There is a very old Norman town called Verneuil-sur-Avre which is about one-hour due west from Paris and at one time was on the much fought over frontier between France and Normandy when the two were separate countries so to speak. Exactly 597 years ago, there was a horrific battle fought here between the English and the French/Scottish which finally brought the 100 Years War to a close (and you thought the U.S. has been in Afghanistan a long time!) Before that, Normandy was its own country, or part of England or vice-versa … it’s kind of like Texas after the Alamo fell and independence from Santa Ana’s Mexico was achieved. But if you want to know the real story try reading The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris and you’ll get to know William the Conqueror up close and personal. Compared to him our world leaders, well some of the at least, almost seem civilized today. But you know what they say about history: just one damn thing after another.
To get acclimated to the history that is surrounding me (when I look up from the house, I’m staying in I can clearly see a 12th Century Church Tower) I’ve been reading this fore-mentioned history of the Normans who in 1066 conquered England at the battle of Hastings and ruled both sides of the English Channel for a while. Of course, The Normans were descendants of marauding Vikings, in particular, one called Rollo who after creating mayhem up and down the Seine decided he liked the place and stayed to settle down and built castles. Like A Rollo Stone…;
So why am I here? Because we’re renovating our apartment in Paris and it’s basically unlivable until the work is done. I’ve been traveling back and forth to keep an eye on the renovation and to continue work on my new album which is about 75% finished. We recorded 14 new songs but narrowed it down to an even dozen to finish for the album. It should even all fit on a vinyl release as well. Production is in the very capable hands of Gaspard Murphy and, I must say, so far so good. Maybe we’ll release a few singles during the autumn and the full album in early 2022 to coincide with my annual New Morning shows in March which have been cancelled in 2020 & 2021 due to Covid-19. But we’re slowly getting back on the road – two French festivals in June and upcoming shows in Switzerland in August.
But back to Verneuil sur Avre, where there is a very nice municipal swimming pool where I’ve been taking Aqua Gym classes these past few weeks. The first time I went into the pool the cool instructor Johnny surprised me by playing some classic rock ‘n’ roll to keep up the energy such as Bill Haley and, of course, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Good.” After getting out of the pool, I spoke with Johnny and told him I was surprised by his musical choices which I totally approved of. Johnny said his father was a real classic rock fan and when he was baptized, they had played “Johnny B. Good!” Thus, his name. So, I told him that I had opened for Chuck Berry at a festival in Buffalo, NY in the early 80’s. Chuck ended up opening for me because he wanted to catch an early flight back to St. Louis and asked me if I would mind changing the order. Of course, Mr. Berry!
I guess Johnny remembered my name and that night asked his father if he had ever heard of me because the next time I was working in the pool to Aqua Gym lo and behold I hear my song “Deco Dance” comes blasting over the sound system! What a shock – here I am in the middle of the French countryside and on comes a song inspired by Lou Reed and the New York scene in the 1970’s. This is where my life is now and it’s not a bad place to be really! Thanks, Johnny, for bringing it all back home.
And thanks to my friend Michael Furler I will be participating in “Salute him when his birthday comes” which was my suggestion to title a celebration of music / discussion / film all centered around Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday. Originally scheduled for June the event has been moved to August 17 (Wald, Switz) and August 31 (Zurich, Switzerland) where I will perform a full set of my favorite Dylan songs followed by a panel discussion with noted Dylan author Michael Gray. And at the show in Zurich, we will be joined by legendary violinist Scarlett Rivera whose distinctive playing can be heard all over the Desire album and in the recently released Rolling Thunder film. I’m really looking forward to getting on stage with Scarlett. Check out my website for more tour information.
Not sure why but lately I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to provide personalized video recordings of a song of mine for birthday celebrations. Happy to help the party in any way I can and if you or someone you know would like a genuine once in a lifetime Murphyland video celebrating a birthday please contact my handlers at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
And in a twist of a line from one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs: It’s not light – but it’s getting there!