Tuesday, 1 June 2010

cabin fever

Cabin Fever

If you shut your eyes and forgot why you were there, it was kind of fun. Being back at Mitchell's house in Laurel Canyon, that is, house-sitting. Even after the party moved on and the pretty, creative people moved out, it was still a place to stay.

Just five minutes on the twisty road and I was down at the Troubador, watching young star-struck kids trying out the same way I had, all these years ago (was it ten already?) Punk might've come, but not everyone was a punk in 1980, despite what they might tell you.

Mornings were always my best time. Waking up alone seemed easier than going to bed alone. The log cabin would be quiet: less traffic, then. Birdsong was something I listened out for whenever I woke up, like a lover's voice. If you can't hear birdsong, I used to tell the audiences, you need to get to a place where you can. No birdsong at Belsen.

My audiences were smaller, by then. A select few theatres in California. Just a low key tour, my agent said, loking me over and trying to be unobtrusive about it.

'I'm fine,' I said. Makeup can hide most things, except dilated pupils. 'Ready to get back in the saddle.'

So I stayed at the cabin as much as I could, that summer of 1980. I t was my turn. And it was free. In the mornings, I'd pad round the little place, coffee filling the air, my only drug in the mornings: that and the sun streaming through the windows. When you come from a cold, northern country like me, you need the sun as much as anything.

Sometimes, in the afternoon, I might sit out the back, letting the scent from the pines wash over me as I sang my old songs, maybe trying out some new ones. That's where I wrote Would You Say.

Who was I singing for, back then, at the cabin? Not for the dead man, surely? I never felt his presence there, not even in the dead of night, when the wind sighed through the trees and the log walls shifted from foot to foot.

But there was another presence coming, a flesh and blood one. He just turned up on the doorstep one of those sun-soaked mornings. Sumner.

He looked thin, and tanned, and very blond.

'Hey, babe, what's up? Room for me?'

We sat facing each other, drinking Californian wine. He'd been doing some guest spots on other people's stuff, he said, some guitar, some backing vocals. Now he'd cut a new album.

'All the best guys in the band, Linda,' he siad, eyes twinkling. He was one of the few people who called me by my true name instead of Venus. 'I tried to reach you to get you to sing on it, but I couldn't find you. You're a woman of mystery.'

'Woman between agents, more like,' I said.

'It's going to be good, this album,' he said, not really hearing me. 'It's going to be big.'

He was off next week on the stadium tour to promote it, he said. We toasted his success with the wine warming in the sun through the windows.

It was a cold, heartless bitch of a winter, that one, even in L.A. Remember John Lennon being shot? Oh, of course, you'll be too young. That was that winter. I remember it more than the day Kennedy died. Chapman came up to him outside Dakota Mansions and shot him. His biggest fan.

Sumner told me, before he left, that Stewart had died a few weeks before. The usual rock star death: drug overdose in a hotel room. I hadn't read any papers once I got to the cabin, apart from the local ones, for my reviews.

A lot of things died for me, that winter.

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