That Petrol Emotion

East village photo 2

The mood was jubilant driving away from Coughlans of Cork on Thursday night. The gig had been sold out and extra stools had to be employed to make use of every nook and cranny, getting on stage was even a maneuver, getting off was even harder. The atmosphere was magic and I could’ve sung any song really, the more obscure the better, even the new comers seemed to know them.   When the audience sang, they sang out without hesitation, and when they laughed I had to wait for them to stop, and when it got deep, they dove down with me to feel what was there; magnificent people. So the mood was jubilant as beaming Mike and I drove delightedly away up the one-way Douglas Street in the opposite direction of the determined way for everyone else. Cars backed up to get away from our unfettered advance, as we breezed ahead to the nearest turn off heading down the hill towards the quay. After our usual quota of getting lost, our chronic lack of direction became overwhelmed by our unbridled enthusiasm, and we somehow got taken to the Waterford road by a series of one-way streets that seemed to have been designed to ferry the likes of us in the right direction, in spite of ourselves.

It was all going swimmingly as we pulled out on to the open road, with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” blasting out on the stereo. Mick, the sound man at Coughlans had told us we would encounter a garage pretty soon (we needed fuel) and we should keep an eye to the left. Sure as shit there she was coming up on left, bright clean lights shouting out “we are open”. I was ravenous, and went straight to the Indian gentleman behind the bullet proof glass to enquire about sandwiches. I could hear Mike humming away as he rammed the pump into his car and fiddled with the screen read out.

“Hi, how are ye? Do you by any chance have sandwiches?”

“Yes we do indeed”

He was a young friendly man with an strong Indian accent, but I could understand him clearly enough as his voice squeaked out through the tiny speaker below my side of the counter.

“Would you have tuna by any chance?”

“I have” he replied unhesitantly to my surprise.

“Could I have it on brown bread?’

I couldn’t believe my luck as he nodded in the affirmative.

“Great I’ll have a tuna sandwich on brown bread and a lucozade please oh and hold on” I shouted over to Mike as he delightedly gazed at the sky humming even louder now while allowing the nozzle to administer the much needed gasoline into his car’s receptacle.

“Mike! Would you like a sandwich and a coffee or something”

“Oh, just a coffee will be fine Pierce, with milk, thanks! ” Mike is not a needy type.

Off went the young teller, confidently around the floor of the fair size store, knowing exactly where everything was and returning in no time with all our needs in a white plastic bag. He added the cost of the petrol from pump number 2 to the bill, and I put a fifty euro note in the drawer which he had shoved in my direction. He calculated the change and pushed the drawer back to me with the bag of goodies and the coffee standing up in a carton along side the change. Mike was already in the car and as soon as I hopped in we took once more to the Waterford/Wexford dual carriageway, with gusto.

“This is very nice coffee I must say Pierce, and Hassy back at the bar gave me a gorgeous cup of coffee at the end of the night, wherever he got it from, I think they had a machine”

Mike had now progressed from humming to singing the words (almost) to Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes” I was delighted that I had brought that box set along, as I prized open my sandwich packaging in the dark, and shoved it enthusiastically into my gob. Ugh, I thought

“What is this?”

“Eh?” said Mike

“I don’t know what the fuck is in this sandwich, but it’s not tuna”

Mike put some light on the subject, there it was, a ham salad sandwich in cold white bread, a sloppy rag type of white bread, the kind I really hate, with ham (which I don’t care for either) tomato (Bad in sandwiches unless eaten right away, they make the bread wet) a lot of mayonnaise and a bit of lettuce. Christ, did that guy understand anything that I said?

Mike became silent, he stopped humming, he caught my attention.

“Ugh , hmm, that’s a bit odd, she’s chugging” said he, with an uncharacteristic tone of fright.

“ I ope I didn’t put petrol in instead of diesel, cor blimey!”

“Well didn’t it say Diesel on the pump that you used Mike?” I ensued with the calmest voice I could muster, as the car began to lose pace.

“Well, I didn’t really look, the nozzles are supposed to be different sizes, I presumed it wouldn’t fit if it was wrong”

The car was now slowing down and Mike could see his life flashing before him, and in it he saw a green pump (which represents petrol) not a black one (diesel) he now had the presence of mind that he didn’t have back then, his heart sank visibly as he pulled into the shoulder. The car was now screaming out visual alarms on the dashboard “FATAL FLAW !!!”

We had been driving in the fog with low visibility, but now the rain began coming down too, beating heartily against the glass, as the winter wind of the Irish countryside howled around the car. Only five minutes before, we had been driving along in the lap of luxury with Bowie singing and the heater warming the cockles of our heart. Now we were pulled over by a tall wet stone wall in the dark, hazard lights flashing, music halted by the car itself “POWER ECONOMY!!” it now flashed. It dawned on us both that we may not be going home that night, it also dawned on us that we hadn’t the foggiest what to do. It was 1.30 on a Thursday night, everyone would be in bed. Cars and trucks flew past at such a pace, we could feel the car rock from the pressure of their wind.

“ 911!! Let’s call 911” said Mike

“A great idea” said I. But! Said I

“What can they do?”

“They can siphon it off”

“Can they? 30 Euro worth of petrol! ”

I imagined someone sucking a hose (the way thieves do to steal petrol) in the pissing rain with the wind blowing in four directions and trucks flying past so fast they were bending the grass, I was dubious to say the least, we might be doomed.

