Elliott Murphy

And So We Beat On...

Elliott Murphy
Photo: Willy Dumalin

Number Thirty rolling and rocking down the track - Notes From The Underground - new album, eleven new songs, next move toward Graceland. And I must say was as painless a musical operation as I've ever done. Even the Pizza in Le Havre has gotten better. Thought I'd wait another year before putting another album out there trying to sail on the sinking CD market. But ironically, in the midst of the decline of the CD empire my own sales are going up. Explain that? I've always bucked the trend although honestly that was never my intention. This was the first go around where the Normandy All Stars (Olivier Durand, Alan Fatras & Laurent Pardo) were really the house band. And Olivier co-wrote five songs which is a record, I think. I start a song and I get stuck and it could stay stuck for another year or two but luckily Olivier comes into Paris for a few days and we force the birth of Razzmatazz! Then Florent Barbier took it all back to New York where he recorded the "Genius" otherwise known as Kenny Margolis on the Keyboards while I brought "Frankenstein's Daughter" back to my home studio where my son Gaspard did his guitar magic. Folks are again saying this album is a return to something. Well, isn't everything? In the words of the great F. Scott Fitzgerald "And so we beat on ... ceaselessly into the past." And he wasn't even talking about rock 'n roll. But I am ...

Back in the early 70's I was opening shows for the New York Dolls in Boston and NYC. People were calling me part of "Glam Rock" although the closest I came to that was my white suit on the Aquashow cover. Hey, if there's a Hard Rock Cafe out there that wants to frame my white suit and put it on the wall and give me free burgers for life they're welcome to it. I was thinking of those early days because last night I watched a very moving film New York Doll about Arthur "Killer" Kane, legendary bassist of the New York Dolls. After the implosion of the Dolls in the 70's due to too much of just about everything Arthur disappeared into the L.A. black hole of ex-rock stars. Finally, after many years in the wilderness Arthur found salvation and some peace of mind in the Mormon Church where he worked in their library and prayed for the day the Dolls would re-unite and he would re-gain all that he had lost so quickly and carelessly. And guess what? His prayers were answered and The New York Dolls played a long awaited reunion gig at singer Morrisey's Meltdown Festival in London just a few years ago. It was a glorious moment for The New York Dolls and Arthur "Killer" Kane himself, his dreams finally come true, his prayers answered. And then he returned to LA and 22 days later he died from Leukemia. Tragic this rock myth stuff is, no doubt, even if Arthur outlived three of the other New York Dolls. I remember him as the quiet one, the "living rock statue" who would not move barely at all while standing on stage. When I opened at The Academy of Music for The Dolls in 1974 Arthur showed up very late for soundcheck, his hand wrapped in a huge white bandage. He said his girlfriend got mad at him and tried to cut off his thumb while he was sleeping. Don't know if its true or not but, as it must, the show went on regardless. And so we beat on ...

And then I read yesterday that Mike Smith, lead singer of the almost forgotten Dave Clark Five died as well. I met Mike after a Bruce Springsteen show in Madrid, I think Steve Van Zandt introduced us, and we talked quite a bit. He seemed pleased when I told him that I started playing Vox organ because of him and I had seen the Dave Clark Five in concert on their first US tour. I promised to invite him to my next show in the south of Spain, where he lived. But shortly after that night a freak accident caused him to become paralyzed from the neck down. I sang many Dave Clark Five songs in my group The Rapscallions. Rock stompers like "Bits and Pieces", "Glad All Over" and their fine ballad "Because". I was 16 years old and I never dreamed I would meet Mike Smith so many years later and after that night with him and Bruce I had hoped to see him again and maybe sing "Bits and Pieces" with him on stage somewhere in Spain. And so we beat on ...

Notes From The Underground was originally titled Resonance and then City of Light (the photo on the back of the burning Paris sky was going to be the cover) and then I settled on Notes from the Underground when I started reading Dostoyevsky and I noticed a pretty girl on a plane from Bilbao reading the same book. Why Underground? Am I underground? Or at the very bottom of the Top 100? Does it matter anymore? I was learning something about Marcel Duchamp, the legendary French surrealist artist who became an American citizen in 1955. When asked "Where are we going?" at an art conference in Philadelphia shortly before he died he said that the great art of tomorrow will hide itself. "Will go underground." Later he explained: "If there is an important fellow from now in a century or two--well! he will have hidden himself all his life in order to escape the influence of the market" So that's where our next Van Gogh is now, hiding from the ever encroaching market. And so we beat on ...

But did Van Gogh hide from the market or did the market hide from him? And what about me? Journalists and critics often praise me for not selling out to the commercial forces of the music business but I can honestly reply that I never knew how or I might well have. My mother, who probably knows me best, says that I was too independent for those big record companies. Always wanted to do things my way. When I made my first independent album Affairs back in 1979 it seemed like the obvious move to make. I needed to release albums for a lot of reasons: I needed to tour and I wanted new songs to sing on stage. And I needed to stay alive creatively. So now its 30 albums in my 35 years of making music professionally. It doesn't seem like a lot to me although some call me prolific. A song a day should be easy so why not a dozen songs a year? I think its the business that slows down the artists. If Picasso had been signed to a major record company who planned a huge slumbering promo campaign each time he painted a dozen canvasses there would be a lot less Picasso museums around the world. And me, I'm already thinking about the next album: something positive and ironic with a beat you can dance to. And so we beat on ...

Elliott Murphy
3 March 2008
Paris

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