My Motorcycle Diary: Tea And Sympathy For The Devil

Keith Richards and Andrew Loog Oldham at the Blue Boar Motorway Cafe, along the M1 between London and Birmingham, 1963. By Philip Townsend; never before published.



BOGOTA, COLOMBIA — Today I saw Andrew Loog Oldham standing in his kitchen making me a lovely cup of tea, high above the streets of Bogota’s ritzy financial district in his tastefully upscale bi-level condominium, where he has lived on and off since 1975. If you have to ask who Andrew Loog Oldham is, you’ll never know — unless you click here, go on, we’ll wait. Psych! OK, now that we lost the dorks, let’s back up: A couple days before leaving for Colombia, it was brought to my attention that ALO currently resides in Bogota and broadcasts his daily Sirius show from there. Calling in a favor from friends in high places, I secured his email address and wrote him that I was a music journalist and I would be in “Bogata” in a couple of days and would love to do an interview. He wrote back “Fine, but you better learn how to spell Bogota before you get down here.” So much for first impressions.

From there I dashed over to Borders to get a copy of his Stoned, a 1998 total recall of his early days inalo3sepia.jpg pre-Swinging London grooming the stylized thug mythos of the motherfucking Rolling Stones. Turns out the book is out of print and the only copy I knew I could get my hands on before my flight belonged to none other than Philebrity Jones himself, Joey Sweeney. Back before our partnership/friendship went south, Sweeney lent me Stoned with the proviso that I must ABSOLUTELY return it because not only was it one of his favorite books but Andrew Loog Oldham was the coolest thing on two legs to ever walk the Earth, or something along those lines. So I rang him up and, knowing it was me, he answered with a tentative ‘Hello’ delivered in that wary Is This A Trap? tone you might expect, given the circumstances. I told him I had a modest proposal for him:

ME: Loan me your copy of Stoned and I will get it signed by Andrew Loog Oldham.
SWEENEY: What?!?

ME: I know this sounds like I am putting you on, but I am serious as cancer, Jack. I’m leaving for Bogota, Colombia in the morning and have made arrangements to interview him.
SWEENEY: What? Colombia? Are you serious?

I was going to counter with “Obviously you are not keeping up with your daily Phawker,” but decided getting the goddamn book was more important than winning the latest round of our ongoing snark war.

So fast forward to this morning and I am standing outside ALO’s apartment building trying to figure out how to tell my cab driver to wait for me and that I will be back down in an hour. He speaks no English, and my rudimentary Spanish does not encompass such a relatively complicated exchange. The two door men are laughing at our communication breakdown and I ask them ‘tu habla ingles?’ to which they nod their heads no and go back to laughing. I feel like a stoned.jpgfool with a paper ass, coming to somebody else’s country and expecting them to speak my language. How arrogant and intellectually-lazy, such imperial hubris. Thankfully ALO knows enough Spanish to get my point across, and five minutes later I am standing in his kitchen while he boils water for tea. Since the interview will, god willing, be published elsewhere, I can only give you a teaser of our conversation. Topics covered: heroin, Scientology, cocaine, shock treatment, Her Satanic Majesty’s Request, Sirius, Monterey Pop, Catholicism, mod sex, clinical depression, Martin Scorsese and whether or not his friend Phil Spector is innocent. An exchange:

ME: So is it true that you and Jagger don’t speak to each other?
ALO: We speak. When I last saw him [in 1994] he said ‘Hello, Andrew’ and I said ‘Hello, Mick’ and then he walked away. See, we talk.
ME: When did you last speak to him prior to that?
ALO: 1968.
ME: What do you make of Keith Richards snorting his dad’s ashes?
ALO: Hey, back in the ’60s I used to say I wanted my friends to smoke me when I’m dead.
ME: Phil Spector, innocent or guilty.
ALO: I have no earthly idea, but I must say upfront that Phil wrote me a lovely postcard when my mother died a few years ago. However, 67-year-old men in high heels and wigs should not be out drinking after midnight, especially when they are heavily armed.

Suffice it to say, we got on thick as thieves, in no small part because of the truth in the old maxim that you cannot bullshit a bullshitter — and today that cut both ways.

About the author: Our own Boss Phawker, man of the world and leader of the local ruling junta, is vacationing down South America way. He never told us if he got the goddamn book signed.


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