But Mike was right! After we were piggy backed on the phone from the police to their break down crew, through to their suggestion of someone else because they had to stay on duty, to another guy who was 40 minutes away , to someone else who was 20 minutes away, a big beautiful yellow van with flashing lights appeared in our rear view mirror, oh the brotherhood of man, hallelujah!!

This van, and this man, had everything. He insisted that we get the car way in off the road, he got his shoulder to it and just pushed us in, while I sat there like a twat. I got out as soon as it stopped and introduce myself. He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me in.

“Mind yourself! this road is fierce, they come flying long here shur, ye could be kilt in a flash”

Then he opened up the back of his van, upon opening the door it automatically lit up like an operating theatre on wheels. On the floor in the middle of the very efficiently organized pumps and other gadgets was a big white tank with Gas Scavenger written on it. Sure as shit that was for sucking the rogue petrol out of the diesel engine. All I could think as I sat there – cold enough now – was Mike’s mistake must be common enough. After sucking all the petrol out, and some cajoling with the cylinders or something like that for about a half hour (not sure what they are called) we were repaired, and the Cork break down man sent us off flying towards home again. David Bowie was on “China Girl” now and Mike began to hum again.

“Isn’t that an Iggy Pop song?” I offered.

“Is it?”   mm     ♬   ♪     ♫   mmmmm

wonder what little surprises Limerick has in store for us on Monday night (dec 12) at 1 Pery Square?

Surrender to the present “now is heaven”

st-iberius-photo-o-head

St Iberius Wexford Dec 3rd 2016 with the Irish Ensemble: Mick Egan in the front, behind him Paula Cox, on my other side Garvan Gallagher, and up overhead on the organ, facing us Josh Johnston.

My legs were stretched out as far as they could possibly go landing smack bang before the heart of the blazing fire. It was comforting on my feet to feel the heat, and the stretch felt like I was pulling on a knotted rope, trying to get it untangled and straight. But it didn’t work! Something was tight in my gut and I couldn’t unravel it. I had been subconsciously aware of a discomfort before, but now it had gained a new priority of direct awareness, I began to ponder why? We are all aware that tension is insidiously dangerous, but sometimes it’s impossible to even recognize, at least I seem to have learned how to do that. Once these thoughts registered with myself it became time to launch an investigation.

“What was causing this?”

and

“What was it?”

I couldn’t fix it without figuring out what it was. The last book that I read since attending the school of Practical Philosophy in New York’s upper west side taught me to recognize the power of being present; not dwelling on the past or living for the future. It claimed that most of our depression and pain is derived from this manner of thinking. And that we think this way because of our ego; that voice in our head running a constant commentary is our ego. The idea is to notice that voice and shut it up as much as possible, by focusing on where I was then and what I was doing.

I could see clearly now that that was what was wrong with me! That knot inside my stomach was a knot of anticipation. I wasn’t present. I was only partially listening to Clare talking, only partially aware of my surroundings or where I was, no I was waiting for the gig on Saturday night, then I would let go, and give it a hundred per cent, then I would allow myself to be free and happy. How ridiculous it seems when it’s spelt out, but it’s the truth. Then I decided to try and do something about it, easier said than done.

In reading that book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle I had found myself facing the greatest challenge to everything that I had come to know. Eckhart presents a very solid case; he says that our ego is the cause of all our insecurities and tensions. That voice in our head says “what about me?” and we become insecure immediately because we think that we are not getting what we deserve. In my case on that evening it was saying “This is boring, this is not important, the important thing is tomorrow night, I just have to put up with this horrible time in between, prepare myself for tomorrow” On these occasions the book advises to surrender to the present, if you are always present at all times, all times will be important, not just the chosen moments. He says desert that voice, that ego, walk away from it , reject it. By Jasus that is like saying goodbye to yourself, of course it’s not really yourself, it’s just this bloody thing we develop with time, a companion for to entertain us when we are alone. The problem is; the more attention you give to it, the more attention it demands, starts off with “where’s my bottle?” as a baby, and grows into “I deserve better than this” It wants to talk to us when we are talking to someone else, it wants to talk to us when are working, distracts our attention when we are watching a movie, when we are trying to sleep, it never stops. I was aware of this before, but no-one had ever spelt it out so clearly. So now I am at war with the bugger, everything that I do, no matter how mundane, I focus on that thing only and try to shut out the commentary. I am definitely feeling steadier for it. But however, some things overwhelm me and the bugger slips in when my guard is low, like the other night!

So I dropped my weight into my feet and surrendered to where I was, tomorrow would look after itself, especially if I look after the present. I felt this calm come over me like pleasant pins and needles, I sank into the chair and smiled. I was stronger for not carrying that knot in my stomach and that weight on my shoulders.

So my lovelies, Surrender!!!! to the present, now is heaven. Love Pierce x

1 Wedding 1 Cat and an Organ

PierceCamille

Camille and Pierce singing “More”

Mike’s cat sleeps in the back of his car, he parks it around the back of his house somewhere down around Rathangan in Co Wexford. He was having a cup of tea on our sofa when he relayed the story about his new car and the cat in his thick Manchester accent.

“I ope no-one is aleer-gik”

I looked at Clare for a minute and wondered about her allergies, they hadn’t been so noticeable of late, but of course we don’t have a cat in New York. However, we’ve been in Ireland for a couple of weeks now and our cat Albert (shared with a Wexford friend) doesn’t seem to be affecting her. So we all tittered in union, and brushed the question aside.

