Saturday 11 February, Göteborg, Sweden - A bitter cold day just one street away from Iron City. 'Life is long, if you know how to live it' she said stumbling off the #1 tram, a hip-flask in her hip pocket, king-size cigarette in hand.
Met up with Damon down at the Bellman at soundcheck. Had a drink or two and a chat. The soundcheck was a long affair. The owner of the place couldn’t figure out how to get the P.A. going. Neither could we. Eventually we got a few speakers to make some noise, and I went home.
Later back at Bellmans, a good crowd had arrived. Did a long solo acoustic set, before being joined by The Renegade Two – Slick Andy on drums and Mikka Haki on double bass. A good gig and a good vibe until 3 songs from the end word came through about complaints from the neighbours. Typical. Our residency got shut down on the first night. But not until we played a very very long version of‘Seven Years’ with improvised ending, walls of feedback, mayhem and madness. Sold CD’s and got paid in Norwegian Kroner, worth a lot more than the swedish currency. Spoke to a pissed-off bar manager. Got the money and with Marlene and her Indian friend we went across the road to Haga Bio for a late drink and ended up trekking in the falling snow to Sköll for more beer.
Wednesday 22 February, Dublin, Ireland - Cold as Siberia, damp as the dungeon. Rehearsals in Sonic were fun. Tried out a few new ideas with Clarence Clark on pedal steel. The heat sunk in and we did our thing. Out in Finglas we had a late night chat with Al and Mercedes and the German lady whose name I can’t recall. Off to bed and soon entered through the rusty gates of the land of nod.
Thursday 23 February Dublin…Lunch was a bowl of soup with bread and thick butter in a café near the courthouse in Smithfield. A phone call came from Svenska World. Over at Arad Studio I had a drink and hung out and listened to recordings. Bumped into a few people I knew on the street. Ate in the Hare Krishna place on Baggot St. Back at Sonic H.Q. I met Horslips roadie Pat who was having a cup of tea with Al.
Later, over at the Leeson Lounge, roadie Pat, true to his word, had passed on the message to the Horslips boys that we were playing around the corner from their hotel. So Jim Lockhart (who lives nearby anyway) arrived with Charles O Connor and wife. I knew Jim from years back. Never met Charles before. Nice guy. He asked about my Ibanez electric guitar, we chatted about music, his band, the 70’s the O2 shows and he bought me a pint. Steve Wall was in, Pete PAMF, Darragh McCarthy, Lorraine from Lois and Clark, Kate, Alanna and crew, old friends, strangers, the disenfranchised, the oblivious to it all, the connoisseurs, the tone deaf and the lovers. ….a good gig and a good vibe.
Friday 24 February Ennis, Ireland - A cold evening in the County Clare. But Brandons warmed up and we enjoyed the gig. Proprietor Declan said it was the best he had there in years, so we must have done something right. Paul was down from Galway…or was it Clifden. Eric Mullins who I hadn’t seen in 20 years or more. Debra played a few songs with Paul and sounded great. A lady who I haven’t seen in over 20 years as well. Clarence did his solo slot and we made our noise. Didn’t sell any CD’s, but somebody managed to steal a few. Such is life.
We were invited to a party in somebodys house where Eric was DJ and later relocated to Spancil Hill for a few hours kip.
Saturday 25 February Cootehall Co. Roscommon, Ireland - ”Last night as I lay dreaming of pleasant days gone by..” and so I awoke in Debra’s house in Spancill Hill. Always liked that song. Rolling fields dipping into the valley, tangled trees, green green grass. As green as if Tom Jones was singing about it. A tractor perched on a ledge in an old decaying out-house, a cat creeping around with bird murder on her mind.
Drove to Ennis and loaded up the gear. A stately hostel / restaurant was visited for lunch following a standing liquid breakfast in as nearby Hotel bar. Bottled Italian beer, red wine, food and more read wine in that order. Hit the road with Al at the wheel. Stopping off to take photos of the Padraig Pearse War monument in a lonesome windswept field. Night fell upon us. We reached Cootehall in County Roscommon. A crumbling ghost estate lurked behind the church. Petrol pumps stood to attention. A pub called Forge MJ Henry was and is the centre piece of the village. Dwarfed by the church, the pub has character, life and colour. The church is grey and obsolete. A good crew of folks came down to Forge MJ Henry. Steve filmed some of the gig, Ava Maria took photos and it all went well.
