Brush With Paik

In 1976 I had signed up for a couple of programs outside of school in Köln. The first program was simple, available to all students, and should really exist everywhere, in my opinion. I added myself to a list of students who would receive a postcard (a common notification method in the old days, in case you are under thirty years old) when any of a number of theaters scheduled a final dress rehearsal. Armed with the postcards I would show up and sit in an empty theater and experience the new play. Most of the time the play would take its course and I wasn’t even aware that it was, in fact, a rehearsal. Only one time there seemed to be problems and the play was interrupted several times so the director could give instructions. I couldn’t afford tickets to go to the theater but this program gave me an opportunity to experience it anyway. The only cost to the tax payer was price of the postcard. Brilliant!

The other program was one where I offered myself as helper for a production company. I remember getting a call asking whether I could show up the next day and help carry some gear for a documentary film maker. The subject was, of course, Nam June Paik. I met the Mr. Paik, the film maker, and an assistant near the river, for the first scene to be filmed. Mr. Paik stood on the bridge and looked down on the Rhine. He started counting in French. While the camera and microphone were readied, Mr. Paik asked me what the French words for 70 and 80 were. Soixante-dix and quatre-vingts, I replied. The camera was ready and the counting began. After several minutes Mr. Paik explained to the camera that what he was doing was counting the waves. Since he didn’t speak French he really had to concentrate to count, which gave him a different awareness of the waves, and of the counting.

The other scene I remember was staged on a busy pedestrian-only shopping street in the city center. Mr. Paik dragged a violin along the street by a string. I don’t remember how this action was explained. I would like to recall more, but that’s the extend of my memory.


Since 2016 I have been using the DayOne journal on my laptop and phone. While I was looking through some old entries I found this little paragraph I thought was worth sharing:

I believe creativity is where humans go after they have exhausted playing for wealth or power. Maybe that takes a few lifetimes – I don’t know. Eventually wealth and power become utterly boring, uninteresting and pointless when one discovers creativity.


My Earring Story

I had my ear pierced for the first time in 1978, in Taipei, Taiwan. Walked by a jewelry store and spontaneously decided to buy a little gold stud. Asked the sales person to put it into my right ear. She used a gun-shaped device to knock it into the ear. Why? I am not sure. Perhaps I felt I looked too bürgerlich. That’s an interesting German word that can have a lot of different meanings. Civil and normal would be closest to what I felt. Earrings were often worn by pirates, but also by carpenters and traveling musicians. Perhaps, at this point in my year-long journey I started to feel that I might want to live the life of a musician and the stud was the signal of my intention. I wore the little stud and soon forgot about it.

A few months later I found myself in Thailand, about to board a bus from Bangkok to Phuket Island. A lot of busses were getting hi-jacked and robbed at that time and in order to attract less attention I tried removing the stud from my right ear. I couldn’t find the lock behind the ear and tried pulling out the stud from the front. Something was resisting and it hurt, but I gave it a good tug and the stud came out. Since it seemed a little infected I did not put the stud back into the right ear.

A few months later still, I found myself in New Delhi and staying on the roof of a hotel – the cheapest beds were on the roof, under a tent-like structure, with maybe 10 beds placed under the tent… An Australian girl pierced my right ear, again – by placing a potato behind my ear and jamming a needle with thread through the ear into the potato…

Fast forward about six months and I am walking around Cologne with my brother. Something had been itching in my right ear-lobe for a few days… and I kept touching it. I walked into a restroom and looked into the mirror. A strange shine seemed to emanate from my right ear lobe, only when the light hit it at a certain angle… I leaned forward and closer and started pulling on my ear – and removed the clasp that had been fastened on the stud in Taiwan, and which I could not find in Thailand. Apparently my ear-flesh had grown around and over the clasp while I was in Taiwan and Hongkong, and caused the resistance I experienced in Bangkok when I tried to remove the stud. The girl in New Delhi had re-pierced my ear in a higher spot – above the clasp inside my earlobe. And now the clasp had completed its journey from behind my ear through my ear to the front.

I started wearing an earring in the new, higher hole and soon the weight of that ring made the top hole unite with the bottom hole to form one rather large hole…

Anyway, in the Summer of 1979 I lived in New York and Vermont and it was cool to have an earring in the right ear. In the Fall, however, I moved to Boston. Different rules applied in Boston – I believe Keith Richards commented somewhere on this silliness also: while in New York an earring in your left ear was considered a gay-signal and an earring on the right was a thing a lot of musicians wore, it was the other way around in Boston. My solution was simple, I got a hole in my left ear as well and started wearing two earrings.