On Friday at one o’clock everyone congregated at our Davitt Road bungalow for the trip to Dublin and after we loaded the gear into the back of Mike’s car we all piled in. I bagged the front passenger seat hoping for a nap. Clare, Paula and Mick, slid into the back (where the cat sleeps) and off we went to Dublin for our show at the Dublin Unitarian. Late the night before, Josh Johnston the organist had slipped into his text a small bombshell, the church had accidently double-booked a wedding rehearsal at 6 p.m. during our planned soundcheck. This is typical of the stuff that happens when you are playing in churches. “Nightmare!” I replied, Josh wrote back that we would start at 4.30 and have plenty of time, and if needed we could resume after the rehearsal at 7.15.

“If everything goes swimmingly Josh, that won’t be a problem, but the doors open at 7.30, what if something goes wrong?” We hadn’t played together yet as a whole unit, I had rehearsed with Josh on organ and Garvan on bass at the church, and with Mick on guitar and Paula on vocals and percussion in Wexford, but we hadn’t played together as a unit yet, the soundcheck was going to be the only chance. I had this kind of thing before and knew how to pull it off, but a wedding rehearsal in the middle of it? Yikes!

We pulled up in front of the church at half three, unloaded and set up the equipment. The heat had been on since ten in the morning because during the rehearsal on the previous Tuesday we found that the cold front blowing down from the North had lowered the pitch of the organ by a ¼ tone. The organ tuner had advised us to put the heat on early with the hope that the organ would move up to the standard A440 pitch by gig time. It wasn’t exactly boiling in there at half three, but the edge had been taken off of it, and Josh excitedly greeted us on the church steps with the news that the organ was going upwards, only two cents below 440 now! By the time we began playing it was only one cent below. Of course we could always tune to the organ, but the bloody piano still stayed at 440, we had only one tune in which both of them played “Sorrow is a Solid Feeling” I had already begrudgingly restructured the set with its exclusion, just in case.

At around quarter to five we were ready to go, so we checked the organ once more, we tried playing “Sorrow” and it seemed alright to Garvan and me , Josh didn’t seem as happy, but I figured if it didn’t hurt Garv and me, it couldn’t be too bad. We began rehearsing and checking the sound at the same time. It was sounding good and we were just about to hit another song when I noticed a change in the atmosphere. A frumpy looking woman in her fifties with a forward keel, and a “here’s me head and me bum is coming” posture, swung her brown handbag like a weapon as she busied across the aisle. I suddenly became aware of her and was clocking her Michael Caine glasses and Clancy Brothers cardigan more than anything else, when a second dawning came upon me (Josh and the sound man Kevin – who lives and works in the Church – had gone into a state of reverence). Of course, this was Bridget the Pastor, and the four people behind her giggling, were the wedding party! Without much being said we all laid down our instruments in surrender and sheepishly crawled away to the basement cum dressing room.

At five to eight Josh went up to measure the organ again, it was a ½ cent short of the target. I put “Sorrow” back in the set. And we lighted the stage for a blinder.

On Sunday Clare woke up coughing a weird kind of dry cough, unlike the ones we both had when she had a chest cold the previous week.

“What’s wrong with you?”

She was wheezing, I found her inhaler.

“That’s odd, why are you wheezing now?”

“Mike’s cat!!” It dawned on me, he slept in the back of the car where Clare sat going up and down to Dublin, Mike leaves the car window open for him so that he can get in and out. Jays, we’ll have to give it a good hoovering before the long drive to Scotland.   Mike will be amused.

Now for the Wexford gig at the St Iberius next Saturday Dec 3rd where the 150 year old organ, with the sweetest sound, tends to hover around 5 cents sharp of the desired pitch, all 1350 pipes.

Synthesizers are for wimps, this is a real living thing. Love Pierce x

Christmas In Ireland

The Turners on Davitt Road with Santa

The Turners on Davitt Road with Santa

Christmas In Ireland

“What do you fancy for dinner?”

“I dunno”

I was hunched over the piano warming down my voice after rehearsing with Paula Cox and Mick Egan, a bit miserable I was; nursing the latter half of a stinking cold. Clare was half way out the door, and was fed up making decisions about food. And tired of looking at me slumped in the corner like a heap of misery.

“Well give me a clue, smoked Haddock?”

“Ugh, no thanks……….. Actually!…….” I lit “I think I fancy a stew”

“Well it’s all there, some of the filling from that Cottage Pie is still there in the pot, and there is a pound of minced Turkey in the fridge” Said she, relieved that I was contributing.

“Frozen?”

“No, it’s fresh”

“Oh ok then I will make a stew, with the Turkey, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, Pearl Barley, onion, stock and herbs ( I didn’t really say all of that) ”

So I made the stew, and we just ate it here by a blazing fire, on this freezing cold Wexford night in the year of our Lord two thousand and sixteen.

Last night my good friend the Wex Doc- David Curtis sorted me out with some penicillin, I begged him for help cos I was losing my mind. Every time I coughed my chest hurt, and then my mind hurt with worry about being able to sing properly on Monday night for the RTE Show Arena, on which they have asked me to sing two live songs. The pills are kicking in now thanks be to Jasus, and I’m on the mend.

Doing these Church gigs is not easy, but they are worth it. I drive to Dublin for rehearsals with the Organist Josh Johnston, and Garvan Gallagher (the bassist) who drives down from Westmeath to meet us at the Dublin Unitarian in Stephens Green. And then I rehearse with Mick and Paula in Wexford. I go up and down like a whores drawers, and with the cold it’s been extra tough, under-singing all the while so as not to strain the voice. We also have a trombone player joining us, have yet to meet him. Each unit sounds great on its own though, and the magic is when they all come together.

