it is a race
annihilation by holocaust
annihilation of our own unique lives in
servitude to the system
it is a race
annihilation by holocaust
annihilation of our own unique lives in
servitude to the system
– I’m dismayed by the youth of today.
– They have no respect.
– They have no respect, and they’re so young!
– Indeed. I was at the bus stop today and there were two lads there and they were younger than I was when I was their age.
– And the girls!
– Don’t get me started on the girls.
– The girls today are in league. They’re in league so every time they see me they do their best to make me feel old and no longer sexually desirable.
– They’re in league against me in exactly the same way!
– As if I care whether or not they think I’m sexually desirable!
– As if!
Would you Adam and Eve it?1
All this ache and pain2
in the apple pie;3
all this Cynthia Paine2
and Duke of Spain!2
It’s Turin shroud,4
after Turin shroud,4
Red ‘n’ Yella5…
Then too much currant bun,6
and it’s peas in the pot,7
peas in the pot,7
Then Cheryl Crow8 won’t go
and blimey, it’s taters;9
David Starkey,9 Parky!9
And Vincent Price10 –
it just ain’t nice.
Then it’s Mork and Mindy,11
even in your weasel and stoat.12
You gotta get your weasel,12
your nanny goat,12 your billy goat,12 your centre half, 13
and your Barnet Fair14
It ain’t Adam Faith15 no more.
It’s Alan Ladd,16
sorry and sad.
We’re off our bacon!17
Out of our bacon rinds!17
And ain’t that the babe?18
We gotta turn the horse and cart,19
the strawberry tart; 19
turn down the Blue Peter,20
drop the Dog’s Eye,21
for the Uncle Reg.22
Go Peter Egan23 –
or its Richard Burtons!24
17 Out of our minds
21 Meat pie
24 Curtains (the End)
This poem in no way supports the wearing of any animal’s fur or skin, and in no way regards any pig as “bacon” (plus most East Enders would not have worn dead weasels, stoats or goats, but it shows how steeped the English language is in animal abuse.) It does, however, remember the incredible impact of the 1995 film Babe, (also the Cockney “truth”) which woke up millions of young minds to the cruelties of animal killing and flesh-eating, resulting in a collapse of global ‘pork’ sales, and a rise in vegetarianism.
………………………….. I: THE BITE OF BRUSSELS
I’m back for what will be my third time in this city;
Staying in the same room and same Hotel for comfort,
While watching Belgian lives undulate.
For there is a sense of ease to these streets, crowded
As they are: yet they lengthen; as dreaming cats will
On carpets: their concertina of fur and flesh celebrates
Some secret self, to which anyone else is not privy,
And just as each cat owner is skivvy to their feline
Commands, I obey the rules of this place,
Where there is seeming happiness at each corner.
It is a low rent Shangri-La beyond borders
That Brexit has set to convey
Now, which is what I feel as I sit here, despite
Having found the Express Supermarche,
Which sells the best ham and cheese rolls in the world:
The soft brioche bread, Gouda and mayonnaise
Become transport to a divine state of being,
One for which all of joy’s flags rise unfurled.
That and the lick-thin Croky crisps, which bare
None of the fat or stodge of the British,
And the spinach and feta in filo pastry, coupled
With the passionate kiss of fresh juice, compensate
In their way for the form of divide I am feeling,
As if the separation of souls could be salvaged
By the sensations aroused through produce.
And yet I feel satisfied, I daresay, as I cross
Under the parked arch of a digger.
As the steep streets bow to the river,
I have been falling through holes for some months,
Seeking a new underworld. Erdos as Orpheus?
Hardly. And yet, in that tumbling, the knife edge
Of toil twists and blunts, stabbing into my side,
As I strive to refocus my purpose; living as I am now,
For no-one, apart of course from the face
That I see staring back. It is at the cusp of time’s
Chaos. The skin is marked. Its not mottled.
But aging awaits. Its in place. So I chase a chance
Of happiness here and unclaimed by love,
Play the poet, talking to this page, like the woman
I would share this city with, somewhere else.
In some alternative world, where flavour is not
Compensation. And where my fresh bite of Brussels
Is something to savour and where these lone moments
Become a dream we can wake to in this exercise
And in walking in and around mental health.
II: EVEN THE TREES
The trees seem wiser here, perched
On a near vertical bank by the river.
One, as with Pisa’s tower seems to
Completely defer to the stream:
Bowed, as if pushed into an uncaring act
Of persuasion, in which the need to succumb
Is not sanctioned. Instead it represents
Angles’ theme. Which is to grant fresh perspective
And shape the visible world, while referring
To some other surface, where reality itself
Seems to fold. And where the light we think
Graced is simply granted by shadow;
Sent and intended to dazzle, so that man
As last slave to nature can be finally bound
And then sold. Only these trees know the truth
In this most reflective of cities. They point perhaps
To man’s new dry drowning and to baptisms
So bitter that as the water is stained each bank scolds.
And so I am in Belgium once more but stay
On the same long street by one river.
I have left the ghost of Jacques Brel in his Quarter,
And my sad search for sin to the young.
I am holding onto the day while claiming residence
In small hours. I have not explored. Yet the safety
Of dissecting domain feels sun sprung. I choose
To remain part adrift, while foregoing the roams
I am no longer in the habit of taking, despite seeing
Each streets charged by others where I can imagine
The lives fully lived. So this is not a Solipcist’s slant,
Or a Suicide’s act of removal. It is not escape,
Or defiance, or even contrariness; its a gift.
Received alone. Sent alone. Enjoyed or endured,
Free from reason. My taste is torn instead
By this climate as I bite down on breath
Tanged by tears. I wish to transform
And emerge as a butterfly with the burden
Of just what to become. As such, here in Brussels,
I see both the end of it all, and of fear.
IV: AU REVOIR
I return on the train with my back towards Britain,
Watching Europe leave me, just as we have left it.
Or, betrayed it. Or, worse: conceived a form
Of deluded diaspora in desertion, divorcing a culture
For a racist return and knife twist.
How damned we are; the deal done on our
Execution. Ashamed to be English I attempted
Schoolboy French when I could; reduced
By my age, and yet gratified by the Belgians
Who conversed in the language in which
I write this verse: Foreign goods, that extend
Beyond the brioche to reveal an exercise
In refinement, while here the lowest common
Denominator finds new levels of tastelessness.
What’s referred? Certainly not the sweetness
Of their jams or the culinary glaze of their burgers,
But something else, more persuastive. As our stale
Cheese moulds, theirs cure curd to unleash
A richness in rain as well as in sweltering weather.
As the known world bakes, undigested
Squats the political carelessness of our cooks;
Which must be why we revere cooking programmes
So much, as they display pride and product.
We are not even what we watch, though.
We’re blinded as we no longer know where to look.
This used to mean deeper in. But now,
Man’s murk masks the mirror. Brexit, feared friends
Is the blister made of bastards and blood.
You’ve been hooked. And so, as with all addicts,
You’ll burn inside the heat of indulgence,
Either with regret, or reflection of all that still haunts.
Just as the world I knew turns to ghost, and I return
To the great British graveyard, loving the lost sense
Of belonging. The past itself is a poem,
And the future a scripture that thanks
To our disbelief, may soon taunt.
David Erdos October 18-20th, 2021
No more choice
Than the rain does
Or wild geese migrating
And hadn’t slept easy in weeks.
For the human race.
Saw forests gulp down
Whole housing estates
Heard wolves come back
Saw stars again
Walking through a silence
That never ends.
Kevin Patrick McCann
Illustration Nick Victor
She turns her green face over her shoulder,
winks at our corner
(laughing, we sip our champagne.)
She sways over the tiles
of the dance floor, some doomed private
in her arms. The Dead travel fast.
It is the eve of W.W. I. “Let me go,
the world is bobbing around.” Later,
she sits on his bed, her arms an X
between her knees. Balloon-like shadows
float around her head…an airy tiara
where the bombs explode. “Did I not
kiss him? Or did I tear him to pieces?
If I did, it was a mistake; for kissing
is close to biting, and whoever loves
with her whole heart might mistake the one
for the other.” Ashes: he remembers her
as he falls. A foreign boot rests
on his face; that music, where could it
be coming from? Goya knew the secret–
there’s his owl in the Disasters Of War
sucking a soldier’s breath:
Vampires trouble us.
