They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a
The simple truth of this only struck Annie when they were
actually inside it: apart from the graffiti on the walls, some of
which made some kind of reference to the toilet's importance in
musical history, it was dank, dark, smelly and entirely
unremarkable. Americans were very good at making the most of their
heritage, but there wasn't much even they could do here.
"Have you got the camera, Annie?" said Duncan.
"Yes. But what do you want a picture of?"
"Just, you know . . . "
"Well . . . the toilet."
"What, the . . . What do you call those things?"
"The urinals. Yeah."
"Do you want to be in it?"
"Shall I pretend to have a pee?"
"If you want."
So Duncan stood in front of the middle of the three urinals, his
hands placed convincingly in front of him, and smiled back over his
shoulder at Annie.
"I'm not sure the flash worked."
"One more. Be silly to come all the way here and not get a good
This time Duncan stood just inside one of the stalls, with the
door open. The light was better there, for some reason. Annie took
as good a picture of a man in a toilet as one could reasonably
expect. When Duncan moved, she could see that this toilet, like
just about every other one she'd ever seen in a rock club, was
"Come on," said Annie. "He didn't even want me in here."
This was true. The guy behind the bar had initially suspected
that they were looking for a place where they could shoot up, or
perhaps have sex. Eventually, and hurtfully, the barman had clearly
decided that they were capable of doing neither thing.
Duncan took one last look and shook his head. "If toilets could
Annie was glad this one couldn't. Duncan would have wanted to
chat to it all night.
Most people are unaware of Tucker Crowe's music, let alone some
of the darker moments of his career, so the story of what may or
may not have happened to him in the restroom of the Pits Club is
probably worth repeating here. Crowe was in Minneapolis for a show
and had turned up at the Pits to see a local band called the
Napoleon Solos which he'd heard good things about. (Some Crowe
completists, Duncan being one, own a copy of the local band's one
and only album, The Napoleon Solos Sing Their Songs and Play
Their Guitars.) In the middle of the set, Tucker went to the
toilet. Nobody knows what happened in there, but when he came out,
he went straight back to his hotel and phoned his manager to cancel
the rest of the tour. The next morning he began what we must now
think of as his retirement. That was in June 1986. Nothing more has
been heard of him since --- no new recordings, no gigs, no
interviews. If you love Tucker Crowe as much as Duncan and a couple
of thousand other people in the world do, that toilet has a lot to
answer for. And since, as Duncan had so rightly observed, it can't
speak, Crowe fans have to speak on its behalf. Some claim that
Tucker saw God, or one of His representatives, in there; others
claim he had a near-death experience after an overdose. Another
school of thought has it that he caught his girlfriend having sex
with his bass player in there, although Annie found this theory a
little fanciful. Could the sight of a woman screwing a musician in
a toilet really have resulted in twenty-two years of silence?
Perhaps it could. Perhaps it was just that Annie had never
experienced passion that intense. Anyway. Whatever. All you need to
know is that something profound and life-changing took place in the
smallest room of a small club.
Annie and Duncan were in the middle of a Tucker Crowe
pilgrimage. They had wandered around New York, looking at various
clubs and bars that had some kind of Crowe connection, although
most of these sites of historic interest were now designer clothes
stores, or branches of McDonald's. They had been to his childhood
home in Bozeman, Montana, where, thrillingly, an old lady came out
of her house to tell them that Tucker used to clean her husband's
old Buick when he was a kid. The Crowe family home was small and
pleasant and was now owned by the manager of a small printing
business, who was surprised that they had traveled all the way from
England to see the outside of his house, but who didn't ask them
in. From Montana they flew to Memphis, where they visited the site
of the old American Sound Studio (the studio itself having been
knocked down in 1990), where Tucker, drunk and grieving, recorded
Juliet, his legendary breakup album, and the one Annie
liked the most. Still to come: Berkeley, California, where Juliet
--- in real life a former model and socialite called Julie Beatty
--- still lived to this day. They would stand outside her house,
just as they had stood outside the printer's house, until Duncan
could think of no reason to carry on looking, or until Julie called
the police, a fate that had befallen a couple of other Crowe fans
that Duncan knew from the message boards.