It’s been a cupla two tree fy years since I’ve been in Ireland for Christmas. I’m beginning to feel it in my bones. There’ll be night in the day, and everywhere the fairly lights will wrestle with the winters way, and a pilot has dropped me, dropped me down from the Christmas clouds, December 22, 23, 24, I can hear the Angels sing.

I look forward to seeing you.

Love Pierce xxxx

The Pierce Turner Ensemble/Christmas in Ireland

Nov 21st at 7pm RTE Radio One Pierce will sing two live songs and talk about all kinds of things.

Dublin Unitarian Nov 25th tix at tickets.ie

London/Irish Film Festival Nov 27th The film “Emerald City” with an original score by Pierce Turner will close the festival, Pierce hopes to attend. Just google London/Irish film festival.

The Wexford St Iberius Dec 3rd tix at Wex art Centre

Cork City-Coughlans Dec 8th

Limerick 1 Pery Place Hotel Dec 12th

Glasgow Tron Theatre Jan 20 – 2017 The Celtic Connections Festival.

Encore at The Church Of Dudes Oct 21st

“It’s come to the end of the season; everyone’s brooding or teething”

This is a line from You Are Leaving, a so-far unheralded track from Love Can’t Always Be Articulate. It’s a favourite of mine: of course it may be favoured by others out there too, sometimes no one speaks out loud, sometimes a song can quietly hum beneath the surface and it’s preferred to keep it there (I had no idea that people liked Drumsna from Boy To Be With until I had several requests for the lyrics during the Pledge campaign). But the real litmus test for a song is when I have to sing it repeatedly. If the song has an Achilles heel, it soon buckles after a couple of renditions before an audience. I sang You Are Leaving with Zach Dean, the church organist at the Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran, and once again I found it moving as I sang it out over the empty church.  Zach added something new to it with his command of the organ, it was clear that he has a rock sensibility.

I have now sung these new songs in churches and clubs and even at the Irish Consulate in front of dignitaries, and there is no sign of fatigue. No sign of the world at large knowing about them either though. That’s just the way it is, they are yours and mine alone: can that be enough? Why the hell not! Van Gogh only had one fan, his brother Theo, but were those paintings diminished by the absence of notoriety? No! Of course if the world knew that he had cut off his ear, they would’ve been more interested while he was alive, “Clare, pass me the bread knife”

I do have one on him though, I can perform, and I love to sing to people, and the performances at these churches have been amazing to take part in, cool places, run by cool dudes. There are a bunch more special shows coming up too.

Starting October 21st at the Gustavus Adolphus Church where the album was recorded, this is an encore of the performance we had there earlier this year (some extra songs though) for the launch of Love Can’t Always Be Articulate – we raised $3000 for the repair of the stained glass window the last time, the window is now in place, we will help pay the enormous bill with this show also, and you will get to see how beautiful it is. The ensemble backing me up will be all these amazing people:

  • Fred Parcells on T-Bone and vocals,
  • Kath Green and Andriette Redmann on vocals, bass and percussion
  • John Rokosny on acoustic guitar
  • Mark Brotter on drums
  • Zach Dean – the house organist – on piano and pipe organ.

Tickets available now here – what more can you ask for? This involves a huge amount of rehearsal and organisation, please spread the word and let’s fill that incredible space – wine and food in the basement afterwards. Maybe you will sing this time?

Then to Ireland, the first 2 shows there will be private, and then on Nov 25th 2016 we – me and the Irish Ensemble – will encore at the lovely Dublin Unitarian Church in the heart of Stephen’s Green. Tickets available here. Then to my home town on Dec 3rd at the St Iberius Church on the Wexford Main St – where last time, the whole gang stood outside arm in arm and sang “Faith Of Our Fathers” incredibly touching for me.  People came from Cork, New York, Gortahork, Kerry, Mayo and Glenamaddy. I love singing in these churches.  Tickets for that show are available here. And if I can’t find a church, give me intimacy, nowhere is more so than Coughlans in Cork city, that will be on Thursday Dec 8th, tickets available here.

Dec 12th will be my return to Limerick through the back door so to speak, it’s an invitation only gig at a hotel called 1 Pery Square. For tickets you should contact Tom at tpprendergast@yahoo.com and say I sent you. There are a couple more private gigs and then in 2017 I will be in Glasgow for the first time in decades, why I haven’t been there is a mystery, it always went down a storm there. This is a big one though, and maybe the romance will re-ignite.  The exact date is not set, but it will be at the Tron Theatre as part of Celtic Connections Festival during the weekend of Jan 20th to 23rd – keep an eye out here.

I think that’s enough for now, as always I am in your hands, without you I am toast.
Love Pierce xxxxstained-glass-window

I’m on temperature control

City photo

I’m on Temperature Control

It’s Tuesday morning; late with the Monday morning milk, again!

Last night we went to a fancy pizza place with our friends Paul and Niamh who were visiting from Dublin.  I knew we were in trouble right away because the double doors were wide open at the entrance, I knew it meant that they were either avoiding the use of AC completely, or that they were trying to do both outside and inside at once, in an effort to attract customers.

It was absolutely boiling outside, with the humidity it musta been at least a 100 degrees, but they were pretending we were in Spain on the esplanade by the water, what a load of bollox, this is Manhattan, and this summer we are under siege by the biggest predatory sauna-like heat known to man outside of Calcutta. I couldn’t wait to get home to the air conditioner, in spite of the wonderful company. They did close the doors after Niamh innocently enquired, “Is the AC in the back?”