Mothers grow fangs in their dreams. The world
is Transylvania; we’re rocking in a charmed coach
rushing to the mindless interview. Dare we open
the blinds? Watch the rats poke their snouts
in the guts of unfortunate youths
who lie in each other’s arms, holding
earth and sky apart with bloated stomachs?
They blend with the darkening fields; her kiss
cancels out their features.
At night they return–scratch at our window
with eyes like polished tin; fingernails
grown into ram’s horns, they smash a leaded pane,
insert a luminous hand and open the balcony door.
We are held in her arms again. Her red hair
touches our cheeks; unblinking eyes focus
on our throats. It is the eve of W.W.II.
Lightning cracks across the sky. Gaunt musicians
saw their bows. We dance our murderous dance
(History is a cage)–
Beneath her chalky flesh the skeleton shuffles and begs.
Words and picture by Jesse Glass
Picture Mask 1
(Remember Paddy Moloney?)
The rain has ceased to be news now,
and still the stirring in the paddy field
plays some wintercearig music.
I stoop, pluck and split open the heart
of a single grain. It holds ellipsism
Of a the tiniest amount of some Moscow Mule.
The lashing leaves play the tune you can
change according to your life and choices.
I want to be sad, but the sadness die,
and the music lives on.
Ilustration Nick Victor
to the distant journey
rivers of babylon
to their banks
in the dawning mists
in the midst of longing
captive of chosen isolation
dreams gone astray
lost forgotten sheep
oh what sacrificial lamb
slaughtered skinned scrapped
to scribe upon this psalmtry
book of hours
hours of days
longed for yet gone
vellum & parchment
My long-term friend, the excellent Chris Estey, sent me a copy of the intriguing Get Smart! six-track mini-album ‘Oh Yeah No’, which I’ve been playing ever since it arrived. I tracked down a wonderfully atmospheric YouTube clip of the trio performing the title-track as early as 1987, in the studio with Iain Burgess at the analogue mixing desk. A raw ‘I want that cancer’ track with writer credits to all three band-members, Frank, Marc and Lisa. I wonder what their reactions are to seeing that clip now? What message would they send back through time to their earlier selves in that video? ‘That’s probably the best question we’ve been asked recently!’ exclaims Frank. ‘I left the band a few months after that video was shot. I’d tell myself it’s better to take a break than to stop playing drums altogether. We were just worn out from all the touring, but there’s no Rock ‘n’ Roll mentorship program to help you navigate the ups and downs!’
‘Looking at that clip now, I’m still impressed by how we were so tight – and so exhausted’ muses Lisa. ‘And yes, we definitely needed a rest!
‘Get a haircut!’ laughs Marcus. ‘I respect the intensity and urgency of our performance. Whether you’re in your twenties or older, you should strive to maintain a genuine energy no matter what you’re doing at the time.’
Frank B Loose plays drums in a way that makes Mo Tucker seem sophisticated. Against hard Punk guitar that takes a skewed spacey solo into “Rhythm Empty”. “Under The Rug” attacks with a nag-nag-nagging riff that drives nails into your head, you feel it drink, scream and stumble, with a crash-collage video that ignites your smart-screen with ‘freshly-caught pain’. “Blonde Goes West” invites you to ‘let’s get drunk, not fade away.’ Lisa Wertman Crowe’s voice rides in and around Marcus Koch’s lead vocal, with spidery sunburst Fender Jazzmaster guitar figures, then on “Painted Floor” it’s her voice and lyric, his harmonies, her Daphne blue Fender Precision bass, ‘it’s hard to hear your heartbeat when you’re screaming.’
But wait, you remember Get Smart! Weren’t they the band who formed in Lawrence, at the University of Kansas, around 1980, and weren’t they responsible for two stand-out albums – ‘Action Reaction’ (1984, Fever/ Enigma Records) and ‘Swimming With Sharks’ (1986, Restless/Enigma)? Is Lawrence a great Rock ‘n’ Roll town? ‘Surprisingly, yes’ concedes Frank. ‘There are plenty of college towns in the U.S. that never developed a ‘scene’, but the combination of a radio station willing to play new music, and a few open-minded clubs inspired a lot of bands to start.’ Alternative bands such as Mortal Micronotz and the Embarrassment. ‘For sure’ Lisa concurs. ‘It was a wonderful musical oasis that really supported us and all the other bands.’
‘It was and still is a community of musicians, bands, clubs, artists and other outlets of creativity’ says Marcus. ‘At the time we started, it seemed as though our generation was starved for an outlet for musical entertainment and we eagerly became part of an effort to invest our energies in an environment that was conducive, vibrant and accepting…’
— 0 —
There was an EP ‘Words Move’ (1981, Syntax), and a live single “Back Into The Future” c/w “World Without End” (1985, Fever/Enigma), while their five-track contribution to the ‘Fresh Sounds From Middle America Vol.1’ (1981, Fresh Sounds) compilation cassette took them to new audiences and expanded their fan-base. Then there were the two albums, and a nationwide tour… until, following a flurry of line-up changes, the power-trio split by the close of the decade. There were plans for live reunion dates in late-2020, until the pandemic hit. But now, in case you missed them first time around, they’re here again. So I need to ask, why this new twenty-one-minute release now? And why are the original trio playing new American gigs? When I first approach them, the band’s website says ‘typically replies within a few hours’… and I’m sitting here waiting ready to provide a PR British injection…!
‘Hi Andrew! Sorry for the delay’ says Lisa brightly. ‘Thank you for listening to ‘Oh Yeah No’, and we’re glad you’re enjoying it!’ Her good-humoured response dances nimbly around my slightly irreverent approach. ‘By the way, is this a formal interview? Are you planning to publish these answers? Because I don’t want to speak for the whole band, I can share with the other two. If you like!’ Yes, that was the intention. ‘Great!’
So…into the songs, what exactly is the nature of the “Paradise” we are talking about here? (nice tacked-on false ending too!).‘Those lyrics were written by our guitarist/vocalist Marcus Koch’ she explains. ‘His lyrics are not often what they seem, but he prefers listeners to find their own meaning.’ I’ve heard that one before. Sometimes that ‘I let the listener decide what the lyric means’ can be used a cop-out escape clause. But then again, the lyric is part of the song-structure, otherwise you might as well write it as poetry. This song depends on mood and instrumental power too, which also colours in the meaning. Lyrics, as well as poetry, can deploy ambiguity effectively.
Marcus himself takes it further. ‘So many times, when people read and attempt to interpret song lyrics, they make conclusions that the author is speaking in the first person, that what is being communicated is literal and/or there is some profound meaning infused. If that were true about lyrics, or artistic expression in general, then I’d not feel compelled to create at all. Additionally, when I hear an explanation of the meaning of lyrics by the author that were intended to be open for interpretation, I feel somewhat disappointed or even cheated of the opportunity to make a conclusion for myself. Interestingly, I purposely crafted the words for “Paradise” in – what I would define as, reverse logic and chose what would appear as, literal commentary from the first-person perspective. If I explain what the lyrics ‘mean’, wouldn’t that spoil the intrigue? And the musical tag at the end of the song also has ‘meaning’. What do you think?’
Lisa wrote and sings “Painted Floor” – is there a story behind how she came to create that one? ‘Well, you know these songs were written about thirty-five years ago, so I’d have to look back at my brain back then’ she avers. ‘No artist wants to really explain their lyrics. And sometimes we are not conscious of where they come from. My songs often deal with relationships between people. That’s where pain and pleasure intersect! And the bass line is reflective of my love of funk and syncopation.’
Some of the best bands in Rock had the power-trio line-up, lead-bass-drums, but it requires a great deal of interdependence and mutual reliance on each other. It seems that Get Smart! have a good internal dynamic? ‘Aww, thanks! Yes, we do. We usually have three different – but complementary, answers to interview questions. Also, just for your information, the exclamation point is an important part of our band name, so please kindly include it whenever you type ‘Get Smart!’ in print.’
Wasn’t ‘Get Smart’ a late-sixties TV spy-spoof Mel Brooks comedy series? Is that where the band’s name comes from? Frank opens with ‘although we grew up in the sixties and were familiar with the show, the name had more to do with our DIY beginnings and frustration with the stagnant state of music at the time. ‘Get Smart!’ was our way of saying think for yourself!’ Lisa adds ‘of course, the internet had not been invented when we came up with the name, so for any browser search now it’s best using ‘Get Smart! band’ or that pesky TV show will pop up!’
