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Archive for May, 2018

KEEF?

I spoke to Keith Richards once. It must’ve been about ’67 or ’68. It was at the Revolution Club, or the Speakeasy Club, or one of those. My cousin Jim, (James Carter-Fea) if you want to be highfalutin, held the purse strings for those two establishments. James had been a photographer, and then he fell into a partnership with Stirling Moss the racing driver. How he ended up managing bands no one alive probably knows. Jim is long gone, and gone too young. He wasn’t even a musician, he hardly drank, I never saw him use any illegal substances. He just died of a heart attack one day.

I’ve just finished rereading the book with Keith Richards name on it, it’s called https://www.amazon.com/Life-Keith-Richards/dp/031603441X and the actual writer is a journalist called James Fox. Well I have to point that out because there is no mention of James Fox on the cover, you have to delve around inside first. Okay, no issue with that, James Fox has known Keith Richardskeith-richards-5 since the 70s and he probably got well paid for the gig.

Anyway, I would have been about twenty, and still in the Navy. I was practising for the career that I had chosen for myself when the Navy no longer wanted me. I was sure that would be soon, after all if I’d been the Navy I wouldn’t have wanted me! It was a full seven years from going in to coming out, and even then I was only twenty-two. So there I was already married to a sweet American girl… (Hi Becky!) Becky was a hot rocking singer who could cover anything from Jefferson Aeroplane to Aretha Franklin. She could also handle terribly tragic songs like Thumpers song. When you’re down to your last leaf of lettuce/And the world seems lonely and blue/just go thumpetty thump thump thumpetty thump thump thump/and the world will smile with you/… Like that. That girl had a voice like an angel with one foot on Satan’s balls. The problem aside from the drugs, was her inability to stand in front of a crowd and scream into a microphone. At least, not unless she had dropped some green micro dots or purple haze, or shared a large Spliff. We were all a bit colourful back then. Drugs were a little different. You could get nice little blocks of Moroccan hash, or perfectly good pharmaceutical cocaine. Seldom seen today. Everyone is on crack, or, if they think they’ve got cocaine it’s more likely they’ve been ripped off with amphetamine. So many dishonest drug dealers around these days!

Back to Keith Richards. Hanging at the Revolution or the Speakeasy was the way to meet up with and chat to some of the top bands, celebrities, film stars, you name it! Even the infamous Kray twins Ronnie and Reggie were regulars. It was a great place for a budding gonzo journalist. (My influences at that time were Jack Kerouac and Hunter S Thompson.) The place to rock was the Marquee Club, but after hours and into the wee smalls the Revolution and the Speakeasy were clubs where you could just hang. Sure, the top bands played at both, but it was late at night and into the early morning when those who might have been mobbed elsewhere could settle down to some serious drinking, stoning, interviewing, or business dealing. For anyone wanting to get a grounding in music journalism, cousin Jim created the ideal places!

So, some years before I entered the profession honourably, Keith Richards became my first ever interview. I had managed to get my hands on a copy of ‘Aftermath’, on the Decca label. It was a mono version! Every album in the top ten at that time was a total favourite! Number one, the Beatles with Revolver, number two Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde, number three, Pet Sounds, the Beach boys, number four, already mentioned Aftermath, number five the Yardbirds, Roger The Engineer, number six the Mamas and Papas, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, number seven The Who, A Quick One, number eight, the Temptations, Getting Ready, number nine, The Mothers of Invention, Freak out, and rounding out the top ten, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off with those magnificent Grace Slick vocals! from memory. There are some things you never forget!

Keith was looking ragged. Midnight had come and gone, and the music was not live. I thought if I presented my pristine copy of Aftermath I might get at least an autograph, even if the interview was not forthcoming. “Mr Richards? Would it be all right to talk to you a little? “

He turned his head slowly and for a split second it seemed like it was going to be an ‘Exorcist’ moment. Back then, I would have believed him if he had told me that he had experienced one of those Robert Johnson moments, and made a deal at the crossroads with the devil.

His elbows, perfectly aligned on the bar stayed where they were. The turning of the head was very slow. His dark brown eyes had pinpricks for pupils,

“Jack!” A languid arm raised, two fingers. “Jack!”

