scratchin’ at my beard…

“All rock ‘n’ roll is about America and most other songs too son…” then he picked up his guitar case and wondered into the night.

I had sat there and listened to his Texas drawl as he told me stories of the west that were probably ninety percent bullshit and one hundred percent true. We had drunk out of the same bottle of whiskey on the station platform, he was leaving London and I was passing through. I believed he had wisdom and he was jealous of my  foolish youth. I never got his name, we were only talking because he saw me opening a cassette, it was probably a John Lee Hooker compilation Dave was making me listen to.

I was full of questions about the USA and he was full of answers, none of which had made sense. I was an expert on the USA, I had watched Starsky and Hutch, Kojak, 12 Angry Men, Serpico the Godfather and Bullitt. I had read On The Road and Catch 22 and more importantly the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, what more was there to know. I’d been listening to American music most of my life, all the greatest hits albums. I even was beginning to “get” the Grateful Dead.

At this point it would be perfect to say and that’s when I learned who he was… Of course it would be, the truth is he could have been anyone or no-one, what did I really know and true to form at 17 I never asked.

We parted ways, the scruffy long haired kid waiting for the train and the floppy haired texan, we both shared the same dress sense, Levis and a work shirt, he however had some nice boots and a stetson, I had converse and was bareheaded. Later I learned he couldn’t have been a cowboy as he was not wearing Wrangler’s. No self respecting cowboy would wear Levi’s. I am not sure if that’s true but I was told it with finality by a Wrangler wearing, snakeskin booted rancher as he reached for his Coors Banquet beer. I wasn’t going to argue I could see the bulge in the small of his back. He told me he was probably an oil man, that was still romantic enough so who cared.

I never really decided to be living in the USA. I was fascinated yes, but I never thought of myself living here. It was a place you saw on TV or in movies, it was just too far away. I never really thought about the impact the USA had on me as a child, I was from Liverpool the town that single handedly changed the face of rock music. I never really understood that Little Richard, Bo. Diddley, Chuck Berry and a slew of others had already tried and failed and it had to come back to the working classes in the UK and then be taken back to be accepted, Paul McCartney and Jagger could whoop and holler and make millions, Little Richard had to toil in obscurity, this is the paradox of the USA. They don’t want the real thing they want the polite cute thing.

This year begins my 25th year in the USA without becoming a citizen. It may finally be time to take the big step and accept this is where I am.

Of course the best way of describing these thoughts is by a band from Liverpool.

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