As my hero F. Scott Fitzgerald said (under the pseudonym of a fictional poet) in The Great Gatsby:
Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
I must have you!”
So, I’m planning on bouncing back this year after such a very sad ending to the last. Let me just say again, we will never forget our long-time bassist and friend Laurent Pardo and when we get up on that eternal stage, wherever I am, you can be sure his spirit follows us there. His funeral in the little Normandy town of Yvetot was overflowing with friends, fans and fellow musicians and it was so clear to see how Laurent was loved by all he came in contact with. In fact, I never heard him say a bad word about anyone (except a few French politicians!) and the poignant words spoken by his son Robin and other members of his family at the funeral moved us all to tears and even sometimes laughter. Olivier and I sang a few songs at the wake that followed and now all we can do is to try to move on as best we can. It’s so difficult to express grief and loss in words either written or spoken but the English poet Percy Shelley may have come close:
“Peace, peace! He is not dead, he does not sleep / He has awakened from the dream of life…
The dream of life… maybe that’s what all this is. Sure seems that way sometimes and I can personally attest that the lives of the characters in my songs and books often seem more real, more rooted in a discernible reality then my own. Life can at times makes more sense and even achieve some kind or sensible order or grand design in retrospect whereas when we’re stuck in the middle of it, trying to get through the day, we all appear to be almost immobile in the fog of chaos and indecision. If you want to explore that further – I’m talking about chaos and indecision as felt by a fictional lost musician – be sure to pick up my novel Marty May, which started as the short story “Cold and Electric” in Rolling Stone in 1980, and is finally available in a fine English edition. Let me just say, Marty has been a long time coming home to the language I conceived him in. There are various versions already available in both French and Spanish but this is truly the first time that the novel is out in its entirety in English, as I originally wrote it, as I planned it from the get-go. Hope it pleases the true believers. Marty May is actually part of a rock ‘n roll trilogy of novels that will include Tramps (available in March 2017) and finally Diamonds By The Yard (co-written with my brother Matthew Murphy and out this coming summer.)
I should probably mention that, I’ve got a new album in the can Prodigal Son that will be out in time for my “Birthday Shows” at The New Morning (Paris) in March. This is my first album of original songs since Worried Man and get ready for something new coming your way, full of an inspiration gospel choir, brilliant rocking piano and exquisite violin playing. Of course, the virtuoso guitar work of Olivier Durand will be giving off its usual sparks while Alan Fatras and the late Laurent Pardo hold down the rhythm. The last song Laurent played on was “You’ll Come Back To Me” and we plan on pre-releasing this single very soon before the album. Prodigal Son also includes my longest song ever, clocked in at over eleven minutes – “Absalom, Davy & Jacky O.” I’m telling you now, if you want me to sing it live in concert, then the Rainy Season Fans better prepare their scroll with all the lyrics as they did with the ten minute “Put it Down” some years ago. Up for it?
In spite of everything we see around us, all the sadness and horror, no matter, I remain optimistic because I see no other choice. And that’s not my nature by any means. I tend to be a brooder, a worrier and an obsessive thinker. Always been that way and the only time when I really feel set free of my own demons is when I’m on stage because they never seem to be able to follow me up there. Maybe they have stage fright. Well … there was that one time in Rouen when I threw a monitor speaker off the stage – still sorry about that.
If you do like poetry (as I do and respectfully and with great humility I published my first book of poems, 40 Poems in 40 Nights, last year and thanks to all of you who have ordered it on Amazon) do go see Jim Jarmusch’s wonderful new film Patterson. Only film I ever saw that has poetry as it’s main character. And read Bruce Springsteen’s biography Born To Run if you want to get inside the mind of a man and poet who has inspired so many of us. And for kicks watch Better Call Saul (about a lawyer who thinks like a poet, bending reality to his own wishes) on Netflex as I do.
Elliott enters the 21st century as I just recently signed on to a streaming service (better not say which one) and am really digging it. Just push shuffle play and you’re off to the races. Songs like “Come And See About Me” by the Supremes and “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot and “I’ll Never Find Another You” by the Seekers come up in all their glory and I’m just in awe of how a fine song coupled with a brilliant performance and powerful production can still move the mind and matter. And just when I get too comfortable in Motown or Folk-Rock land, on comes the Kinks “You Really Got Me”. Wow!
I opened for the Kinks in the mid seventies at many shows along the east coast of the US and had the pleasure of meeting Ray Davies and hang out a bit together, once in my hotel room in Richmond, Virginia which overlooked the state penitentiary. I remember Ray and I staring at it out my window. I was such a fan of such Kink’s songs such as “Celluloid Heroes” and, of course, “Lola,” that I was hoping Ray would produce me some day but I don’t think being a producer was really his goal in life at that point. I read that Ray recently received some distinguished honor from the Queen of England and I say way to go Ray! When the first British Invasion hit, right after the Beatles came the Kinks and in the mid 60’s, I played so many of their songs in my teen-age bands. My favorite was “Well Respected Man” and at that time as I wasn’t the main singer in the band, I had a few shining cameo appearances standing at the lead mic and also singing my heart out on “Words” by the Bee Gees and later “Like A Rolling Stone” by you know who.
And speaking of him, I was thrilled that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize. Maybe that was the best news of all of 2016. And I’ve got to say that Patti Smith’s rendition of “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” at the Nobel ceremony was really moving and heartfelt and I greatly commend her professionalism for stopping the song when she faltered and then starting over even stronger and with more emotion and focus then before. As my legendary ex-drummer Tony Machine once said, “Perfect is not lovable.” And as both Patti and her charming long-time friend guitarist Lenny Kaye hit 70 last month and I send them both a big Bon Anniversaire from Paris. Patti Smith and I were both there to see Bruce Springsteen being interviewed by The New Yorker editor in chief David Remnick at Town Hall in NYC this past October and we got to briefly say hello backstage. I was a fan of her writing since Seventh Heaven, her first book of poetry that appeared on the scene in 1972, and she was writing beautiful poetry about Briain Jones and Marianne Faithful.
Soon, Olivier Durand and I will embark upon one more January duo tour of Spain. We’ve been doing this for over twenty years and this is usually when we change the template for the set-list that we will refer to all year long. I will order a dozen sets of strings and a few new harmonicas, polish up my Taylor guitar, even shine my custom made Eldorado guitar strap, and we’re off. Hope to see you all down the road and thanks for all the support you have shown me this past year and as always I hope I can live up to your expectations, maybe even throw in a few good surprises, in 2017.
And we can drive all night… through the new year.