Thursday 11 February 2010

The Lamb in Winter

New York was so alive in `74. I found inspiration on every corner. It was an amazingly productive time. I drew and painted incessantly and lived in my head - imagination and creating new worlds was what mattered. I clashed with my teachers constantly. We were living in the era of Hyper Realism but I couldn't see the point in drawing old tennis shoes or trashcans. Nothing mattered other than that I was free.

My cousin Danny Weil lived on the Upper East Side. She'd been a model in the sixties and featured on a cover photograph of Harpers by Avedon. She was, and is, wonderful and is now a celebrated photographer herself. Her house was like a bohemian salon, where writers, painters and thinkers hung out. She'd been part of the Timothy Leary crowd. I loved being there. I was like a mascot, being a lot younger and certainly very naïve. Danny lived with an English writer named Jo Durden-Smith. He'd written the definitive book on Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, been involved with the Stones and Hendrix. Between them they knew everybody. For a teenager they were so cool. They were wonderful to me and I learned much more there than at school. They couldn't understand my fascination with Genesis but tolerated my bouts of enthusiasm, like the first time I saw the band live, at the Avery Fisher Hall. When Peter Gabriel walked on to the dark stage with the dayglo eye paint, I thought I saw an Angel. With the first few chords performed by Tony Banks on the keyboards I knew I had.

Winter in the city was wonderland. I'd just been to see Death in Venice one afternoon. It had been snowing while I was in the cinema. It was totally magical to come out and encounter a strange and beautiful stillness in the air. The next day, the 6th of December, my life was to take a completely different turn and be changed forever.

Recently, rereading all my letters and diaries, I became aware of how much I have seen and witnessed over the past 30 years. By keeping all this information I've safely preserved all my memories intact and I can now go back and relive these precious moments.

The day was full of promise. My dear friend Chuck Pulin, a brilliant photographer for Rolling Stone magazine, was going to photograph Genesis during their soundcheck at the Academy of Music. As a belated birthday present he invited me to come with him. The first person I met was Pete. He was so incredibly shy. I just wanted to thank him for all the wonderful music and inspiration they had given me and give him the famous Stagnation print. The soundcheck was late, the meeting was pleasant but I was ready to leave. I had tickets for the show. Their tour manager Regis appeared and gave Chuck some extra ones and some backstage passes. I called a very dear, and very flamboyant, friend of mine, Maiza, to go with us that evening.
You could slice the anticipation with a knife. The audience were restless and something didn't feel quite right. The lights were dimmed and The Lamb started. We were, after all, in New York, the background to this surreal saga. There were no more wings but in their place a tanned Puerto Rican named Rael. I don't think that most Americans were ready for this. It was whimsical, violent, sad, controversial ' but most of all it was new. The show ended and half of the audience were in shock, the other half in a rage because the band had not played Suppers Ready or the Knife. I was scared. People started to argue, those in shock started to applaud. There was a lot of confusion. Chuck and Maiza wanted to go backstage. I was reticent. We went. There were some steep stairs and as I finished climbing we entered a room full of people laughing and drinking. The first person I saw was this guy with his hand bandaged. I asked him how he was feeling and how he had coped with such a strenuous performance. It was Steve. He just stared at me and said I was an Angel for caring. I would always care. The arrow struck both of us. It was Love at first sight!

Lets go back to the Angels ...