Friday, 29 January 2010

You are there!

The set list

American readers of roughly my age will no doubt remember the brief 1970s revival of the "You Are There" show hosted by Walter Cronkite, an attempt to bring history to life for young viewers via fairly wooden, low budget re-enactments of important moments in history. I don't know why it's taken me a month to get around to producing my own twist on this approach in documenting the Memphis experience, but it is what it is. And it was what it was, which was mostly amazing.

It's always a pleasure to go back and see the family and friends, delve into nostalgia and history, and attempt to process the changes which have taken place in my absence. My children enjoy seeing their grandparents and cousins, and experiencing a different way of life, as well as the food. I had a chance to reconnect with people I haven't seen in far too many years, and I had some wonderful experiences as a result. And for all its laid-back charm, there is a certain undercurrent of energy running through Memphis, or at least through Midtown, the part most worth spending time/living in. As I tell anyone here who will listen, Memphis' music scene seems to me to be incredibly vibrant and diverse, especially considering the city's size. To have the number of independent labels and venues it is able to support speaks volumes about the enthusiasm of the locals to make their own entertainment, which I think is the way of the future.

However, I can never escape the vague feeling that I have entered a parallel universe of some sort. Simply stated, there are few places where daily life could be more different from what I experience in London. Population density is low, land use is generally wasteful, streets are wide, houses and their yards are generously proportioned. There's a profound sense of space, but also of emptiness, which are different things. Zoning, a fairly uniquely American concept, keeps residential and commercial activities pretty rigidly separate, except in older or poorer neighborhoods. As a result, everyone is effectively enslaved to the automobile, and people seem to be eternally launching out on car journeys to accomplish relatively simple tasks, which I would normally do by walking around the corner. I think I saw maybe five cyclists during my week there, and four of them were classifiable as "poor people with no alternative."

Anyway, the focal point of the trip for me was the New Year's Day reunion of Linda Heck and The Train Wreck, with whom I had not played since 1993 or so. I hadn't played with drummer Kurt Ruleman since 1984, if I'm not mistaken. There was huge anticipation on my part, but also some anxiety, so I spent the weeks before in London getting to grips with the electric guitar again. I had no expectations other than having fun and being in the moment, but we did much better than that I think, despite having only one three-hour rehearsal all together, and a couple of smaller break-out sessions in twos and threes.

On New Year's Day we returned to the venue on Broad Street formerly known as Fred's Hideout, where so much good music took place in 1987/88. This in itself was strange for me, because the room itself brought back its own set of memories, in some cases different from, and in some cases overlapping, my memories of the people who turned up to see us. I have to confess that this contingent was nowhere near the number I thought it might be. As someone pointed out to me later, New Year's Day is a funny time for a gig, and I agree, but I guess I felt that, given that we are a rare surviving remnant of a scene which ultimately laid the groundwork for what is happening today, there might have been more people there, if only out of historical curiosity. Sixteen years is a long time.

Never mind, the friends who did turn up were a wonderful audience, and I saw, if only too briefly, a lot of people I wish I could see more often. On the whole, I think we collectively (band and audience) were not a bad-looking bunch, the ravages of time kept at bay by clean living and low lighting. However, the material, particularly Linda's newer songs "Rescue," "How About You?" and "All Things Fall Away" revealed the marks of age and experience on the heart, and maybe I'm just imagining it, but it felt like people were listening a lot more intently during these. A heartfelt thanks to everyone who came out, to Clayton Rogers for shooting the video, to Jim Duckworth for his generous loan of amplifier and the most beautiful guitar I have ever played, and most of all to Linda, John, Kurt, and Jim. It was an honor and a pleasure to share the stage with you again, and I enjoyed it more than you can possibly imagine.

What follows is more or less the entire show, minus a handful of songs which weren't captured due to some battery life issues.

The first two songs "Look Away" and "Can't Change Me," two stalwart songs of early LHTW shows, are sadly missing, though the rehearsal video does survive.

When Water Burns

How About You?

I love this song, though its subject matter is distressingly familiar.


A song for/about Jim Duckworth, probably the Train Wreck's biggest fan back in the day.


As far as I can recall, this is a song about an epiphany of sorts which Linda had after an all-nighter in Memphis. Whatever the background, the lyrics are generally inspiring.

Skinny Little Thread

Another early song, a real heartbreaker.

Barrooms to Bedrooms

A tribute to The Country Rockers, who also played in this space back in the day, and whose drummer, Gaius "Ringo" Farnham, died ten years to the day before this gig. I always loved this song, and was really happy to be able to sing it to a crowd of people who knew and appreciated it.

Beer and Guitars

This song was inspired by the sign outside Fred's Hideout, which featured a frothing mug of beer and an acoustic guitar - both the promise of good times, apparently. I think Linda's lyrics really nail the sense of the place back in those days, when it was primarily filled with local alcoholics.

Lonely As Me

A song from the 1987 period, the demo version of which features some beautiful violin work from Roy Brewer (then our drummer), which I try to replicate here.

Hurdy Gurdy Man

A frequent fixture of our sets back in 1987 or thereabouts, especially at Fred's Hideout.

'Tis The Season

This was a retro-psychedelic meltdown, inspired, as I remember it, by a Sky "Sunlight" Saxon album which I had at the time, which was so ridiculous as to inspire.

Split the Earth

Beginning of the second set, this is a great song, which we would have probably played at twice the tempo in the past. Still, the slower pace reveals some new aspects to the song.


This is one of my favorites from among Linda's range of new material. I could say what it's about, but I won't.


This is one of my very favorite Linda Heck songs of all time: for/about the late Craig Shindler, but with a message of use to anyone who ever hears it.

Love is Strange

The Mickey and Sylvia classic, a feature of our shows back in the Fred's Hideout days.

Look Out For Love

Linda's jazz-vamp classic, with Johnny Mack showing why he is the man on guitar.

Professor of Love

Somewhere there is an entertaining video of this song, shot by Roy Barnes about a block from where I used to live in Midtown. Back in the day, I think this is the song people identified as being a potential single from the album which ended up never being released.

Failing Sky

Jim Duckworth played guitar on the recorded version of this, and here I am trying to reconstruct two different parts he came up with. The late Robert Palmer used to refer to this song erroneously as "Failing Star," for some reason.


I love this song, and for me it demonstrates the power of remaining silent, which is a valuable lesson for any musician to learn.

Crying is Done

One of the highlights of the evening, I think.

All Things Fall Away

I think this is one of Linda's most powerful new songs, though I may be biased. Only a short segment here before the battery dies, though I made a humble attempt at a cover recently here.


A new song. Only Linda really knows what this is about, but listening to the lyrics, it seems to be about an unreachable estranged friend. "I guess maybe lost is where you want to be." Very grown-up stuff.

House is Burning

A wonderful song about Memphis gossip and schadenfreude.


A wonderful song, lead track on the Lost Album, which has also featured on compilations and film soundtracks. Unfortunately, I had a terrible cramp in the fourth and fifth fingers of my left hand, which hopefully didn't affect the whole too much.


A song postponed from the first set to the last, written in honor of a clairvoyant once resident at Decadence Manor on Madison in Memphis.

I Found My Love in Memphis

The George Clapps "classic" revived in the neighborhood where I originally discovered it.

Serious (About Rock-n-Roll)

A song we frequently used to end shows with back in the Fred's Hideout days. There weren't that many people left by this point anyway, so it felt a bit of a non sequitur.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A dream of extraordinary magnitude. Can't wait to view the ones I haven't seen!

(Not anonymous... but I've forgotten my Google p-word... Linda.)