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Murphyland

The Elliott Murphy Newsletter

March 2021

Elliott Murphy - Photo by Willy Dumalin

Elliott Murphy - photo by Willy Dumalin

April 23, 2021

Living Under The Shadow

When I first started writing “Cold and Electric” (my short story that appeared in the US edition of Rolling Stone in 1980 and would eventually be published as the novel Marty May in French and English editions) it was a different world both inside and out indeed. Of course there was no internet nor smartphones nor Amazon and the closest thing to Google that I knew was the thirty-volume set of the Encyclopedia Americana that my late father had bought for the family’s edification some years before. In fact, when search engines arrived decades later I was well prepared, almost in the avant-garde you might say, because when I was kid, and once I could read fast, furiously and with passion, I loved nothing more than to hang around the bookcase in our family living room where those formidable encyclopedias were kept. I think I was the only member of the family who really adopted those books into the family. And they smelled so great too – leather bound and fine paper – as I’d happily jump from one subject to another via connecting themes (example: Jesse James to Missouri to the battleship Missouri to Japanese Kamikaze fighters to … you get it!) for hours on end, sitting among those heavy books that were sprawled around me on the floor in absolute nirvana of knowledge. To this day, I remain a source of useless facts and I can thank those encyclopedias for starting me up that tree of enlightenment.

When it came to reading, the other thing I really liked to do during my early teenage years was to hang out in the Garden City Public Library because it stayed open late on selected weekday nights so I could get out of the house and disappear among those bookshelves until closing time. I’m still not sure what I was running from (and perhaps I’m still running from something to this day) but I found the solitude and enforced silence of that library and the stern looks of the librarians who enforced the decorum of the place liberating for both my mind and soul. I suppose such libraries still exist (in fact I can see the massive four edifices of the Mitterrand Library from my window here in Paris) but I must confess I haven’t been in a public library since I left Long Island and that was a long time ago indeed. It was in that tomb shaped one floor building (since demolished to make way for a larger media center) that I discovered among other racy literary treasures, East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I searched for it after watching the James Dean movie of the same name on Million Dollar Movie - a late night film show on local TV channel 9 which showed the same movie all week long. And I can remember the amazed look of the librarian when I checked the book out along with The Lodger about Jack the Ripper. I’m surprised she didn’t call the police …

I was reminded of how different it really was back then as I was glued to my TV these past few evenings watching the gripping three-part documentary “Hemingway” by those modern masters of the form, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. As I watched Hemingway tapping away on his own typewriter (standing up!) I thought of how grateful I should be to my junior high school teacher Miss Towers who taught me to type. I can do a few things very well and one of them is typing. Maybe the others are playing the guitar and songwriting but I’ll let you be the judge of that. I loved the rhythm of the typewriter keystrokes and to this day I pound the keys of my computer with far too much gusto and verve trying to recreate that same frenzied race to squeeze letters together to form words, sentences, paragraph and … hopefully some books (I also often write the lyrics to my songs directly to my computer as well – what will there be to leave to my archives? A harddrive?)

My parents bought me an aqua colored Olivetti typewriter that came in a beige case with key and lock for my birthday when I was twelve, around the same time I got my first guitar, and I fell in love with that stylish Italian machine in the same fashion as my Japanese Kent guitar. When I first came to Europe in 1971, I lugged that typewriter with me along with my Epiphone Frontier acoustic guitar and for a while there I didn’t know which direction I would take – writer or musician. But as you’ve probably heard me say before: Literature is my religion and rock ‘n roll is my addiction.

I’ve read that Tom Hanks has a large collection of vintage typewriters and I wonder if he has my same Olivetti model? Of course it’s long gone now as is the Smith-Corona electric I used to write "Cold and Electric" and while writing that short-story I was no longer in the bosom of my long-gone family home and the encyclopedias were now disintegrating in my mother’s uptown apartment. After she passed away in 2018 I don’t know what we did with them. I can only hope they are somewhere and someone is reading them and being as uplifted in spirit as I was.

In 1980, after some heady years when I had major label contracts and the resulting large cash advances, I had downgraded to a pleasant but tight-fitting one-bedroom apartment in Gramercy Park that had two windows but absolutely no light. The only light that got into that apartment was emitted from my Sony Trinitron TV. During the time of writing “Cold and Electric” I remember three things in particular: that I would watch the eleven episodes of a dramatized version of Evelyn Waugh haunting “Brideshead Revisited” starring Jeremy Irons on public television after a day’s writing; that I was reading Malcolm Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano, the devastating story of an alcoholic British consul in Mexico before going to sleep; and, that I was ingesting several Ricard apertifs with a splash of water when I shut down each days writing something that I had learned to do in Paris and surely in the style of Hemingway! You might even see an emerging theme in these three items if you connect the dots …

Marty May, the principal character of my short-story, was consumed by a sense of loss and desperation as he had once been a celebrated blues guitarist on the top of the rock ‘n roll mountain but as the winds of trends in popular music shifted he was left out of the club. Of course, my own identification with Marty was not by chance as the 1980’s were when I entered the wilderness myself: Columbia Records and I had parted company and I had yet to establish a solid base for my music in Europe. If I had a navigator to keep me on course toward eventual redemption perhaps it was Marty May himself.

