Letters from the Johnny’s pub – Lee Hooker

 

Letters from the Johnny's pub

arrow

The first chapters of Stars of dust: A gift for you

 

Translated by Emilia Maiella

The things that I possess are all imaginary and no one can take them away from me. I know two things that fuel the imagination: music and beer. Apart from the sex, which can satisfy (or not satisfy), even if after all, rock and roll is indeed sex, then you return to the starting point.

You cannot say that following the rhythm of someone like Lee Hooker, something does not go off in your stomach that pushes lower, and that then you do not crave fucking. Whether it does it or not, you know that thing can free your inner animal. I know many guitarists who have sex going to the rhythm of someone else's guitar. It is a good workout. What to say? I am short of breath.

 

Is it possible to drink or eat something in this place?

I look at the man. I am paralyzed: he is the King of Boogie! Now it seems to me that just thinking of them, the ghosts materialize.

- I'll take care of it, John: Johnny, bring a beer! - I say to Johnny B. Strong.

- Ok, Johnny - replies B. Strong.

- Johnny, prepare some chips: quick! - I say to Johnny Stand By.

- Five minutes and they’re ready, Johnny - answers Stand By.

- What a mess, Johnny: but is everyone called Johnny in this place? - The King asks me.

- Yes, it's because of Berry. You know, Johnny B. Goode...

- Why this homage to old Chuck?

- Because he is the father.

- Whose?

- Of rock and roll.

- I'm sorry to tell you, Johnny, no one knows exactly who the rock and roll’s father is.

- Oh... you don’t say it for some loose ends with Berry, do you?

- No, not at all. And rock, it doesn’t even have a mother, son...

- Oh... so, will it be a creation of the Holy Spirit?

- Do not be blasphemous, Johnny. My father was a Baptist preacher.

- Oh, I see.

- So, everyone here is called Johnny.

- Yes, it's one of our quirks.

- Yeah. And what are the others?

- Well ... actually, this is the only one quirk.

- Uh, it's a nice quirk.

- Really?

- No... but your beer is fine.

- Rise up your mug, to your health, King of Boogie.

- Yeah, that's how they all called me.

- There's something excellent about this.

- Excellent? You speak like a lord, son...

- You don’t agree with me?

- We are all kings, somehow.

- Well, not everyone.

- Why? Are you not the king of this pub?

- In a sense…

- Not "in a sense": you are actually the King, in this place!

- You're convincing me - I reply. Then, I turn to Johnny B. Bup: - Hey, Johnny, bring me another draught. Immediately!

- Can’t you take it by yourself, Johnny? I have to help Johnny B. Cool to get the beer drums off. They weigh like a damn!

- How dare you, Johnny? It's an order!

- What's wrong with you, Johnny?

- I'm the King of the pub, here’s what’s wrong!

- Well, so if you're the King of the pub, I'm the King of the beer counter, Johnny. So take it by yourself!

 

I look at the King of Boogie, astonished. I did not found confirmation of my new, alleged, self-consciousness. He says: - Don’t get mad, Johnny. After all, everyone is the King in something. Do you understand?

- I'm afraid so. So it's no use being a king - I answer.

- It's for yourself, Johnny. It’s needed for your self-esteem.

- Well, but...

- Listen, Johnny: I was not the King of Boogie because I was good or for a divine right. It's just that when I sang, I took your pain, I put it on my shoulders and I helped you carry it. In short, it's a metaphor, Johnny. That's why they said I was the King of Boogie.

- Oh... but nobody tells me I'm the king of this pub!

- I say so, Johnny. This is a wonderful place, where I can come and stay in peace to refresh myself. And for this, you are the king of this pub.

- Oh, thank you very much. Actually, yours is a different vision.

- It's the blues, Johnny, a way of life, like meditation or praying or whatever you believe in.

- I do not have a thing to believe in.

- Well, you believe in blues, in rock, in music, in beer.

- This is true.

- Of course it's true.

- But there's something I don’t like.

- And what?

- That sooner or later, a king has to abdicate, before someone takes the throne from under his ass.

- It's not like that, you know Johnny? Not in music...

- What do you mean?

- Well, you think I'm dead, but let me tell you something: it's not like that.

- Isn't it??

- No: I live in the soul of all those who still listen to my guitar playing, do you understand me? So, I'm still the King of the Boogie, despite everything.

- You know why I chose to call me Johnny B. Boogie?

- Of course I know. It is no coincidence that I have come here. This blues is for you, Johnny B. Boogie.

 

LETTERS FROM THE JOHNNY’S PUB

  1. Introduction
  2. Pete Townshend
  3. Keith Richards
  4. John Lee Hooker
  5. Janis Joplin
  6. Chuck Berry
  7. Patti Smith
  8. Syd Barret
  9. Debbie Harry
  10. Cheeta
  11. Mick Jagger
  12. Keith Richards, James Brown, John Belushi
  13. Stuart Sutcliffe
  14. Keith Richard 2
  15. Sgt. Pepper

 


MY BOOKS ON BARNES AND NOBLE


If we're lucky, writer and reader alike, we'll finish the last couple of lines of a story and then just sit for a minute in silence. Ideally, we will reflect on what we've just written or read; maybe our hearts or intellects will have been moved off a little ahead from where they were before. Our body temperature will rise or fall by a degree. Then, breathing evenly and steadily once more, we will recompose ourselves, writers and readers alike, we will get up, "created of warm blood and nerves" as a Chekhov character puts it and go on to the next thing: Life. Always life.


Raymond Carver