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Where Are We Now?

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

CNN has disappeared from our cable package. That’s like God telling me I need to go to bed earlier, which I guess I do, as I have been (finally) unfurloughed. It’s not too dramatic, mostly working from home at present but there is some readjustment required. Yesterday I had a 9am Zoom meeting. I didn’t mention to anyone, but that is literally the earliest I have been up in 18 months. In fact, I got up at 7.30am so that I could get coffee and juice in and try to look vaguely alive and awake. There have been nights during furlough when I have still been awake at 7am, but rarely have I actually been in bed for more that a few hours at that point. One of the things I have enjoyed is watching live-stream punk gigs from the States which on UK time tend to start around 2am (which I guess is about 7pm over there). There’s one particular night (in Indianapolis) I have watched so often that I now recognise regulars as they walk into the bar and there’s several musicians that I recognise from playing in more than one band. I guess it was all part of that trying to stay connected and feeling kind of alive thing that I’m sure we all strove for in the lockdown years.

My dear friend Clive Product has been posting photos to mark the 20th anniversary of the first Anglo German Low Stars ‘Night of the Amazon’ Tour in 2001. It’s fun to look back at those skinny fresh-faced troubadours that were/are us. Some make me smile, some I have to stretch to remember, and a few are kinda sad in a warm fuzzy way. There’s this photo of an empty stage at the Golden Pudel club in Hamburg – all our equipment set up, and Andy’s amazing bucket bass leaning against one of the Fender guitar amps. It’s kind of heart-breaking and also beautiful and perfect – we miss Andy a lot. Clive is posting the photos in chronological order and today we are up to September the 9th at the Red Salon in Nuremberg. I’m looking at this photo of me, Andy and Martti (I think performing ‘I think I’m almost there but I’m not quite sure’) and of course the kids in that photo have no idea that some 36hrs later, the world will kinda change forever. It’s a weird thought – slightly ghostly – like we were characters in a lo-fi super-8 disaster movie. I like to think our characters were there to provide something of a crazy light-hearted distraction from the impending doom along with a suitably buzzy-crackle-fizz-noir soundtrack.

I remember when Bowie released ‘Where are we now?’ out of the blue and with no press fanfare. Though it dropped in January 2013, the track was actually recorded in secret between September and October 2011 at the Magic Shop in New York City. It’s such a beautiful song and heralded an amazing final phase of Bowie’s career that saw the release of some of his strongest and most adventurous work. The Bowie of 2011 thinking back to the Bowie of 1976, when he and Iggy shacked up in Berlin for some wild adventures. There’s something deeply moving about this gentleman of a certain age reflecting on his younger self, somewhat lost, vulnerable and anonymous in that same city. In 2016, after the grand dame died in January, I was on tour with Rico and Steve just a few months later. Having a day off after our show in Berlin we headed to pay homage at the apartment where Dave and James had lived during those years. It was quiet, just us and the occasional passer-by, a black star in the window of the corner bar offering confirmation that this was the correct strasse along with a few bits of graffiti on nearby bins and trees. I don’t think anyone wondered at these three middle-aged English fellas laughing and posing and taking snaps.

Next month I’ll be back at Biddle Brothers with the boys. From this sweet bar, that has become something of our regular Hackney haunt, you can see the spot where I was born. I like to stand outside with my pint and look over the road towards Mothering Square. It makes me smile - in my fifty-nine and a half years I have travelled all of 20 yards, though I did take a path that has led me to cities of wonder, crackle-fizz joy and very few conclusions.

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