Sorry, We're Closed

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wrapping Up England

...and taking it home. At least that's what we wanted to do. We had such a good time, and met so many good people, that we're still feeling a buzz.

Sunday night, I traveled to Hertfordshire, via train, for my last radio interview. John Blaney picked me up from the Knebworth station and we drove to a lovely little cottage in the woods, where we found Robbie Owen and his majordomo, Mike Grant, of Hertbeat FM in the middle of Robbie's superb Sunday evening vintage rock show, listened to on the Internet everywhere from Scunthorpe to Southern California!

Talking to guys like Robbie and Mike, who truly love the music they play, is what made this trip so much fun despite the crazy travel schedule. I'm so glad to have them, and Spencer Leigh, Keith Warmington, John Blaney, and Jon Mills...what a blessing. Blaney and I had fun talking Beatles with Robbie and Mike, who were funny, polite, and knowledgeable. The trifecta.

Taking the last train back to London at 11:45 on a Sunday night was also cool, in sort of a spooky way. (Of course, I had to take the last train because Robbie and Mike took John and I down the pub after the radio interview! This IS England, after all.) Meeting Cecilia back at the ultra-cool Hoxton Hotel for a last-night drink? Priceless.

Now for a few goofy things that we found on the trip. First: British pharmacy chain, or venerated Chicago frankfurter establishment?

Second: Yes, this is a REAL category of books at Waterstone's in Bristol, England. No lie.

Third: Britain is chock-full of excellent charity shops with great secondhand goods of all sorts. As I was happy to find out!

Fourth: Cecilia spent part of this trip working--which in her case involves visiting various museums--and at the Victoria & Albert, saw an exhibition on the Supremes, including a lot of gowns from Mary Wilson 's collection. Here's one scarcely-believable item from those years.

Fifth: Note to self--Drinks at the Hoxton Hotel are always better with lovely wife there. Check.

Sixth: John Blaney's 1992 Nissan Figaro really is a tremendously cool automobile.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Song She Was Singing

The last portion of our trip to England featured a Friday night reading from Fab Four FAQ at Waterstone’s near Goodge Street in London. This event, attentively attended by an attentive group of attendees, featured some interesting back-and-forth about Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, and Yoko.

Following that, Fiona from Waterstone’s invited Cecilia and I to the pub for a drink, where we met several of her co-workers and had some nice conversation about Syd Barrett, MPL Productions, Madness, and the quality of British crisps. Later, we joined our good friend Andre McLean and his family for dinner up in Camden Town. Yum.

The next day—my only truly work-free day in England—we decided to hit some art galleries. First on the agenda was the Linda McCartney photo exhibit at 5 Savile Row, just next door to the original Apple offices.

I always knew that Linda was a quality photographer of musicians; her Linda’s Sixties book is excellent, particularly the empathetic portraits of Janis Joplin, Traffic, and, yes, the Fabs. But I was not prepared for what I’d feel seeing this exhibit. Not only did Paul put together a fine memorial to Linda’s talent, he, his daughter Mary, and gallery owner James Hyman also created—over a nearly three-year period—a poignant tribute to her heart.

Some of the photos here are familiar, but many are previously unseen, either family portraits (Heather dashing off as Paul laughs, little James jumping from a truck on the family farm, Paul rolling a joint in Jamaica in 1972) or still-lifes. You get from these photos a good sense of Linda’s perspective, feel for the natural order of things, and excellent timing. She knew how to plan a shot and when to press the shutter.

One photo in particular nearly reduced me to tears. In 1997, not long before her death, she went to artist Francis Bacon’s studio and set up a self-portrait. Ghostly thin and shorn of most of her hair, she photographed herself, blurred, in the reflection of a broken mirror. This photo is almost inexpressibly beautiful; it left me once again amazed at the sheer power of art.

Linda McCartney was a great woman. Not only was she an accomplished photographer, animal rights activist, and entrepreneur, she also brought peace and stability to one of the world’s great musicians and became a decent enough musician in her own right--along with perhaps her most important achievement: raising what appears to be a remarkably functional show-biz family. How many people can live in the constant eye of celebrity and claim that?

We’ll wrap up the trip in my next post. Peace.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's Back!!!

Mark Caro's Pop Machine!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

This Green and Pleasant Land

Cecilia and I began this week back in London. I did several more satellite BBC interviews, and found some time for record shopping and pints in pubs. My guide on Monday and Tuesday was the super-friendly music savant Jon “Mojo” Mills, editor of Shindig!, which has almost instantly become my favorite music magazine in the world. John kindly squired fellow author John Blaney and I to and fro in our interviewing process.

John Blaney, taking a week off his day job at the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Museum of Technology, came down both Monday and Tuesday for interviews and lager. A prolific writer of Beatles books, a font of rock knowledge, a fellow vegetarian, and an all-around ace guy, he struck me immediately as a kindred spirit.

