Tomorrow, my virtuoso guitarist Olivier Durand will pick me up around noon in a rented Citroen Sedan after driving down to Paris from his hometown of Le Havre and I’ll throw my suitcase, gig bag and Taylor guitar into the trunk and we will drive east to Strasbourg – about 4 1/2 hours – and play that night at the Laiterie, where I’ve played before. Along the way we’ll stop to eat something and probably won’t talk too much during the meal and then I’ll drive for a while and we’ll listen to Dylan and the Stones and Tom Waits in the car and try to find a political argument although its getting more and more difficult as we’re both basically on the same side. Then the day after that, we’re off to Germany for 9 shows in 10 days and I hope my voice will hold up. I’ll bring along some special tea my wife recommends and some homeopathic medicine and I’ll try to keep the shows down to an hour and a half and I hope the fans will understand … and I hope I’ll be able to stop myself from not going on for three hours or more. Because once I get started …
Tonight, I’m sitting at my computer thinking of what I need to bring for all these shows – like do I have enough guitar strings and picks? We usually like to change our strings every 2 shows at least because nothing is worse then a broken string in the middle of a song. One of my worst on-stage jokes is that when I was a Chippendale dancer it was really more fun to break a string … get it? Anyway, then I’m trying to remember if I blew out any of my 7 harmonicas at my last gig and need to buy a new one, and if I have my guitar capo and batteries for my tuner. And especially if I have my ancient harmonica holder because it’s the same one I’ve been using since Aquashow came out in 1973. Along the way, I had a girlfriend with a heart of gold who had it gold-plated for me one time although most of the gold has worn off by now. I’m sure her own gold is still shining through wherever she may be.
I’ve been thinking about Aquashow, my first album, because this month there is an article about it in UNCUT, which is a very classy UK music and film magazine. They call it an “All-Time Classic” album and that makes me proud. Not because I was wholly responsible for it (I wasn’t) but because when I recorded Aquashow I only hoped it would last, that it wouldn’t just fade away, so afraid it might be my only album (it wasn’t). I wanted to create something that would last forever in my own vain search for immortality. Well, it’s lasted for 30 odd years and that’s not bed in this day and age. Try and find a computer that will last just 5 years! You know, I still fantasize about what I should have done way back then after recording Aquashow and all the acclaim that came with its release: I should have toured with Frank Owens (the incredible keyboard player on the record), I should have let Peter Siegel produce my next album, I should have asked Patti D’Arbanville out to dinner … Well, its too late for any of that now, I suppose, although Patti might still be around somewhere in Hollywood.
Some fans have been asking me why I always try to play Percy Faith’s Theme From A Summer Place through the sound system right before we go on stage and the answer is … I’m not sure if I really know. The film Summer Place came out in 1959 and I was 10 years old and reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden although I was probably too young to understand a lot of it. Later on, I saw the movie East of Eden with James Dean and couldn’t believe that so much of the story was left out. Hollywood let me down! I also loved the film Splendor in the Grass that came out a few years after Summer Place and was probably a better film but not as good a theme song. My favorite all time movie is The Swimmer with Burt Lancaster that is based on a short story by John Cheever. And The Searchers with John Wayne and Lawrence of Arabia and Some Like It Hot and Baby The Rain Must Fall with Steve McQueen. Every once in a while some director says he’s gonna put me in his film. I’m still waiting. But I already worked for Fellini so I can pick and choose my roles, right?
Tomorrow, I’d like to write all the songs for the show while driving in the car that afternoon, I’d like to buy all my stage clothes in the store next to the club, I’d like the audience to be full of long gone friends and lovers, I’d like the encores to go on forever and ever. I want to hit notes I never found before, I want to be two inches taller when I walk on stage and move like Elvis, I want my guitar to talk back to me, I want to remember all the words to every song I ever wrote or will write. I want Bob Dylan to surprise me and join me on stage to sing “Like A Rolling Stone” together and to tell me that he agrees word for word with the Uncut assessment of Aquashow. Its been said many times before I’m a dreamer …
Tonight its raining in Paris and the raindrops tap on the metal roof so out of time and yet perfectly in order as if someone is dropping them from the sky one by one and I feel like the best way to get through would be to listen to Miles Davis’ muted trumpet while I walk softly to the top of the stairs and see if my son is sleeping soundly. I’m grateful to have someplace to go tomorrow and know that some folks will be waiting for me to show up and sing something. It’s all a blessing, nothing less.
Elliott Murphy, Paris 07 Mar 2006
Photo by Christian the Bodyguard