This morning came as usual, and the sun was there again, shining bright and appearing innocent enough beyond the protective doubled glass out on First Avenue. Rumour had it that it wasn’t as bad today as yesterday, so I put on the TV to see what the temperature was out there, It said 78 f,

“That’s not bad” said I to Clare.

“What’s the humidity?”

“Fuck knows!”

I leaned down to peer under the blinds at people walking along the pavement on the far side of the street in the shade of the sun-scorched School. How were they walking? Were they struggling along or breezing it?

A young woman wearing khaki calve length trousers seemed to be moving effortlessly enough, but she was young! I’m wondering can we open the windows and let some fresh air in, save some electricity as well. Our last bill was hefty enough, that AC eats electricity.

I know; I’ll open the tiny bathroom window as a tester and see what the air is like? It’s almost good, I can feel something resembling a breeze, and it doesn’t feel like a hairdryer is aimed at me. I decide to take a chance and open up the whole house.  It’s a big decision, a risky one. Clare says that it’s my job to control the temperatures; I’m on temperature control winter and summer.  We have a railroad apartment so it’s important to get the cross breeze. I open the sitting room windows and run to the kitchen so as not to lose a second on this gamble. I’m like a Sailor trying to balance a ship, the AC will be off and we will need air moving in here fast if it’s going to work at all, if I fail and let the big sauna into the house without a rewarding cross breeze, I will have failed, humidity is a bugger to remove. It tends to sit down everywhere and doesn’t like to shift its fat arse back out again. It will cling to the carpet and the sheets, tonight when I’m sleeping it will fill the hollow in my back and surround my neck with a Collar of sweat. The decision is made now and I’m going to the Coney Island for a swim.

Hope to Jaysus I made the right decision.

I’m the captain of the temperature control, tonight as the city screeches past us sleeping sailors, we will feel the heft of my measurement.

P.S We have added the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow to the next Irish visit-Jan 20-23

The Mender

Love Can't Always Be Articulate

This story The Mender  is intended for my book whenever it comes to be.  I posted it on Facebook once and found out that a lot of my friends were equipment menders themselves. I had ended with some kind of negative comment about the character in the shop.  Many people stood up for him, and said that they had done it themselves and it was a thankless task.  So I took that out, having thought through the menders mind with a kinder view.

I really like this story and wanted to follow Bernard with something he might think worth reading.

Thanks so much for the incredible response to I’m Gonna Miss Bernard.  When the subject is inspiring and the circumstances are fatal, it’s easy to write an Opera.

The Dublin Unitarian Fri Nov 25th at 8pm tix;          tickets.ie

Wexford St Iberius  Sat Dec 3rd at 8pm tix at the Wexford Art Centre

Cork  – Coughlans (intimate solo) +353 21 496 1751 for tix

Limerick City (special event  by invitation only) Dec 12 – 8pm Write to me if you want tickets.

There are two private Parlour Gigs also.

The Mender
I went to get a piece of equipment fixed today, I had a feeling that it was a minor complaint, but try as I may, I couldn’t get the offending box to work. Having just travelled across the Atlantic, it seemed plausible that it may have been damaged going through the traumatic baggage slinging that ensues between departure and arrival, even if it was wrapped in two T shirts and stuffed between the jackets and trousers. I have a gig next week- with rehearsals in between – this is a crucial piece of equipment, I have to resort to a repair shop, presto.

So I googled Roland Repair in Manhattan and called to check for office hours, it was 9.50 A.M and someone answered, (good sign) I explained my predicament, met with the usual repair shop nonchalance.

“Bring it on in” he yawned, but not before 10 A.M.

We are open from 10 to 6 “

“Oh you’re an ambitious man, in there already” I said in the begging tone of a groveling charmer. He seemed puzzled by what I was trying to say,

Typical repair nerd, I thought to myself and assured him that I was over thirty blocks away, no danger of walking in on him before he finished his bagel.

This place was on 31st bet 5th and 6th a pretty new white building with a fancy silver intercom arrogantly peering down from its shoulder level pulpit. I approached it with aggression, realizing that I needed to manhandle it immediately, or it might get the better of me.

“Have a nice day and welcome to the building” flashed across its small blue screen.

“To reach the business that you require look up the directory bet A and Z….”

This place was called Audio Hospital and it was on the 5th floor, I tried everything but could not open this bloody door. I figured it was room #5 and assuming that this was the required digit. I pressed it, and got myself a second page which seemed to indicate that by pressing the green call button, I would alert someone to my presence. But all it did was send me back to the first page.

“Welcome to the building”……..

As I stood there on my toes, It was getting the better of me. Then I saw a young woman through the Glass door coming from the elevator, after she exited I stopped the door with my foot- having no intention of being sheepish about breaching security- she had the demeanor of New York boredom and emitted a sense of disrespect for whatever it was she was paid to do in that building. I knew she was stepping outside for a smoke,

“Just for curiosity, how does that buzzer work?” waving it away with her cigarette she dismissed…

“Fuck knows!”

I got out of the miniature elevator on the 5TH floor, it turned out to be a small building with ambitious presentation, obviously the work of a slick real estate firm intending to charge exorbitant rent for cramped renovated rooms in central Manhattan. Stepping out into the hallway I expected to walk for a while, around a couple of bends, checking door numbers until I got to #5- the usual rigmarole – but this building was like a person seated with a big torso and very short legs, you have an image of them that is confounded the minute they rise to shake your hand. The moment I stepped out of the elevator I was there! To my left with the door held open by a keyboard there was a darkened brown room crammed with all kinds of clutter- at least that’s what it seemed like at first- but upon scrutiny it became clear that the clutter comprised of all kinds of keyboards. They were everywhere, small analogue oddities, huge analogue dinosaurs, slick modern hi tech synths, lying on the ground, leaning against the wall, upside down, standing on their side, some of them worth a fortune. I squeezed into the dimly lit, claustrophobic, slightly sweaty hallway of the room.

