Thursday Feb 10 London….The rain was coming down in an unrelenting spray. A slice of pizza lined my empty stomach and as I ate it sheltering from the rain over in Camden Town, I called Fi Shanks on the tellerfone and asked what the plan was, if there was a plan ? ‘Let’s meet in the Elephants Head’ he said, or words to that affect. I walked there, a short stroll and ordered a beer and sat looking out at the downpour. The streets were busy as London can only be. The last time I was in this town was about 4 or 5 years ago and it was raining heavily that day too. We had come over for 24 hours to shoot a video, and we spent a lot of that day filming in various locations around Camden and Portobello Market and all went well. But then Joey Cashman (Shane MacGowans manager during the Popes era, and The Pogues tour manager) borrowed the camera (including film) and somehow never returned it. So, needless to say the video was never finished…. and never will. )
Fi soon arrived and we had a drink and chat with good times on tap and misery and confusion knew no place at our table. A bus ride later and we were in Aces & Eights, a bar in Kentish Town. Nice place, good vibe. They built a stage, brought in the PA, I checked out the jukebox and had a Guinness. Soundcheck was followed by food (pizza) and a lie down was in order. Fi made up a bed for me in the rehearsal room downstairs and I went to make a phonecall. When I got back to my bed, it was gone and a guy was trying out a guitar in one of the rehearsal room amps. I quickly learned a band were due in for rehearsal, so I lied down on the floor in a sleeping bag in a room across the way and nodded off. Woke up about an hour later, and the band sounded good. Back to sleep. Woke up and they sounded terrible. Could’ve been a different band.
Played the gig, using Fi’s electric Hofner on a few songs, and the sound was good, and Fi joined me for a song or too. Paddy arrived down and I got to meet Daniel Jeanrenaud. Last time I saw him was in Dublin about 7 or 8 years ago. Jean said he was being managed by Terry O Neill at the time. I told him that Terry had tried to manage a band I was in once, but he gave up cos he thought we were unmanageable. ‘That sounds like a good band to me’ said Jean, the Camden Cat (although he’s French).
Friday February 11, London….Woke up on a sofa…. Fi was on the other sofa. We were in the living room of the house owned by Whiskey Mick, but he was away somewhere. Hes got a two-sofa living room. Stereo seating arrangements. His wife arrived in. We had tea and decided to leave. Fi has been sofa surfing for 3 months now and is on the verge of getting a new flat. He told me that breakfast is a drink that should be taken standing and who was I to argue. We talked of other gigs that should be played, phone calls were made. He reminded me of a song I never wrote (but should) called Stick With Me. Sometimes all you need is the title. He phoned a taxi, no time for the Underground and Terrorvision busses. Didn’t want to miss the flight, so I took a taxi to the airport. Nodded off to sleep, woke up not sure where I was. Asked the guy to pull over because I BADLY needed to pee. We were on the motorway but he pulled over anyway. To hell with the law. I ran onto the grass verge, took a leak, turned to my right and there was my Indian taxi driver taking a leak himself. We were both in the same boat. When you gotta go you gotta go.
MondayFebruary 14 Göteborg….Johnny Hodges on the stereo for breakfast. He was Charlie Parkers idol apparently, or maybe the record company hired a liar of a scribe to concoct a tale for the liner notes. Either way, he was good on that alto sax. The Sun was bright and shades are needed to cut out the glare. Marianne Faithful claims that in the 60’s she would select potential boyfriends on whether they had read Huysmans ‘Against Nature’ or not. I’m reading it now, but as usual I’m a few decades too late.
Thursday February 17 Dublin… Arrived in yesterday evening, and had some food, and a chat and a lie down. I was left in an empty house from early morning, but with access to the internet, I could get a few chores done and read a bit of ‘Shantaram’. The wife asked me, or should I say…told me to read it. Its definitely wiped away any romantic notions of wanting to visit India from my brain. I’m sticking with Europe for the time being thank you very much. Its big enough and varied enough.
Rehearsal was good fun and we got a lot done….and that rhymed unintentionally! Tried a version of the old Byrds song, ‘So You Want To be A Rock n Roll Star’ and it sounded good. That’s going in the set. Had a drink after in the Foggy Dew pub just off Dame St under the dark sinister shadow of the Central Bank.
Friday February 18 Carlow….A trip to the internet café was the first port of call having washed down a slice of bread with cheese and chutney. A damp day in Dub world , the smell of hops from Guinness’s along the quay. Long time since I got that smell. Brought me back to the last century…the early 1980’s and those smog filled days of aimless penniless street wandering. Going to the Hare Krishna’s ‘open days’ to score a free meal, the dole office on Werbrough Street, rubbing shoulders with criminals in the queue, the churlish counter staff, damp flats, butter vouchers. The clock pub on Thomas Street, McGonagles, musty second hand book shops…all long gone, The Alchemists Head, Saturday afternoon goths on Grafton Street, the old Foggy, Tobins of South Anne Street and Temple Bar was like a Dickensian ghost town.
