Why Change Horses Mid Apocalypse?
Diary continued 2004 (uncut)
Why Change Horses Mid Apocalypse? Euro Promo Tour 2004
" Are you feeling good? ARE YOU FEELING GOOD? I'm afraid If the band's lacking slightly in energy, It's because they spent all last night fucking... we do our best..."
Mick Jagger—Texas, 1981
Here's the mission. I'm meant to be on a "promo" tour. Promo tour? You ask. What's that? Well, the thinking here at CP inc. after much consulting with the higher up brass in the organization who know these kind of things. When it comes to all things "over there"—If we don't stand up and get counted right now, the new record will simply disappear. Simply disappear off the shelves like invisible ink and we'll be back to a steady diet of Pizza Parlors in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Some promo is definitely in order. So, we take the condensed orange juice approach. Pick eight countries, freeze dry em—add water. Later. Well... sort of. This first assault will include a double shot of London shows "the gateway to the west" and some downsized acoustic gigs out of practicality in parts beyond. You can't downsize any further than one dude and an acoustic guitar. Or can you? Don't tell me! I don't wanna know! After London, I'm headed out on my own to Spain, Greece, German, and Holland, etc for some reconnaissance. We'll return in the form of full band for gigs in the Spring. In between busking for meals (well... not quite), traveling, and staying awake as to not miss my train—me and my various handlers will visit radio and conduct interviews with various journalistas. That's right. It's called "promo". You could look it up. Okay enough explaining.
Scene one: Backstage at the Borderline. Carlos has been here. Carlos Guitarlos has branded the wall. He found some clean wall space in between the spiky nut-sacks and left his mark. I feel a little cheated. One of the drawbacks of being a solo artist is that you really don't get to graffiti the backstage walls. It's a sort of need I feel deprived of. A dog's got to leave his scent, Yo. What are you gonna do, write: "John Mayer rocked this place like a bitch" with a Sharpie on the wall? Then again, it hasn't stopped Carlos. Nothing stops Carlos. It's enough to make you wanna start a band. D-12 anyone? John McCrae from Cake and I used to joke that we were going to cover the backstage walls around the world with helpful advice—the lines of: "A penny saved is a penny earned..." "Early bird gets the worm" "Early to bed, early to rise..."—Cake. Maybe it's not too late. This backstage is a lot like the hotel we're staying at in the Queensway. It's one of those "in the case of guest visitor kindly place all luggage in the hallway to make room for extra person- thank you, the management" kind of deals.
"As some of you who've been paying attention, I'm sure you've gathered by now, a great many of us back in the states recently suffered a great loss... pause.... Pause..."How about those Cardinals...?" I dedicate the song Apology. On behalf of myself and the boys and miss Stephie.
Myself and the Mission Express (not the Stinking Badges—more on that later) end up playing our two night stand at the Borderline and it's pure sex. And as a special added bonus, nobody blows up an amp or a pedal board. There are Gremlins in this basement gig. I've gone up against `em before. I make sure to cross myself before I plug my amp in.
London. Lots of old friends. Kim Richey mans the merch table. It's yesterday once more. Good times all around.
Hamburg w/the Stinking Badges
Hamburg. My trusty promoter Norbert meets me at the airport and takes me directly to the Pacific hotel adjacent to tonight's gig. The Pacific. Not to be confused with Hamburg's Atlantic Hotel. Itself, a kind of posh stay. Located just off the ""Reeperbahn"" (Hamburgs red light district), the Pacific is more like a bathroom-down-the-hall kind of boarding house. I've been complaining about this place to Norbert for years. But Norbert just acts as if he can't hear me. In all fairness, Norbert's got that nervous disposition -- somehow he begs to be mentally tortured just a little. You know the type. I do my bit. As we approach in the cab, I grumble out from the back seat, "Norbert, you're not taking me to that nasty boarding house are ya?" "Sorry?" "You heard me Norbert. You know what I'm on about Norbert. The hotel with the music store downstairs?" He says, "Oh Yes, you've known the place since years—you've stayed there many times—it's actually quite famous that hotel." "Is that right? Famous for what?" "The Beatles stayed there when in Hamburg. In fact, it's said that Paul McCartney bought his first bass in that music store. But you probably knew that." I said, "No, I didn't know that."
Suddenly, as you can imagine, my whole opinion of the dump completely changes. This place rawks! And if I'm ever booked anywhere else from now on, I'll have a new complaint. This place rawks!
I play gig. Intro new songs into set. Embarrass Norbert from the stage. "I said room temperature water Norbert!". Gesture to the empty stage and introduce my band, the Stinking Badges. The Stinking Badges... theeeeenk about it...
My old friend Aljaz from Slovenia shows up bearing gifts in the form of highly coveted 60's deep soul rarities. Yeah, baby! We hang out and chat. He tells me, with no hint of—I don't know what (maybe it's that language barrier again. All nuance out the window), that "the go go Market record is "bullshit" and it's time for Stephanie Finch to make a proper Stephanie Finch record." Okay Holmes—we'll get right on it. Also, old friend Michael Oldfield is in attendance. Not THAT Michael Oldfield. He updates my Dylan boot collection for me to the power of 10. With nothing to offer up as a trade, I regale them with a couple of Dylan anecdotes (this one courtesy of some dude I met running a whorehouse in Buenos Aires).
