the journey up. By the time we got to Mellerud, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. Pulled out of the one-horse-town and picked up speed, whizzing through the forest. But an hour later as we rolled into Åmål it was raining again.

I was in town to play at the Americana Festival. An open-air event, the poster looked good, the sky looked dark. I met up with Norwegian Björn and he was telling me all about his new Ibanez guitar that he loves so much, when it dawned on me that I owned the same one. I grabbed my case, opened it up and there it was, a twin to Björn’s recent purchase. Only difference was that his had a built in pick-up. I had the one without a pick-up but I had got my Irish guitar doctor to put in an expensive Fishman bridge pick-up and a golden Fender volume knob. After a while Björn invited me up to his workshop, where he stores his PA, guitars and amplifiers. He’s got a custom built amp there too. Built it himself and all the knobs go up to 11. Sounds great, the reverb shakes the room and the overdrive gives me a cold sweat. After a few hours of hanging around at Café XO, I hang around a bit longer. Little Green had arrived, and eventually I played my set. 60 minutes on the dot. Enjoyed it too, and some regular faces were there despite the miserable weather. Still, everybody seemed determined to have a good time. I ended up on stage with Joe Fournier too for a bit of a sing-along on one of his tunes, completely unrehearsed and it was fun. He’s got a great band too.

Friday 20 August, Dublin….Christopher Hitchins book on Mother Theresa kept me entertained in a weird sort of way as I awaited sleep. After a few hours lie down I was on my way to the Emerald Isle. Friday was spent trying to avoid the rain, and rehearsing at Temple Lane Studios. I tried out two old Marshall amps. Both were knackered, had seen better days, brown bread, fucked, broke down, useless, totalled, dead as a doornail. Not a sound. Tried out an old Roland JC120. It worked. I used to own one of these and used it consistently from the late 1980’s until the early 1990’s. Then I started using a Marshall Valve State, which broke down more times than I care to remember. The Roland served out its time as a piece of furniture. On a few occasions it served as a table and I ate my dinner off it, but I recall it mostly tipped on its side as a sort of bookshelf. When I decided to sell it, it took ages to scrape all the spilt candle wax off the surface. The guys in Green Day apparently went through a phase where they used these amps, so there suddenly was a market again and I sold it on to a young guy in Dublin. These days I use a Fender Performer for gigs, and a Fender Champion for recording, but if it’s a borrowed amp or rented back-line, anything goes.

During rehearsal we tried out Lou Reed’s ‘Waiting For The Man.’ It sounded ok having never played it before. Good build-up. So that goes on the set-list, last song of the night. Spied Carmen from Lima, Peru on Exchequer Street and waved over. Then I spotted John too so we went for a few drinks. Last time we met was in Berlin two or three years ago. A few hours later I was on a bus passing by the Family Pharmacy in Clane County Kildare. A good name for a band – The Family Pharmacy. Spent the night in Clane and had a glass or three of red wine which lulled me into a false sense of security and the Land Of Nod beckoned.

Saturday 21 August, Dublin... Had intended to get some sleep between sound-check and the gig, but of course this never happened. The sound-check took a lot longer than I had bargained for and they complained about us being too loud and the neighbour might complain and call the cops etc etc etc. We enjoyed playing and mistakes were kept to a minimum and it was good to see some old faces there. Some folks I hadn’t seen in years. Paul had come up from Cork, Sabine from Tilburg, The Netherlands (via County Mayo) Kevin from Rockfield, Ann, Alana…a wonderful gathering indeed. My old friend Dominick was bar man in the other room, and kindly allowed us stay back for a late drink, despite the fact I had a LOT of people with me. But it all worked out in the end.

