An open letter to Jack Rose

Hey Jack,

I’m writing to you now from Tel Aviv, Israel. It’s 22:15 and I had a really dreadful day.
I woke up this morning and rushed out of the house to catch bus no. 129 that goes once in twenty minutes and it’s worth it to catch it, because his round is shorter until it reaches my destination.
I arrived to my office, and minded my own business, like any old blues tune that starts with someone who wakes up in the morning and minds his own business.
After couple of hours in the office, I received an email from a friend who asked me if I heard the tragic news of the morning, and that you’ve died. A heart attack in the age of 38.

I was devastated. The day continued with the daily troubles, like that old blues tune.
So I think it’s fair to say that you were the reason for my first authentic blues. Not the kind of blues of scales and three chords. A real blues. Rooted. Full of scotch. Full of cigarettes. Tom Waits kinda blues. Mississippi Fred kinda blues. Jack Rose kinda blues.

Three years ago, I went with Rockfour to record in Abbey Road studios, they won a competition. A day before I travelled in Piccadilly area and saw a poster saying you’re playing tonight. I didn’t know you, but I heard you’re brilliant. After twelve hours of Abbey Road, I went to see your gig. I remember that show. I hope you do too. First, Ignatz was on stage, with his tape loops and battered guitar. He was excellent. I went to the wardrobe to hang my coat, and I gave it to the guy who was standing there. It happened to be you. Sorry for that.
Only when you went onstage I realized the wardrobe guy is you. I remember you started your show with the acoustic slide and you produced sounds of lost souls who were trapped in the room from 300 years ago, in old Europe, looking for salvation. And you squeezed these strings and the Holy Ghost was flying above. I remember these moments, when I realized that everything I knew, became irrelevant.

Then you took your six strings guitar and played a Fahey number, so you said. I had no idea back then what is a ‘Fahey’. But I realized that if that’s a Fahey, I need some of that in my life. I sipped more from my Whisky and kept starring at you, like an eight year old child who sees his neighbors fucking in the window. I knew I shouldn’t stare and I was also afraid. But I kept on starring and couldn’t take my eyes of you. A big man, bearded, with long hair that needed no crossroad or meetings with the devil to win his talent, to (really) know the blues.

Then you took the slide guitar again and played a twenty minutes raga, or at least it felt that long. In the first 1/3 of the piece, the forty people in the audience were still standing there. 2/3 of the piece, half of them left. In the last 1/3, only few crazy hypnotized fans kept standing there. There was a total blindness in the room, real clashes of truths and colors, and that repetitive sound of a groove supported by two D tuned strings. By then I knew Bert Jansch and considered myself a guitarist. In the end of that raga, I realized I knew nothing.

When I was back home, I got your first LP as a present. The Tequila Sunrise release, limited edition, 180g.  I remember the needle drops on the surface of the vinyl, and the first notes of Levee enter. That dynamite open-G tuning, that definite sound that’s relevant to 2006 Tel Aviv as much as it’s for 1925 Fishtown. That takes my heart and sacrifices it on the altar, for a silly deal with god that will never happen, with god, where I give up all my sins and in return I get the talent and the blues. I was wrong.

I remember that couple of days later, I bought Glenn Jones’ first album as well. Discovering you two reminded me that day I first bought Bert Jansch solo album and Jackson C. Frank’s. The day my life changed forever. I remember I constantly listened to your album and I didn’t understand. I tried to understand the Sisyphean reality that makes a piece like Revolt to sound like it is. How you stood in the bottom of the mountain and tried to push that heavy rock uphill, which is the mission of carrying the Takoma torch, the revival of that style. And you pushed and pushed and made a career out of it. A bluesman that got recognition of his greatness while still living. It’s gotta be a post-modern thing. I thought that if my life is hazy and full of contradictions, it’s similar to that big rock you pushed. I was wrong.

After two years, I found myself with couple of your albums on the shelf, two acoustic slide guitars and square-neck resonator sitting in the closet, waiting for it’s time of revelation. I remember the day in the studio when we recorded the slide tracks. I remember me and Ronen the engineer, listening to a bad take of Sympathy For The Jack and it just didn’t hit. I insisted on trying again and again and imagined you drinking whisky. After all, Jack Daniels and Jack Rose are what this piece is all about. And I tried to forget about work, and create a vacuum where only you and the lying scotch exist. I thought I managed to get rid of the sarcasm for good. I was wrong.

And I remember you said about me ‘this guy really know how to play guitar’. And Jack, I remember that three days I couldn’t whip that smile off my face. And I tried, believe me I tried. The blues doesn’t work for smiling people, that’s why I’m wrong all the time. Get a slap in the face from reality, smile, and move on. I wish I could devote myself to the pain, and become one with it, but I can’t. I managed to do it once, years ago, when I was still a solider. It doesn’t work anymore, the mechanism is broken. All that’s left are stinky bitter smiles that have no truth whatsoever. They don’t have the falling apart element.
Someone once offered me to scream into a closet, said it’ll set me free. I smiled. It was a sarcastic smile. The blues departed from me again. I was wrong again.
And I remember I sent my cd to my favorite guitarists and Glenn Jones said some really nice words about the album. Can you believe it? Glenn, whom together with you made me understand I don’t have to sing at all and just shut up and play my guitar?
And I remember I sent Greg Weeks two copies, one of them was for you. Until this day I have no idea if you got it, as you didn’t write and Greg said you’re not really a person of computers and emails. It wouldn’t matter anyway. I didn’t need that email from you. I just wanted you to hear, to see how crucial you are in my life and that I dedicated a song to you.
I was wrong. And I’m lying now. I wanted you to reply.

And I remember how couple of months ago, Glenn wrote me that the two of you are working together on a DVD to be released in 2010, and I knew it’ll be a great year. With that DVD, a new album from you, a new album released in end of 2009 of Glenn – yea, it would become a year of inspiration.
And I planned Jack, to bring you here to Tel Aviv, to play two shows, and offer a double bill tour in Europe. To chunkies with beards. But then I saw you shaved.
I planned for you to come here and I’ll take you to eat the best Hummus in the country, and to see Jerusalem and introduce you to the scene here and then when you’ll be back to Fishtown, you’ll tell everybody how amazing Tel Aviv is, and how it’s nothing like it seems in the news, and how cultural it is, and full with beautiful ladies and great food and that although you only had 15 people in the show, it was worth it to come.

And then I woke up in this chilly morning and almost missed bus no. 129 and then I heard you died. And I sent mails to everyone, saying my condolences. To Glenn, to Erik from Immune, Mark from Bo’Weavil and Dom from The Great Pop Supplement who planned on releasing my and your 7’’ together, and I couldn’t be happier by that.
And now everyone will be in your funeral, and someone will play Revolt, and I’ll be stuck here in ugly Tel Aviv and will feel like the rejected kid that all his classmates went to the mall without inviting him.
And then I’ll feel, Jack, then I’ll feel the blues. Because in the end of the day, that solitary, this is the blues. And your death, just sewing it all together, and makes my blues finally authentic.

Rest in peace, big guy.

Yair

Sympathy For The Jack

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