Well here’s to a great 2008 … and that rhymes. But this new year has not come as a step up the latter this year and I wonder why. Has my life taken on some kind of recurring rhythm, a plateau of small changes as I settle into my artistic middle age? A duo tour of Spain each January followed by a new album and then a birthday show at New Morning in Paris in March has become the Murphy method for starting the new year right. Looks that way from the outset although as I’ve so often heard sung “You never know what you’re in for” and I’m sure I’m in for a few surprises, some disappointments and some gifts. I hadn’t ordered on Amazon. Folks are wondering why I haven’t toured stateside since my “Coming Home Again” prayer of reunification and, well, I still might. My plans need sturdier roads to travel these days. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all roads lead to Rome and when in Rome do as the Romans do. Which is to say the older I get one more cliché, one more generalization, one more wise saying comes (almost) true. Except the one about aging rock stars because finally, I hope we can agree that a lot of great music is coming from the over 50 crowd. Bruce and Bob and The Stones are making retirement difficult for all of us. They haven’t dropped out it doesn’t look like they will anytime soon. Nor has John Cale or Jackson Browne or Emmylou Harris or Bonnie Raitt or the great Debby Harry. There is no mandatory retirement age for rock ‘n roll and judging from my own non-existent pension I suppose I’ll be walking up those stars to the stage as long as you’re there to listen.
Once I interviewed Keith Richards and asked him what time he woke up in the morning. He just looked at me and laughed. But does the day belong to those who see the dawn? I have seen the dawn plenty of times but most often from the other side of the window of morpheus and entering a new day with the old one still piled high on your shoulders isn’t anybodies idea of footloose and fancy-free. A mandatory dream between sunrises is my idea of reasonable living. But it wasn’t always that way, I must admit. There was a time when these boots were made for walking far over the 24 hour mark. And speaking of which, I have just today taken my Lucchese boots out of storage, dusted them off and they still fit my size 10 feet. Bought them in Houston, Texas at Cutter Bill’s store in 1977 while I was on tour, opening for Electric Light Orchestra and had a day off. These boots were a collector’s item, a remake of a pair made for Mr. Tom Mix, the first American cowboy silent movie star back in the 1920’s. Sad fact was that the damn boots were too small for my feet – the were size 81/2 – but they were so cool I really wanted to buy them anyway. A very canny and cool Texan salesman told me that in such a case the only remedy was to spray the boots with the water until the leather was soaked through, then put them on and let them dry on my feet and they would be perfectly molded to my size. So I did that and didn’t take them off for two days! I played the concert the next evening in Dallas with wet feet. Finally, they did dry off and as my French friends say “Voila!” they fit perfectly. But like the flooding of New Orleans the water took its toll and in a few years, the boots started cracking and falling apart. But, and this is important, the upper part of the boots which contained all the incredible green, violet and pink handiwork were still in perfect shape so I sent the boots to Lucchese and they sewed on completely new bottoms in a larger size. Now that was over 20 years ago and I still have the boots. Of course, there was a time I was fascinated with Texas and the border lands between the USA and Mexico and I drove from Laredo to Nuevo Laredo and drove down the coast until I returned with a broken heart. But that’s a different song…
My new album, Underground, should be out by March of this brand new year. Eleven new songs – some we’ve played before like “Lost and Lonely” but mostly new. I wrote a lot of the lyrics on my Scandinavian tour last September while sitting in the back of Steinar’s car. We drove from Stockholm to Norway and didn’t hit any moose although we did stop at a bizarre truck-stop where the owner claimed many American bluesmen always came there for a break. The owner was from Tunisia and spent his vacations in Jamaica. You never know what you’re in for. The shows in Sweden and Norway were thrilling, “fertile ground” as my friend from New Jersey says and I look forward to going back for the harvest!
Today we shot photos for the new album with the legendary Detroit photographer Sue Rynski who, like me, has lived in Paris for nearly two decades. Olivier Durand and the Normandy All Stars band drove down from Le Havre and we moved around the furniture in my apartment and tried to look like Billy The Kid or the Dalton Gang. Don’t know if I ever mentioned this but when I did my first cover shoot for Aquashow back in 1973 my plan was to shoot all my album covers in a real hotel somewhere. Things didn’t workout that way because for Lost Generation as much as I wanted to shoot in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel where I was staying we couldn’t get permission so we shot in a studio. But I did shoot Night Lights on Times Square in NYC surrounded by Hotels. The only other hotel shot was Selling The Gold which was done in L’Hotel in Paris in St. Germain des Prés – the same hotel where Oscar Wilde died. The 12 cover was done in Ile St. Louis in Paris where I stayed many a time in the 80’s until Ernie got us forever banned (that’s another story) and Affairswas shot in my bedroom in Gramercy Park and Party Girls And Broken Poets was done right on Gramercy Park itself. So, in my heart I’ve always been true.
Normally, I should be summing up 2007 and it was an exhilarating and exhausting year. I’ve been told by those who know about such things that 2007 was so tiring because we had 13 full moons that year and that makes for an exhausting 12 months. Me, I played around 80 shows and recorded a new album which was just fine. And the band keeps getting tighter and tighter and tuned to every crazy move I make on stage, changing songs in mid-air and pulling old songs out of my hat as if they were rabbits and I was a magician. And now every time I hit the stage with the Normandy All-Stars I know something special is going to happen. And let’s hope it keeps happening in 2008!
January 6, 2008 – Paris
Top Photo: Johan Vanden Borre
Boot Photo: Elliott Murphy
Bottom Photo: Willie Dumalin