Until Marcus emphatically concludes ‘No! But we had a distinct interest in Pop culture and classic TV shows from that era. We thought it would be memorable but it was really a message urging listeners to get smart, get involved, contribute and be a part of something.’
There are some eye-ripping Punk-collage posters and fliers from the band’s breakthrough ‘Swimming With Sharks’ tour – from Milwaukee, Chicago, opening for Soul Asylum in Ann Arbor, and the Beat Farmers in Cincinnati, Nashville and New Orleans. Including a poster made with masking tape, craft knife, and spray paint on paper. Plus the sequences captured on the “Under The Rug” video. Seems like it must have been a great tour? ‘The ‘Swimming With Sharks’ tour was definitely the best because we were finally getting more known and had a real-life booking agent arranging the tour’ enthuses Frank. ‘Still, you didn’t go on the road and come back with much cash in hand, which made it difficult to sustain. It was only later, after reading books like ‘Our Band Could Be Your Life’ (Michael Azerrad’s ‘Scenes From The American Indie Underground 1981-1991’) that I realized every band out there was having the same issues. The best part was how tight we got playing the music. It was exhilarating to get on stage at that time and play to whatever crowd we had.’
‘All of our touring and playing at venues across the U.S. were adventurous!’ says Marcus. ‘One of my favourite aspects of touring was going to new clubs and playing to new audiences, putting effort into enticing new fans and navigating uncharted territory. What is remarkable is that hand-made posters were THE form of communication before the Internet. Back then, it required do-it-yourself posters – including the folding, mailing and posting them to inform and lure an audience. So much of that process has disappeared and with it the unique art that was utilized.’
So the six tracks on the mini-album were presumably intended to be a part of a follow-up to ‘Swimming With Sharks’ that was never completed? ‘Yup’ from Frank. ‘The idea was to shop it to some labels, indie, major, or otherwise. We were frustrated with the disorganization at Restless/Enigma.’
‘Yes. Those songs were ready to be recorded’ confirms Marcus. ‘We’d been playing them live and they were polished. We wanted to capture their energy in the studio and get at least part of an album completed. Having established a great working and personal relationship with Iain Burgess, it was a natural choice to have him engineer the project.’
So how did Steve Albini get involved in the project? The one-time member of Big Black, producer for Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey and the Breeders? Did he work his magic on the raw tracks? ‘Steve first learned how to work in a studio with Iain’ explains Frank. ‘So we thought he would be a natural go-to person to do a final mix. We knew each other from the Chicago scene, and it turned out to be a good collaboration. Steve intuitively figured out a lot about what Iain had done just by listening to the original two-inch tape.’
Marcus takes over the story. ‘We called him and asked if he would engineer the mixes and he said ‘yes’. We thought he could deliver the bold sound we were seeking while maintaining the Iain Burgess spirit. Not only was he familiar with us, but he’d worked with Iain years before and immediately recognized many of the techniques that he’d incorporated into the recording process.’
Was it the prospect of the release of this mini-album that prompted the trio to reform for live dates? Frank demurs. ‘More that Marcus asked us if we’d be interested in playing a Fortieth Anniversary show together, then that lead to a bunch of other plans, including releasing the 1987 tape.’
Marcus agrees. ‘No. For many years, I maintained that those songs were worthy of release, but there’d not been any serious discussion of a band reunion until a couple of years ago. When we came together to play a reunion show or shows, the release of those recordings became a component of that decision.’
How is it different playing live now to the way it was in 1986? You’re not tempted by autotune? ‘What is this thing you mention, ‘autotune?’ LOL!’ laughs Frank. ‘Nope, we’re gonna be raw and naked on stage, just like always! I think the biggest difference is tempo, followed by stamina – for a drummer!’
‘What?!’ Marcus contrives outrage. ‘We play music today the same way we played it then – plug in and play with people who want to perform and generate an unbridled energy people will respond to. Essentially, I’ve not embraced technology, and still believe in honest, uninhibited performance in its basic forms’.
‘It will be such an incredibly special experience to play live with my bandmates after so many years’ Lisa enthuses. ‘I might need a little caffeine, but other than that, it’ll be great.’
The three individual component members have all worked on diverse music projects across the intervening years, from break-up to reunion. Marc in country band Cryin’ Out Loud, Lisa (with later Get Smart! second guitarist Bob Lara) first as The Lisa & Bob Show, then as a founding member of Dolly Varden… as well as the Gang Of Four tribute band Damaged Gods. How has that experience broadened the potential musical scope of Get Smart!? ‘Because we played live so much 1980–1987, that influenced what we wrote’ offers Frank. ‘We had to be able to play the songs live and not lose the audience. When I think of future projects, the biggest difference is that we will be unencumbered by that.’
Lisa agrees. ‘Yes, I think we will certainly see some interesting variations to come.’
‘You can take a Hank Williams song and a Ramones song and play them each in the other’s style’ suggests Marcus. ‘All music has the potential to be reinterpreted. When we were first creating music, we wanted to be a Punk band. We have the potential to incorporate other genres that have been of interest to us throughout our lives.’
So there will be new Get Smart! recordings to follow ‘Oh Yeah No’? ‘We’ll start talking about that after we get these anniversary shows completed’ says Frank. ‘There are a few projects we could pursue, but we need to talk more and then figure out how to do it!’
‘Yes, living in three different States creates some big challenges, but we’re hoping to develop some new material together’ confirms Lisa. ‘There are obstacles to overcome’ concludes Marcus, wrapping things up neatly, ‘but what I see in front of us now is to play a couple of anniversary shows and when we get to the next intersection, decide then if we are going to go left, right or straight. Where any of those directions will lead remains to be seen…’
In the meantime, it’s great to get the chance to say Hi!
‘Yes, it sure is!’ says Lisa brightly.
Welcome to even fresher sounds from Middle America!
BY ANDREW DARLINGTON
Email: [email protected]
Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair 2021 will take place on Saturday 6th November from 10am until 4pm at People’s History Museum, Left Bank, Bridge Street, M3 3ER. For full details see http://bookfair.org.uk
The Quest, Yes
‘What happened to those songs we once knew so well?’ is a question Yes once asked. Those songs seem to be confined to history now, as the frayed remnants of the current band, grouped around guitarist Steve Howe and ailing drummer Alan White, tour when Covid and health permits, and make occasional forays into the recording studio.
Now fronted by a singer originally from a Yes tribute act, the band’s ranks include one of White’s mates on studio percussion and drumming on tour, the returned Buggles and former Yes member Geoff Downes, along with Chris Squire disciple and former touring band member Billy Sherwood.
The Quest has been a long time coming; it’s several years since 2014’s Heaven and Earth studio disc, though a number of live albums have been released on the back of various album tours where the band perform one or more albums in sequence accompanied by a few greatest hits, always including the obligatory ‘Roundabout’.
Trouble is, it’s the greatest hits we all want to hear, if recent studio albums are anything to go by. It’s a widespread problem: inventive and accomplished progrock band from the 70s simply loses the ability to progress and reinvent themselves, instead slowing down and moving ever closer to Adult-Oriented Rock. One can only imagine how hard it is to engage with contemporary music and technology, let alone continue to experiment or be cutting-edge. I mean, the laughable image of Yes combining hiphop, garage, beats and rap is pretty frightening. But there must be other possibilities?
However accomplished and varied The Quest is – and it is – it plods. However clever and layered and textural it is, it’s ultimately dull and well-played, with nothing to grab you, first time or later; and it doesn’t get any better, however much you persist with listening. Gone are the free-spirited and poetic lyrics Jon Anderson used to provide; absent are the scorching guitars and reverberating bass; missing in action are the layered keyboards and intricate percussion.
Yes, of course, Howe can still amaze with his guitar licks; yes, Geoff Downes’s approach to keyboards may be different from Wakeman’s, Kaye’s or Moraz’s (especially Moraz’s!) but he is a fantastic player; and I have no problems with Jon Davison’s singing, as he offers his own twist to those high angelic harmonies we expect. There’s just nothing here that surprises or challenges.
You can laugh, but Yes excelled when they were pretentious, naive and ambitious: concept albums inspired by a yogi’s footnotes, the jazz-rock recreation of War & Peace using found metal, side-long songs in several movements, abstract love songs, and grandiose spiritual paeans that swelled to bursting point out of your speakers.
