been meaning to write you for a while but things keep getting in the way. You don’t know me but our lives have crossed paths a couple of times in the past.
It all started back in early 70’s when “Hot August Night” hit the top of the charts in Australia and stayed there for what seemed an eternity.
I remember listening to all the tracks on the radio and like millions of people around the world, memorising the lyrics of most songs.
Several years after you released the album you toured Australia and in Melbourne you played at the Myer Music Bowl… a park/garden setting that must have reminded you a lot of the Greek theatre in Los Angeles (you even acknowledged the “tree people” just as you did on the live album).
I worked at the concert that night and was lucky enough to be virtually under the stage for most of it… listening, watching the performance and observing the audience react. It was a very interesting night for me. It was the first time I witnessed the emotional power of a great performer.
I stood in the dark on the side, below the stage. I watched the anticipation on people’s faces and then I watched them being taken away… to wherever you wanted to take them. I saw them being lost in the moment… most of them not believing they were even there in person watching you sing. Then… at some stage during the concert you started to sing “Canta Libre”. Everyone was mesmerised. At the very start of the song I watched you play your guitar as you sang… your eyes tight shut. You could’ve heard a pin drop. You got further into the song and the emotion was building and building. I slowly turned to look at the audience… an incredible sight. There were grown men with tears in their eyes. Women with their hands over their mouths… eyes wide shut, watching and dreaming at the same time. You sang on…
“I got music runnin’ in my brain,
Ev’ry song with it’s own kind of meaning…”
You had them in the palm of your hand Neil… every last one of them.
Many years later (just before Christmas) I went to the toy store at the top of Beverly Drive in LA. It was a regular stop for me on every trip. Their “Ty” fluffy stuffed toys had become a huge hit with my girls back home and they eagerly awaited new additions to their collections every time I returned from my trips. That day I had seen the latest addition to the “Ty” teddy bear collection… a bright magenta/purple teddy which I knew would be a big hit with the girls. I looked at it and put it down on an empty part of the shelf, along with 3-4 other teddies I had chosen. I headed to the back of the store to look for a couple of toys for my son when you walked in with your friend/relative… an older, shorter gentleman. I have to tell you that the beard and hat didn’t do a very good job in disguising you. Anyway…I kept searching and you two started looking at the fluffy stuffed toys. Before long I looked up again and you had the purple teddy in your hands, holding it for minutes. Can’t tell you how disappointed I was. I couldn’t believe that of all the toys in the store you had to choose that one. I was kicking myself for not leaving my chosen toys at the sales counter instead of the shelf.
Bitterly disappointed I kept looking around when I noticed that you two were also coming to the back of the store to look for more toys. You had put the teddy on a different shelf… along with a couple of other things you had chosen. I guess we both made the same mistake that day. I walked up and took it off the shelf, along with all the other toys I had initially chosen and put it on the counter. The outrageously fem, red-headed male shop assistant looked at me and shook his head.
“Soooorrryyy… that one belongs to Mr Diamond”.
“But I had it before he did… I had it there with other toys I had chosen”.
“Maybe… but he didn’t know that and he chose it”.
“Yes… but he didn’t take it with him… he left it back on the shelf”.
“He is coming back for it”.
Needless to say I was extremely pissed off with “Precious” by this stage….
“What’s your name?”
“Tom” (it was probably something else… I honestly can’t remember)
“Tom… Mr Diamond is a gentleman, he really won’t mind if I took this teddy. On the other hand I am not. I will get very angry and… you won’t like me when I’m angry Tom”.
Sorry Neil. I like you…respect you, but I just had to have it man. I didn’t play fair I know… but you live in LA and you could always go back for another. I couldn’t…
Years have gone by since then. Your music has touched many many millions of people in so many different ways. Everyone has a song, a lyric that takes them back to a place… a moment in time. It must be an incredible feeling to know that your words and music have been a part of the lives of so many people in this world. I still can’t listen to Canta Libre without remembering that night in Melbourne. I can’t listen to Solitary Man, Red Red Wine and especially Shilo without a myriad of thoughts running through my head… they all mean a lot even now. For people of a couple of generations at least, your music is part of the soundtrack of our lives.
Which brings me to the point of this letter… I’ve never been one for nostalgic sequels, but I was looking at a venue the other day here on Santorini and I was thinking “what performer would this venue be perfect for?’
On the night that “Hot August Night” was recorded you described the Greek theatre in LA as the “place where performers go when they die… a performer’s paradise”. On that night you promised people that it was going to be “special”… and it was.
But I think I have found a venue that’s a whole lot better Neil… a real Greek theatre, with all the drama, the magic and mystique you can possibly imagine. Just think of it… an audience from all over the world gathering around sunset. Not just any sunset mind you… the mid-August sunset on Santorini. The grandest sunset of all. With the volcano as a backdrop, the last rays of the red sun reflecting on the deep blue waters of the caldera just as the music begins…everyone knowing that something magical is about to happen. We’re not talking about a concert… we’re talking about a once in a lifetime experience.
Now…call me crazy, but I have a feeling that reading this little blog is probably not in your top 10 “must do” things every week. It should be… but I’m guessing that it’s not. So I’m counting on the “Kevin Bacon effect”. Six degrees of separation. Someone who knows someone who knows someone… somehow reads this and comes and whispers in your ear.
Let’s hope “that” someone is out there and this letter somehow gets to you. If it does… I hope you think about. Think about the place and the concept. Don’t worry about the details… I’ll take care of those, it’s what I do.
Best from Oia !
PS: Sorry about the teddy bear ;-)