Annie didn't regret the trip. She'd been to the U.S. a couple of
times, to San Francisco and New York, but she liked the way Tucker
was taking them to places she'd other wise never have visited.
Bozeman, for example, turned out to be a beautiful little mountain
town, surrounded by exotic-sounding ranges she'd never heard of:
the Big Belt, the Tobacco Root, the Spanish Peaks. After staring at
the small and unremarkable house, they walked into town and sipped
iced tea in the sunshine outside an organic café, while in the
distance the odd Spanish Peak, or possibly the top of a Tobacco
Root, threatened to puncture the cold blue sky. She'd had worse
mornings than that on holidays that had promised much more. It was
a sort of random, pin-sticking tour of America, as far as she was
concerned. She got sick of hearing about Tucker, of course, and
talking about him and listening to him and attempting to understand
the reasons behind every creative and personal decision he'd ever
made. But she got sick of hearing about him at home, too, and she'd
rather get sick of him in Montana or Tennessee than in Gooleness,
the small seaside town in England where she shared a house with
The one place that wasn't on the itinerary was Tyrone,
Pennsylvania, where Tucker was believed to live, although, as with
all orthodoxies, there were heretics: two or three of the Crowe
community subscribed to the theory --- interesting but
preposterous, according to Duncan --- that he'dbeen living in New
Zealand since the early nineties. Tyrone hadn't even been mentioned
as a possible destination when they'd been planning the trip, and
Annie thought she knew why. A couple of years ago, one of the fans
went out to Tyrone, hung around, eventually located what he
understood to be Tucker Crowe's farm; he came back with a
photograph of an alarmingly grizzled-looking man aiming a shotgun
at him. Annie had seen the picture, many times, and she found it
distressing. The man's face was disfigured by rage and fear, as if
everything he'd worked for and believed in was in the process of
being destroyed by a Canon Sure Shot. Duncan wasn't too concerned
about the rape of Crowe's privacy: the fan, Neil Ritchie, had
achieved a kind of Zapruder level of fame and respect among the
faithful that Annie suspected Duncan rather envied. What had
perturbed him was that Tucker Crowe had called Neil Ritchie a
"fucking asshole." Duncan couldn't have borne that.
After the visit to the restroom at the Pits, they took advice
from the concierge and ate at a Thai restaurant in the Riverfront
District a couple of blocks away. Minneapolis, it turned out, was
on the Mississippi --- who knew, apart from Americans, and just
about anyone else who'd paid attention in geography lessons? --- so
Annie ended up ticking off something else she'd never expected to
see, although here at the less romantic end it looked
disappointingly like the Thames. Duncan was animated and chatty,
still unable quite to believe that he'd been inside a place that
had occupied so much of his imaginative energy over the years.
"Do you think it's possible to teach a whole course on the
"With you just sitting on it, you mean? You wouldn't get it past
Health and Safety."
"I didn't mean that."
Sometimes Annie wished that Duncan had a keener sense of humor
--- a keener sense that something might be meant humorously,
anyway. She knew it was too late to hope for actual jokes.
"I meant, teach a whole course on the toilet in the Pits."
Duncan looked at her.
"Are you teasing me?"
"No. I'm saying that a whole course about Tucker
Crowe's twenty-year-old visit to the toilet wouldn't be very
"I'd include other things."
"Other toilet visits in history?"
"No. Other career-defining moments."
"Elvis had a good toilet moment. Pretty careerdefining,
"Dying's different. Too unwilled. John Smithers wrote an essay
for the website about that. Creative death versus actual death. It
was actually pretty interesting." Annie nodded enthusiastically,
while at the same time hoping that Duncan wouldn't print it off and
put it in front of her when they got home.
"I promise that after this holiday I won't be so Tuckercentric,"
"That's okay. I don't mind."
"I've wanted to do this for a long time."
"I'll have got him out of my system."
"I hope not."