Now all we get are songs with a maximum eight minute duration, each with a verse, chorus, middle eight and some clever widdly-diddly keyboards or tasteful guitar. Plus a second CD of three songs that not only don’t fit with the eight songs on the album proper (i.e. the first CD) but are truly appalling, especially one which threads together the titles of Beatles songs as lyrics. I mean, really? Is this Junior School poetry or what?
I really wanted to believe this was the promised fantastic studio album, the return-to-form, the true re-emergence of a real Yes, the glorious flowering of a group of musicians who have been together as a band for many years now and who I have enjoyed seeing live several times. But it’s not. It’s pedestrian, lacklustre, obvious and exactly what I hoped it wouldn’t be: utterly forgettable.
Electric Wizards, JR Moores (Reaktion Books)
Like, wow. “The ensuing pages offer my own version of the evolution of heavy music” says the author on the second page of his Preface, before making it clear this heavy tome isn’t going to be, thank goodness, about heavy metal but about music that, well, is heavy. You either know he means or you don’t. Gotta be good I thought, nestling down into my bean bag.
Pretty soon the book turns to shit though. JR Moores tries to make a case for The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” as the first heavy track. Well, sorry, but it’s not heavy and I doubt if it’s the first. I mean, The Beatles are the most overrated pop band in history. With the worst drummer ever. Having got off to a crap start he then digs himself deeper by devoting a whole chapter to pantomime dames Black Sabbath, those Birmingham pensioners who still think writing about vampires and demons is scary. Like hell it is. I mean, I’m hiding behind the sofa man. Crying.
JR Moores is great at dissing bands he doesn’t like, trouble is I like a lot of them. He prefers to be hip and obscure, championing the underdog. I wonder if he has ever heard some of the “music” he champions? It’s all pretty indiscriminate and personal here. Nu metal and grunge gets short shrift in the main, as do bands like Led Zeppelin, but he likes Steve Albini, and is obsessed by The Melvins and TAD. (No, me neither. And I don’t intend to.)
Most progrock gets kicked into touch, along with punk. JR Moores prefers krautrock, industrial rock (though he seems unsure what that is) and acid rock. Then he invents Noise Rock, and starts listing post-genres, as well as championing The Jesus Lizard. I mean, The Jesus Lizard!!! Get a life man. We are definitely post-Jesus-Lizard. Possibly post-post.
Look, I agree on some things here, and it’s always easy to offer alternatives, but sometimes it’s just too much. REM’s Monster album is not a heavy-sounding monster. (Just listen to their early albums.) Where are Pere Ubu, Chrome, Radiation Sunshower or the Nosebleeds? What about some of the far our and heavy jazz albums of the 1960s that John Coltrane made? Has Moores ever listened to the first Suicide album he disses at full volume? And why all the praise for lots of stoned-out ineptitude and repetition?
At least he hates the Grateful Dead and Britpop, that we can agree on. And he quite likes Sonic Youth, though you can tell he’s suspicious of their artiness. But this book feels like a sleight of hand, not magic. Most of these bands aren’t musical wizards, they’re inept drug addicts who were or are intent on amusing themselves in a recording studio and convincing idiots like JR Moores how experimental and heavy they are. “Helter Skelter” my arse. “When I get to the bottom I go back to the top”: round and round and up and down and round and round… JR Moores is going round in circles and making himself dizzy.
Johnny Head-in-a-bass-bin Brainstorm
In the mind’s eye a Dream Fractal is a way of seeing infinity all the mirrors on Earth but none of them reflect me imagine a dreamscape posthuman era long chats chemistry passion undercover mission find Estranged Attractor exit mainstream The Lords may rule…The Lords may burn act in The Void beautifully gratuitous flurry of lexical mixology techno text lurid fusion appearance of Store Detective From The Future Omega Lightning frightening blinked in strange Earthlight where am I? Structure treatment motifs theme context all unfamiliar territory no plan from Dr. Hexagon helter skelter Riot Grrrls reinvent metaphysics no knickers emit laser death-ray post implosion condition of contemporary culture tunnel of hate slipped her a fiver blasphemies anything/ something sombre skies ‘nice bloke’ but fiery and salacious Strobe Magnum in Drone City beyond Hollow Hills notoriously elegant coat and shirt both second-hand leery beer boys in bad make-up prowl stratosphere probing for her toggled draw-string memories bizarre communications highlight obscure nature of turbulence find wave function of all dreams everywhere anywhere sort of sub-atomic event
Unleashed across cosmos fracturing fabric several realities unknown energy she was OK I gave her the Pied Piper the Pope’s Eye set her sights on Southern Cross wolves gather with a vengeance are you the ‘so what’ generation? Sun setting behind scaffolding strategic highway leaves nasty smell worst on record life just a round-the-clock docu-soap all balls to me lay off booze hit jackpot all shook up Omega lurched groggy against wall of death its tough its tense its close sky diving radio star volcano sporting muffins macaroons florentines help yourself whipped cream hot offers bargain of the year hyper-bowl off its trolley time running short stormy waters years of fun and games superhuman passion slow roasted strike it lucky fractal densities for open dreams greatest challenge Sunday afternoon put out the light explore glory sunset on the darkside where the cleaners come from Venus nothing human just looking yeah just looking screaming about dominance on the telephone in the car in the air back at the ranch you laughing at me bitch?
Phenomenal seconds. Find out more all too rare murmurs cutting across music to avoid smashing an interior you name it we’ve got it crystal clear eat to the beat shoebox housing industrial sheds miles and miles no sign of Strobe what’s Strobe? Dunno. Day-dreaming ultra-fan host of features come in closer overstep the mark glad handed floppy dark hair melting brown eyes fabulous in a strappy slip dress beaded bag dodgy Korean wax-job imagined trajectory new identity for mission impossible to underestimate still wore socks pluck eyebrows avoid tut-tutting beauticians beating a path to my door moveable feast porno/ pyro maniacs hung up on Chinese Lanterns fractal substitutes off radar radio detection and ranging screen no longer the preserve of the micro-skirted Ibiza set stuffy shirtmakers nail polish chillingly cool beware be careful be very careful inch forward kick ass kick text spit out the word ultimate luxury stereotype cursive mystery now seems fully armed way up ahead escape from suburbia like it’s a zoomorphic symbol mirror universe dark forces ancient gnosis secret manuscripts distorted shadows another instalment lewd pin-ups of little boys dispossessed
Surrounded by fat wheezy blokes in late middle age manic and manipulative endless CCTV footage probably sooner rather than later icy bitch find the switch across erased time masochist mode giveaway getaway infamous street like Reeperbahn divide-erase-search-move-combine-detach brainteasers screamed “ICY BITCH…” like no tomorrow wannabe Poshsportyscarybaby? Wannabe Ally? Wannabe Buffy? Wrong move I guess Omega is equal to or greater than One. No one knows how white rose winter femina alba mutilated kids shift product chief executive grinned cruel mirthless market-driven smile behind his shiny desk fabulous paperweight arse-kissing gun-totting boffo locals fall in line for groupie abuse quiet shy sensitive bored teenagers get plastic dope hooters when all they want is to be saved from growing up here in Tiger Bay Drone City West rotten floorboards broken windows vile messages in barcodes share dreams : fantasies of Glastonbury pubs shopping hugs poetry laughter soulmates astrology giggling gingers loveable schoolgirls possibly gay escape from here with foxy intelligent hippie ladies for twiglets and noodles anything goes more special than a framed hamster
