For the uninitiated, I consider Alejandro Escovedo one of the five best singer-songwriters currently criss-crossing this great land of ours, trying to spread the gospel of rock & roll. (The other four, for those of you scoring at home are, alphabetically; The Avett Brothers, Hamell On Trial, Richard Thompson, and Jack White. Elliott Murphy would be listed here but he is normally found crisscrossing the European continent.) I further consider Escovedo America’s answer to Ian Hunter, in that he combines the same superior intellect with a passion for rock & roll power and the ability to simultaneously break your heart with a ballad and pummel you with an all-out rock onslaught, sometimes within the same song. (Regular readers of this blog will realize I do not throw comparisons to Mott The Hoople’s former frontman around lightly.)
That summer Hamell was playing an arts & music festival in Bowling Green, Ohio, at which Escovedo was also booked. Ed and Alejandro were friends from way back. When Ed first moved to Austin, Texas, in the 90’s he sought out Escovedo for advice, counsel and gigs, all three of which Alejandro was happy to provide. A genuine friendship ensued. Ed’s introduction of me to Alejandro backstage was, "This is my road manager, Ricki C., he saw The Stooges and The MC5 live when he was still in high school." Alejandro fixed me with a gaze, shook my hand, and said, "We have to talk later."
And so it was that I wound up sitting at a picnic table at The Black Swamp Arts Festival in Bowling Green, Ohio, talking rock & roll with Alejandro Escovedo.
Now you’ve gotta understand – Alejandro Escovedo is one of my big rock & roll heroes, one of my favorite songwriters of the past 15 years. Sitting and talking with him put me right back into my shy, quiet, 13-year old, eighth grade self (see The Transistor Radio blog entry, January 2012). As we sat and talked on that warm evening I found myself really wanting to shout to the other performers and crew members who were eating & hanging out in the backstage canteen area, "HEY, LOOK YOU GUYS, I’M TALKING TO ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO!!!" Luckily for any sense of rock & roll cool or decorum I had managed to acquire as Hamell’s road manager, I didn’t shout. (Out loud.)
We talked about Mott The Hoople and how the perfect mixture of deep feeling and loud guitars met right in the blood flowing through Ian Hunter’s heart. We talked about The Kinks and the battles between brothers in rock & roll bands, including Alejandro’s and big brother Javier’s fights in their 1980’s band, The True Believers. We talked about the aforementioned Stooges and MC5. I told Alejandro about pissing next to a smacked-out & wasted Johnny Thunders in the bathroom of the Second Chance club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1979 during a weekend road trip to see Fred Smith’s mighty Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. Alejandro told me about offering a wasted Iggy Pop a ride in his car during one of Iggy’s down & out late 1970’s Los Angeles nights. (Strange how often rock & roll conversations turn to the wasted.) We talked about heroes for life, we talked about wins and losses, we talked about shared sonic love affairs.
I fully realize that there’s very little chance Alejandro would recall that late summer rock & roll conversation. I also fully realize that I’ll never forget it.
Alejandro Escovedo and band on Austin City Limits, 2009. This and a Leonard Cohen show from the 1980’s that I have on a VHS tape in my collection are two of the best hours of music from Austin City Limits ever.
© 2012 Ricki C.