Visalia, California, 2009
“What are they doing?” I asked my wife, Martina. We were in a craft microbrewery, the sort that grew like mushrooms after the rain in the late 2000s. After a week of trade show booth work in Las Vegas, we had hired a Buick Lacrosse and hit the road. It was Martina’s birthday, and we were in the town of Visalia, ‘The Gateway to the Sequoias’. And a crowd was gathering on the street.
“Boz Scaggs is playing,” the waitress serving us said, as if that explained it.
“Who?” I asked Martina, when the waitress was out of earshot. She said I would know his songs, he was pretty famous. He was definitely big in Visalia, the mostly middle-aged fans were very clearly out to party tonight.
Little did I know that Boz Scaggs was to briefly become the warp to my weft, in an insignificant corner of the tapestry of my life.
We drove south through California along the Pacific Highway, clearly following the same route as Boz’s 2009 tour. The smaller towns went Boz Scaggs mad, posters all over the walls and interviews on the radio. A cute coincidence I thought, nothing more.
Except when we got back to Australia, it didn’t stop. More posters, more media. Eventually the fever died down, and I didn’t think any more about Boz Scaggs for years. And I still knew nothing about the man or his music.
I needed a wide-collar satin shirt. I had already made myself some bell-bottomed flairs by cutting open the seams on a pair of cargo pants and sewing in patches from some old curtains. I was like an inauthentically retro version of Maria from The Sound of Music.
So I headed to the Vinnies opshop. While I was there, I looked through the vinyl collection. Sometimes in between the Kamahl and Hits of ’84 there’s a hidden gem. And there it was. Silk Degrees by Boz Scaggs. Finally I got a glimpse of the man. Black suit, sunglasses. Sitting on a park bench. It was $9, which is a bit spendy for my tastes, but I thought Martina would get a kick out of it.
Once home, I played the first side. I recognized What Can I Say. I didn’t love it enough to turn over and play side B. But Boz works in mysterious ways and it’s sometimes about more than music.
Ringwood East, 2013
We never had a nice clock in our kitchen, and we desperately wanted one. We rejected design after design. Martina maybe had a Pinterest, I don’t know. But then I had the idea. I would buy a clock mechanism, and poke it through a record – and there’s our clock!
I ordered the mechanism from ebay. But which record would we sacrifice? The hole would have to be enlarged to fit the clock. It wouldn’t play again. Which record could hold our story, and become the beating heart of our home, but never play its music again?
We were visiting Martina’s relatives in Rome, and a rapid-fire conversation in Italian between Martina and her cousin Simone was in progress. I couldn’t pick the words, it was just a jumble of syllables and hand gestures. Except one word which I kept hearing. “Lido”. It means a beach with sun chairs, that would be nice to visit. But you see I have a problem. Whenever I hear the word “Lido”, my brain responds with “Whoa-oh-oh”.
So I hear:
Simone: animated Italian... “lido” (“Whoa-oh-oh”)… animated Italian
Martina “Lido…” (“Whoa-oh-oh”), animated Italian
We decided not to go to the lido (“Whoa-oh-oh”), and went to Ostia Antica instead. But later, I mentioned the conversation to Martina and how I kept hearing “Whoa-oh-oh”.
She said “That’s Boz Scaggs, you know.” It turns out he was inside me all along.
Nice one Boz. Give me one for the road.
Stereo Story #683