London is tattoos on beautiful orange clockwork girls who wear red daffy duck ribbons in their hair & everywhere pop music with a tremendous low end like they invented it here (& maybe they did) & denim hot pants so short the front pockets hang out & worn with ratty charcoal panty hose & vintage ankle boots & there’s a definite non-Latin feeling here, more squares & blasts then circles & subtlety, but London is the Rome of today & Paris is the Athens & we’re caught somewhere in between & America is outer space while the black hole of South America & the Asian Capitalist Empire is ready to suck it all in. I’m thinking today that the future is all quite silent & deadly (not really) but the new century has begun with the death of something (security?) & not yet the birth of something else. Who would have guessed that politics & economics are the twin towers of public entertainment now? As for me, one more molar gone last week, roots torn out & like the bloody stump of history itself, always healing, healing, healing. Even the deepest scars of our fabled time will disappear in time if you keep them out of the sun. The music in this vintage clothing store is peaking at 100 decibels & I know that for a fact because I measured it on my iPhone. Isn’t that amazing? I’ve been in London before, of course, even recorded an album here in 1976 Just A Story from America in Beatles producer George Martin’s fabled AIR Studios, right on Oxford Street & I passed Brian Ferry in the hallway many a time & met Harry Nilsson for drink & complimented him on his fine tweed suit & then Derek Taylor, the Beatles publicist came by – as fine an English gentlemen as I ever met – and told stories I only wish I remembered. I stayed at the Montcalm Hotel near Marble Arch & stood next to a silent Stevie Nicks in the hotel elevator & still wish I would have said something, anything. We dined at Mr. Chow’s & bought cashmere sweaters at the Scotch Housefor half the price they were selling in NYC while the Sex Pistols were saying fuck on the BBC and not wearing cashmere at all. And then there was no more room for us at AIR Studios & we drove to Wessex studio & I walked in as Freddy Mercury was walking out in a coat of many colors and he smiled and said hello & I was always thinking that I was the same age as Prince Charles & both of us waiting to ascend to some throne neither of us has gotten to …yet. We often got bored in 1976 and took a weekend in Amsterdam but couldn’t see ourselves walking in the rainy canals & came back lickity-split to the UK capital & we mixed the album at Marquee Studio in the basement of the famous club where the Who played many a raucous show for Soho Teddy Boys in ducktails and long jackets but not before bringing in the celebrated St. Paul’s Boys Choir who all looked like David Copperfield to sing like angels on “Anastasia,” the most perfect cut on the album. I remember when two bright executives from Columbia Records dropped by to have a listen & they said it’s a great album … but they didn’t hear a single, not even “Drive All Night” & I knowing I was in trouble. And by the way, I just found out that Jack Kerouac used that exact phrase – Drive All Night – somewhere within the monumental word maze of On The Road where he typed out 125,000 words without a break and without changing a sheet of paper in his Underwood typewriter when I saw the original Beat Sea Scroll just last week in Paris in the Musee de Lettres and Manuscripts. What a thrill!
We finally saw the play Gatz last night after missing it in NYC at London’s Noel Coward theater – the entire F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, every word of the text, read & enacted in an amazing performance by New York’s Elevator Repair Service that lasted 6 hours with three breaks & when the end finally came, after this long journey back to another time as frivolous as our own, like a very long voyage to somewhere you’ve been before & the fine actor who played Nick Carraway read the most beautiful line in American literature “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Well, I’m not ashamed to tell you, that the tears came pushing to the corners of my eyes & that emotional swelling in my throat & I though I would start balling then & there if the oh so patient audience had not risen to its feet & exploded into applause & cheers & three curtain calls & I thought of Scott Fitzgerald in 1941, dead & destroyed by drink & disappointment & I though of him now sitting above us in paradise in the beautiful losers club with Van Gogh, Mozart & Kerouac himself (& John Cassavetes too) & them all rolling in the heavenly aisles with laughter. You know, I did all the back ground singing on Just A Story from America myself & I called it the Nick Carraway Voices so everything comes around & then goes away again like the planet Venus did just last week when it came between the earth & the sun like a speck in your eye, doubling back before hightailing it back into the cosmos.
In 1976, with Just A Story from America finished and with great hopes of its American reception, I left London & flew back to New York on Pan Am & they greeted me in the first class compartment with Champagne & I threw up kneeling in the toilet. Some kind of prayer, I suppose.
June 12, 2012