"What would there be left of you, if you did?"
She hadn't meant it cruelly. She'd been with Duncan for nearly
fifteen years, and Tucker Crowe had always been part of the
package, like a disability. To begin with, the condition hadn't
prevented him from living a normal life: yes, he'd written a book,
as yet unpublished, about Tucker, lectured on him, contributed to a
radio documentary for the BBC and organized conventions, but
somehow these activities had always seemed to Annie like isolated
episodes, sporadic attacks.
And then the Internet came along and changed everything. When, a
little later than everyone else, Duncan discovered how it all
worked, he set up a website called "Can Anybody Hear Me?" --- the
title of a track from an obscure EP recorded after the wounding
failure of Crowe's first album. Until then, the nearest fellow fan
had lived in Manchester, sixty or seventy miles away, and Tucker
met up with him once or twice a year; now the nearest fans lived in
Duncan's laptop, and there were hundredsof them, from all around
the world, and Duncan spoke to them all the time. There seemed to
be a surprising amount to talk about. The website had a "Latest
News" section, which never failed to amuse Annie, Tucker no longer
being a man who did an awful lot. ("As far as we know," Duncan
always said.) There was always something that passed for news among
the faithful, though --- a Crowe night on an Internet radio
station, a new article, a new album from a former band member, an
interview with an engineer. The bulk of the content, though,
consisted of essays analyzing lyrics, or discussing influences, or
conjecturing, apparently inexhaustibly, about the silence. It
wasn't as if Duncan didn't have other interests. He had a
specialist knowledge of 1970s American independent cinema and the
novels of Nathanael West and he was developing a nice new line in
HBO television series --- he thought he might be ready to teach
The Wire in the not-too-distant future. But these were all
flirtations, by comparison. Tucker Crowe was his life partner. If
Crowe were to die --- to die in real life, as it were, rather than
creatively --- Duncan would lead the mourning. (He'd already
written the obituary. Every now and again he'd worry out loud about
whether he should show it to a reputable newspaper now, or wait
until it was needed.)
If Tucker was the husband, then Annie should somehow have become
the mistress, but of course that wasn't right --- the word was much
too exotic and implied a level of sexual activity that would
horrify them both nowadays. It would have daunted them even in the
early days of their relationship. Sometimes Annie felt less like a
girlfriend than a school chum who'd come to visit in the holidays
and stayed for the next twenty years. They had both moved to the
same English seaside town at around the same time, Duncan to finish
his thesis and Annie to teach, and they had been introduced by
mutual friends who could see that, if nothing else, they could talk
about books and music, go to films, travel to London occasionally
to see exhibitions and gigs. Gooleness wasn't a sophisticated town.
There was no arts cinema, there was no gay community, there wasn't
even a Waterstone's (the nearest one was up the road in Hull), and
they fell upon each other with relief. They started drinking
together in the evenings and sleeping over at weekends, until
eventually the sleepovers turned into something indistinguishable
from cohabitation. And they had stayed like that forever, stuck in
a perpetual postgraduate world where gigs and books and films
mattered more to them than they did to other people of their
The decision not to have children had never been made, and nor
had there been any discussion resulting in a postponement of the
decision. It wasn't that kind of a sleep over. Annie could imagine
herself as a mother, but Duncan was nobody's idea of a father, and
anyway, neither of them would have felt comfortable applying cement
to the relationship in that way. That wasn't what they were for.
And now, with an irritating predictability, she was going through
what everyone had told her she would go through: she was aching for
a child. Her aches were brought on by all the usual mournful-happy
life events: Christmas, the pregnancy of a friend, the pregnancy of
a complete stranger she saw in the street. And she wanted a child
for all the usual reasons, as far as she could tell. She wanted to
feel unconditional love, rather than the faint conditional
affection she could scrape together for Duncan every now and again;
she wanted to be held by someone who would never question the
embrace, the why or the who or the how long. There was another
reason, too: she needed to know that she could have one, that there
was life in her. Duncan had put her to sleep, and in her sleep
she'd been desexed.
