When I was a southern California resident I thought the coolest place one could possibly have ever been was in early Swinging London. See, when you live in Pacific Beach or god forbid Imperial Beach (you don't get to live in Belair or god damn Newport Beach or Malibu or even generally Santa Monica if yer playing Tuesday nights at Spaceland, dawg) and you are the rare possessor of a brain it can be pretty lonely. This is Stupidland, folks. This is stripmall central. Yeah, there's a beach and the sky is blue and you can drive up the Silver Strand to Coronado but if you're lonely and everyone thinks you're insane and you're starting to realize that Home Depot gig could go on for a while, well, it's depressing and that monotonous god damn blue sky is pretty depressing. Oh, god it's depressing. And then you start thinking about London in 1963 and MAN IS IT DEPRESSING. And the ten illegals living next door are playin' that fucking Macarena pretty loud and that cockface is washing his CHRISTING CAMARO AGAIN. It was like a mantra for me....The Scotch of St. James...Belgravia...St. John's Wood...Cavendish Avenue...
Wow. I moved back here because you can't really be happy if you hate where you are. I wouldn't go on record as Mr. Laffy at any point in the near future, but being in a beautiful place that you love is one hell of a start. You can take a fucking walk, gods sake. Get a song idea.
I got that fantastic Barry Miles book about McCartney and the thing is like a love letter to Swinging London. What a fantastic book that is. My heavens. The Indica, Alma Cogan, The Bag O' Nails...beautiful. Beautiful. All rain and possibility.
And all in black and white. They didn't have color in Swinging London until "Help".
Yeah, I've been to London a few. I like that Victoria Station and smokin' in the movie theater. Dug that. Dug the Mayfair thing and Hyde Park. Liked it a lot. I was there in '81 when i were sixteen. that was great. On my own. Great. Stayed with a family in Swiss Cottage. House next to a graveyard. That red sky? Nutty. Rode the ferry from Ostende. Nice. Got a sleeper. I did a lot of shit like that when I was 16-17. Went up to that Sweden to play housie with a girl that had moved up there and on down to France and Spain and that. It was good. It's good to get out at that age and have a thing or two pounded into you. And vice versa not to put too fine a point on it. These kids today you can't let 'em go to the drugstore on their own. They'll think it's Nintendo when they're riding their bike and they'll blow it or something. They'll Never ache like you and I did. No, they won't. You need Catcher In The Rye and Roxy Music and stuff like that to ache old school. You know it's true.
Maybe it's for the best. I've read that depression and great art aren't necessarily linked so maybe it's fine the way they smile all pretty and innocent. I was not an innocent 15 year old. I was most definitely an idealistic one. Definitely open to possibility. Time I was 15 I'd done most of the things. yeah, pretty much all the stuff was checked off. It's good and bad. It lets you get to work in your twenties, you know? You don't much have hostels and Eurail passes on the mind in your twenties when you've done things.
Rocked on down to Italy, you know? The west. Pisa and on down the coast to Riomaggiore and La Spezie and there. Beautiful, beautiful stuff. Nights on park benches in Milan. I tried to write a book about it and it was fucking horrible. Can you imagine 300 pages of me? Eegh.
The other thing is too that I thought it would be an asset to be unique and sort of different like that. To have rappelled into crypts and heard the bark of the .38 and done Runs through 4 countries. to have gotten born in Helsinki and to have ridden rickety buses through Bolivia and to have lived the early Pinochet days in Santiago. All that crap. I thought that as an artist it would be sort of compelling to people to have that background.
But you know, I gotta say it isn't. Not the case at all.
People want people like the dude around the corner. The familiar, the relateable. I think if you're going to get up behind a microphone it's better if you're maybe more like a bartender from Queens than a kind of junior international Kerouac.
That's why I cultivate this whole sort of proletarian rock-the-folks-and-deal-square speech. I think of it as guthrieizing. You gotta guthrieize a little. Nobody wants that foreign-intrigue crap.
It is profoundly alienating. I feel like a fucking Venusian sometimes. I want to tell a funny story to some folks and it sounds like a huge lie like that dude in high school who said his dad worked for NASA.
So you guthrieize. bring it home a little. reel it in. Nobody wants that The Lady Disappears
crap, you know?
Anyway- my favorite chapter in all the history of The Beatles is Paul's tenure at Jane Asher's family's house at Wimpole Street in London. Guy lives in an attic room next to Peter Asher. This is during the HEIGHT of Beatlemania. Dr. Asher and Margaret are Jane's parents, he a doctor, she a music teacher and instrumentalist. Fucking great.
Paul has an escape route to get out of the house and on with his business without trying to get through crowds of fans. He goes over the roof into the kitchen window of an old retired colonel, then through the apartment of a young married couple and out onto another street. He lives sort of like another brother in the Asher household, and at this point starts to come alive to good books and other types of art. I really, really like this about Paul McCartney, that he has the energy and character to use his rise in social status to engage his intellectual curiosity. It's so Swinging London of him to want to Expand His Horizons, not for the sake of snobbery but out of pure hunger. It reminds me of my parents. Growing up in small-town Minnesota they had that same kind of appetite for the world, going to school in Mexico and like that before they even had us. That's a cool generation right there, the born in 1930 to 1945 folks. I guess that's sort of broad, though. I'm sure there were plenty of wankers of the illest breed with bad manners and bad breath.
Paul goes to tea with Jane with her various aunts and suchwhich, having cucumber sandwiches and something-seed-cake, visiting in the country where they leave a good book by your bedside, along with a gracious assumption that you will read it. This appeals to and flatters Paul.
Could you imagine living on Wimpole Street in 1963 with the Ashers? Boy, would that be dope. In black and white? In Swinging London? Realizing dreams that you'd never even dreamed of? Being catapulted right to the front of the hugest cultural event in 50 years? Sneaking through some old guy's kitchen to make your getaway? That sounds pretty good, you know? Pretty god damned good, man. Pretty nice shit.
Paul was just super cool, man. Paul was like the fifth Beatle. I mean, not like he's not still around and rocking and all that. He's the man.
But see, he doesn't live at Wimpole Street in Swinging London anymore. With the Ashers. Writing "Yesterday" in the basement music room.
In black and white.
With cucumber sandwiches.
I should make those. I'm going to make those and eat them. Because then I'll be one step closer to being in Swinging London in the '60's. Then I just keep doing those little things and I'll keep getting closer and then one day...who knows? Who really just fuckin' knows?
meet the Colonel. Maybe I'll
write "World Without Love" so my roomie can have a smash international hit too. Maybe I'll
hang out with Eric Burdon and Ronnie Lane at the Speakeasy. Maybe I'll
start up the Indica Gallery with Barry Miles and John Dunbar.
Fuckit, we're out of cucumbers. I'm going to watch TV.