Friday 3 March, Sollebrunn, Sweden - 16 hens laying eggs, 2 cats and a dog, several hundred deer and half a ton of salmon in the lake. The farm house was 400 years old but didn’t look it. A walk in the woods sharpened the appetite for dinner as the sun dimmed across the swamp. Not a soul for miles.
Friday 23 March, Nice, France - Rambled through the winding streets, stopping off for ice cream for the Princess. The old carousel off the Promenade de Anglais spun around and around and the water kept tumbling down the waterfall of the Colline du Chateau. Turned up at the traffic lights past the Palais de Justice and we had a beer or three down the side street next door to the over-priced jewellery shop.
Nike– Greek goddess of victory was watching our every move. Wasn’t feeling too victorious myself. I had written two songs and recorded one, which may or may not be worth using at some point in misty time. No major achievement, but I didn’t come to the south of France to achieve anything. Waited for our Indian food as we sipped Grolsch and I took a photo of the bright red Ganesha statue under lit by an ultra violet bulb.
Saturday March 24 Bohus, Sweden – In from the airport, not much time for a lie down before the car arrived to chauffeur me to Bohus for Martti the Blacksmiths Birthday Party / gig. All the usually fare, pizza, beer, wine, hard liquor, cake , sandwiches and of course rum. Martti likes his rum and big fat Cuban cigars. I played my set and drank more rum but reneged on the cigars.
Friday March 30 Dusseldorf, Germany – Following instructions, hopped the S-11 from the station under the airport at the end of the terminal. Figured out where I was going on a grey overcast day and with time on my hands and an empty stomach I set up base in a Thai restaurant. A ramble around the neighbourhood led me to the door of Abraxas, a small bar with a window full of witches - statues, toys, antiques, brewing potions, flying on greased broomsticks, casting their spells on Ratzinger. A few streets away at Solaris I had a good evening in the company of a gathering of like-minded folk who seemed to like the songs and the vibe.
Saturday March 31 Oberhausen, Germany – Awoke in the abode of Rory and Kathi. Had a big breakfast and went out to explore the town before hopping on the train to Oberhausen, a sort of Germanic mini Las Vegas. An Israeli lady became my tour manager for a while showing me where to catch my connecting train etc. All very friendly. Played a big Irish Bar called An Crannog. But as Paddy Pubs go its top class. A bunch of rocker / rockabilly guys are up from Dortmund, good looking ladies with class footwear are sipping their shiny glasses of wine and the moneys good too. Sold a lot of CD’s and the PA was in good nick and nobody complained about anything.
Sunday April 1 Bonn, Germany – A strange, nervous laughing guy wanted to help with my bad directions. Reminded me of the spellbound estate agent in Hertzogs ‘Nosferatu The Vampyre’. We walked through the streets, he was wheeling along his bicycle trying to figure out where Zone was located. Thankfully we found it and the hyena guy left me. He meant well, but I wasn’t in the mood for nervous small talk.
Went to the Pendal restaurant for a drink. The aroma of pasta and tomato sauce, chili, fried potatoes got to me. Ordered pasta. ‘Don’t mix ze German beer vis ze vine’ warned the waiter. He might have a point.
Down at Zone on Maxstrasse I played and soon after crashed out in a tiny hotel over an Indian restaurant, getting up and making a B- line for the airport and a long wait for a plane to Berlin.
Monday 9 April, Göteborg, Sweden - Had the best of intentions to put an amp into the living room, get the electric plugged in, distortion pedal, a bit of delay….you know the score.. and get to work on a song I started writing in France the week before last. But I was manky and in bad need of a shave and a shower. As it turned out, in the shower I got the words to the chorus and first verse of the song. Its all about time management and if you can multi-task your rockin’. So I was able to forsake the living room malarky and get straight into pressing the red button in the other room. I decided this song could do with some fiddle. Took down my trusty old hey diddle diddle from its lonesome place hanging on the wall. Hadnt played fiddle since xmas…..and much to my dismay and horror, the back was coming off. In fact this 200 year old instrument was about to fall apart. I reckon that it was so used to living (like myself) in damp old houses and damp flats that the last few years of triple glazed windows and proper heating has played havoc with its life-span. I got out some wood glue but without a vice it was a waste of time. Put some gaffa tape on it and tuned it up and got stuck into recording, working on a version of the song I had started with Slick Andy on drums. I need to get the fiddle to a fiddle doctor this week. Plans are already in place. But the song (working title “Dark Blue Twilight”) is sounding ok. Sleet coming down outside, Bank Holiday stillness, wine on the shelf, phone off the hook…..not a bad way to spend a day.
