“We only knew then that there was always the war, but that we were not going to it anymore.” – Ernest Hemingway (“In Another Country”)
Let us hope that we can say the same about the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022 – that it was still there – but we were not going to it anymore, that vaccinations will eventually lead to such diminished hospitalizations that some day we can tell our grandchildren about the great pandemic of 2020 and how the world united together to beat it.
Fifty years ago, in 1972, I was doing my best to play showcases in any venue in Manhattan or Long Island that I could think of that would have me. I’d returned from Europe where I’d done a bit of busking and somehow that courageous action had released all my creative forces which finally coalesced into a cornucopia of songs; all pushing me into taking my place in a new and exciting genre of popular music – that of the rock singer/songwriter which is a far different cry from a traditional folk singer. My folk background consisted of loving The Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary and knowing at least one Woody Guthrie song “This Land is Your Land.” Needless to say, since the Beatles blew down all walls and opened all doors the pop zeitgeist had changed drastically (they were often playing Gibson J160E Acoustic/Electric guitars which was the first acoustic guitar I ever bought and the guitar I was playing when my band The Rapscallions won the 1966 New York State Battle of the Bands) and the lines of transport for pop music disembarkation into the eager ears of the radio listening public had Come Together (and a good name for a song don’t you think?) into a continuous and homogenous flow of rock, blues, country and folk – all getting along splendidly with each other. By that time it was possible for me to slim down my favorite rock ‘n roll songs and sing them on a street corner while the crowd hustled by and hopefully threw a few coins in my hat. I did best in Switzerland where I picked up a manager of sorts who advised me to sing in restaurants – ask permission first and only stay a few minutes. So I did abbreviated versions of the Stones “Wild Horses,” Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion” and Leonard Cohen’s “Diamonds in the Mine” among others and with a smile held out my hat as I strolled through the diners. The Swiss were generous.
Then I returned to Long Island, put together a band with my brother Matthew and began knocking on record company doors during the day while hanging out in the back room of Max’s Kansas City at night. We played at Kenny’s Castaways, The Other End, (even the Improv which was mostly a comedy club where I opened solo for Richard Pryor) and finally got a semi-steady gig at The Mercer Arts Center which brought forth glowing (love that term) reviews in both Variety and Penthouse as well as some serious record company interest. Mary Martin, head of east coast A&R at Warner Bros was intrigued but needed to clear things with the west coast, I loved Paul Nelson who was head of A&R at Mercury but they offered a terrible deal, and finally Polydor came up with something reasonable. So we went with Polydor and a year later my first album Aquashow was born.
And then I began the on-the-road life which has filled a good part of the last 50 or so years of my life. Started off opening for The Kinks and Jefferson Starship then Hall & Oates and Supertramp as well as Rory Gallagher in France and even Bob Dylan in Italy. What a long strange trip it’s been as the Grateful Dead would say.
And now I can’t believe how few shows I’ve been able to play since this virus started calling the tune. I can’t think of any other sector in the global economy that has been hit as hard as live concerts – even sports teams have played to empty stadiums but a rock concert with nobody in front of the stage is like the sound of one hand clapping. It’s a non-event, a non-happening and as any musician or singer who has been fortunate enough to grace a stage with an enthusiastic audience in front of them knows – that’s the magic ingredient to any show – the public. They supply all the energy and inspiration needed. I’ve taken that short walk so many times from the dressing room to the stage and when the lights go down and you start to hear that expectant cheering and applause it’s a high like no other. They say children need love and adults need acknowledgement and on that stage this man/child gets both in spades.
So in lieu of the current situation with live shows we’re going to start offering very modestly priced downloads of live performances, films and videos on the official website through Vimeo and payable through PayPal. Starting off are the 1977 Live in Texasperformances that appeared on the Vintage Series Vol. 8 DVD (now sold out) and filmed in Houston where I opened for Electric Light Orchestra. There’s more to come very soon so check it out …
What else? My new album Wonder is finally finished and we hope to release the first single “Hope” early this year with the full album available in March to celebrate my New Morning Birthday Shows on March 18 & 19. That’s of course if God’s willing and the creek don’t rise…
Happy New Years from Murphyland!