Issue 8

As it turns out, we could have asked for something more - some publicity. The club we played, the Paradiso, was once a church, and had several performance spaces in it. We played in the smallest space to a small crowd. There had been very little publicity, and the audience was actually smaller than it had been in the much smaller club and city of Rotterdam. Still had fun playing, though.

Ed Ward attended this show as well. In between sets Gary mentioned that he had brought a tape of the one and only album recorded by Autosalvage around 1970. This surprised Ed, because he had recently gotten in touch with some of the group's members, after writing the liner notes for a CD reissue of their album on the Evangeline label. Galvanized by Ed's call, they might be doing something together in the future. Rounders connection - in 1963 or 4, Weber and I were playing in Boston, and these three twenty year old guys we didn't know offered to put us up. Through the years we've had great luck with being put up by strangers who turned into friends. So these guys were Banana, who went on to play with the Youngbloods (At the time he had a group called Š choke Š Banana and the Bunch: a group with appeal). The second was Rick Turner, who went on to found Alembic Guitars and Autosalvage, and guy #3, who's name has fled my brain. I think his name starts with a "J", he plays bass, and he went on to do some recording with Michael Hurley. It's a tiny planet after all.

Being that time of the year, Christmas was impacting rather largely. But Santa Claus hasn't made that big an impact on the rest of the world. In Holland they have these two guys instead. One is St Nicolas, an obvious precursor to our Santa guy. I don't know the name of his bud, but I found him weird and embarrassing. He's a black guy, dressed in the manner of the 1600s or 1700s, and portrayed in the racist style common here a hundred years ago—googley eyes, and big, red-rimmed lips, often set in a creepy disturbing smile, and completely black skin. I was watching the kid's TV channel in the hotel room, and these two got a lot of play. The black guy usually played in the fool mode - sort of a manic Stepin Fetchit, if that's how the old black movie actor's name is spelled. He was always a white guy done up with burnt cork, minstrel show style. One skit I saw ended up with St. Nick on a rooftop, riding a camel (!), while the black guy was on foot behind him. And he even had to carry the big sack of presents while the unburdened St Nick didn't even have to walk! White man's burden indeed.

I have a friend who collects shlocky post cards, so I'm always on the lookout for them when I'm in a new place. I really struck gold in Amsterdam. There were about a dozen seasonal ones portraying the two Dutch Christmas guys, mostly repros of older ones. These clarified the black guy's role. In some of them he carried a big switch, a bunch of sticks tied together. In one he had a screaming little boy over his knee, and he was wailing the tar out of him, as they used to say. In another, he's got these really scary bugged eyes and that awful grin, and he's throwing candy from his sack to a bunch of good little boys and girls, while St Nick looks on approvingly. So his role was to reward or punish, besides doing all the heavy lifting. Ho ho ho.

We flew back to the UK and took a train to Glasgow, where it was cold and raining, but the Victorian station was a jawdropper and a half. The people were warm and enthusiastic, we had a great time, and we got a nice writeup in the Glasgow Herald. I especially liked the part about us dragging the Smithsonian Institute to the Looney bin. And it was wonderful to meet people who had been fans for decades.

The next day we played in Perth, which is north of Glasgow, but on the North Sea side of the island. The club included an inn with great rooms to stay in, and was next to a road with a sign pointing towards a castle. It was an uphill walk of a couple miles with a small stream of water running down one side of the road, then the other. Every so often a pipe would bring the water underneath the road to the other side. I couldn't tell why they decided to do that. Must have had their reasons. Periodically a baby waterfall fed the stream. Nice walk. It was a small castle, as castles go, and you couldn't get inside, but walking around it was just fine.


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