Dylan on PJ Harvey: "Bob, have you heard our opening act?" "Ah...yeah... right, they're great... who are they?" "It's a she, Bob. PJ Harvey." "Oh yeah? What is she... like the... ah... ah... new Dylan?"
Back on the Beatles in Hamburg tip. My guit slinging friend, Darryl Bath who's played with Ian Hunter related a classic story about one of my all time heroes I have to share. At least for the sake of this story- and trust me, I'm going somewhere with this—you'll have to bear in mind Ian Hunter's career has been somewhat hit and miss. Mostly miss. You know. Shoulda been huge. Wasn't huge. Shoulda been a big big star. Wasn't a big big star. Although Ian Hunter originally burst on to the scene with the glam rockers Mott The Hoople in the 70's, he'd already been around. Ian was a little older than most of the cats cruising the glam rock highway and had actually put in some real time in the Hamburg days of the Beatles. Playing boogie woogie piano beyond some forgotten greasers in the heyday of the Star club and such. The gist is that Ian Hunter never quite reached the career heights of say the Beatles for example. Ian told Darryl-and-I'm-telling-you a story of hanging with the Beatles in some basement as they were having a séance complete with candles in the dark and the like. The Beatles were in fact, raising the dead. Calling upon the sprits. Ian didn't have the stomach for it and quite literally got spooked—ran from the room. Got the hell on outta there. Pussed out. He later learned, (or so the story goes), that the Beatles were given the opportunity that night to make a deal with the devil. What an opportunity! A deal with the Devil! You'd be a fool not to take it! And of course it goes without saying, that jetting out of that basement is one the big regrets in life for poor ol' Ian Hunter. Then again, he's still out there doing it. You can't say the same for all the Beatles. Okay... enough of this morbid shit.
Airport/Hotel/Sound check/Dinner/Gig/Selling of merch/Grilling of cheap meats
Some old friends in attendance. Some press. France. PPsssssshhhhtttttt. Another one of those territories that maybe if we ignore it long enough, it'll go away. Hasn't worked yet. I'm back for more indifference. This is a new venue I've never heard of. Fake out. It's the Chesterfield Café. Only they've gone and changed their name. (Been there done that. Stephie has the T-Shirt to prove it.) Shout out to Mark Zisman who braved the gig on a rainy night. And in a lemons-to-lemonade kind of way, I surprise myself by having a good time and a better gig.
Ex pats everywhere. All through Europe I am besieged my Ex Pats. But, it's taken on a new twist. They used to be very useful in scoring weed or finding out where a good vegetarian restaurant is. Now, a couple English teachers in Spain went as far as to offer me political asylum. That might come in handy down the road.
Chuck/Dan/Michelle/Cab/Airport/Flight/No work permit/Work permit sorted/Great cabbie.
Gig with Jason Ringenburg (Jason, as in formerly of: Jason and the Scorchers). Double bill. I play my set. Later Jason and I duet on a couple of songs. At my request, Jason sings Mama, I'm a Gypsy Now for me. I fall in from memory.
Damn! When did all the money come to Dublin? This place is swank!. New theme restaurants everywhere. Boutiques with overpriced designer chic up the ying yang. Requisite Starbucks. With a few old pubs in tact—keeping a kind of old world, local flavor. Genuine replicas of another time. It's kinda creepy.
Second day: Press. Second night: Much needed night off. My old friend, beat impresario, mofessional scenester currently enrolled in Trinity college—Frank Rynne meets up and takes me to his pad for a home-cooked meal fit for a king. I see to it that we're guestlisted for Steve Earl. Box seats in fact. Frank: "I feel like the Queen!". Steve Earl show well inspired. Steve comes out slumped over. Does not address audience. That posture. Could it be the weight of the world on his shoulders? He's not happy. Understandably so. "A lot of us worked hard." I feel ya. Did Bush not work hard? The thing that really bothers me is that that Bush guy with his kind of bad arrogant Dean Martin high school football coach act, didn't look like he was working hard at all. People vote Culture. Straight down the line. Culture. Unlock the mysteries of that mother and you might have something. Or as James Ellroy said about sex: I'd like to find the dude that invented that shit and see what he's working on now. 9/11 is the best thing that ever happened to Bush. Am I right or am I right?
Somewhere in between doing time and fighting the power, Dudeman has put together one thick-ass book of great songs. Singing like a man with a capo on his rage. beautiful theatre, the Olympic—tonight's gig, a treat. A full meal. And If that isn't enough -- should your mind wander, there's always Eric Amble changing guitars every song. (Nice Tele! Ooh, that one's got flames!). Eric takes a one note solo ala I Wanna Be Sedated. That's entertainment baby! I ask my Irish sidekick Frank if he wants to meet Earl. "I've met enough famous people, Chook." We pop down the road to the pub—have a quick one/embrace and go our separate ways.
