Elliott Murphy

California Dreaming

Elliott Murphy
Photo: Ana Alonso

Well its 2009 and ... I'm optimistic but don't ask me why. Maybe because this past year was so incredibly gratifying for me. So many sold out shows all over the world, a new album Notes From The Underground that some outrageous reviewers are calling my ... best in a decade (All Music Guide), a generous and humbling exhibition of my career in music and literature at the Marie of the 6th Arrondisement here in my hometown of Paris entitled Elliott Murphy: Last of the Rock Stars - Retrospective capped by a standing room only concert in the beautiful 19th Century Concert Hall of the Marie, playing at the Parc de Prince with the man who put a smile back on the face of rock 'n roll - Bruce Springsteen - along with my son Gaspard on "Born to Run" in front of 50,000 fans, my first French speaking film role in La Ligne Blanche (Director Olivier Torres), and finally, my first US tour in 8 years where so many fans old and new came out to cheer Olivie Durand and myself on and I never signed so many CDs and albums in all my life. And has all this attention gone to my head? Yes, definitely! Now, I just want to write more songs, record my albums, continue touring and do everything else I can to keep going for the next 35 years at least. Who are my heroes: Picasso and Muddy Waters and Grandma Moses! Many, many years ago Dave Marsh (celebrated rock critic and Bruce biographer) called me a probably crazy visionary and at the time I thought ... oh shit! But now I fall happily into that category and as I tried to explain in "Theme Song" back in the "dark eighties ages" Lunatics and Lovers and Poets agree you can get what you're after but you get nothing for free ... you see, its always tradeoff. Now right this instant I'm looking out the window of my 5h floor Paris walk-up on Rue Beauregard and the sun is shining on me like I was Louis IX (the sun king!) and puffs of Paris clouds are being painted on the baby blue sky by a steadier hand then my own. I fell asleep[ last night reading The Savage Detectives by the late, truly great Chilean writer Roberto Bolano and the word on the street is that I'm mentioned in that book somewhere along with my pal and poet Michel Bulteau. Its a wonderful novel, part Catcher In The Rye part Tropic of Cancer and part On The Road. Sadly, Bolano died at 50 before being recognized as probably the most important writer to come out of the South America since Gabriel Garcia Marquez and I am truly humbled that he would mention my name in one of his works. Its an honor I treasure.

So where am I going now? HOLLYWOOD! My first California tour in 12 years and I'm stoked (a word invented by West Coast surfers back in the early 60's when Mickey Dora was hanging 10 at Malibu Beach. In the early 60's I was a dedicated Long Island surfer, on the cold East Coast waves of Gilgo Beach so my life was organized by 3 months of surfing and 9 months of watching surf movies like Endless Summer. Now, this year my friend and surfer guru Alan Gardinier has put together a "long box" of surfing turnes distributed by Universal Music called Surf Me Up and featuring a few of my songs such a "Green River" along with those of Jack Johnson, Dick Dale and Donovon Frankenreiter. You see for me, even though New York may be the center of the Universe for some, I was always looking west - Southern California was my promised land and Hollywood my Mecca. I guess it started with falling in love with Annette Funicello on the Mickey Mouse Show when I was eight years old which was from Disneyland (back then there was only one) and then I moved on to George Barris' custom car models which were all over my bedroom and then there was the surf music of The Beach Boys and The Astronauts and watching American Bandstand which by that time was broadcast from Hollywood and trying to figure out those west coast dance steps and bushy blond hair-dos. And, of course, the Hollywood films and James Dean and Steinbeck's East of Eden (film and novel) and F, Scott Fitzgerald's last days and when the "summer of love" hit I gotta confess that it was more the LA groups that captured my Hippie soul like Paul Revere and the Raiders and Buffalo Springfield and Love and The Mommas and The Papas and later The Byrds. My own Hollywood adventures came later in 1974 when RCA Records set me up in a suite in the Beverly Hills Hotel to record my album Lost Generation and it was a mythical time of passing beautiful Liz Taylor as she went to her private bungaloo (she didn't invite me to tag along), and hanging out at Dan Tana with Harry Dean Stanton and the occasional Eagles. My producer, the late Paul Rothschild was a truly mythical figure in the music business having produced not only the Doors but also Janis Joplin, Paul Butterfield and Bonnie Raitt among so many other great artists. We recorded at Elektra Studios on La Cienega and many late nights when the sessions were over Paul would drag out the old Doors master tapes and tell me how Jim Morrison would try to direct traffic on the boulevard in front of the studio. On Lost Generation Drums was Jim Gordon, co-writer of Layla now serving a life sentence in a California prison. You never know what you're in for ...

Somehow, after the highs of the 70's and the lows of the 80's I made it to Paris on the cusp of the 90's and found a true life, a bit of security and lots of stability. Not to mention the food ... I survived my early heady and reckless days in the rock 'n roll jungle although it never feels like a jungle when you're there - something like the Eskimos having no word for snow in their vocabulary I supose - and through the grace of my fans (who outside of my family are my greatest treasure) I beat on into the past (sorry F. Scott) to this very day. You see, by the time a song is finished its already in the past, its history. And the songs know more about me then I know about the songs.

(Note: Speaking of F. Scott Fitzgerald, if I might, for once, give myself a little credit for touting the name of this great American Writer ad nauseum to anyone who would listen, the first great modernist (in my opinion) and a man who beat on when everything was against him most of all himself and just in case anyone has failed to notice that the new Steven Spielberg/Brad Pitt film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is based on a short story of F. Scott Fitzgerald. But my efforts were miraculously rewarded just this past December when my sister Michelle's dear friend Laura Donnelly who is the granddaughter of Gerald and Sara Murphy who were great friends of the Fitzgeralds and who Tender Is the Night is dedicated gave me one of her grandfather's monogramed handkerchiefs GM which is of course, also the initials of my son Gaspard. What a treasure!)

This year is the big one as I approach the big ... dare I say it ... 60. But I'm OK with all of that - I'm still younger (and always will be) then Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Jack Nicholson who (by the way) has an open invitation to my LA show. And what did you expect? For me to be screaming into the night stars over Paris Give me back my youth! My reckless days of driving a rented T-Bird up the California Coast Highway to San Francisco just because we were bored and the record company expense account seemed bottomless. Of course, it wasn't bottomless at all and there is a steep price to pay for such decadance and wasted years. But you know what? I think I paid it. And I'm home free. And if I had it to do over again would I change anything? Yes, everything and nothing. And if I've learned anything at all it is that to change me is the lifetime job I've signed on for and I guess that's what every song I write is about, trying to know me and with that song to stop in my tracks and change direction until I hit ... the next song. These are the markers of my life because as we all know musicians have no memory because ... we only learn to count 1, 2, 3, 4 ....

Wishing you all good health, serenity and prosperity in the coming year 2009 and thank you for reading this, once again and everything else and for all the shows and all the applause and all the encouragement and please, above all, don't change. Even though, as this year showed everyone around the world - Change Will Come.

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