“Good Morning from New York. It is January 11th 2016. David Bowie died yesterday.” Chip Taylor’s voice and delivery conjures up a feeling of warmth and intimacy that reminds one greatly of the late Alistair Cooke and his weekly ‘Letter from America’ for Radio 4. Taylor shares a similar avuncular style to the radio presenter. In a bizarre crime, before cremation, Cooke’s body was stolen and his bones sold as parts for bone grafts by a crooked surgeon, who never told the recipients that Cooke had died from cancer that had metastasized throughout his body, including said bones.
The surgeon got a 54-year sentence and also died from bone cancer himself a few years later. Thankfully 77-year old Chip Taylor is still very much alive and kicking and uses several of the songs on A Song I Can Live With to document reminiscences about David Bowie and Lou Reed amongst others, who were both neighbours of his in downtown Manhattan. Chip Taylor knows everyone. He has been around the block a few times… and also on the 1940’s basketball court and running track up above 54th Street too.
On Until It Hurts Chip remembers a compliment Lou paid him about one of his songs, namely the divine ‘Your Name Is On My Lips Again’ which Taylor wrote for Carrie Rodriquez. “He liked the minor structure of the bridge and Lou said ‘he thought the song was special because it was honest.’” Taylor reflects that Reed also boldly declared: ‘how can anyone learn anything from an artwork, when the piece of art only reflects the vanity of the artist, not the reality?’
That is a statement open to debate, especially since the autobiographical songs on this laid-back album build a delightful picture of Chip and his loves and pleasures, such as golf and betting on the gee-gees. Would that mean Chip is being vain for sharing his reflections with us? There might be a bit of a clang as he namedrops, but that is this award-winning songwriter and musician’s life.
Paul Kerr said of Taylor, in a recent live review for A-UK: “Taylor held sway over the audience like a wise and genial seer truly deserving of that oft-abused term, legend.”
Indeed, this legendary man who once sang ‘Fuck All The Perfect People’ can be heard rejoicing in the merits of his friends on ‘Hey Lou’. How lovely to be able to hear Chip declare his love and appreciation for his mates. Even his non-famous chums. Such positivity is inspiring. ‘Hey Bob. Good job!’ There’s no need to fish for compliments with Chip. He just naturally shouts it from the rooftops.
Speaking of which, on the catchy and mesmeric Little Angel Wings Taylor pays homage to the roof of the 54th Street Recreation Centre where he has enjoyed the exertions of aerobic exercise for many years, with the hooky chorus ‘at the 54th Street Rec Centre built in 1911/ up on the fourth floor getting closer to heaven / got a 1940’s basketball court and running track up above / if that don’t warm your heart son, then you ain’t been in love,’ supported by a subtle slide guitar and a heavenly flute part.
As relaxing and mellow as a cup of Ovaltine, on Young Brooks Flow Forever, it sounds like Chip is making his last will and testament and preparing for the awful inevitable, while remembering himself as a young man, what only seemed like minutes ago and conscious that the mantle will be passed down through the ages and will continue to flow and play sweet music long, long after he has gone. When Chip sings ‘young brooks flow forever / through an old man’s dreams’ it’s very poignant. Like the video by Jeth Weinrich on YouTube for the protest song ‘Who’s Gonna Build The Wall’ by Chip and Carrie Rodriquez. One YouTuber has written of a joke he saw written in a local Mexican restaurant: Trump to build 12-foot wall. For Sale: Thirteen Foot Ladders.
Taylor would have got on very well with Charles Bukowski. They both share a love of horse-racing and going to the track. Taylor retired from music for many years and became a professional gambler who specialized in horse-racing and blackjack. In The Captain Is Out To Lunch and The Sailors Have Taken Over The Ship Bukowski wrote: “Sat out at the track trying to think of a title for the new book. That’s one place where one can’t think. It sucks the brains and spirit out of you. A draining blow job, that’s what that place is…Horses. You don’t talk about horses. That’s the LAST thing you talk about.” Chip talks about horses on Los Alamitos Story, in fact, Los Alamitos in Cypress, California was one of Bukowski’s favourite haunts. “Don’t ever get the idea I am a poet: you can see me at the racetrack any day, half-drunk, betting quarters, side-wheelers and straight-throughs.” Chip’s story could have come out of any of Bukowski’s books and focuses on the trainer of a winner who sagely told the post-race interviewer: ‘The same one’s you pass on your way up, will be the one’s you see when you are slipping back-saddle.’
Taylor is the brother of actor Jon Voight, and one can definitely see the family resemblance. But does anyone else think he also is a doppelganger for our beloved, long-departed comedian Benny Hill? Like Alistair Cooke, Hill’s body was also desecrated after death, when grave-robbers dug up his coffin at the cemetery in Southampton, after rumours circulated that Hill had been buried with a large amount of gold jewellery. A half-ton concrete slab was placed on top of his grave the day after this outrage.
If what you have read piques your interest then why not tune into the Church Of The Train Wreck podcasts, on Chip’s Train Wreck Records site www.trainwreckrecords.com where Chip periodically broadcasts his thoughts and shares inspiring stories that will calm, illuminate and ‘keep you on track’ as he would say. Alistair Cooke would have loved them.