She'd get over all this, presumably; or at least one day it
would become a wistful regret, rather than a sharp hunger. But this
holiday hadn't been designed to comfort her. There was an argument
that you might as well change nappies as hang out in men's
lavatories taking pictures. The amount of time they had for
themselves was beginning to feel sort of . . .
At breakfast in their cheap and nasty hotel in downtown San
Francisco, Annie read the Chronicle and decided she didn't
want to see the hedge obscuring the front lawn of Julie Beatty's
house in Berkeley. There were plenty of other things to do in the
Bay Area. She wanted to see Haight-Ashbury, she wanted to buy a
book at City Lights, she wanted to visit Alcatraz, she wanted to
walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. There was an exhibition of
postwar West Coast art on at the Museum of Modern Art just down the
street. She was happy that Tucker had lured them out to California,
but she didn't want to spend a morning watching Julie's neighbors
decide whether they constituted a security risk.
"You're joking," said Duncan.
"No," she said. "I really can think of better things to do."
"When we've come all this way? Why have you gone like this all
of a sudden? Aren't you interested? I mean, supposing she drives
out of her garage while we're outside?"
"Then I'd feel even more stupid," she said. "She'd look at me
and think, ‘I wouldn't expect any different from him. He's
one of the creepy guys. But what's a woman doing there?' "
"You're having me on."
"I'm really not, Duncan. We're in San Francisco for twenty-four
hours and I don't know when I'll be back. Going to some woman's
house . . . If you had a day in London, would you spend it outside
somebody's house in, I don't know, Gospel Oak?"
"But if you've actually come to see somebody's house in Gospel
Oak . . . And it's not just some woman's house, you know that.
Things happened there. I'm going to stand where he stood."
No, it wasn't just any house. Everybody, apart from just about
everybody, knew that. Julie Beatty had been living there with her
first husband, who taught at Berkeley, when she met Tucker at a
party thrown by Francis Ford Coppola. She left her husband that
night. Very shortly afterward, however, she thought better of it
all and went home to patch things up. That was the story, anyway.
Annie had never really understood how Duncan and his fellow fans
could be quite so certain about tiny private tumults that took
place decades ago, but they were. "You and Your Perfect Life," the
seven-minute song that ends the album, is supposed to be about the
night Tucker stood outside the family home, "Throwing stones at the
window / 'Til he came to the door / So where were you, Mrs. Steven
Balfour?" The husband wasn't called Steven Balfour, needless to
say, and the choice of a fictitious name had inevitably provoked
endless speculation on the message boards. Duncan's theory was that
he had been named after the British prime minister, the man who was
accused by Lloyd George of turning the House of Lords into "Mr.
Balfour's poodle" --- Juliet, by extension, has become her
husband's poodle. This interpretation is now accepted as definitive
by the Tucker community, and if you look up "You and Your Perfect
Life" on Wikipedia, apparently, you'll see Duncan's name in the
footnotes, with a link to his essay. Nobody on the website had ever
dared wonder aloud whether the surname had been chosen simply
because it rhymed with the word "door."
Annie loved "You and Your Perfect Life." She loved its
relentless anger, and the way Tucker moved from autobiography to
social commentary by turning the song into a rant about how smart
women got obliterated by their men. She didn't usually like howling
guitar solos, but she liked the way that the howling guitar solo in
"Perfect Life" seemed just as articulate and as angry as the
lyrics. And she loved the irony of it all --- the way that Tucker,
the man wagging his finger at Steven Balfour, had obliterated Julie
more completely than her husband had ever managed. She would be the
woman who broke Tucker's heart forever. Annie felt sorry for Julie,
who'd had to deal with men like Duncan throwing stones at her
windows, metaphorically and probably literally, every now and
again, ever since the song was released. But she envied her, too.
Who wouldn't want to make a man that passionate, that unhappy, that
inspired? If you couldn't write songs yourself, then surely what
Julie had done was the next best thing?
