The White Page
  A Road Diary


 

Subj:JANUARY SAILS

Date: Monday, January 29, 2001

From: Alan

 

A very happy new (well, slightly used) year to all our friends & supporters.

It seems I’m back again after a very welcome break over the holidays in which nothing much happened anywhere at all. No peace was achieved in the Middle East, no improvement was seen in British railway performances, no new wars were declared and none were won or lost.

Our agent in Britain is bemused at the suggestion that we might do interviews as a means of publicising our impending visit there in May. Apparently this is a novel (or unusual) idea. When I pointed out that promoters must be somewhat foolish to refuse such assistance, she replied that it’s British bands who are generally unwilling to participate, and thus the marriage of convenience between press, artist, and promoter is no longer a working arrangement. Oh, well....I guess it’s ‘uncool’ (the worst media offense in the UK...........we are always guilty). Anyway, I know there are some of you out there who don’t mind hearing us quizzed and grilled on-air or in your local paper about our preferences & peccadilloes. Wake up, UK, there’s a lot to be said for artist participation in the furtherance of audience attendance!

I see the new American president hasn’t wasted any time in gittin’ jiggy wid it. His promise of centrism, co-sponsorship and bipartisanship has got off to a wonderful start with his nominations for certain major stewardships in the US government. If you have Christie Todd Whitman in charge of the environment and John Ashcroft in charge of the law, then why not invite Robert Mugabe to come over and run agriculture? It’s about the same thing, don’t you think? Why do I smell a rat here? This seems - to this casual observer at least - like ‘middle finger’ politics at work and I sense that the liberally- minded of the country’s citizens are in for a ride like a twin -engined turboprop in a Texas thunderstorm...one that may last four years, unless common sense or civil disobedience prevails.

One of the nicest things about being away in the West Indies recently was the fact that you could go grocery shopping without being assailed by piped music or other acoustical placebos for the weak of mind. My kids and I wrote at least three great supermarket spoof songs while tearing up the isles, merely by drawing inspiration from daft slogans on soap packets or noodle boxes, and having no interrupted thought train to contend with. Come to think of it, now that the USA has done away with the annual (tiny) stipend that retailers & restauranteurs used to pay to the Performing Rights societies to pass on to the writers of those songs, I advocate banning the use of background music in public places. It’s bad enough that a deluded senator from Wisconsin, a state that has no songwriters anyway, should have been able to put this poisonous appendage to a copyright-extension bill and thus deny songwriters of a hard-earned portion of their income, without then having to suffer the ignominy of being forced to listen to non-stop muzak while furiously trying to write new stuff in one’s head. Just try it sometime; think of, say, an obscure track you know by T.O.P or an old E.W.F. fave, while The Carpenters are singing "We’ve Only Just Begun" out of a speaker above your head, and you’ll get an idea of our dilemma. Of course, we could volunteer for self-imposed house arrest, and insist that our better halves or significant others do all the shopping. But then that rules out going into restaurants, bars, elevators, toilets...everything.

We are under siege.

I read in the English papers that fox hunting has finally been banned by law. Not that the Prime Minister, Tony Blair was there for the vote, of course - he never is these days. Well, that will protect about twenty foxes annually, since the huntsmen rarely catch a fox anyway...they’re all half sozzled, and the dogs are dopey creatures for chrissake. What it will do, however, is put thousands of countryside workers out of jobs which have been there for centuries - and expose the sly old fox to a new and worse threat, that of being shot or trapped (a much more hideous demise than being cornered by other animals, as all creatures in the wild are on a daily basis, with or without mankind’s meddling). Come to think of it, the entire policy of the current British regime as regards the countryside is one of ignorance and convenience. Ignorance of the plight of farmers, villagers and land-stewards, and convenience to those city slickers in power. As John Mortimer, the creator of "Rumpole" points out in his book "Summer Of A Dormouse", the Labour government is standing by while agronomy collapses just as Margaret Thatcher presided over the death of British industry. As always, it is the pets, whims and peeves of the Londoners that dictate what the rest of the country must suffer. (witness the Millenium Dome).

To turn briefly to farce, I was amused but disappointed to find on my return that my local small-town football team (soccer, to you Yanks) had gained national notoriety for the first time..... not for their sporting achievements however, but for their antics off the field: two of its star players had been seen inhaling portions of the sidelines in a well-known watering hole-cum-disco in the town. A right couple of geniuses, I must say, and a credit to their Colombian sponsors! They wonder why they’re fired mid-season.

Which brings me to A.W.B.’s own season; although we don’t officially get under way until April, we are going to be appearing in the Washington DC area for a couple of nights at the beginning of next month, Fri.2nd and Sat.3rd of Feb. in Annapolis, and Alexandria respectively. The Ram’s Head in Annapolis is apparently sold out already, so I would urge you to direct yourselves to the Birchmere in Alexandria for the Saturday show there. It’s a great room to play in, and to watch from, and I hear the food ain’t bad either. They do dinner before the show. That’s the only live work we’ll be doing till we start up again in mid April with a bunch of dates, both on our own and with our buddies, Tower Of Power - all in the Northeast quadrant of the United States. Then we go directly to the UK and Europe for the rest of May and the beginning of June, to a Scottish mini-tour followed (so far) by dates in England and Holland.

All that seems a long way off right now, though, as we continue to dig ourselves out of the snow and cut fishing holes in the ice. I used to think Minnesotans were barking mad but now I’m not so sure there isn’t a wonderful logic to sitting out there dangling a line through the frozen lake, safe from politics, media and muzak. Provided you can avoid frostbite and divorce from ‘ice widowship’ this might be the only solution to winter, other than going straight back to the Caribbean on the next cargo plane.

We look forward to seeing all you stalwart and faithful, around the DC area this coming weekend.

Ha-wan, two, three, four.........changalangalangalangalangalanga

A.G.