“Joe came to Nashville with The Crusaders to sing on a couple of songs for an album they were recording. This was Joe’s first foray back into music after his self-imposed hiatus, and he, the band, and Will Jennings, lyricist extraordinaire, were in our midst for several weeks. The big hang-out in those days was Close Quarters, a/k/a the rock ‘n’ roll hotel, which actually was a boutique hotel, but the bar and lounge were ground zero for the local record people and for the visitors, too. Joe and Will were actually staying up the street at Spence Manor, which was even more exclusive, while The Crusaders were ensconced in The Quarters. For many a night, after their sessions, they all held court in the conversation pit, around a roaring fire, and I made a point of being a regular, as I was anyway, only living around the corner myself. I’d run into Joe a time or two, back when he was still living and working around Sheffield, but I couldn’t say we’d been even passing acquaintances, yet he was happy to have another northern lad to chat to, so we got quite matey. Very late on the night the album was finished, after the celebratory intake had done its work, Joe decided that he had to have a full English breakfast …
Spence Manor prided itself on the fact that they could get their guests anything they wanted, at any hour, so Joe asked me to come back and do the ordering, as he was somewhat compromised, and Will wouldn’t know what to ask for. Armed with a fresh bottle of Scotch, we took the short walk to The Spence, and arrived in Joe’s suite at about four-thirty (that’s a.m.).
I figured I should call my wife to let her know I was OK, as this looked like it might take a while. I no sooner had a very sleepy Patti on the line, when Joe commandeered the phone … “Ello, missus, I’ve kidnapped your husband, ‘cause I’ve got to have an English breakfast and I need him to order it from these folk … y’don’t mind, do you? Aye, good, well thanks then.” Handing the phone back, he said, “Yer alreet, son,” and addressed the bottle while I got busy with the concierge.
You can imagine explaining the intricacies of a full English breakfast to someone who’d never heard of such a thing: “Yes, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, yes, that’s right … no, that’s fried bread, not rye bread, you heard me right, fried bread, fry it in the same pan you cook the bacon and sausage in … ,” etc. etc. Now, I wasn’t stone-cold sober myself, but eventually the task was accomplished, and by dawn’s early light we tucked into a brilliant full English … Joe was a happy man! (When I saw my wife that evening, she said, “Was I imagining it last night, or did Joe Cocker call here.” Affirmative, my dear, affirmative.)” – an excerpt from Mersey Me! A Liverpool Lad On The Loose In The Swingin’ 60’s
I trust the heavenly kitchen had the full English Brekkie ready for Joe when he arrived – complete with black pudding!
Forty years ago, we experienced our first Nashville White Christmas, not the sooty snow of London or Liverpool, but pristine powder, shin deep on the side roads, ankle-deep on the main stems. We were nesting in Madison at the time, which was still a town on its own, rather than a bedroom community of Nashville, and as our little girl was safe with her grandparents in Florida, we decided to venture out on foot to seek some Christmas cheer. The nearest tavern on Gallatin Road was about half a mile away and the streets and the main road were hushed and muted , bereft of traffic, either motorized or pedestrian, except for us foreigners in the Southland….until we arrived at the bar, which was full of locals, creating their own warmth, and willing to share it with us.
Thus fortified, we trekked back through the drifts…the only people walking, or so it seemed. The experience led to a song, natch, as such was the way of things in those far off days. A sorry effort at a country tune, it was, as that genre was still as foreign to me as I was to it….I didn’t even know that the general area was referred to as Middle Tennessee, so my little refrain referred to” the only people walkin’ in Central Tennessee”. When this faux pas was later pointed out to me, I dropped any further effort on the wee tune, reasoning that if I couldn’t even get the geography right, I was not yet ready to be attempting to write country songs.
Over the years we developed the British tradition of a Boxing Day party on the 26th., which grew and grew until people were marking it on their calendars in January, and our initial Xmas adventure was stored away in the memory banks as our legion of friends brought the season to us, White Christmas or not, and that first adventure receded, except for the very real warmth two strangers experienced in that little snow-bound tavern so many years ago.
May your season be filled with precious warmth, kindness and love !
It’s been a hard week in a hard month, in a hard year, where many of my musical colleagues have punched their ticket for the big tour bus in the sky. Some close friends and collaborators, some who I worked with here and there, some who I’d only shared a tale with in a bar or a studio.
Music seems to keep one young, at least mentally, so we keep on doing what we do, and it’s only when our contemporaries start going down that the full realization of THE ZONE , and the fact that we’re in it, takes hold.
Well, I’ve got a new record for the kiddies I have to start, and this time I’ll have all of the celestial bus-riders in mind as I do it !
Michael Snow aka Papa Snow