The two gold earrings I have worn since 1990 were custom-made since I couldn’t find anything I liked. I wanted simple earRINGs and the solution was to buy two wedding bands and modify them by removing a small section and adding a hinged lock to each.

IMG 8024

I remember a conversation with my accupuncturist in Santa Fe, a wonderful woman I went to for many years and to whom I took lots of friends and family. She told me that she figured that some drunken sailor got an earring and by sheer luck the ring went through an acupuncture meridian that can improve the eye sight. Their sight did improve and from then on many other sailors attempted to improve their sight with rings.

Actually, men have worn earrings throughout history. In most depictions the Buddha has elongated earlobes. He probably wore heavy earrings in his youth but later discarded them. Depicting the distended earlobes is supposed to show his rejection of those material possessions. Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun’s death mask shows earring boreholes. Friezes from Persepolis, the capital of the Persian Empire (550–330 BC), show warriors wearing earrings.

Like everything else, earrings are cyclical, they come and go. That’s my earring story.

Fast or Expensive

Caros Rapidos y Mujeras (sic) was the title the Native American artist Frank Howell bestowed on a piece of music I wrote and recorded for the album Marita: Shadows and Storms.

As I sit in my apartment in Lisbon, I recall the story that went along with that title. I alluded to it in this post from 2005. But first I should mention that there are not one but two typos in the title. Caro means expensive. That would translate as Expensive Fast and Women. I think the title was meant to be Carros Rápidos y Mujeres – Fast Cars and Women. This title makes more sense when viewed in light of the story Frank told me. There was a terrible rush to get the CDs manufactured in time for the Indian Market in August of 1989 and I know that Frank Howell was painting nonstop and had lots of deadlines. Somehow the title wasn’t spell-checked before it went to print. I think a better title would have been Carro Rápido y una MujerFast Car and a Woman – as you will see. That woman was the amazing Amalia Rodrigues, the Queen of Fado. And the car in question was a Porsche Frank had bought or rented for a Summer. When the following story occurred isn’t clear to me. Late 60s or sometime in the early 70s perhaps? In the year 1970 Amalia would have been 50 years old and Frank would have been 33.

Frank told me at one time he was a Honda Motocross works rider, years before motocross became immensely popular, and had been racing on the European motocross circuit. One summer Frank decided to drive around Europe in a Porsche. Somehow he arrived in Portugal, somehow he went to an Amalia Rodrigues concert. He fell in love with the music and the woman. For the next few weeks he followed her and went to every single show. After a few concerts he made contact, or she noticed him. He told her she should drive with him rather than ride in the van with the other musicians. It would be more comfortable and much faster. Eventually she gave in and rode in the Porsche. According to Frank they spent much of that summer together.

In my imagination the Porsche was a convertible, and Rodrigues was wearing a scarf, as Frank drove along narrow country streets… fast. Perhaps they had to stop at the edge of a copse to allow sheep to cross the road. It was morning and the slanted sunlight filtered through the leaves and made everything shimmer.

Or perhaps Frank just made up a story to go with the title and none of this happened.

PS: I am pretty sure that this song is the one called 2 the Night on the album Nouveau Flamenco. I have a copy of Marita: Shadows and Storms at home that I can check.


On this day in 1975 I went with a few friends to a Santana concert in Köln. It was my first concert. I went for Santana but I got Earth, Wind and Fire as well, who I hadn’t heard before. What a night that was! It was a pivotal moment for me. See also this.

1996 Santana Tour

A few memories from the Santana tour:

On 26 September we performed at Compton Terrace in Chandler, Arizona, near Phoenix. There was a lunar eclipse that night, a Black Moon or Luna Negra, where the Earth’s shadow appeared on the moon at 6:30pm and grew until the moon was completely covered. Even better, the stage was set up so that we had a perfect view of the eclipse while we played!

After our soundcheck Santana’s guitar tech waved me over. He had finished setting up Carlos’s guitars and amps for the night. Everything was exactly how Santana liked it. The tech smiled and handed me that famous guitar. I thought back to that evening in 1975 when I saw Santana… and now I would play his guitar. Very exciting! I put the guitar strap around my neck and the tech handed me one of Carlos’s guitar picks. I played exactly one note… it was soooooo loud that I literally tried to duck to escape the sound that hit me. Of course there was no escape. I looked at the tech wide-eyed, turned off the sound on the guitar, and handed it back to him. Don’t you want to play a little, he asked? I can’t handle the volume, I replied, but thank you very very much. On the photo accompanying yesterday’s post you can see two guitar picks. The green one is the one I used to try to play the guitar and the other pick is the one Carlos actually used that evening.

