Newsletter July 2000
The June birthday celebrations were a wonder. ‘50, 25, 20’ - Fifty years on the planet, twenty-five years on the road, and twenty years since Gabriele and I first met. About fifty friends assembled at Atelier Hinterüti, Hörgen, just south of Zürich. The local farmer chose that particular afternoon to manure his fields, and Heaven chose to rain abundantly; none of which mattered. In fact the rain was a distinct advantage. Instead of wandering off to sunbathe in the surrounding fields, lounge in the shade, swim in the nearby lake, play frisbee, blow bubbles etc., all the guests were thrown together in the cosy little wooden functions-room, and in no time at all you would have thought everyone had known everybody else all their lives. There was excellent food and, many of my friends being musicians, over three hours of great ‘live’ music. Even those who couldn’t be there were able to contribute because I’d made a tape featuring numbers from all those musical friends who were absent for one reason or another, and this set the mood for the evening meal.
The following morning the sun deigned to put in an appearance, a magnificent breakfast was served, and those who didn’t have trains, or boats, or planes to catch, sat around in the garden listening to assorted guitar-players, singers et al.
My fiftieth birthday present, contributed to by everyone, was a truly legendary jumbo guitar, hand-built to order by a friend of mine called Klaus Doll, who lives up near Munster. (If you ever need a absolutely exceptional guitar, believe me he’s the man to contact. (Wasserstrasse 8, D-48565 Steinfurt, Burgsteinfurt, Germany. Tel & Fax: 0049 (0)2551 82415). German ‘Bearclaw’ Alpine spruce, Quilted Birds-eye maple, bone, ebony, copper, brass, silver, turquoise, and a selection of stunning shells; I only hope I can come up with some songs and performances worthy of it!
We stayed in Switzerland for a further week thereafter, holidaying with Mum and staying with friends. It couldn’t have been better.
In early July I was in Denmark again (it happens three times a year), zipping up and down the Jutland peninsular and all across the islands. Only ten days, but the weather was as cusséd as it has been all summer; warm sun one one minute, tilting rain the next. Danish gigs are rarely anything to write home about; pubs mostly, with voluble, pixilated audiences; but at least they’re friendly most of the time. The following anecdote, a year or two out of date now, but probably worth repeating, records an instance when harmonious accord was in short supply.
It was one of those ‘character-building’ trips anyway, including a road accident, contractual muddles and a fight..................
To misquote Shakespeare:-
Two drunkards, both alike in dignity,
In sordid Ikast where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny
Where slopped-out beer makes all the floor unclean.
I was in the middle of a peculiarly sensitive love song when a blond Viking uttered a roar and punched the light out. The pub then descended into darkness, shot through with gargling cries, splintering noises, the wailing of lost souls and the odd thud of bone on bone. I nipped the guitar into its case and stood guard by the most vulnerable of the speaker-stands, while chairs went whizzing about and women cuffed each other resoundingly. When light was restored the Viking’s brother was hugging him in a waltz of restraint and a woman was being hustled out in tears. Among splinters of glass and scattered furniture disassociated limbs of both sexes were groggily reconstituting themselves. I reclaimed my guitar and gently began singing ‘Yesterday’. This gig was contracted to finish at 3.00 a.m., and did so very punctually. I then drove until 8.00 a.m., finally flopping into the back of the van to sleep as a German dawn ushered in Election Day.
All of which goes to show that even the most exclusive of ivory towers are not immune from termites!
This time there was no call to misquote The Bard. There were a couple of open air performances on the west coast, during which the rain was good enough to hold off, and a clutch of the usual rub-a-dub-dub watering holes. I look on these as a reminder that reality isn’t all ‘Oh Life, what art thou?’ and ‘I, so cruelly wounded.’ Besides, there’s always the money.
I re-visited Roskilde and Copenhagen: the former to enjoy the ship museum, cathedral and delicious water from the springs which give the city its name; the latter to wander the streets, buy books and visit various museums.
The last engagement of the tour was perfect. As soon as I arrived the barmaid informed me that, since the holiday season had just begun, and since most of their customers are locals, she anticipated an audience of zilch. I therefore left the p.a. in the van and sat with her at the bar, watching Kevin Costner’s rather lame Wyatt Earp imitation until eleven o’clock. She then paid me and I drove home to Frankfurt in just under nine hours; with the full moon as my lantern, and Venus and Jupiter glittering in the east. Dawn came up in rosé and gamboge, closely followed by ragged clouds, teeming rain and, for the last fifty miles or so, a watery sun.
Now I’m away to England, and I would particularly draw attention to the touring list for the end of August and all of September. There’s plenty happening, quite a lot of it in London; some of it’s music, some of it’s poetry and music. If there’s a show near you I’d love to see you there.