The Black Crowes, Locust Street.
There is a Locust Street in every city and town in America east of the Mississippi. It’s a song about the other part of America that is never shown in the media. It’s a broken place, a fragment of some weird industrial revolution and the empty lots in cities like New York and upstate New York. It’s invisible, and you’d think in an election year, they would be talking about it all the time.
Some time back, Chris Robinson called me up. How he got my number I don't know. I figured it was a crank at first. It was three in the morning, and the distortion on the line was such I thought I had been chosen at random to get a call from the Space Shuttle.
"Hey, coffee!" the voice said.
"Coffee guy! On the website, man!" Ah. I steeled myself. Yet another person who loved the "Coffee" post that, for whatever reason, is the most popular thing ever put up on this misbegotten site.
"Yeah, coffee's really great, isn't it? Um, are you calling from Europe or something, 'cos it's a bit late here--"
"Naw, I'm on the road! My brother just turned me on to your site!"
"While you were driving?"
"Naw, I'm on the bus, mofo! Come on, man, it's Chris--from the Black Crowes!"
Now like many of you, I had thought the Black Crowes had broken up around the time of the Clinton impeachment, but they're evidently still going strong. I think my silence offended him. I rummaged around in my sleepy thoughts for something.
"Well, I did like that one you did--not that Otis Redding cover, sorry. The other one, was that a cover? 'Melody!' Was that a Stones cover?"
"'Remedy.' No, we wrote that one, man--in like '92," he said, with ice in his tinny voice.
"It went something like 'all I want is a mello-dee-hee-hee'? You held the note kinda long for no reason and then sort of hissed it, right?"
"Look man, I'm just calling because I wanted to get that Emmett Miller 'Cream in My Coffee' track that's not up there anymore."
"Hey, you know, I remember one time I saw you and Kate Hudson waiting for a table at some restaurant in Tribeca. I felt sad at first, because celebrity ought to get you a table for brunch, if nothing else. And then I thought, no, you were kind of sad, because it wasn't that great a place."
"Just keepin' on track about that Emmett Miller: come on, man. I can give you my brother's email."
"And then I figured you probably were to blame, because while your wife looked really pretty, you looked like you'd been in the hold of a whaling ship for six months."
"You're out of line, fucker!"
"Yeah? Well I'm not giving you any Emmett Miller! Are you gonna cover him now? Because I'm not gonna be responsible for you butchering 'God's River' or even the weakest, most racist piece of crap song that Miller did."
"Ah wouldn't take et from you anyway!" (He suddenly seem to have a Virginia piedmont accent and I was transported, for a moment, to my childhood.) "And just so you know, I can get brunch any time I want, man--any city, any time. And with any lady."
"Well, you couldn't get it back then, and it's because you looked like you smelled like armpit and ass."
A trebly scream of rage, then a string of curses.
Well, that was then. We've since made up and, hey, we still talk sometimes. He calls me from on the road, usually when he's high, and I'm around most days. Once he started talking about Franklin Roosevelt, who he's a big fan of. Chris wondered if FDR had died in 1941, and Henry Wallace had become president, whether the U.S. would've become Stalinist, or if Wallace just would've been assassinated by America Firsters. I said that was a good question, and there likely was a comic book about it. Another time he called from Manila and recounted a dream which meant a great deal to him, but he couldn't convey it very well--lots of very boring details, stuff about a rocking horse and his mother.
We made an agreement--I'd burn him a copy of the Emmett Miller CD, and he'd write a theme song for my site. Well, I sent him the CD three years ago, and the lazy sod finally delivered on his side of the deal.
But I'm not putting the Crowes' "Locust Street" up here, though, because he threatened to kill me if I did. You can listen to it on their site, though or get it for Pepsi points here.