Aside from the joys of the ale shandy, Sister Ray Records, and the restaurants of Notting Hill, our week was marked by nearly witnessing a murder on Oxford Street. John and I were headed to the Oxford Circus tube station when we noticed a huge commotion and police cordoning off the area. We just turned around and walked toward Tottenham Court Road station instead, only finding out the next day what had transpired.

Wednesday and Thursday, John, Cecilia, and I traveled to Bristol and Gloucester for interviews with Beeb affiliates in those locales as well as for BBC South West.

John met us in Reading (about 30 minutes from London by train) and drove us out to Bristol. He’s got a terrific little car—a Nissan Figaro, from 1992—of which just 25,000 were made. They’ve become big collector’s items, particularly in Britain.

Bristol is an interesting town, one of Britain’s largest with a population of around 410,000. Only in the last decade has it begun to attract folks from London, two hours away, to its hilly streets and lush surroundings. The amazing Clifton Suspension Bridge is here, along with several museums and some fine shops, and we really enjoyed kicking around the town’s high street on a surprisingly warm spring day.

Our interview with Keith Warmington (late night BBC Bristol DJ) was extremely pleasant—John and I found we do well when interviewed as a team, even though we’re promoting different books. We can bounce ideas off each other and crack jokes. When the interviewer is as enthusiastic and as well prepared as Keith, it’s a bonus.

Following another good interview with BBC South West (by ISDN line), we headed off to see the city. Dinner by the docks was followed by a bed-down at a fine (vegetarian) B&B at which, the next morning, we had pakoras for breakfast—a first for us.

Thursday morning we drove in the rain to Gloucester, a city of around 123,000 in the southwest of England, but east of Bristol. After a decent enough interview, John and I picked up Cecilia at the local library and found a restaurant (The New Inn) that had been standing since the early 15th century. Some locals believe that Lady Jane Grey was crowned there in 1553 for her reluctantly-accepted nine days’ reign.

On the way back to Reading, we chose to stop at Avebury to see the standing stones, a series of stone circles from some 2,000 years ago. Walking in this ancient place felt pretty fantastic—there was a certain energy going on there for sure, although I didn’t run up and touch the stones like a few folks did. I just walked through the stone circles and amused myself trying to avoid the piles of dolma-like sheep shit.

This thousand-year-old, gothic, much-decorated Catholic Church just down the way from the standing stones was also beautiful, and provided much evidence that even the most organized religions felt pretty damn pagan a long time ago.

Rooks, magpies, blackbirds, sparrows, and the inevitable pigeons dotted the landscape and filled the cool, grey air with their cries. It was the kind of cloudy British day that must have contributed to the melancholy of Joyce, Donne, Sandy Denny, and Nick Drake. Being a Yank, I just thought it was cool.

We then traversed to Silbury Hill, a man-made hill near Avebury that was constructed some 4,400 years ago. That's right, sports fans. 4,400. It's currently being strengthened, which means we couldn't access it. No matter--the thing was still amazing even from behind a wire fence.

John drove us to Reading (his home town) and let us off at the station, where we took a train back to London and collapsed at our new hotel in Hoxton (our fifth accommodation so far during this trip). With a Friday reading scheduled for Waterstone’s, there was no rest for this wicked rocker.

As if I have reason to complain. I’m in London!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Brief Nephew/Niece Interlude

I have among the coolest nephews and coolest nieces in the world. One's on YouTube and the other's in Times Square!

Carolina's latest piano performance is here.

Marco, for his part, was photographed for a "Take Your Kid to Work Day" promo at his mom's company (Radio Flyer)...and the resulting photo was used in a PR Newswire announcement in a giant video board in Times Square.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Liverpool Diary

Now that we've been in England for a few days, I can begin to process our experiences and give you some idea of why we're here.

Having nailed down a relationship with a new distributor (PGUK), my publisher (Hal Leonard) has released Fab Four FAQ in the United Kingdom. This is an exciting development for us, and I chose to travel to England for the purposes of promoting the book on English radio.

Cecilia and I arrived in London late last week, and on Saturday morning (May 10) traveled by train from London to Liverpool for my first promotional gig: A radio appearance with Spencer Leigh on BBC Merseyside.

For the rest of the story, go here. Peace and love.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Cecilia and I are in London. Over the next 12 days, I'll be doing radio interviews in England to promote the UK release of Fab Four FAQ.

Of course I'll be checking in often, passing along interesting information I find along the way about old Blighty.

One thing I noticed today is the mediocre nature of British TV. In order to properly convey this to you, I offer as evidence that BBC2 runs, at midnight, reruns of Malcolm in the Middle.