Airport/Missed Connection/New Flight/Athens/Hotel/Soundcheck/Dinner w/ Nikki Sudden
A two night stand in Athens. *I haven't been to Greece in years. The last time I was here was pre Olympics when I couldn't help but thinking: Gad dang! This is the cradle of civilization? Is this where we're heading? Made downtown El Lay look like Stockholm. Where I made a note to self: If ever directing a movie and need authentically 60's looking airport location, look not further than Athens airport. Primitivo. Retro Nuevo! The baggage claim monitors looked like -- the only thing I can liken them to is some early version of video games ala Pong etc.... I get off the plane and well, the point is, post Olympics, it's a whole new deal now. Athens got two facelifts at least. Whole new deal Athens.
Dinner with Nikki Sudden and promoter. Over dinner, Nikki and his entourage knock back a couple bottles of red wine and a few fingers of Grand Marnier. The conversation flows. We exchange war stories in between atomic name droppings. Hit the deck! Nikki's been working on a kind of autobiography of sorts. Says he's got some 120, 000 words. Looks like between the two of us, we've easily got that many miles on us. I excuse myself—say I'm off to get a coffee of some kind to wake up in time for gig. Nikki: "Coffee? I never drink coffee. Keith Richards told me that's the absolute worst thing you can put in your body."
Backstage Nikki and I work up a couple of songs. We manage to play a verse and a half of A LOT of Stones songs. We settle on a couple and decide to wing what later turned into a kind of Jimmy Reed stream of conscious thang.
Gig time. In the house, we've got the Ex pats I met round the merch table in Paris—who decided to fly in for these two gigs. Of course, I'm flattered—but at the same time. It means I got to work up some different songs.
I follow set with encore and bring out Nikki for requisite clusterfuck. We trade improvised verses on Bright Light's Big City. It's alternately, inspired and infantile. They LOVE it!
Next morning/a day off. Some press. Ilisa's my keeper/handler/promoter and-all-around-good-guy in Athens. He takes me on walk up to the Acropolis. Check out the ruins. It's hard to come up with an original thought. It is truly awesome. They could engineer all this genius a thousand years ago but I can't find the exit in any underground parking garage. The weather is divine. We have leisurely lunch at busy sidewalk café. On the way back into town—walking through market square, I picked up stack of bootlegs. Stacks of illegal CD's with funky color Xerox sleeves. Lou Reed live in 72, Blondie doing Call Me in Spanish. Funky soul boots. Stuff I don't need but the American in me comes out. Got to consume some shit. So I consume. Can they smell the old `Oh-we've-got-money-we're-walking-round-we're-really-doing-it-Hard-Rock-Café-T-Shirt-kind-of-American-tourista-look. Fuck it. Walk back to my room. One hour to chill before gig. Listened to some music in the dark and strangely enough, I did not fall asleep and I did not get depressed. Every once in a while you get a break.
Play gig. Somebody calls out for How Many Angels. Nobody ever calls out for How Many Angels. One of my personal faves. I happily accept the challenge.
For New Years Day, I throw out the old intro of, "This is for anyone who's ever had to suffer through the humiliating experience of having to go back and live with their folks..." I am met with blank stares. I learn later that there is no shame in living with your folks at any age apparently. I learn this from someone who's something like 35 years of age. Culture! Again with the culture. Go figure.
Got into with a guy in the crowd. Can't remember how it got set off. I try to make peace, all in good fun, I plead, "Come on guys. You know I'm down with the Greeks, I'm a huge Telly Savalis fan." Or did I? It's too late, they've turned on me. Well.. I kid. Riffing along here... Language barriers... I'm reminded of touring with Penelope Houston. Wherein every night Penelope would proudly shout into the mike, "I wrote this next song with Billy Joe!" (Billy Joe Armstrong/Green Day). Until one night when someone came backstage and asked, "We vant to know! Vy is Penelope writing songs with Billy Joel?" Penelope's eyes went numb and after realizing what she'd been saying every night, the color drained from the poor girls face. Hit the deck!
After the gig, Ilisasi takes me on a crawl through the nightspots. Hanging out in Athens after dark. It rocks hard. And the DJ's are inspirational. Things wind down around 4 AM or so. We're walking through the square.
My friends talk amongst themselves. My mind drifts elsewhere. I'm ready to go home. My gears are turning --thinking about all the things I'm going to do when I get home. I do dig the traveling part of the gig. Almost as much as the getting home bit.
Fly home/Fly home/Fly home
Back on a plane. Lufthansa. Lap top on my lap. On the monitor in front of me, the sound is down and Duran Duran is cavorting around. These guys are still together? Look John Taylor's sporting a truckers cap. I guess the trucker cap is now officially dead. Survived only by the knit cap. How many of these flights do I have left in me?. You got to be a double amputee to get into these seats. Jesus! How many more of these flights do I have left in me? I member once getting bumped up to first class --me and Tommy Larkin's. Popping pills and drinking red wine. I didn't want the flight to end. This isn't first class. In first class you get the feeling that even if the plane crashes—first class will just keep going.
* I've been to Greece a couple of times in the past at least. In fact, once with Green On red we liked it so much Dan Stuart faked a nervous breakdown so we could blow off the rest of the tour. True story. Another time.