“Hello?”

“Yes, can I help you”?

“Hello! Where are you?”

“In here”

I looked down the dark brown hallway, to my right there might have been a counter, I wasn’t sure, whatever it was, was piled up to the ceiling with equipment, mini-disc players-dat machines-synth modules-just piles of yokes.

“In here! You have to sit on the stool to see me”

There was a high stool behind me, I sat down, and there through the letterbox of skewered space between all the yokes, was a balding old man of about seventy five with long grey scraggly hair wearing a shabby old blue shirt and black tie. His wire rimmed glasses had been oft repaired by selotape, and his trousers were held up tight by a worn out and tattered old brown leather belt. He was folded in half by years of being alone with all this mending; his shoulders almost touched his knees. He was well spoken though, and he managed to gain my respect, in spite of my initial hesitance.

Illuminated by a small sharp, white, reading light. He tapped my name and address into his computer.

He wanted 75 dollars to just look at it, and said if I was in a hurry I should have the rush job for $125.

“No, I’ll just have the normal job thanks”

“Well, when do you need it?”

I wanted it yesterday, but decided to realistically see things his way.

“Next week?”

“Well, if it’s not a rush job, I can’t have it until January!”

This was mid November.

“What! Listen, I’m a working musician trying to survive in a dying industry, I can’t afford this, and I believe it’s a minor problem”

“I understand” he yawned

“But all this equipment belongs to working musicians, and they are all in a hurry, I have to pay the rent”

I knew that he had me now, of course the rent would be huge, but if he would only look at this for five minutes, I felt that he could see an obvious failing.

“Well I wouldn’t have come here if you had told me that over the phone, can I have it back please”

He passed the module back, through the narrow space, with a shaky hand. He seemed to look at me with some curiosity. But I knew there was no use in pleading. He was well versed at forcefully sending out the New York mental vibe of “It’s not my problem, Sir” The City and the Bank were on the Landlord’s back, the landlord was on the mender’s back and now he was backed into a hole in the wall surrounded by equipment, with an Irish man huffed by the callousness of it all. No ones problem but mine.

I went home and with nowhere else to turn other than buying something new, I re-approached my search for the manual. Rewording the search name I came across a download of the manual for my beloved old Synth module, A book I would’ve had, if I lived in one place like a normal person. There was one tiny switch at the back on “Comp” instead of “Midi” (thought I had tried it already) I flipped it and lo and behold; it worked! I talked out loud for a long time.

“Thank you God, thank you, I could have paid $125 for him to do that in 3 seconds”

I’m gonna miss Bernard

Bernard possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of Opera

The first time I became aware of Bernard was at the Wexford Railway station one early January when I was seeing a New York friend off, heading to America via London.  It was a hectic scene, with lots of bags, heavy overcoats, babies crying and sad goodbye-ing. My head was spinning around trying to take it all in, when my attention got drawn towards Bernard. Throwing his case on the overhead while making jovial quips in the smoke filled nervous air, he was filled with so much life and enthusiasm I had to study him. He had a little goatee beard and James Joyce glasses; his head swiveled with enthusiasm towards the other brave faces that were trying to lighten the atmosphere. He had a loud voice, and a sort of ancient Wexford accent, mingled with English intonation. It was goodwill Bernard, charming charismatic Bernard, and I wanted to know who the hell he was right away, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was my friend Jimmy’s older Brother, they didn’t look like brothers at all. Soon afterwards I went back to New York and didn’t see him again for a long time after that, but he had made an impression on me.

That all changed later when I got signed to an English label, and began spending a lot of time in the U.K. Bernard began appearing at my gigs, where once again he was buoyed by the surrounding atmosphere, particularly the attractive females. Even though he was almost exclusively an Opera fan, he was very capable of giving me a constructive revue of my music. Of course he never used contemporary music parallels, he would point out the Sibelius parts of my songs and the Puccini influences, stuff like that. He suggested that I read James Joyce’s The Dubliners; it was the first of many times that he would gently point me towards constructive influences. Of course, I was delighted with myself being taken so seriously, it didn’t matter that I thought he was being dramatic; I appreciated his effort to acclimate with alien music and a younger crowd. When Bernard wanted to give you a compliment it was a big one, he didn’t talk in small town terms, he talked in terms of history, it didn’t matter what your achievements were. You were as important as anyone; you didn’t have to be recognized by anyone else.

Bernard was opinionated, he had strong thoughts about almost everything, he hated boxing, said it was brutal and cannibalistic, the Williams Sisters ruined tennis, because they just hammered the ball. Forever against the grain, he preferred doubles! ……Pavarotti’s voice was too thin on the top, and he wanted to kill Andrea Bocelli. Bach was just a mathematician, and modern classical music was destroying Lyric FM and BBC 3. The weather was almost never suitable for him, and he hated green food, couldn’t eat dairy because it upset his sinuses and all healthy food upset his guts, even a slice of lemon in his Vodka was classified as fruit, and not admissible. He blew his nose regularly with a loud hoot. He called Verdi “Papa” because he loved him so much, and when the Swedish Tenor Jesse Bjorling sang he gave a running commentary about every minute nuance of his voice, his breathing technique, his fluency and effortless leg-Atttto, all musical terms were pronounced with a strong Italian accent of course. He was appalled when I told him that I preferred French to Italian, said he was very disappointed with me.

