Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
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Moving Out / Moving On
Unconventional as this may seem, I write these details down, over 32 years later, in this, the second part of my memoir. At time of writing I have no idea if, or whether it will ever be published in solid form. For a writer such as myself, since writing is my chief occupation, it's good exercise, if nothing else. I like to entertain and to inform, too. Of course, since the time period I'm currently covering is about rock gigs, life in a band and the general struggles of a poor musician, I'm on familiar turf for many readers. It strikes me though, that when we read about the lives of such people, especially the more famous ones, we don't often get the domestic details. This is why rock stars are so mythologised, or martyred and why, sometimes, they appear to lead lonely lives and have lonely deaths.
We don't imagine Bryan Ferry de-fluffing the tumble drier, for instance, or Iggy Pop taking a cat to the vet. We mostly imagine that our idols have 'people' to take care of such things. Sometimes, it's true. They do. I was once told by a frustrated record company p.a. about a Famous Rock Guitarist, who phoned her at home during a bank holiday. He was distraught. "There's all this rubbish, everywhere." he told her. His family was away. The 'people' who looked after him were away on holiday. He'd been by himself for the weekend.
She told him, patiently. "Listen T***. What you have to do is...you know those big black plastic bags? There's probably some in a cupboard under the sink or something. Well, you put the rubbish in them, and then you tie the bags up and leave them outside wherever the dustmen collect them from. " He said. "I don't think we have any." She said to him:"Well, that's easy. Just go out down the road (he lived in central London) and go to the corner store and buy some." The guitarist was even more distraught. "But I can't do that!" he said. The p.a. assured me: "That's what I'm dealing with."
Now, it's my guess...no, my knowledge, actually, that many of our rock gods are actually much saner and more practical than you might think. Near the height of his solo fame, I have been out to buy brussell sprouts in backstreet Brighton, for instance, with Captain Sensible. Once, we went and hired a re-seating tool from a plumbing supplies shop so that we could fix a kitchen tap. To turn the water off to his house, I had to lie down in the street and dip my hand down a small hatch just outside his house to disconnect the water supply, shouting back to him." Is that the right one? Has it turned off yet, Cap?" I have been with John Cooper Clarke as he shambled up the road to the newsagents in old jeans, with flat hair and ordinary specs to buy 10 Benson and a copy of The Sun. I have been out in Swindon several times walking the dog in the park with Andy Partridge. In a long phone conversation with Rod Stewart,a few years ago, I asked him what he'd been doing that day. He'd been painting a room in his house,he told me in Los Angeles. I once heard that at the height of his fame, Eric Clapton regularly used to play the spoons in a pub down the road, in a band which his granny played the ukele for.
We don't usually imagine people in rarified jobs, having ordinary lives, which involve gas stoves, secateurs, paint brushes and dish-cloths. It is often the writers and p.r. people who help propagate the myths which surround the famous. What happens when the cameras aren't there, though and the mics are switched off? What did I used to do, in the old days when I wasn't in vans, on stages or recording music? According to the only pictures which I possess, my life seemed to be mostly, about such things. I only have pictures of myself onstage, during recordings or on tour. Most people didn't have cameras. Events, three decades ago or more, weren't constantly being snapped or recorded as they seem to be now. There weren't video recorders. Camera film had to go off to the developers for a week or so before you even saw them. Many pictures them didn't come out well. They were just blurred. You couldn't scan things or e-mail pictures to people. We led much more private lives back then, all of us-- even the famous. I sometimes wish now, that I had pictures of me doing the garden, cleaning the windows, brewing beer, wrapping the now long dead cats in a towel in order to thrust antibiotic pills down their unwilling throats.
Because life isn't really just about the great works of art, the important events, the big breaks or the watershed moments. It's actually about cleaning the carpets, making the tea, putting the bottles out and changing the pillow cases. This is why,on a grey afternoon in mid May of 1979, while I pottered around the home I was about to move out of, surrounded by a few cardboard boxes and a few stacked domestic items, I was glad when, probably for the last time during my occupancy, the doorbell rang.