She still didn't want to see the house, though. After breakfast
she took a cab to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge and
walked back toward the city, the salt wind somehow sharpening her
joy in being alone.
Duncan felt slightly odd, going to Juliet's place without Annie.
She tended to arrange their transport to wherever they were going,
and she was the one who knew the way back to wherever they had come
from. He would rather have devoted his mental energy to Julie, the
person, and Juliet, the album; he was intending to listen to it
straight through twice, the first time in its released form, the
second time with the songs placed in the order that Tucker Crowe
originally wanted them, according to the sound engineer in charge
of the sessions. But that wasn't going to work out now, because he
was going to need all his concentration for the BART. As far as he
could tell, he had to get on at Powell Street and take the red line
up to North Berkeley. It looked easy but, of course, it wasn't,
because once he was down on the platform he couldn't find any way
of telling what was a red-line train and what wasn't, and he
couldn't ask anyone. Asking somebody would make it look as though
he wasn't a native, and though this wouldn't matter in Rome or
Paris or even in London, it mattered here, where so many things
that were important to him had happened. And because he couldn't
ask, he ended up on a yellow-line train, only he couldn't tell it
was yellow until he got to Rockridge, which meant that he had to go
back to the 19th St. Oakland stop and change. What was wrong with
her? He knew she wasn't as devoted to Tucker Crowe as he was, but
he'd thought that in recent years she'd started to get it,
properly. A couple of times he'd come home to find her playing "You
Perfect Life," although he'd been unable to interest her in the
infamous but superior Bottom Line bootleg version, when Tucker had
smashed his guitar to smithereens at the end of the solo. (The
sound was a little muddy, admittedly, and an annoying drunk person
kept shouting "Rock 'n' roll!" into the bootlegger's microphone
during the last verse, but if it was anger and pain she was after,
then this was the one.) He'd tried to pretend that her decision not
to come was perfectly understandable, but the truth was, he was
hurt. Hurt and, temporarily at least, lost. Getting to North
Berkeley station felt like an achievement in itself, and he allowed
himself the luxury of asking for directions to Edith Street as a
reward. It was fine, not knowing the way to a residential street.
Even natives couldn't be expected to know everything. Except of
course the moment he opened his mouth, the woman he picked on
wanted to tell him that she'd spent a year in Kensington, London,
after she'd graduated.
He hadn't expected the streets to be quite so long and hilly,
nor the houses quite so far apart, and by the time he found the
right house, he was sweaty and thirsty, while at the same time
bursting for a pee. There was no doubt he'd have been
clearer-headed if he'd stopped somewhere near the BART station for
a drink and a visit to the restroom. But he'd been thirsty and in
need of a toilet before, and had always resisted the temptation to
break into a stranger's house.
When he got to 1131 Edith Street, there was a kid sitting on the
pavement outside, his back against a fence that looked as though it
might have been erected simply to stop him from getting any
further. He was in his late teens, with long, greasy hair and a
wispy goatee, and when he realized that Duncan had come to look at
the house, he stood up and dusted himself off.
"Yo," he said.
Duncan cleared his throat. He couldn't bring himself to return
the greeting, but he offered a "Hi" instead of a "Hello," just to
show that he had an informal register.
"They're not home," said the kid. "I think they might have gone
to the East Coast. The Hamptons or some shit like that."
"Oh. Right. Oh well."
"You know them?"
"No, no. I just . . . You know, I'm a, well, a Crowologist. I
was just in the neighborhood, so I thought, you know . . . "
"You from England?"
"You came all the way from England to see where Tucker Crowe
threw his stones?" The kid laughed, so Duncan laughed, too.
"No, no. God no. Ha! I had some business in the city, and I
thought, you know . . . What are you doing here, anyway?"
"Juliet is my favorite album of all time."
Duncan nodded. The teacher in him wanted to point out the non
sequitur; the fan understood completely. How could he not? He
didn't get the sidewalk-sitting, though. Duncan's plan had been to
look, imagine the trajectory of the stones, maybe take a picture
and then leave. The boy, however, seemed to regard the house as if
it were a place of spiritual significance, capable of promoting a
profound inner peace.
