Dear Mailing List,

Today finds me in the belly of the rock ‘n’ roll beast – Austin, Texas and the SXSW conference/festival. The relentless thud of snare drum and amplified rhythm guitar is never silent, even through the insulated, permanently sealed glass windows of a chain hotel room.

Things are looking quite good, however, despite the background noise. The beginning of my American tour to launch ‘White Bicycles’ in the Land of the Free Download got off to an auspicious start. Today’s New York Times has a nice article about the book ( and yesterday I joined Robyn Hitchcock on stage for a nostalgic look at ‘60s music. I read, he sang the songs I mentioned and we talked about the old days. Despite my being terminally linear in conversation and Robyn being his usual surreal self, it seemed to work. We and the audience had fun, in any case. I think a video is available on the SXSW website and eventually, I trust, on mine. Later in the festival I will do an extended interview with Ed Ward and take part in a panel on Nick Drake.

Speaking of the website, there is now a full listing of the dates on the US tour in case any of you are near enough and want to attend a reading. There are also some new articles and radio programmes plus an “International” section with publication information, press and radio in Spanish, French, German, Dutch/Flemish and Italian. Last week I had a very enjoyable visit to Spain for the publication of “Blancas Bicicletas”. (Yes, I know it should be “Bicicletas Blancas” but Julian Vinuales from Global Rhythm Press assures me the unorthodox word order sounded more poetic….) Julian and Claudia from GRP entertained me royally, the Spanish press asked interesting questions and I got to watch Liverpool eliminate Barcelona in a café full of rabid ‘socios’ (Barca fans).

As you can tell, I have been travelling and enjoying shooting my mouth off in congenial circumstances. I hope there continue to be items of interest on the web page (many thanks to Gavin Bush and Claudia Mower for keeping it moving forward – all compliments I get about it should go to them). My return to London in mid-April will find me plunging full-tilt into writing the World Music book. (Although I already have accepted an invitation to do a reading at Shakespeare & Co in Paris on May 7.)

In closing, I must mention the highpoint of the past month – a visit to the Memphis studio of Willie Mitchell, producer/arranger of the great Al Green and Ann Peebles classics. It was like stepping into a time-warp – the studio is unchanged since 1969. No digital equipment allowed! The stairs to the ‘modern’ quadraphonic control room they built in the 1970s are covered in dust and cobwebs while the original instruments, sound baffles and tape machines are exactly as they were when they saw the recording of those fabulous Hi Records hits. Willie himself is a dapper, urbane witty gentleman, who casually doodled horncharts for the new Al Green cd for Blue Note on a Casio 2 octave keyboard during my visit. Many thanks to local journalist Andria Lisle for taking me there.

All the best