Cousin Jim had half a dozen comfortable barstools around the small but well stocked bar. I sat on the one next to Keith, and waited. With a surprising economy of movement he drew a halo around his head, a pair of horns on Mick Jagger’s, wrote BILL above Bill Wyman’s head, next to him stood Charlie Watts, above his head he wrote CHAR. Perhaps he’d had a fight with Brian, because he scrawled out his face, leaving only blonde locks to identify the not-long-for-this-world Rolling Stone.

An unopened bottle of Jack Daniels appeared on the bar. Yes, he poured me a drink. I scored a beautifully defaced autograph on my favourite album, and shared a drink! Way to go!

We sat, drinking quietly, and Keith hardly moved. Then that head turned again, slowly, and he blinked like an owl. “You said you wanted to talk.” “Yes.” I said with some eagerness.

“Well, you have. Now fuck off!”

That was my first attempt at an interview. Fortunate that I still had the Royal Navy to fall back on. It wasn’t until 1970 that I figured out that if you want to interview a rock star, and you don’t go through the right channels you won’t get the good stuff. And not even the good stuff is half true. They are rock stars for crying out loud! Not that it matters! Everyone else just makes stuff up.

Keith Richards is five years my senior. Way back in 1968 Keith still had another ten years of rampant drug use and experimentation. Lots of people hold Keith Richards up as proof that rock stars can grow old despite pickling themselves. Here is a piece of information that, as Michael Caine would say ‘Not many people know that you know!’ 2018 marks forty years since Keith Richards gave up heroin. Forty years! Granted, he didn’t quit the joys of cocaine until about 2006, but it was very pure. Not amphetamine with cocaine prices. Even that’s over ten years!

So, when Keith Richards is being held up as proof that you can still muck around, just remember that he was rich, lucky, and careful. And had probably been to the Crossroads too!

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Categories: an eclection

ROOTS

I will happily jump out of an aeroplane. Even climb sheer granite rock faces. I will trek across frozen tundra pulled by a team of white huskies. There are a hundred things I would rather do than fly from Melbourne to Manchester in a Qantas A380 via Dubai in economy class.

It’s not that I am a snob, or anything. There are just some things that do not work for me. Like eating powdered glass, or drinking hemlock.

At my age money has no meaning except the joy of things that it can buy to guarantee my personal comfort. A Qantas Dreamliner in a business class seat is one of those things. Not that the A380 is a bad aircraft. It is perfectly good for service. It flies. The most serious problem is that it stops for a while in Dubai. Now, some people like Dubai. It is probably a perfectly reasonable destination if you like the idea of ostentatious wealth with steel and glass monoliths, and paying ten dollars for a lettuce sandwich.

My problem with Dubai is that it is not a destination on my bucket list. To disembark carrying all your hand luggage and be shepherded in a giant loop only to be subjected to humiliating and rude security measures is not my idea of the beginning of a fun holiday.

When Qantas announced that the new Dreamliner would be flying non-stop from Perth to London, a mere seventeen hours, now, that sounded appealing.

Checking in at Melbourne with our express pass was as easy as spelling Qantas without a U. All our checked in baggage was routed direct to Manchester. A pleasant stay in the brand-new lounge in Perth assured us that Qantas has really put some quality thought into the service it provides. However, this is not an advertisement for the Dreamliner or for Qantas and if Qantas want that, they’re going to have to pay me. That, is surely not an option that they would be happy about. It was fun though. Being pampered is always fun!

We arrived in Manchester well slept and raring to go.

The idea was to hire a car, visit friends and relatives, and take off around the highways and byways of the West Country. The rental car village at Manchester airport is easy to access, and all the major companies are represented. Our luck was arriving on ‘one of those days’. Budget, Avis, Hertz, and the panoply of rental car companies, bar one, had nothing available. Ah! We arrived at the Europa desk. There sat a delightful young man barely out of work experience, and now into his third week as a customer representative.
“Of course!” He said smiling at our enquiry as to whether they had a vehicle available. “what we are here for!”

Paperwork. A little more paperwork. Just a little more paperwork. Two drivers licences. Credit cards, insurance, charge for an extra driver. That sort of thing. Nothing unusual about that. At least they had a car!