The point of all this being that as me and everybody else has been living under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic for over a year I’ve looked for diversions to keep my sanity, shape and sense of purpose. Co-writing a novel with Peter Redwhite has been a glorious experience of discovery about the age of discovery, doing a daily thirty-minute workout has hopefully kept me in shape (we’ll see how I feel the next time I’ve finshed a two-hour show!) and my Corona Couch Concerts on Facebook/Instagram (of which I’ve done around one-hundred) has given me a purpose and a reason to pick up my guitar and sing some songs and probably most important, to stay connected to the fans and friends who have stayed loyal to me and my muse this past difficult year. Thanks for believing!

Best regards,

Elliott Murphy - Live In Bergamo 1983 - On and On With Elliott

The "On and On with Elliott" Download Series Continues with Live in Bergamo 1983

For April we have a live show recorded in Bergamo, Italy on July 21, 1983 at the Music Hall Gech. It features Elliott on vocals, electric guitar and harmonica; Ernie Brooks on bass and backing vocals; Richard Sohl on piano and Tony Machine on drums. It’s available as high quality MP3 files or CD quality FLAC files.

This is an audience recording and the sound quality reflects that. We feel however that it will be of interest to Elliott’s fans being a great historical document from almost 40 years ago. There are six songs from Murph The Surf (Elliott’s most recent album at the time) as well as classics such as “Last of the Rock Stars,” “Just a Story From America” and “Rock Ballad.”

Track List:

1. Off the Shelf
2. Talkin’ About America
3. Cool Panic
4. Dusty Roses
5. Hollywood
6. Last of the Rock Stars
7. Calling on Cathleen
8. Rock Ballad
9. You Got it Made
10. Just a Story from America
11. Continental Kinda Girl
12. Drive All Night
13. The Fall of Saigon
14. Route 66

These downloads are free, but if you enjoy them and want to help with some of the expenses, we are suggesting a donation of 5€ for the MP3 download and 8€ for the FLAC files.

Visit the Elliott Murphy website to download the show.

Elliott Murphy Store

Marty May On Sale in the Store!

This month we're offering Elliott's legendary first novel in its full original English version for just 10€.

Virtuoso rock guitarist, Marty May found glory at a young age, living the high life of a rock star in New York during the 1970’s. Then his promising career, along with his marriage, slipped away and at thirty-three he is living alone, broke, without a record contract and hassled by collection agencies. Marty fears that he has blown not only his career but any chance at a normal life and wonders if he should go back to playing the blues alongside his first mentor Blind Red Rose. Set in the 1980’s when times turned tough for true rockers and the music business became more about the business then the music, Marty May is the story of a man vulnerable to temptation while trying to stay true to his most precious beliefs. Both elegant and tragic like The Great Gatsby put into the age of rock ‘n roll, after many years this is finally available in English.

Here's all you need to get your discount. Visit the Store and the Marty May. At checkout time just enter this special coupon code to receive your discount: MartyMay. You can use this coupon code as many times as you like. If you don't have this book in your collection, now's the time. Order multiple copies and give them to friends! Please note that the special price applies to the book(s) in your shopping cart but does not apply to shipping.

From the Archives

The 1970s and 1980s were the golden era of vinyl bootlegs. Clinton Heylin wrote a wonderful book about these times titled The Great White Wonders: The Story of Rock Bootlegs, which is now, unfortunately, out of print. Unofficial, unauthorized and mostly for the true fans, these bootlegs captured live and studio recordings that never saw a legitimate release. Several Elliott Murphy bootlegs were released during these years including Mr. Blue (recorded at the legendary My Father's Place in Roslyn, NY), Just Some Stories From America, Electric and Alive and Talkin' About America. Here's the front and back cover (along with two of the labels) from a 1984 released celebrating Elliott's performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival that same year. Accompanied by the same band featured on this month's On and On with Elliott selection (along with Peter Gordon on clarinet and saxophone) you'll also find David Johansen from the New York Dolls guesting on several songs. If you're lucky enough to have a copy of this in your collection hold on to it! They are becoming harder and harder to find.

photo by Francea

Tour Dates

IMPORTANT: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and new regulations in France and all over Europe these dates are subject to change. We have provided the latest information that we have for the shows below. Visit the Elliott Murphy website for the most up to date information, venue and ticket links.

June 2021

June 12 - Band Show
Jarnioux Festival
Jarnioux, France

June 15 - Trio Show
Salute Him When His Birthday Comes - Bob Dylan Tribute
Bleiche Sessions
Wald/Zurich, Switzlerand

June 17 - Trio Show
Salute Him When His Birthday Comes - Bob Dylan Tribute
Casino Bern
Bern, Switzlerand

June 26 - Duo Show
Quai du Blues Festival
Sainte, France

September 2021

September 11 - Duo Show
Sortie Blues Festival 2021
Oud-Heverlee, Belgium

October 2021

October 15 - Band Show
Spirit of 66
Verviers, Belgium

October 22 - Trio Show
L'Embarcadère
Montluçon, France

NEW DATE: October 29 - Band Show
Annual Birthday Show
New Morning
Paris, France

NEW DATE: October 30 - Band Show
Annual Birthday Show
New Morning
Paris, France

June 2022

NEW DATE: June 23 - Band Show
Blacksheep Festival
Heilbronn, Germany

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