Friday 11 May, Lisser, Netherlands - Göteborg was in a deluge. Watched the muddy current of the river from the bus. Charged an extra 30 euro to check my guitar in by gestapo-like lady who is ‘only doing her job.’ Set sail on the ship that sails through the heavens. Time to kill in Schipol, so ridiculously over-priced food was consumed. Onwards by train to Haarlem and from there bus 51 to Lisser and I missed the stop and had to backtrack a few miles. The gig was in a place called Nexxt1. A hotel hasn’t been organised and the local flower show means all the cheap rooms are booked.
Played a civilized gig in a lego-style town and Peter organised a hotel for me in Haarlem, which means a late night bus ride to the next town. A friendly chap at the bus stop complements me on my boots and we strike up a conversation of sorts. He does most of the talking. Thinks hes old at 25, shows me a trailer to an ‘Irish’movie on his phone and so on and so forth. In Haarlem, with a little help from Friday night revellers, I locate the Carillon Hotel at Grote Markt, check in, get a litre bottle of fizzy water to bring to my room, read a bit of Dylan Thomas and slept the sleep of the just.
Saturday 12 May, Haarlem & Alkmaar - The Carillon Hotel is an old school Dutch affair. Theres no lift in this building of steep steep stairs, from an era when people must have had much smaller feet. A chandelier like a giant bejewelled monster over the breakfast table. Tea and toast, a boiled egg too, and cake. On a ramble through the back-steets I found a Honor Melodica for 17 euro. Used to have one when I was a kid. Might come in handy recording. Over at Beachclub De Oerkap I played at 5pm. Nice place. Sandy and windy, boats going by, pizza being baked, sand castles being built. Asked the lady in the train station kiosk for a ticket to Haarlem. “This IS Haarlem” she replied. Yes of course it is…..lets try Alkmaar then.
Passed through Uitgeist, Castricum, Heiloo. The gig at Café Mervs was fun and the sound was good, thanks to Steve, ex Dead Plants drummer and all round good guy. Inneke 23 arrived up from Belgium and Jurie arrived from a few streets away.
Sunday 13 May, Egmond Binnen, Netherlands - Caught the bus by the skin of our teeth . Off we went in the bright sunshine. Got off at Egmond Ann Zee and it took about 10 minutes to figure out this was the wrong town. Amused myself taking photos, had a beer, Inneke had a cappuccino. Got another bus and found the festival in the next town. Big big old school PA. Time was tight, but the gig was ok and somebody drove us to Alkmaar and before long I was in Amsterdam and then Schipol Airport and ready to roll on to Copenhagen and then Gotham City.
Saturday 26 May, Bohus, Sweden - 23 degrees, a mild breeze rustling the leaves. Old 78’s on the newly acquired Philips three-speed portable record player. It folds in on itself like a little plastic brief case. Takes batteries as well as electrickery. I had a pile of 78’s by Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Bill Haley and The Comets, the Joe Mooney Quartet, Lisbeth Bodin, Fats Waller, Nils Weingard, Les Paul, but nothing to play them on. Now that’s all changed following a visit to TV Repair Man in Majorna. All this excitement and the sun belting down, not a cloud in the cerulean blue sky led to a few drinks. The phone rang. It was Marrti Blacksmith, organiser of the Alla Smeders Dag. He said he would collect me at 6. I went for a lie down. Slept. Woke up and off we went in the van to Bohus.
Hung out with Kristian who had recently returned from India. He recommended I vist Varanassi - the City Of Death. With a name like that, how could I refuse. Tales were told of his travels. He met an Aghori, one of those Hindu ‘Holy Men’who live near graveyards, smear their bodies in cremation ashes ,collect human bones and cannibalise corpses. Sometimes they meditate too. And I thought Catholicism was creepy.
Played my set and later I did a few songs with Kristian and Kexan. Marrti had a bed made up for me in his house, but I awoke in the morning lying across the kitchen table.