Start crisis shuddup dickhead have you given birth to twins on a car seat? Tank-topped bumboys Cool Britannia types tailors pub-crawlers brothel-creepers from Skegness to Surbiton spinning out of control like legless Chihuahuas rolltop bath tool hire take your rubbish with you screaming wheels our Store Detective From The Future on roof swaying about all over metaphysical journey into heart of darkness heart of evil you know who throw custard pies sink a gunboat laser beam slices apart narrative exposes Hollow Hills unleashes the denizens of faery like Undines Brownies Asrai melting into pools of water Greenteeth Shellycoat Jack-in-Irons Phooka Bogies Trows Will O’ the Wisp Cornish Knockers (Phwoooaaar!) Silkies Spriggans like we’re talking maggots from corpse of Giant Ymir Huldre Folk dark enchantments my girlfriend’s hairbrush cloves of garlic broken crucifix Agh-Iski Chaw Gully spooks of all sort shape size and intention blips on radar screens all over effing nightsky look up see ‘em go fan-bloody-tastic what a wild time wannabe Robbie? Wannabe Jade ‘n’ Kate? Wanna hold my hand? Outside the super-dream all is quiet all is cool nothing is new no surprises as reality emerges internally from a dream; posthuman hyperembodiment of stark naked fear (Historia Abscondita, a power which operates backward), just looking play the fool take a shower clinch the deal
Polish silver open floodgates get message crack code watcha say? Savaged by a Death Watch Poodle I splashed out squeezed the levers at last romantic bedroom cobbled streets twist of line ride the zeitgeist double your chances in spacey movies Gothic black lace heavy eyeliner photos of what else exists out there motorbikes barbarian road warriors adventurous wenches no fags no lonely soul-searchers ready for drowning spooked by Bogies in the bathroom Keraaang! Boom! Shit! Rig up a quantum beam-splitter escape into dance really chuck your plunge bra away join Riot Grrrls in realm of dream fractals known as Phased-Out Space where printed text is shattered in an orgy of banality where in a single instant time collapses into a point five year battle terminal haze naked singularity superdense neutron thingy wotsit painted people covered in woad and spiky tattoos agents from past present future anywhere…anywhere? Dodge the Lords who Rule….no….no! no! Omega crashes in through the window luminous green G string emits laser ray probe slices apart narrative smacks desktop bounces off ceiling shatters mirror makes cuppa tea darke conceit Ghillie Dhu spicy Kobolds amber connections late gaze into crystal ball honest man o’ g-g-god no g-g-good t-t-to m-m-me she stuttered in the freezing Arctic wastes of Earth what a dump witty raconteur that Dr. Hexagon a ‘treat’ we can all look forward to another
Or pisstake music of the millennium celebrity chat same old twaddle buncha twats trendy new bars slow moving traffic assault run down oriental garden another mirror on right no reflection trip over a nematode kick beam splitter cloud chamber explodes in shower of purple goo it was a life-defining moment or so they said as fire took hold in thatch squelch pretence of virginity pays off dispossessed growing up Tiger Bay vanishes into a Christmas cracker bad joke Icy Bitch polishes nails turns into sexy witch on broomstick besom any which way but loose hyped to the skies by bumfluffed noise merchants doing Space Oddity to conga rhythms all the pots ‘n’ pans absolutely sod all kitchen sink Hmmmmm brainwash the opposition name of the game it was the real thing wannabe Kool Keef? Off centre nympho purist roots hidden agenda no chaser descent into colourful language (if you have to dress up I’m there!) Nerys the Bitch turns into Beelzebub’s Grandma wrinkly old bedwetter makes me sick snake in grass big shots with Fanta lemon twist up for grabs unbelievable unbeatable don’t miss it lurch downmarket lower tone potty party pranks great set of pearls cat’s whiskers bee’s knees kipper’s knickers brilliant sunlight on waves dazzles eye three egg omelette portion of chips remember the name? False information Strobe Magnum is not Giant Ymir is the Estranged Attractor Omega lap-dances in Hammersmith part of Drone City high road
Where poetry is fear or fear is poetry and text turns to ice worth paying for expert cutting edge nitty gritty delightful cameo cheap-o hardcore gang banging leery larger louts looking for blood Omega’s blood preferably radar screen shatters like trashy novel in ‘plain English’ ha ha deep up put you off your dinner really gross cum talking in four-poster heritage holiday rues the day time to look over the place micro camera up married mum matter-of-fact wave function of all dreams hovers over Broadway Buildings like formation of flying saucers regular yawning spotty golden age completely unsuitable shampoo one disastrous morning manhandled by servants grooms and gardeners admit it you played a lawyer with false identity papers how about that? This is an abstract plenum containing all possible oneiric geometries fan-bloody-tastic vision – Omega spins on heel confronts Dream and Non-Dream completely self-contained impotent The Lords who Rule and Burn in hyperspace near Hammersmith unleashed by No Boundary thing improbable states coherent account various realities various probabilities something like the way a chaotically billowing cloudburst may turn into a badly designed shopping mall she sticks no frills by the Angel Tube the Desolation Gateway all stations to the Hollow Hills orbiting fireball of time zapped by silk stocking top of the range weird cult show wind-out eyes on stalks hair on end dreaming spires watching Asrai melt exposed to sunlight fade (out) to black.
A C Evans
15th November, 1999.
The column which thinks you may have dialed the wrong number. Please hang up and try again
Disappointingly there were no winning entries for October’s picture competition in which readers were asked to identify the subject of a photograph which was taken from an unusual angle, I think quite a few of you will be kicking yourselves when I reveal the answer.
READER: Don’t keep us in suspense! What was it?
MYSELF: It was a Mexican egg-eating spider which had recently eaten an egg.
READER: No! I was going to say that!
MYSELF: Well why didn’t you?
READER: Unfortunately, after careful reconsideration I panicked and guessed it was a type ‘D’ condenser valve from the boiler of a Thompson’s “Gazelle” portable steam trouser press.
MYSELF: If only you’d trusted your intuition, that £5 prize would have been yours.
ASK DR. GUANO
Unqualified medical advice for the concerned hypochondriac
Dear Dr. Guano,
Although this is not strictly a medical enquiry, I wonder if you could settle an argument? My husband and I are considering a trial separation because of a simple disagreement about precisely how many golden daffodils there are in a host. He claims it is half a dozen, but I say that the talented Mr Wordsworth would hardly have interrupted his solitary cloud-like stroll for a mere six blooms. My estimate would be more in the region of 125-130, more than enough to stop a starry eyed poet in his tracks, regardless of how lonely his wandering might be.
Mimsy Borogrove, Beyondenden, Kent
Dear Ms Borogrove,
I am more than happy to deal with your non-medical enquiry, since I am not a real doctor. Due to the random whims of fashion and politics, the number of daffodils required to comprise a host has fluctuated wildly over the years. For example from 1877 to 1889, thanks to a Dutch embargo, it stood at a mere seven daffodils per host, yet less than a decade later (following the Great Daffodil Glut of 1895), that figure had reached an astounding 235.
In September 1945, shortly after Germany’s surrender, The newly-formed International Society of Daffodils met in Flanders in an effort to tackle post-war inflation and daffodil speculation. At the meeting’s conclusion, since none of the member nations could agree on an exact figure, the number of daffodils in a host was officially pronounced to be exactly the same as the number of proposals contained in a raft, where it remains to this day.
SAUSAGE EATS MAN
Just as football fans began celebrating the recent purchase of Hastings & St.Leonard’s Warriors FC by Billionaire Mexican Drug Cartel Steenkin’ Badges a reminder of the the club’s troubled past once again reared its euphemistic head.
Mr. Chorizio, The Warriors’ former mascot, appeared at Hastings Assizes last Friday charged with being drunk and disorderly in a local wine bar known as The Cat’s Pyjama, whilst dressed as a salami. The jury were told that Mr Chorizio (57, real name Norman Rhodes), had been engaged by the club’s former manager, flamboyant Spanish sausage manufacturer José Pypebahn, against the wishes of the fans, many of whom had decided to mock him on a specially set up social media blog called Sack The Sausage.
Karl Spüunbender QC acting for the defendant, said that Rhodes had entered a plea of guilty and asked for 51 similar offences to be taken into consideration. Referring to extenuating circumstances, Spüunbender read out Mr Rhodes’ written statement: “I have been under a lot of stress, due to the insufferable circumstance of wearing a sausage suit for a living. On top of that, the acute anxiety brought on by being the constant butt of online penis-related jokes has only served to exacerbate my trepidation, thus provoking the untypical behavior with which I am charged.”
During cross examination, prosecutor Percival Badwigge QC accused Mr Rhodes of being a habitual drunk, who deliberately courted controversy during games by making obscene gestures to the crowd and waving his inflatable weiner in a suggestive manner.