Being seasoned travellers we have learned to travel without taking the dining room table and cutlery with us. Two standard size suitcases, one each, and a shared smaller suitcase brimming with toiletries, painkillers and quick change clothing items is all we need. Okay, even going the quick route, a mere twenty something hours, we were knackered. When one is knackered, one does not listen too carefully to every word spoken. Or even every third word! Overjoyed to have a vehicle for thirty days, we failed to ask the bleeding obvious! (There are some things a six foot two, seventy-year-old long-haired-hippie-lout cannot do. One of those things is to fold neatly into a Fiat 500 accompanied by three pieces of luggage and the passenger. Not if one also has a glass back!) Well, done is done. Best to just suck it up! The Fiat 500 is a popular car on British roads, (mainly because it is cheaper than the grippy little Mini.) Unlike the Mini however, the steering wheel communicates badly with the rubber on the road, and if you are not an ex-POM with an expert working knowledge of British country roads, the advice would be to grit your teeth and drive very slowly!) Fortunately, this ex-POM has an instinctive working knowledge of country lanes which purport to be genuine roads! British drivers have a propensity to smile and wave as you meet going in opposite directions with only millimetres to spare. Tractor drivers and 15 tonne delivery truck drivers look down on you with one hand on the wheel the other in the air and compassionate smiles on their faces. Even with Brexit, the British and the French still tolerate each other in spite of the things they may mutter about each other in their own language when they think the other does not understand! “Vous êtes un cochon!” to a Brit, translates as “would you like a cushion?”

Unfolding my six-foot two frame from the low seat of a Fiat 500 is a little like the Japanese art of origami. Just a little more painful. With just enough room in what purports to be the trunk (or the boot) for a large camera bag and a selection of lenses, the suitcases resided on what purports to be the rear passenger seat. This meant that the driver’s seat had to be in the full forward position leaving just enough room for the driver to be seated with chin resting on knees. A vision the passenger found funny until she had to break the rigor mortis. Anyway, enough about the vagaries of the Fiat 500, this was a holiday, and as with all holidays a little rain must fall! Talking about rain, it did. Of the thirty days, we enjoyed five delightful days of sunshine, and, two days aside when the temperature reached 29° C in London the weather turned out some positively balmy temperatures hovering around 12° C. It was obvious that we were tourists, rugged up in our quilted winter coats while the locals stripped off on the beaches, paddling in their bikinis or shorts and T-shirts.

A little bit of useless information. The green and pleasant land of Great Britain can fit into Australia thirty-one times. To drive 200 miles to experience the special joy of a certain cafes specialty hamburger is a mere bagatelle. To drive said distance in Britain brings forth protestations of ‘you can’t drive all that way!’ Manchester to Hull on the M 62 is a mere hop and a skip. (At least in a car not designed specifically for Noddy.)

Visiting old haunts in Cornwall, Devon, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire was probably one of the best and most nostalgic trips we have made in many a year. Once outside of the cities the British countryside is as addictive as it was when, as a child, I would ride my trusty old Philips Fiesta, (blue and yellow, with three speed Sturmey Archer gears) out on the country roads picking bunches of daffodils and bluebells, collecting free range eggs from under the Hawthorne hedges, and returning late in the evening with lips blue from eating blackberries.

Pub accommodation and Bed & Breakfasts have adapted so beautifully to the casual tourist. As always the Brits are super friendly, courteous, and inquisitive. (Even though many think of Australia as Home and Away, and Neighbours.) The Brits love their country, they love their countryside and the seasons. Above all they love their relationship with Australians and New Zealanders.

Much as I would have preferred to be driving a Mini this was one of the best trips ever! Yeah! It is true that we cheat at cricket. It is true that we are a bit loud, and the only reason a lot of POMS have even heard of Australia is that they had relatives sent out here for stealing a loaf of bread. Britain is still the old homeland I left way back in 1972. Not much has changed with the horrible exception of giant Morrison’s barns, and Tesco’s, and Sainsbury’s, and Aldi, and Lidl. They occupy prime land on beautiful sea fronts, destroying the quaintness that Britain is famous for. That I do lament. Still, progress has to be made, and where would we be without Morrison’s ready meals?

 

Categories: an eclection