A Christmas/Holiday Gift For You
THIRTY YEARS AGO, when first in the States, I took to writing short stories at the end of the year, printing them in limited quantities, and mailing them to select friends and family in lieu of Christmas/Holiday cards. Next, I made mixtapes featuring multiple interpretations of the same Christmas song… And then I became a parent and the ‘Holiday Card’ inevitably became a family picture; those of you who received them may appreciate that we did our best to be creative!
This year, I’m resuming old habits, sort of. The holiday season has propelled me to finish, edit and gift one of the many stories I wrote this year, as time allowed, about our family’s backpacking world travels through 2016. This one is called “Kif in the Rif,” for reasons that will become apparent when you read it, as I invite you to. There is an online version here at iJamming! that includes photos and links to a couple of videos – but you can also read and download it here as a good old-fashioned short story, without photos, in PDF form. You could even print it out & pretend I snail-mailed it! I do hope you enjoy, and I would be happy to take feedback, online or via e-mail.
Those travels seem a long time ago now, and a world away from the troubled USA in which I have spent most of 2016. Still, many great things happened this year. In January, “IN THE MIDNIGHT HOUR: THE LIFE & SOUL OF WILSON PICKETT” was published by Oxford University Press, to a more uniformly positive reaction than any of my previous books. It was discussed on a multitude of NPR stations, on BBC Radio 4, reviewed in publications from the New York Times to Shindig! (which named in their #2 Book of the Year), and took me to LA, Memphis, Cleveland, NYC, London, and, of course, Hull. Perhaps the greatest endorsement of all was when members of Pickett’s backing band, the Midnight Movers, came together to play for free at my reading in Washington, DC. (You can see a clip below.) The paperback will be out in September 2018 – but dare I suggest the hardback will still make for a great Christmas/Holiday gift this year? (Please support your local book store where possible.)
…Besides, there will be another soul singer’s story for you this time next year, when my co-write of the great EDDIE FLOYD‘s autobiography should be getting published by BMG. Those of you wanting to know more about Mr. Knock On Wood, or seeking confirmation of his octogenarian chops, check out the clip below from the Royal Albert Hall in September as part of the BBC Stax Records Prom, a show I was fortunate to attend. (Yeah, I know that’s Sir Tom Jones you’re looking at, but just click play…)
Other written evidence of our 2016 travels is my introduction to KOLKATTA CALCUTTA, a superb collection of photographs by Fionn Reilly, another expat Brit who calls Woodstock home but is imbued with wanderlust. Reilly helped convince us to include this most fascinating of Indian cities on our journeys last year, and I’m so glad that he did; it was the most amazing metropolis I’ve ever experienced. Fionn’s book makes a gorgeous gift for those who appreciate high quality realist B&W photography using old-fashioned darkroom developing techniques.
THE CATSKILL 45s reunited this year for their first gig since our 2014 house party. I was marked absent, being at the Albert Hall at the time, studying at the feet of the masters! The group reconvenes once more to welcome in 2018, here in the heart of the Catskills, at the Emerson Resort, and in the words of Levi Stubbs, I’ll be there. Those who don’t know the specifics of the 45s, which is so much more than a mere covers band, check out bass player Mark Lerner’s entry from his fantastic blog, Every Band I’ve Ever Been In.
And for what it’s worth, my teen-era band APOCALYPSE just saw its debut single “Teddy” included on the fantastic 3CD package Gary Crowley’s Punk & New Wave. We were hono(u)red to be included alongside the likes of Gen X, The Skids, the Mo-dettes and Ultravox!, and, just so you know that we know our place, equally humbled to be sequenced in-between the Teenage Filmstars and Tinopeners! The package is being whittled down to a more manageable double LP for Record Store Day 2018 on which “Teddy” will see its first vinyl incarnation since 1983.
Finally, some of you know that I (we!) are going though personal/lifestyle changes that will render 2018 something of a fresh start. Many of my (our!) friends have already been down this path and based on generally positive outcomes, I (we!) are optimistic about our futures, and especially that of young Noel, who has embraced the changes thus far and, though he may have sung “Young Man Blues” as part of the Rock Academy’s tribute to The Who this year, does not (yet, knock on wood) appear to be experiencing them. I am also witnessing the increased fading of a remaining parent, something that eventually comes to most of us. The two life developments are bound to inspire reflection at this time of year, and ultimately, they provoke gratitude that my entire family remains among the most fortunate of people on this vast, beautiful, but poverty-stricken and environmentally endangered planet, not just in terms of our material well-being, but because we are surrounded by amazing friends. Hopefully, you’re one of them! Peace to you this holiday season, and may 2018 bring us all around…