Proceedings were hastily adjourned when a group of aggrieved Warriors supporters burst into the court and began pelting the accused with saveloys. The case continues…
OCTOBER’S POETRY COMPETITION WINNER
This month’s subject was ‘Life’, and from an enormous post bag of entries, the judges voted overwhelmingly for Cuthbert Spoon’s concise yet evocative vignette, Pants
Life’s a treat
It’s short and sweet
A grave that you can dance on
Stick out your tongue
Live fast, die young
And always have clean pants on.
READER: Fair play, that’s a poem worthy of Shelley, or the other one. By the way, did you phone me the other night?
MYSELF: Me? Er….I don’t think so……
READER: No? Its just that I got a strange call, very late. The caller didn’t say anything and all I could make out was about four minutes of what can only be described as random high-pitched grunting.
MYSELF: Random high-pitched grunting? How very odd.
READER: It was your number.
MYSELF: (blushing slightly): OK, I cannot tell a lie, it was me. I got home late after my Countryside Alliance meeting and I dimly remember that my phone slipped out of my hand moments before I toppled over due to tiredness. Judging by the bruising and flecks of blood, my nose must have collided with the phone as I fell to the floor, causing it to accidentally peck your number. I suspect the random grunting you heard came from the wild boar which had followed me home, attracted by the scent of the dead pheasant in the inside pocket of my raincoat.
READER: God, you don’t feel any shame at all, do you?
MYSELF: Shame? It’s too late for shame. All these foreign drunks coming over here and lying in our gutters? It’s PC gone mad. This country’s going to the dogs. I had to tell a talking book to shut up in the library the other day.
READER: Couldn’t agree more. I blame orgasmic farming and homophobic medicine.
Vote For Countryside Alliance
by The Hunt Cult. Click for video
“Sometimes you just need a tool that doesn’t do anything”
BY Colin Gibson
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I’m not even really a concert guy. I hate large crowds, I hate drunks, and for the cost of a ticket I could buy several CDs or even vinyl albums. This however was one of my last chances to see a band that goes beyond legendary, a band that had produced many of the songs that would comprise the soundtrack of my life. After all, I am not a person for whom it is easy to find new music. The songs I listen to have little to do with current popularity but I’m not enough of a hipster to troll Pitchfork and the like, and people who write about music usually push me to the point of homicide within a few paragraphs. As a matter of fact it struck me that on a 6 hour road trip to see a concert we listened to amazingly little music. After all, radio is garbage these days.
October 6, 2021 – It was a little after 5 o’clock at the Carnegie Art Museum in Pittsburgh when I unwrapped the little foil square and ate the piece of multicolored paper inside. Figured I should be in good form by the time the Stones took the stage after 8. Some people would think that dropping acid and going to see the Rolling Stones would be a thing to do in say, 1971 (and I’d rather have done it then, 9 years before I was born). But we work with what we have.
I first became aware of the Stones when I was about 7 years old. Music was mostly background noise to my child’s mind, other than a few standouts. My mom found it hilarious when I would sing George Strait’s “All My Exes Live In Texas.” Dad was known to crank a certain song about Saturday night being alright. And then I was also acutely aware of the evils of heavy metal, as was blatantly shown by my cousin’s posters exhibiting Ozzy Osbourne at his most demonic. (How quaint, those days).
And one night, as I sat down to watch television, a show came on that featured a strange theme song. Tour of Duty was a relatively short-lived series about the horrors and drama of the Vietnam War. From what little I knew of Vietnam at that age (relayed to me by my Marine veteran uncle), I knew the song fit. A foreign instrument I had never heard before twanged the intro as helicopters filled with soldiers rushed in to fight. A snare drum kicked in like rifle fire. Lyrics much different from the easy-to-understand love songs I knew and was used to, spoke of painting it all black in dark terms as fire consumed jungle outposts. Even to an innocent 7 year old – I knew it was badass, and it captured the ugly emotions of a particularly hellish time and space in human existence. My dad uttered a name that would come up time and again in my musical and cultural experiences: The Rolling Stones.
Growing up, especially in my teenage years, I was steeped in the sounds of what we today call Classic Rock. It may or may not have set me upon the lifelong path of becoming a stoner. But even as a goody two-shoes Pentecostal kid being groomed for the ministry, I knew that those sounds had to have great power upon those in an altered consciousness, and had a strange guilt about enjoying it. After all, being 13 in 1995 meant that the Boomers were in the first few waves of having their youth re-marketed to them as is the norm in commercialistic Western societies these days. This glossed-over narrative pushed the bellbottoms and forgot the civil rights movement. No talk of adulterated drugs, and cannabis use was downplayed as just the shenanigans of the young. Dazed and Confused had just come out, and styles from that era became popular as kids raided their parents’ old wardrobes. I stealthily indulged in the discouraged music when my dad wasn’t paying too much attention. He had made it quite clear that he wasn’t going to have his son grow up to be a “head”. In fact I decided to try cannabis for the first time after being accused of smoking it several times.
My father both idealized and cursed the 1970s. Saying he was from a rough background would never cover it. When his father died suddenly of a heart attack in 1972, he was uprooted by a grieving mother to live in reduced circumstances in a Louisville suburb called Mt. Washington, which was still very much stuck far behind those times. A small (but growing) farm town, the transition not only came with a new group of assholes to deal with but also now with an abusive drunken flat-topped conservative stepfather that would beat the longhaired rebel until he got big enough to fight back. In 1976, the US Navy gave him a way out. But after a string of minor offenses, then being caught with women and cocaine on a naval base in San Diego, he landed back in the redneck outpost to resume the life of a working man, sometimes with a good job and sometimes not. They should have seen it coming, after all he was the one that signed the boot camp graduation book as “Hippie” with a pot leaf drawn to the side. His coming of age had been fraught with great trauma, to which he had not adjusted well and never did. Music, especially of his youth, was one of the few things that set him free, and so he would tell me cautionary tales of the rock-and-roll lifestyle of his youth, but also explaining that there were other ways to have fun. Don’t be stupid. And if you’re going to be stupid, don’t get caught.
I lost my faith when I was 16. The particular Christian cult to which I belonged had a very strict theology, and it was since early childhood that I made it my mission to save my family as every single one of them (and most of my friends) would be burning in hell if I didn’t help them get saved. Emotions ran high, but to pump them up even higher the churches would use loud uptempo music to introduce a preacher or the languid, sorrowful sounds of an altar call to confess our sins and renew our commitments to Christ. I suffered in this state until my maternal grandmother died. Would an all-loving God send the most loving person I had ever known to a lake of fire because she didn’t do a certain baptism and speak in heavenly tongues? I chewed on it until that thought and the science I had been learning at school dissolved my belief. I think that being the unpopular one telling all the schoolkids that they were to burn in hell forever may have had something to do with it too… but the strong, emotional bond with music remained and ultimately set a high bar for musicians who would wish to access my ears.
You can buy your favorite albums at a yard sale. You can watch videos of old concerts on YouTube. None of this compares with the actual experience of BEING THERE, watching magic unfold and in the case of many of my favorite rock groups that will never happen. Neither will I see many of my jazz heroes such as Max Roach, or even outlaw country like Waylon Jennings. Opposed to this day of ProTools studio perfection, in those days the true measure of a band was whether they could make a stand on the road – and the Stones eminently delivered on this front, especially in their heyday.
As far as the music of my day goes, I came of age in the era of mammoth radio conglomerates killing off creativity in the age of radio deregulation and pushing ever-shittier label-created garbage that just wasn’t for me. Although I grew to appreciate a lot of it later, the disturbing imagery of grunge turned my young sensitive stomach. Hip hop revelled in sin (and would later serve the purpose of scaring my mom.) Even among the older bands I like, the classic rock radio stations would play the same 2 or 3 songs by those bands, never with album deep cuts or cult classics like public radio would do – and those only for a couple of hours per week. (In radio voice) “107.7 WSFR! Playing the same 20 songs for the last 20 years.” Finding new music was something that would happen almost accidentally with friends or by running through blogs. Still I would return to old favorites – Let It Bleed, Led Zeppelin III, Motorhead, the like. High energy rock and roll played by human hands. As the old legends go, the Stones are the last great animal to still be moving with a mostly-original core… but this isn’t Bachman Turner Overdrive at the Iowa State Fair. This is the Greatest Rock And Roll Band Of All Time.
Yes, better than the Beatles, who even in their psychedelic phase still came off as 50% pop music. 60 year career aside, it’s like comparing a Volkswagen Beetle to a Type E Jag. A decent salad to a steak. A comfortable sweater to a Tommy Nutter suit. It may be that all the Beatles need is love, but the Rolling Stones like to fuck.