Unlike me, Bernard was very good at building and fixing things, Clare would always keep a snag list for his next visit. He always carried a plastic shopping bag folded into a small square, and a plaster, for emergencies, a habit he picked up from his parental responsibilities.

Almost every day he would pull out the vinyl set of an opera, and sit there listening to the entire thing from beginning to end, like the way most people would watch a movie. There were different versions with different conductors, and he would point out the difference, he liked one because it was slower, and disliked another because it was too slow. When he had a few glasses of wine in him, he passionately conducted with such vigor, that he often caught the side of his glasses, sending them half way across the room. He described music like it was food or wine, on many occasions I had to come to his house and hear the piece of music he was talking about because it sounded so delicious, I usually preferred his description to the actual, I often wished that I could just compose what he talked.

When I was in Wexford, I often went to Bernard’s house in the late afternoon for a cup of tea and a biscuit, he made a perfect cup of tea, and delighted in passing me the black plastic Jack Daniels ice bucket, filled with a Biscuit variety; all the ones that I denied myself at home: Kimberly, ginger nuts, custard creams, bourbons and fig rolls. In the half light of the evening we would sit there and talk, he avoided bulb light until the last minute, he would quote his Brother Jimmy, of whom he was very proud “Jimmy would kill you for putting the light on during the day” Seeing Bernard at this time was always a great respite from life’s pressure. His world seemed to portray an older time, it was like visiting a parent or grandparent even, he had that kind of generosity. God knows he wasn’t rich, but he was never broke either, he seemed to be above it and required little luxury beyond his Hi Fi and 52″ TV.

There is no question that Bernard liked a moan on his down days, but he never minded me telling him to give it a rest, at those times he would transfer from a caring older sibling to childlike, he could be very self – critical at these times, and he seldom, if ever, said bad things behind other peoples backs. He usually would say it to their face if he had something to say, and most likely it was for the other persons good….Except for politicians of course! It’s probably just as well that he never met Maggie Thatcher.

Over all there was only one Bernard Lacey, and there will never be another, we have lost a great character and a massive presence, a tremendous intellect and fountain of musical knowledge. I have lost a great friend, Wexford has not been the same since he left Johns Street last year and returned to England to be with his Children and Grand Children at the end of his life. That house still has his heart beating behind the lace curtains, I imagine him sitting there in his pilots armchair, multiple TV controllers on the right arm, hi fidelity stereo within reach of the left, cup of tea on the table and ironed hankie on his knee. He has left us too quietly it seems, but all requiems end with Libere Me, the calm at the end of a storm. Bernard was a storm of energy and huge presence. He gave more than he took, except for now, he has taken himself. Clare and I have dreaded this day, we knew it was coming, if there is a heaven, they better be ready for a good argument.

Bernard Lacey died on Aug 11th 2016.
Bernard photo

My Father was a Fire Man

 

wexford-fire-brigade-photo--e1469518022688-680x522

(Please let me know that you are out there, make a short comment, it can get lonely otherwise. And thanks for an amazing gig at Joe’s Pub).

My oldest sister Delores gave me this photo of the Wexford Fire Brigade for my birthday, it’s an unusual one that I had never seen before, my father Jem is the last one front right. He later became the Captain, and so we had the phone (incoming calls only).

My first legitimate musical experience was at the age of nine when I joined a brass and reed band in my hometown of Wexford in the southeast of Ireland.

We had just moved down from a fireman’s bungalow at the top of the hill to a three-storey house on the quay with a shop underneath it. My father had been a part-time fireman, while the other part of his time was spent working in Pierce’s Foundry as a turner, those names are coincidental incidentally. The bungalows up on Davitt Road came with the Fire Brigade. Ten semi-detached houses in a row all connected by a loud alarm bell to the Captain – Mr Crosby’s – house, he had the Fire Brigade’s telephone to the outside world. If someone wanted to raise the alarm, they would call him and he would press a button that would ring through all the houses. He would also turn on the siren in the fire station which would travel through the entire town and beyond. If anyone was at work it was understood that they had dispensation to leave. My father would hop on his heavy black bike with the iron spring saddle and make his way up the many hills on the way to the fire station.

My mother was an ambitious woman and she wanted to move up in the world, so we came down the hill. When we got down there she was a bit nervous about me and my brother Paddy hanging around with a rougher crowd down around the main street, so she got us off the street by having us join an all male Catholic brass and reed band called The Holy Family Confraternity Brass and Reed Band. Father Bernie was the main benefactor for The Holy Family Confraternity Brass and Reed Band and he was a very nice man, but he had an unfortunate style of sermonizing, instead of going up he went down, and instead of going down he went up. It made for an unfortunate effect upon the entire congregation bringing us to within a heartbeat of slumber.

 Father Bernie got us involved in all the main religious occasions of the year, the biggest one being the Mary Queen of May march when we marched out to a grotto on the outskirts of town where there is a statue of the Blessed Virgin. I always thought that we were marching out there because she had appeared there but it turned out we were marching out there to try and get her to appear there. When we got out there, Father Bernie said mass in his usual sing songy kind of voice, and it was then for the first time in my life I came to an understanding of how horses fall asleep standing up.