Here is what I wrote the next day:

Last night in Chandler/Phoenix Carlos asks me wether we would record our show there… when i tell him that we are not, he asks wether we would let him record it and i say of course, knowing that Carlos has a huge collection of bootleg tapes: lots of Hendrix, Bob Marley etc… Carlos thinks the lunar eclipse might bring some special music out of all of us… and it is indeed incredibly special: when we start our set a little bit after 7pm, the moon is a shrinking sliver and during our second song it turns black… we all stare at the moon, which is right above the audience in front of us, while we are playing… La Luna Negra in Arizona… this may have been the only chance in our lifetime that we are performing on a stage that faces the moon during a lunar eclipse… a special moment with our namesake… then, after our songs with Santana, we drive to a hotel in Tucson, an unscheduled stop that became necessary because the air conditioning of the bus broke… during the drive to Tucson four of us finish a new bottle of Absolute Citron, listen to Indian Raga music, and discuss the hearing-loss we are getting from just the songs we are doing with Santana… today, Friday, the AC will get fixed or we will get a new bus…

On 28 September we performed at Tingley Coliseum. I remember walking out onto the stage at Tingley in Albuquerque and the roar from the crowd was so loud that I was sure that it couldn’t be just for us. I turned around to see whether Carlos was walking out with us… perhaps he wanted to address the audience for some reason. It was just us four walking out though and that roar was for us. Here is what I posted on 1996-09-28:

Tingley looks pretty frightening – like a hockey arena or a tractor pull location with big neon advertisements for beer and beef… the amount of concrete promises lots of slap-back echoes all over the place… our show at Tingley is the closest we have ever come to the taste of the Rock & Roll experience… when the lights go out and we walk on, the crowd roars in anticipation… there is a huge pit for people with general admission tickets and they holler and move… and we love every second of it… the reverberation in the big hall does sound like a propeller plane circling above or like a herd of cattle stampeding… it starts with the first note and ends half a minute after the last… we have a good time though, ’cause the audience is into the music… we go through the set smiling… oh yeah, and there was a bomb threat at 9pm as Santana was supposed to go on… but, since no bomb went off at 9:15pm as threatened, the Santana show started at 9:20pm… the songs we play with Carlos sounded good and rounded off the Tingley experience nicely

Santana’s set list for that night in Albuquerque can be found on their website, which has 175 pages of set lists from 1969 to the present. On page 76 we find the three songs we played together:

A week later, in San Antonio, a different Rock & Roll experience. An angry audience member didn’t think it was loud enough. Here is what I posted on 1996-10-05:

Last night’s show in San Antonio was almost shut down… 5 policemen and a couple of councilmen threatened Santana’s soundman Bruce to turn down the music or have the concert shut down…

hm, 5 cops against 5,000 fans, many of which had visited the Beer tents frequently… but, in the end, the sound was turned down and then one angry member of the audience, unhappy with the lack of volume, poured a whole big-gulp of beer into Santana’s mixing console… as a result the drums went silent until they were patched into our mixing board a few minutes later…

hm, the politics of Rock + Roll… seems to me that politicians should stay out of the concerts once they have been approved… we all know that Rock + Roll is loud… if you don’t want the concert, don’t rent the venue to a promoter for a rock band… but don’t allow the concert and then threaten the soundman and almost incite a riot…

Santana would routinely hit 120db during their shows. Too loud for me but apparently just right for many in the audience. I suspect they turned down the sound to 112 or 116db that night… not loud enough for the man with the beer.

Playing in front of 10,000-15,000 every night can be fun, but it’s also much more anonymous than performing in a theater or a club because the audience is quite far away. It reminded me of the movie Spinal Tap, because after a while you REALLY don’t know where you are unless you look at your tour book. Sheds mostly look very much alike. They are also outside of the urban areas, which means there isn’t anything to do nearby. Tourbus drives to venue, do soundcheck, have dinner at the venue, hang out on the tourbus, do a show, get back on the tourbus and drive to the next shed…

After this tour I started to perform barefoot. I was wearing boots during the Santana tour and one time my foot fell asleep after crossing my leg for an extended period. When I got up I nearly toppled off the stage… and those stages are about 8-12 feet off the ground.