So I bought my ticket, and took the ride up to Pittsburgh. The missus came with me, as much to babysit as to enjoy the trip. Being a music fan she relished the idea of seeing the Stones and as a natural adventurer – although not by chemical means – she made the perfect companion (babysitter) for the evening. No phone or wallet would be lost, no fumbling for tickets. And, in the rare event that I did have a bad trip, somebody to speak positive things.
Having read Keith’s autobiography It occurred to me that in the past 50-odd years, the exact same culture war that they helped kicked off with the advent of the psychedelic age and was being waged then, was being waged now… and it was being waged on me. I drove quickly but smartly, the foil packet stuffed deep in my wallet where it looked like trash. Delta 8 gummies (a cannabinoid) meant that not only would I not be filling the car with cannabis smoke, it (temporarily) remains legal in every state that we travelled in. Headed northeast through the empty farmland of Ohio on a Sunday morning, and devoid of the redneck Trumper cops that would *love* to bust an out-of-state smartass from a city with a functioning economy, the two-lane interstate would often afford opportunities to crank it up to 90-ish in a convoy with other like-minded individuals – but I knew that Johnny Law would be back on the job before long. I did not aim to abuse the privilege. As one trooper would not be able to give us ALL tickets, I took the lead and motioned with a “come on” to a local in a compact in order to beat feet. Others would join in later, but I made a wise decision to back off as approaching state lines or anywhere in the few miles that I70 ran through West Virginia, where the local yokels viewed the interstate as an opportunity to raise revenue through tickets and to pull over a few of THOSE people, whomever the outsiders may be.
The Duquesne Incline – The red thing is a tram car, not a house
As the missus is a lady of culture, she made sure that our first arrival in Pittsburgh (even before the hotel) was to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. A beautiful steel and glass castle from 1893 welcomed us in to view exotic plants of every type and stripe. There was a desert room. Tropical rooms. Large sustainable landscapes outside, a frog and turtle pond. Fruit and spice room. I highly recommend a visit, the weaving vines and giant palms made me wish I was already tripping! Give yourself at least two hours if you visit.
Being eyeball-melting tired, we then went on to check into the dirtiest hotel room I have ever actually slept in. Red Roof Inn by the airport… if anything should make you doubt the veracity of reviews on the internet, this hotel somehow got 3.5 stars on TripAdvisor, despite being a known hotspot for prostitution and drugs. Fishier yet still… but we were too tired to complain about it. After showering, my feet became sticky and darkened from walking on the floor. I ended up “mopping” the bathroom floor with a towel and then laid the sheets from the second bed all over the floor until we had a blanket fort to walk on, then checked the sheets we were to sleep on for cleanliness before washing my feet yet again.
In the morning, I woke like a motherfucker and after my caffeine situation was sorted out, we had them refund us so we could find another hotel. The lady at the desk was nice enough about it, she knew it was a shithole and was powerless to do anything about it. The Central Diner next door has so much sympathy that there is – no shit – a 10% Red Roof discount when they feel sorry for patrons of this particular motel. Our server regaled us with tales of police, prostitutes, and other base human behavior at the hotel. A solid Reuben and fries fortified me for the day and provided enough for leftovers. The missus had a large breakfast sandwich, and more leftovers for later.
Secure with our new, clean, and vibrantly colored room at the Holiday Inn outside of some small township, we set out on concert day to see the city. I was at one time a great fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and always considered it one of those “cool places” that I would visit one day. In Pittsburgh the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers merge to make the Ohio river, which flows a few hundred miles downstream to my home in Louisville, which I considered something of a sister city. We walked around the hipster district of Lawrenceville, noting similarities and differences with our hipster areas back home. We rode around and scooped the neighborhoods, fighting a GPS that didn’t understand how so many areas can be under construction in one place. Almost every area of the city was hilly. Then came the Carnegie.
The Carnegie Museum of Art is one of Pittsburgh’s premier art collections, one of titan steelmaker Andrew Carnegie’s many forays into philanthropy to rehabilitate his image after decades of abusing the working class. You may even have a Carnegie library or 3 in your own hometown. In academic form it laid out great collections from ancient times to present. To speak of it does little, except to say you will see the names that you expect there… Van Gogh, Gaguin, all the usuals. To inhale the art, to see the microstrokes of paint that bring it to life, or to see the level of detail of the works, is what will make you appreciate it. Another highly recommended stop – what we didn’t know is that we got entry to the Museum of Natural History as well. Another day, because it was time to figure out what in the hell we were going to do about parking. This was complicated, because the roads in Pittsburgh are completely fucked up. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the trip.
OH YEAH, THE TRIP
5 o’clock was the perfect time to ingest, as I knew this particular brand of acid and knew the peaks. I slid the small blotter square onto my tongue under the illumination of a bright blue early autumn sky surrounded by the beautiful architecture of the University of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie museums. I knew that this was going to be a slow come-on. My pretty redheaded guide insisted on something called the Duquesne (doo-kane) Incline before the show, it was close to a couple of the areas we had scoped out for parking.
Pittsburgh is surrounded by hills, but saying that doesn’t quite capture it. Pittsburgh is surrounded by big-ass fuckin’ steep hills to the tune of 400 feet at 30 degrees. These early electric tram cars would work like a diagonal elevator. The weight of one car balances the weight of the other car on the other track so that less work is done by the motor works. And in the 1890s, the hills surrounding the city gave birth to new suburbs as the working and middle class were pushed out of the urban core by rapid industrialization. Riding in the ancient, rickety (but totally awesome) car, my joints began to feel weird, as though there was hydrogen trying to bubble out. My smiles, although natural, felt as though they were beginning to pick up extra, high octane enthusiasm. Upward bound into the bright blue sky we went.
Coming to the top station, we emerged onto a platform that overlooked the entirety of the city. Bright temples to corporate power rose as tombstones for the American middle class and the postwar prosperity that lulled the American people into a spiritual and mental hypnosis. A large fountain sprayed in the distance, there were bridges (tons of bridges) and across the river from us our final destination, Heinz Field. It’s bright yellow seats began to beckon to me. Maybe all those years of watching Steelers football had implanted something in my subconscious, but I knew that however inconsequential the event may be to the consumerist world, my destiny to sit in that seat began a long time before that day.
Our socially-distanced seats.
At this point, a few of us standing on the platform began to figure out the other Stones fans in attendance and talk about the concert. Our seats in the top, cheap area did not impress anyone but the camaraderie of Stones fans established. No matter how you may rate them as a human being, if someone is a fan of the Stones they are almost always somebody that likes to have a good time and usually will not judge you for the ways in which *you* choose to have a good time. One of the men was from central Pennsylvania and had visited Louisville for the Forecastle festival. The conversation turned to the opening band, the Ghost Hounds. I spoke about how I had grown weary of bluegrass and banjos in Ole Kentuckee and was looking about for neo-psychedelia, someone with raunchy extended jam sessions.
“Ah, they ain’t it man. It’s fake soul music… they’re just opening because one of the guys is part owner of the Steelers.”
Well, at least there would be no pressure to see the openers, no fear of missing out.
Between several seemingly incorrect websites found with fingers that were quickly turning to jello and eyes that weren’t exactly focusing correctly anymore, and by speaking with others, we found our solution: Parking a bit away, and walking 15 minutes to Heinz Field across two bridges. Easy peasy, she drove to the parking garage as my body began to turn inside out. Were my fingers growing longer? We had now reached the point where the acid was present enough that I did not want the responsibility of driving even a quarter mile. We set up in a $10 parking lot. And not long after, so did some drunks about 20 yards away.