After he had said mass we would turn around and start shuffling back into town. We sang hymns as we went along the way. We had a female choir and a male choir, the female choir were all dressed as the Blessed Virgin herself and the male choir were not. We sang hymns like Oh sacrament most holy, Oh Sacrament divine, all praise, and all thanks giving be every moment thine. Now it was turning into dusk and we lit candles as we came up the hill into the outskirts of town where people stood in a state of reverence at their doorways, and down to the folly where we dispersed, some people went for a cuppa tea and some went for a pint, but we all felt vindicated, we had done something for an hour and a half with absolutely no material rewards, and now we were floating on the security of tradition and the infinity of a silent conscience.

As much as my father liked being a fireman and the few extra bob that came with it, he soon packed up the house and followed us down the hill. On the evenings during the interim when he was obligated to stay there overnight, my mother would send one of us there to have his tea ready for him when he came home from work. I remember running down the hill in the dark having sliced the brown bread and cheese and laid it out on the small wooden table with a fresh pot of rich amber tea.

“Oh be the holy mack” he would say with discomfort, I knew what he wasn’t saying, he didn’t need to articulate his affection.

“You better go back home now, your Mammy will be waitin for ye”

New York New York sizzzzle

N Y Skyline

Thursday morning 11:07 it’s 85 degrees and 90% humidity, not sure if we should open the windows or keep them closed.  We’ve had the AC on all night in the back of the house where the bedroom is, and it’s nice and cool, but we don’t want to live in AC all day with the windows closed, Clare says its like living in a cave, and I agree.  She is heading out for a breakfast meeting and I need to work on the set for my gig at Joes Pub next Thursday, she suggests that I should go to the Italian cafe on the corner of 10th to get out of here.  As I’m heading out the door I am confronted with a dilemma; should I open the windows or keep them closed? For someone living in Ireland this is a no-brainer, but this is New York, in the centre of Manhattan.  When I came here first I remember being astonished when someone told me that they aimed their fan outwards in order to exhale the humidity, as opposed to blowing the air in. Humidity is the real problem here, not so much the heat, obviously you would only do this if you have no AC. The next best cure was to keep the windows closed, try and keep the humidity out, just grin an bear the dryer heat, that seemed nuts to me. Truth is if you don’t have an air conditioner you’re fucked no matter what you do, and I didn’t even have a bloody $26 fan at that time. Anyway I never bought into it, kept the windows wide open, and nothing moved except the mosquitos, not an ounce of air or wind. I just walked around in my underpants with the sweat dripping down my chest, hadn’t acquired shorts yet, went against the Irish grain, I found them a little embarrassing, or uncool, not David Bowie enough.

However now I’m a grown man, and I have AC! (and shorts) but I don’t want to have it on all day. So should I leave the windows closed as I’m going out, or close them? I decide to leave them closed and keep whatever cool air that is there within. I’ll re-appraise the situation when I’m out there; decide what I should do upon my return to the cave.

I push the tired old metal street door open – top-half cracked glass, covered from head to toe in graffiti – and there it is the force of damp heat bearing down on the half naked sweaty citizens hauling their tired arses along the pavement.  A tall unshaven man in a sweaty undershirt thuds his beaten body towards me, soggy denim shorts, off white socks and shapeless dirty sneakers, he has a long tired face, long hair in a ragged pony tail, ear buds attached to his phone and an old cloth bag twisted around his hand. He is an ugly unhappy looking bugger, almost dangerous, but probably not, he only has half of my attention until he makes an ugly leeching sound “chu-wawwwww” and casts his tired head downwards at two passing women passing him by.  Now with their back to him and me are two young women in their early twenties, I can’t see their faces, but can tell from their skin that they are young and that the one he is panting at, is black.  The two women completely ignore him, obviously used to this shit.  I am always astonished at this, I see this all the time in New York, big ugly looking assholes oogling women to their faces, what do they think; that they have a chance? That the women like this?  I try to imagine what it is like to be the woman, it seems like they are used to it as part of the daily routine in this city, I can’t imagine adding this to my life as part of the difficulty commuting in this overcrowded city.

Only once did I come close to this experience, it comes back to me now as I try to get inside the thoughts of these women.  Back in the eighties my friend Larry Kirwan and a guy called Jacque from Lyon used to bounce around New York bars looking for fun.  When our usual haunts were dull and too familiar, Jacque would exclaim “Gypse!!” imminently we would hop in to a yellow cab and head towards 49th and First Avenue where there was a cabaret club owned by a transvestite performer called Gypse, of course it was predominantly a gay hang-out, but that never even crossed our mind.  One Monday night with nothing going on anywhere, we swung into Gypse half stoned and up for the Craic.  Gypse was up on the stage, a tall skinny drag artist with a sharp tongue and wicked sense of humor.  We were glued to the stage laughing and yelping in support, when suddenly I noticed a table of men to my right, they were all staring at us, looking us up and down, one of them said ” alright…that’s more like it” I felt like a lump of meat, it made me withdraw and want to hide behind something, that is the nearest I ever came to what these women must feel like, and this guy was not being rude, he was doing what people do in singles bars, I can’t imagine experiencing that when I’m just popping out to get some milk.

To my surprise, the apartment was pretty cool when I returned, even without the air conditioner, keeping the windows closed had kept the humidity out, they were right all those years ago when I didn’t believe them.

Just rehearsed “Thunderstorm” with the full ensemble, including the original drum part with Mark Brotter, Andriette Redmann on Bass Synth, John Roksony on Guitar and Fred Parcells playing the original Trombone that he played on the album Now Is Heaven. Forget all the agony of the world, leave the heat on the street, and come to our love fest at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan on Thursday July 21 at 7pm.