"I've been here, like, six or seven times?" the boy said.
"Always blows me away."
"I know what you mean," said Duncan, although he didn't. Perhaps
it was his age, or his Englishness, but he wasn't being blown away,
and he hadn't expected to be, either. It was, after all, a pleasant
detached house they were standing outside, not the Taj Mahal. In
any case, the need to pee was preventing any real appreciation of
"You wouldn't happen to know . . . What's your name?"
"Elliott, you wouldn't happen to know if there's a Starbucks
near here? Or something? I need a restroom."
"Ha!" said the kid.
Duncan stared at him. What kind of answer was that?
"See, I do know one right near here. But I kind of promised
myself I wouldn't use it again."
"Right," said Duncan. "But . . . Would it matter if
"Kind of. Because I'd still be breaking the promise."
"Oh. Well, as I don't really understand what kind of promise you
can make with regard to a public lavatory, I'm not sure I can help
you with your ethical dilemma."
The boy laughed. "I love the way you English talk.
‘Ethical dilemma.' That's great."
Duncan didn't disabuse him, although he did wonder how many of
his students back home would even have been able to repeat the
phrase accurately, let alone use it themselves.
"But you don't think you can help me."
"Oh. Well. Maybe. How about if I told you how to find it but I
didn't come with you?"
"I wasn't really expecting you to come with me, to be
"No. Right. I should explain. The nearest toilet to here is in
there." Elliott pointed down the driveway toward Juliet's
"Yes, well, I suppose it would be," said Duncan. "But that
doesn't really help me."
"Except I know where they keep their spare key."
"You're kidding me."
"No. I've been inside like three times? Once to use the shower.
A couple times just to see what I could see. I never steal anything
big. Just, you know, paperweights and shit. Souvenirs."
Duncan examined the boy's face for evidence of an elaborate
joke, a satirical dig at Crowologists, and decided thatElliott
hadn't made a joke since he'd turned seventeen.
"You let yourself into their house when they're out?"
The boy shrugged. "Yeah. I feel bad about it, which is why I
wasn't sure about telling you."
Duncan suddenly noticed that on the ground there was a chalk
drawing of a pair of feet, and an arrowed line pointing toward the
house. Tucker's feet, presumably, and Tucker's stones. He wished he
hadn't seen the drawing. It gave him less to do.
"Well, I can't do that."
"No. Sure. I understand."
"So there's nothing else?"
Edith Street was long and leafy, and the next cross street was
long and leafy, too. It was the sort of American suburb where
residents had to get into their cars to buy a pint of milk.
"Not for a mile or two."
Duncan puffed out his cheeks, a gesture, he realized even as he
was making it, intended to prepare the way for the decision he'd
already made. He could have gone behind a hedge; he could have left
that second, walked back to the BART station and found a café,
walked back again if he needed to. Which he didn't, really, because
he'd seen all there was to see. That was the root of the problem.
If more had been . . . laid on for people like him, he
wouldn't have had to create his own excitement. It wouldn't have
killed her to mark the significance of the place in some way, would
it? With a discreet plaque or something? He hadn't been prepared
for the mundanity of Juliet's house, just as he hadn't really been
prepared for the malodorous functionality of the men's room in
"A mile or two? I'm not sure I can wait that long."
"Up to you."
"Where's the key?"
"There's a loose brick in the porch there. Low down."
"And you're sure the key's still there? When did you last
"Honestly? I went in just before you came. I didn't take a
single thing. But I can never believe that I'm standing in Juliet's
house, you know? Fucking Juliet, man!"
