I eventually pulled into Nazareth at about half-past 4 in the afternoon. The drive from New York took about 2 hours and the Interstate 73 that emerges from New York’s Holland Tunnel soon gives way to lush wooded countryside. The entrance to the Holland Tunnel is where Christian Frederich Martin’s first shop and home stood and his journey in 1835 by horse drawn cart would have taken a few days along largely un-metalled roads.
Just outside quaint, still oldy world Nazareth is a strip mall with a WalMart, Home Depot and a Staples. I needed a replacement voice recorder for interviews and dropped in. The guy at the check-out was about 17 and sporting a Seventies style Flock of Seagulls asymmetrical haircut. “You from England?”.
“Wow. That’s soooo cool. England. Wow. You came all the way from England, I love England…especially all the music. Like, it’s the home of the New Romantics, and all that music.”
The haircut gave it away so it was slightly odd explaining that I’d come “all the way from England” to find the roots of American music. He just wanted to go to the Blitz Club, meet Boy George, Japan and Adam and the Ants. I guess none of us are ever where we really want to be.
So I finally pulled into Nazareth proper at 5pm and put ‘The Weight’ by The Band on the stereo as I cruised up, or perhaps down, the quiet back streets of the town. Past the Moravian Church, the neat little Moravian Library… all shingle houses, all neat and tidy East Coast Pennsylvania. The Band’s American Gothic hit has lots of quasi religious undertones but Robbie Robertson the writer was a guitarist and his story of life on the road, the general mess of life and the consequences of doing a good turn “you put the load right on me”, paying homage and respect refers to his trip back in the late ’60’s to Martin Guitars in Nazareth, PA. So that’s my link back to Greenwich Village, Dylan moved from NY to Woodstock in upstate New York and Robbie Robertson’s band The Jayhawks, who were living there in the Big Pink House became ‘Dylan’s road band’ and subsequently The Band. The track appears on their best album, Music from The Big Pink.
I did have somewhere to rest my head, The Classic Victorian is a quaint bed and breakfast run by the septuagenarian Sokolowski’s, Irene and Dan. His mother was a Polish Jew who came to America via Ellis Island in 1912, Irene was the daughter of a Polish/Irish New York marriage.
I was shown to my room full of prints of English hunting scenes, dark mahogany furniture, reproduction Hepplewhite settles… I fully expected Arthur Negus to step out of the “late 17th century armoire with Rococo detailing and nicely turned stool feet”.
Dan Sokolowski recommended the Sicily Restaurant & Pizza as a good dinner spot – for him its main selling points were – ‘it’s three blocks up the road’, ‘they have lots of easy parking’, the food is ‘pretty good’ and it’s ‘very clean’. I saw the size of both Dan’s car and the thickness of his spectacle lenses – and the parking was indeed quite excellent. The menu was clean and similar in flavour to the parking – in particular my ‘pasta with meat’. I’d thought it was a typo and was looking forward to meat ‘balls’. But it was “pasta with meat”.
Next morning I headed out to the Martin factory having filled up on Mrs Sokolowski’s speciality, French Toast Souffle… trying to recall if the strip mall had a branch of ‘Heavy Man’ with a wide range of elasticated trousers.
(This blog entry from my Two Guitars Road-trip was originally distributed via e-mail in October 2015 – I’ve re-posted it on this blog-site unchanged)