As today sees the return to these pages of a sharp dressed man in Ondara, it seemed appropriate to pull on some cool shoes and hear some thoughts from another man of the (good) cloth.
The Animals’ Eric Burdon had a memoir to flog 20 years ago, but he wasn’t just about the past. In fact, as you’ll see, he was too busy provoking the present to rest on the laurels of a 35-year (to that date) career.
A quick chat, no Newcastle Brown (fine with me) but also no little squares of blotting paper either (shame).
THE FIRST THING you notice as Eric Burdon arrives, neatly trimmed, tanned and healthy, is the loud hibiscus-patterned shirt that could sing for itself. The second thing is a pair of expensive two-tone brothel creepers on his feet that add a bit of louche class to the casual ensemble of the one-time singer of The Animals.
The third thing is his soft voice as he apologises for being late and says that he’s been out looking for R.M.Williams boots: “jodhpurs, stretch sides on them so when you get your feet inside they’re flush. I love them. I’ve got a pair at home I got on my last trip but they’re brown. I need a black pair.”
The wistful pleasure in his voice is unmistakable. Got a bit of a shoe fetish there Mr Burdon?
“I must admit I do,” he says. “I don’t care what I’m wearing or what I’m doing as long as I’ve got something on my feet that are worthwhile. It used to be cowboy boots but I can’t wear them anymore. I got a great pair in Texas that were really like slippers, really cool. They were crazy hand-tooled like Salvador Dali would wear.”
If you’re still stuck in a time warp and wonder why a Newcastle boy would want, or even dare to wear arty cowboy boots, you probably are the target audience for Burdon’s biography that tracks his travels and travails from Newcastle (which he left 35 years ago), through San Francisco, Berlin, Sajevo and thousands of one-night stands with The Animals and many versions of the Eric Burdon Band that haven’t stopped even though he’s now into his ‘60s.
Called Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, and the reason Burdon is in town, the book was compiled in Joshua Tree on the edge of the Mojave Desert in southern California where Burdon has lived for much of the past 20 years.
“I’ve got an affinity for dusty roads, sand dunes,” he says. “It’s not even a town, not even a village; it’s just a crossroads with a café there and a backpacking shop for climbers.
“Turn left at the long red convertible Cadillac, up the hill until you see the horses crossing sign, count to 20 and then turn left. If you’re in the park then you’ve gone too far.”
The area has been a Federal park for nearly 10 years with rangers and restrictions on movement for non-residents and formalities such as permit cards for residents. It’s something Burdon, a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War protests whose father was a WWII conscientious objector, can’t help resisting.
“I deliberately go walking without my pass,” he says with a mischievous smile. “And I make sure they see me and it’s like ‘excuse me do you have a pass?’ and I’m like ‘man I’ve only lived here for 20 odd years. Look man I’m 62 and I’m sorry to say I’m into the senior citizen bracket’ and they back off. Later I’ll go whizzing past on my Harley and flash the pass.”
He isn’t the standard 62 year old maybe.
“My way of fighting the ageing process is ignoring it. I just refuse to acknowledge it. I feel a lot more sensible now than I did in my 20s and 30s. I did some absolutely ridiculous stuff.”
Not that he regrets those times, particularly his exploration of LSD.
“I found the LSD experience to be really rewarding. It made me realise that Fellini wasn’t lying, that Fellini movies are actually reality. As long as they’ve been human beings on this planet they’ve been figuring out ways to get high, to step out of the darkness of the cave. You can’t tell me Van Gogh wasn’t chomping on mushrooms [and with] the hot southern Mediterranean sunshine blasting on your brain, it’s enough to make you lop off an ear in frustration.
“But looked what he produced and how it still influences people today.”