Sunday morning, boiled egg and toast, cup of tea. With Les I went back to the scene of the crime and packed up the gear. Larry Egan was playing the trad session in the front bar of the Cobblestone. A great accordion player, Larry toured with The Racketeers in 1997. A mad bad five-week tour through Sweden, Finland and The Netherlands. No plane flights in those days. We all travelled in a nine-seater van from Dunlaoghaire Harbour to Hollyhead, down through Wales and England to the white cliffs of Dover, over to Le Harve, or was it Calais? then up through Belgium and into the Netherlands. We spent the night (in the van) in Amsterdam, then drove up through Germany and I cant recall where we crossed into Sweden, probably from Kiel to Göteborg, then hit the motorway for Eskilstuna and promptly ran out of petrol ! The driver hitched a lift to the next town, bought a can of petrol, hitched back to the van and we got to Eskilstuna in time for the first gig. Those were not the days my friend.
It was good to see Larry and he asked me to do a song, so we played ‘Racketeers Lament’ together. He wanted to hear ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’ but I couldn’t remember the words so we did ‘Don’t Look Back’ the old John Lee Hooker song that we used to play back in those days. A few hours later I was in the airport in Copenhagen. Having forgotten to change the time on my watch, I nearly missed my onward flight. Heard my name called out over the Tannoy and made my way to the gate.

Thursday 26 August, Göteborg…..Last Monday, along with Jessica Carlsson paintings were hung at Cafe Chao over in Masthugget. Posters were up, publicity taken care of, so tonight’s the night. A good gathering of mostly like-minded people. I played my songs, the PA behaved erratically but these things happen occasionally. Damon from the Don Darlings got up to sing a song there was a good vibe and CD’s were sold and Jessica sold a painting. The exhibition runs for six weeks so fingers crossed. The place is run for Jorge from Buenos Aires so it’s not your usual Swedish joint. Relocated to Henriksbeg down the hill for a late night hang-out.

Friday 17 September, Göteborg…. 33 Andra Långgatan is the address for Dirty Records, probably the best record shop in the city. Mostly second-hand, but some new stuff too, a lot of vinyl, a coffee counter and organic beer available too, albeit 2.8% beer. Following two quick (5.2%) beverages in Jazza next door where I met Anders who had seen me play Cafe Kom a good few years back, I ran into Dirty Records and played my gig. A nice crowd of interested people were there. I played for about an hour and later with a motley crew of outsiders we reconvened to L’Assassino for a few hours. Tired of sitting on my stool, if offered it to a lady who had none. She seemed to think I was trying to get-off with her. Can’t you offer somebody a seat with no hidden agenda ? What’s the world coming to ?

Anders tells me about his annual party at his workshop over in Gamlastan and that he might have it next week if Im interested in playing . I tell him that I am indeed interested, so phone numbers are swapped …and email addresses too. I got home without any major problems. Didn’t get on the wrong tram, didn’t end up on Hissingen.

Saturday 25 September, Göteborg….. Spent some time checking out William Egglestons photographs at Konstmuseum. Upstairs they have a room with etchings by Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) and another room has a recently restored Rubens. Dick Bengtssons ‘Landscape with Church’ is an odd painting with a swastika in the bottom left-hand corner. The left-hand path ? No, theres’s no connection. The room with the abstract expressionists makes one feel like going home and getting a canvas ready for assault.

Rambled over to Vasagatan. Not much happening. The streets were of no interest. They need to be alchemized with some drama. I got back to base and attempted a re-mix of ‘She Said’. (I had discovered the original recording on a Boss recording machine so I was interested in a bit of knob twiddling.) Also re-recorded vocals and some guitar parts on a song called ‘The Needle And The Nail’ that I had worked on a few weeks ago. Sadly, it turns out to be merely B side material.

Put on The Invaders single ‘Heaven And Hell’. A King Tubby’s production, theres none of that praise the Lord / Jah Rastafari malarkey. “Heaven and hell are conditions in life, you can’t live in heaven when you are dead. The preacher knows the truth, the rich man knows it too. We have been brainwashed for a long time, we have been taken for a long ride.”…and that’s just the chorous. The label gives scant information on who the Invaders were, but the publishing date is 1977.

Daylight dimmed to a ghostly twilight. I was in Gamlastan. Anders had lit a bonfire and people were standing around drinking beer
and eating Mexican food. Played for
an hour and the 70’s Fender PA held out and the whole evening had rustic appeal. Its not everyday one gets to play in a carpentry workshop with an antique stove for heat and good company in abundance. Sold a lot of CD’s. A Finnish blacksmith bought five, as well as the 7inch single, ‘Time Is All We Have.’ I commend his good taste.