Dom Joly: Before You Go

How Bush ended up in Muddy Waters
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The Independent Online

Looking back at the Hurricane Katrina disaster, certain things now seem a lot clearer than they did at the time. It now seems obvious that President Bush took so long to react to events because he assumed that New Orleans was somewhere in France and he didn't see why he should help that bastard Chirac whether he was in hospital or not.

I don't blame Bush for this in any way. America is a big country and you can't expect the President to know the name and location of all the major cities, it's not like he's a Yale scholar or anything.

More puzzling to me is that, once Bush had established that the problem was definitely in the US and not Francistan, he didn't use his good ol' boy experience to solve the problems. For instance, you have a major Southern city six-feet underwater and no one can get around in normal vehicles. What to do?

It's a no-brainer: monster trucks, the South is teeming with them. Monster trucks have to be the most pointless machines ever designed by man and then, the only time in living history when they are perfect, they're not even used.

Maybe Bush had been lulled into some false sense of security when he saw Richard Gere coming on television and appealing for help. There seemed to be a charity concert/telethon actually on air before the hurricane had finished. Presumably, a lot of the looters were just nicking televisions so that they wouldn't miss the end of the concert. There was also worrying news that Fats Domino had gone missing in the Big Easy but, fortunately, he was found floating around on Muddy Waters a couple of days later. You've got to hand it to these musicians: these guys really stick together.

There was also a rumour that they might abandon New Orleans altogether and rebuild it somewhere else. I imagine Bush and his cabinet sat round the playroom table and wondered what they might call the new town: New New Orleans? Brand New Orleans? New, Improved New Orleans, tough on water and tough on the causes of water? Weirdly, while all this was going on down South in the home of jazz, I was worrying about the home of rock in New York. The legendary music venue CBGB is threatening to close its doors and all of New York, apart from Richard Gere, is up in arms.

CBGB is a real dive, one of the seediest, grottiest places that I have ever been to. When I briefly fronted a band in the early 1990s we toured the East Coast of the US and played a gig at CBGB. We were there to support the Tom Tom Club (two parts of the sadly defunct Talking Heads). We were very excited. We were vaguely aware that this was where bands such as Ramones, Magazine and Blondie had cut their teeth but it was only when we actually got there that you felt the sweat of its history seep out of the graffiti-stained walls.

The way I remember it, we played to a hysterical audience and were the toast of the New York. Sadly there's a dodgy video of the event and the truth is a lot crueller. It appears that I was in the middle of a serious Robert Smith look-alike competition and we ended our set with a 25-minute cover of The Cure classic "A Forest". I thought it was brilliant but I'm not sure that the American audience agreed as it looks like most of them had left by the time we finally finished.

It's not always seen as very polite to empty a place when you're the support band but the Tom Tom Club were remarkably friendly about it and didn't seem too worried. We retired to the little bar next door to get a drink and something to eat. The barman had clearly been there all his adult life. He told us that he'd seen a lot of bands play that stage and that we were in the Top 10 Worst that he'd ever seen. It would have been awful but The Sex Pistols were on his list too.

Places like CBGB are few and far between but, like their counterparts in New Orleans, they are what make a city unique. Let's hope they all manage to keep their heads above water, if you forgive the expression. *

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