Duncan knew that he and Elliott weren't the same. Elliott had
surely never written about Crowe --- or, if he had, the work would
almost certainly have been unpublishable. Duncan also doubted
whether Elliott had the emotional maturity to appreciate the
breathtaking accomplishment of Juliet (which, as far as
Duncan was concerned, was a darker, deeper, more fully realized
collection of songs than the overrated Blood on the
Tracks), and nor would he have been able to cite its
influences: Dylan and Leonard Cohen, of course, but also Dylan
Thomas, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, Shelley, the Book of Job, Camus,
Pinter, Beckett and early Dolly Parton. But people who didn't
understand all this might look at them and decide, erroneously,
that they were similar in some way. Both of them had the same need
to stand in fucking Juliet's house, for example. Duncan followed
Elliott down the short driveway to the house and watched as the boy
groped for the key and opened the door.
The house was dark --- all the blinds were down --- and smelled
of incense, or maybe some kind of exotic potpourri. Duncan couldn't
have lived with it, but presumably Julie Beatty and her family
weren't sick with nerves all the time when they were in residence,
the way Duncan was feeling now. The smell sharpened his fear and
made him wonder whether he might throw up.
He'd made an enormous mistake, but there was no undoing it. He
was inside, so even if he didn't use the toilet, he'd still
committed the crime. Idiot. And idiot boy, too, for persuading him
that this was a good idea. "So there's a small toilet down here,
and it's got some cool stuff on the walls. Cartoons and shit. But
the bathroom upstairs, you see her makeup and towels and
everything. It's spooky. I mean, not spooky to her, probably. But
spooky if you only kind of half believe she even existed." Duncan
understood the appeal of seeing Julie Beatty's makeup absolutely,
and his understanding added to his sense of self-loathing.
"Yes, well, I haven't got time to mess around," said Duncan,
hoping that Elliott wouldn't point out the obvious holes in the
assertion. "Just point me toward the downstairs one."
They were in a large hallway with several doors leading off it.
Elliott nodded at one of them, and Duncan marched toward it
briskly, an Englishman with pressing West Coast business
appointments who'd troweled some time out of his hectic schedule to
stand on a sidewalk, and then break into someone's house for the
hell of it.
He made the pee as splashy as possible, just to prove to Elliott
that the need was genuine. He was disappointed by the promised
artwork, however. There were a couple of cartoons, one of Julie and
one of a middle-aged man who still looked something like the old
photos Duncan had seen of her husband, but they looked like they'd
been done by one of those artists who hang out at tourist traps,
and in any case they were both post-Tucker, which meant that they
could have been pictures of any American middle-class couple. He
was washing his hands in the tiny sink when Elliott shouted through
the door, "Oh, and there's the drawing. That's still up in their
"The drawing that Tucker did of her, back in the day."
Duncan opened the door and stared at him.
"What do you mean?"
"You know Tucker's an artist, right?"
"No." And then, because this made him sound like an amateur,
"Well, yes. Of course. But I didn't know . . . " He didn't know
what he didn't know, but Elliott didn't notice.
"Yeah," said Elliott. "In here."
The dining room was at the back of the house, with French
windows leading out onto a terrace, presumably, or a lawn --- there
were curtains drawn over them. The drawing was hung over the
fireplace, and it was big, maybe four feet by three, a
head-and-shoulders portrait of Julie in profile, half squinting
through her cigarette smoke at something in the middle distance.
She looked, in fact, as if she were studying another work of art.
It was a beautiful portrait, reverential and romantic, but not
idealized --- it was too sad, for a start. It somehow seemed to
suggest the impending end of his relationship with the sitter,
although of course Duncan might have been imagining that. He might
have been imagining the meaning, he might have been imagining the
power and charm. Indeed, he could have been imagining the drawing
Duncan moved in closer. There was a signature in the bottom
left-hand corner, and that was thrilling enough to require separate
examination and contemplation. In a quarter of a century of fandom,
he'd never seen Tucker's handwriting. And while he was staring at
the signature, he realized something else: that for the first time
since 1986 he hadn't been able to respond to a piece of work by
Crowe. So he stopped looking at the signature and stepped back to
look at the picture again.
"You should really see it in the daylight," said Elliott.
He drew back the curtains on the French windows, and almost
immediately they found themselves staring at a gardener mowing the
lawn. He saw them and started shouting and gesticulating, and
before Duncan knew it, he was out the front door and halfway up the
road, running and sweating, his legs shaking with nerves, his heart
pounding so hard he thought he might not make it to the end of the
street and possible safety.