Tried to get paid money due to me by somebody I used to know who works in a record shop, only to be told times were bad and business was bad and they have very little money. Well, I have very little money myself…but of course I didn’t get paid. Instead there was drama and nonsense and profuse apologies and YES we WILL get you the money etc etc. The usual crap. I’ll believe it when I see it. Not many record shops left in Dublin now. I’d like to get paid before they too close. Went for something to eat. Coming down Georges Street I met a guy. Homeless… on the street, trying to busk but doing a very bad job at it. He asked me if I remembered him and he mentioned a few people we used to know. Gave him some money and on I went feeling shit.
Had a drink or two with Niall Lawlor in The Stags Head while I waited for the car and off we went in the pissing rain to Carlow. Nodded off to sleep for a few miles of the monotonous motorway as Chris and Les chatted away in the front of our metal transportation box. We were playing The Castle Tavern and it was cold and damp and the UV lights didn’t help the slaughterhouse vibe. But just before Broken String Company started their set, the lights dimmed and in poured a whole gang of like minded souls. The vibe was instantly great. We were all in good form. Gala and crew played a great set and after a short break we started to make a racket. Good fun, loud, melodic and we got it very right. A great night and a great reaction from the folks in Carlow. Thank you guys for a memorable night.
Saturday February 18 Dublin…Off to Arad Studios to do some work. Chris was adding real drums to some songs I had started recording (with a drum machine as guide) in Sweden. Things started to sound good fairly quickly. Bear, who is boss of the Art Gallery and landlord of various artists studios seems to have a never ending supply of bottled beer. I meet some of his artist friends as we sit out in the damp dusk gloom as he tells me stories of his days as a member of a punk band in Mongolia. He’s the first person I ever met whose been to Mongolia and I reckon I’ll never meet another person who has been in a Mongolian punk band. It’s all down hill from here.
Chris nailed 4 songs, there were 2 others, but we ran out of time. No rest for the wicked. Off to sound check in Sweeny Mongrel. After we made the required amount of noise I bumped into my old friend Mick Cronin from Ireland best band The Aftermath. A quick jaunt across the way to Sheebeen Chic for refreshments and a good chat and then back to see Lois and Clarke who are playing ‘45’ and they’ve recorded it too. The lyrics have been changed a bit, but I like their version. The Hot Sprockets were great, as were the band who keep changing their name. Sabine and crew had arrived and Ann, Alanna and Barbara. Jessica was there and the place was packed. Wasn’t expecting such a big crowd. Enjoyed the gig, had to drop my solo acoustic slot, the rowdy drunken Saturday mob wanted it loud and rockin’…so that’s what they got. Sheila Sullivan guested on violin on 2 songs but quit after that. She said we were too loud. I beg to disagree, I’ve played way louder gigs.
Sunday February 19 Tramore…Ugly politicians faces on posters all the ways along the road. General election fever, the Black Death…a plague foisted upon the man on the street. An insult to the intelligence. Down past the Beacon Hotel we found a chipper and got fish and chips and we ate our dinners looking out over the wild waves of the Irish Sea. Manann Mac Lir was having a party tonight. The gig was fine, with a good turn out for a Sunday night. People showed up because they heard us on the radio. A few songs into the set my fingers went a bit odd, I was losing the feeling of the little finger and the ring finger on my left hand. I thought I’d had a stroke. Chris wanted to stop the gig. I soldiered on with great difficulty. Got through the show. Selling CD’s and records afterwards I apologised for my sloppy playing, but folks were saying ‘Didn’t notice a thing wrong’. Many complemented ‘the drummer’. This could be the second last gig with Chris. Hopefully not. Australia beckons.
Saturday February 25 Göteborg …Thought I woke up with a dark demon at the window. Somebody called out ‘Loki’ but this was the wrong name. An elemental presence , malevolent, dumb and then gone. Then I really woke up . We played Henricksberg with Christian and the 2120’s. A good crowd, not packed, but a 40 minute set is an odd affair for us. We are used to playing an hour and a half, sometimes two hours. So we hardly had time to even get warmed up. But the folks enjoyed it and we got the job done. Earlier in the week I had wasted several hours of my precious time in the hospital. A trip to a reflexologist proved more useful. Diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome a period of rest followed by exercise and acupuncture, deep tissue massage etc, and I can hopefully get my hand / arm back in action. So the gig in Henricksberg was a test of sorts. I just about got through it. Not an easy night.