It wasn't until the doors on the BART closed behind him that he
felt safe. He'd lost Elliott almost immediately --- he'd run out of
that house as fast as he could, but the boy was faster, and almost
immediately out of sight. And he never wanted to see him again
anyway. It had been pretty much all his fault, there was no doubt
about that; he'd provided both the temptation and the means to
break in. Duncan had been stupid, yes, but his powers of reasoning
had been scrambled by his bladder, and . . . Elliott had corrupted
him, was the truth of it. Scholars like him were always going to be
vulnerable to the excesses of obsessives, because, yes, they shared
a tiny strand of the same DNA. His heart rate began to slow. He was
calming himself down with the familiar stories he always told
himself when doubt crept in.
When the train stopped at the next station, however, a Latino
who looked a little like the gardener in the back garden got into
Duncan's car, and his stomach shot toward his knees while his heart
leaped halfway up his windpipe, and no amount of self-justification
could help him put his internal organs back where they
What really frightened him was how spectacularly his
transgression had paid off. All these years he'd done nothing more
than read and listen and think, and though he'd been stimulated by
these activities, what had he uncovered, really? And yet by
behaving like a teenage hooligan with a screw loose, he had made a
major breakthrough. He was the only Crowologist in the world
(Elliott was nobody's idea of a Crowologist) who knew about that
picture, and he could never tell anyone about it, unless he wished
to own up to being mentally unbalanced. Every other year spent on
his chosen subject had been barren compared to the last couple of
hours. But that couldn't be the way forward, surely? He didn't want
to be the kind of man who plunged his arms into trash cans in the
hope of finding a letter, or a piece of bacon rind that Crowe might
have chewed. By the time he got back to the hotel, he had convinced
himself he was finished with Tucker Crowe.
THE FREE ENCYCOPEDIA
Juliet, released in April 1986, is singer-songwriter Tucker
Crowe's sixth and (at the time of writing) last studio album. Crowe
went into retirement later that year and has made no music of any
kind since. At the time it received ecstatic reviews, although like
the rest of Crowe's work it sold only moderately, reaching number
29 on the Billboard charts. Since then, however, it has been widely
recognized by critics as a classic breakup album to rank with
Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and Springsteen's Tunnel of Love.
Juliet tells the story of Crowe's relationship with Julie Beatty, a
noted beauty and L.A. scenester of the early eighties, from its
beginnings ("And You Are?") to its bitter conclusion ("You and Your
Perfect Life"), when Beatty returned to her husband, Michael Posey.
The second side of the album is regarded as one of the most
tortured sequences of songs in popular music.
Various musicians who played on the album have talked about
Crowe's fragile state of mind during the recording of the album.
Scotty Phillips has described how Crowe came at him with an
oxyacetylene torch before the guitarist's incendiary solo on "You
and Your Perfect Life."
In one of his last interviews, Crowe expressed surprise at the
enthusiasm for the record. "Yeah, people keep telling me they love
it. But I don't really understand them. To me, it's the sound of
someone having his fingernails pulled out. Who wants to listen to
Julie Beatty claimed in a 1992 interview that she no longer
owned a copy of Juliet. "I don't need that in my life. If I want
someone yelling at me for forty-five minutes, I'll call my
Various musicians, including the late Jeff Buckley, Michael
Stipe and Peter Buck of REM, and Chris Martin of Coldplay, have
talked about the influence of Juliet on their careers. Buck's side
project The Minus Five and Coldplay both recorded songs for the
tribute album released in 2002, Wherefore Art Thou?.
1) And You Are?
3) We're in Trouble
4) In Too Deep
5) Who Do You Love?
1) Dirty Dishes
2) The Better Man
3) The Twentieth Call of the Day
4) Blood Ties
5) You and Your Perfect Life
Excerpted from JULIET, NAKED © Copyright 2011 by Nick
Hornby. Reprinted with permission by Riverhead Trade. All rights