These people were rough around the edges, but not mean. Loud. Annoying. And that’s when I got hit with the first wave of comeup anxiety. What if I don’t enjoy the show? What if people are acting like assholes? What if one grabs my girl’s ass and then I have to beat him to death with my bare hands? Am I going to have the mental acuity to shut up and lawyer up if I’m somehow arrested for PI or some wacky shit I don’t expect? WHATIFWHATIFWHATIFWHATIF…
Anyone who has had any psychedelic experiences should be aware of this phenomenon, even if not directly experiencing it themselves. Myself, I was usually going to hit some kind of comeup anxiety in almost every trip, but after a few particularly grueling episodes of guilt and mental self-flagellation for relatively benign failings of self I began to develop the tools for dealing with the mental baggage, coming to a point of Breaking Through, and then enjoying the rest of my evening and the revelations that the universe held in store. It had been 22 years since my first trip (when I was initiated into the rites by a good friend that was active in the rave community). I was an old pro. Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. Self-care. I was going to be alright, as long as I got away from the drunks. We sat in the car and ate stomach-calming foods. We went over alternative plans if we lost each other in the crowd, if her low-battery phone died (as mine was back at the hotel) and other random stuff that can make a fun night out go sour rather quickly. Beyond that, I was in her custody. I was a dependent this evening, a starry-eyed child.
Soon enough the drunks left, my heart rate began to even out, and I began to look at the world with my new and improved eyes. This is Technicolor, folks. The first of a few “zoomies” happened – where my focus makes it almost look as though I am getting closer to something without moving. Slight tracers began to follow brighter color. Slowly I was shifting into The Zone.
Being that the lovely woman leading me along towards the exit was never the type to be late, she bought us tickets for one of the riverboats that cross the river diagonally, southwest towards Heinz Field. We entered the dilapidated-but-fun-looking paddleboat and made our way to the top. There the last remnants of sunlight were bleeding from the sky and into my occipital lobes, searing my brain with reds, purples, oranges, and perhaps a few colors that have not been codified by humans yet. For those who have never contemplated a sunset (or sunrise) while in the firm grip of psychedelics, there is no way to explain the intensity of color. The youthful wonder of life returned as I pondered the way that the sun has been interpreted by cultures over the years. The skyscrapers gleamed with a chromelike sheen and colors, purple shades lighting up and streaking across the glass. It looked like the kind of place where a gourmet dry-aged steak awaited me around every corner…
And who would happen to be at the end of the boat but the exact same drunks as the parking garage? We ignored the noise the best we could before having a seat towards the front. Time had melted into meaninglessness, every minute that we continued to idle and seat more passengers, the more the caterwauled WHOOOO-ing from the bumpkin family, the more I wanted to just jump off and swim across the river. With no time or sanity to spare we finally shoved off sideways, then chugging down towards the confluence of rivers, and towards the illuminated stadium. The whole city buzzed with life like a high tech ant colony.
Heinz Stadium on the return trip from the boat
Upon landing we dropped ramps from the bow onto the wharf and exited like conquering Romans. I was beginning to lose my sense of direction but it didn’t matter, the giant Temple of Sportsball loomed before me like a coliseum where battle was to be held, glory gained, and blood spilled. All that was left was to hold it together until the show started… the opening band were doing their thing to warm the crowd.
Holding it together however, turned out to be a slightly more arduous task than I first expected. Security was not prepared, and long lines loomed in both directions from the gates. Losing any and all desire to talk to people that were strangers to me, we were inevitably naturally drawn into conversation by necessity. I wondered if wearing my sunglasses as it was pretty much dark aroused suspicion. Can I sneak in a water bottle by shoving it in my underwear? Did I take enough Delta-8 cannabinoid to keep me relatively calm as the LSD begins to shred my psyche in the presence of 30,000 rock and roll maniacs?
The last question was moot. Other than the occasional shifty-looking character most of the crowd looked older, more sedate, cleaner than would have been the case fifty years previous. Also a lot more boring, except for a few seasoned old men with ponytails and the accoutrements of left-leaning stoners from the prime of rock, the old sentinels who never gave it up. Even then conversation was not my forte at this point but it was handled.
“I’ve been to a lot of Steelers games, playoff games even, and it NEVER takes us this long to get in”
With our wait growing ever more excruciating, friendly advice from the locals attending the concert kept me calm – I did not want to miss even a moment of this show. Some friendly banter occurred, after all I wasn’t fully wigging yet and did not want to be rude. We were even called “yinz”, the Pittsburgh version of “y’all.” Finally we saw the security checkpoint, finally we were in, finally we were riding the escalators to our nosebleed seats… which were surprisingly good seats in the long run.
In the short run, we met our only “neighbors.” The man and woman were in their 50s. He had a half-toothless smile and remarks about “Holy shit, LL seats don’t mean lower level!” There was more drunken blathering and I knew within the first 5 seconds that my great anxiety from before was not unfounded. I spat out some general bullshit word salad, smiled, turned away, and began my great efforts to ignore the couple and their drunken bullshit for the duration of the show. Something the kids stuck with them likely would have been able to accomplish themselves.
And then the show began. Pictures of the recently lost Charlie Watts passed across sixty foot screens. Isolated drum tracks played to display his effective talents, cheers went up, and one of the most distinctive drummers of our time was honored. A “pocket” drummer, Charlie brought a knowledge of jazz and had a niche for finding strong, simple drumbeats that he played for the song, not for unnecessary flourishes and vulgar exhibitions of speed. Often bemused by the success and longevity of the Stones, he would smile as he declared himself a “failed jazz drummer.”
At last, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones!”
As the first chords of Street Fighting Man began to ring across the stadium, I became immersed in viewing the crowd that we were part of. The visual effects geeks did an amazing job, between the movement of humans and the way they were lit by undulating, rotating, melting colors. It all made for an amazing scene of scale and proportion. Waves of people bounced and rolled, and cheers erupted. Street Fighting Man holds a prescience in 2021 as much as it did in 1968. This anthem of 20th Century class struggle seems instead of a story of the would-be revolutionaries of their time, a prophecy of the large scale protests of recent times and those to come. After all, the hippies didn’t win. Most of them Sold Out and became fat cats, or silenced themselves into shameful conformity. Many others just followed pop culture with no real appreciation for the philosophy behind the times.
It is still an amazingly good time to take acid at a Stones show, even though I missed the wildest times. Maybe it’s better now in some ways.
Although the idea of a rock concert by such a band is often looked at as a soft, innocent event, this was not the case in the 1960s. The canned rebellion of a modern rock show did not exist, any gig could turn into a nightmare event due to an unruly crowd, bad brown acid, accidental deaths, police, and any other number of scenarios. Although they were initially sold as a pop act by management and began with a mostly-feminine teenybopper fanbase, the band began as a translation of Chicago blues and other Black American music. Beyond the fact that this music held a transforming, powerful emotion often absent in the sterile English popular music at that time it also reflected what was often felt by the working class of England. Radio stations tuned in by American occupation forces in Europe could also be tuned in by young English teens coming to terms with the stark reality of the limitations of their material prospects due to the class system in the UK and the prejudices that the pecking order produced. Racism may not hold you back, but that East End Cockney accent will. The working people of England in postwar times – with plenty of the country still fucked up from the Blitz – had many reasons to sing the blues or to find an opportunity to lift one’s spirits and cut a rug. Many formed bands, few expected success. An RnB fan, a blues freak was still very much an outsider in those seminal days.
Although being treated mostly well by the press in this day and age, the Stones were hounded relentlessly first by fanatics, then the media, and then later by the police until Keith finally overcame heroin in 1978. While the War on Drugs rages on the political agenda behind it remains in place. President Richard Nixon needed a way to demonize rebellious progressive youth, the ascendant black civil rights movement, and other “left-wing” causes.. Reefer could be tied both to hippies and to the Black population, as well as Hispanics (which at that time were mostly the fear of border states and California. Communists were doping our country!
I pondered this as the feminine half of the drunk old white couple proclaimed her love for Keith yet again with ear-piercing screams before falling over into the next row. A substance that turns people into jibbering fools is not just legal but advertised but my trip was illegal. Still, it was much safer regarding the cops than it would have been in the 60s and 70s. Just a bunch of old Boomers and their kids, right?
The giant screens continued to provide animation that befitted the songs, or camera work of the band as they performed live. The Maori tribal designs from Tattoo You slithered around the edges of the screen during Troubles A-Comin’, an outtake from that period. 19th Nervous Breakdown had a bass wobble at the end that mimicked the action inside my head. There were songs with drug references, songs about sex, and all the forbidden pleasures that conservative America wanted to keep under wraps in order to turn the youth of that time into productive little robots for the members of the ownership class. Let’s Spend The Night Together may not seem so salacious these days, but Ed Sullivan forced the band to change it to Spend Some Time Together for his show in 1967. You look around at the well-dressed, clean cut Boomers and wonder how many of them are just here because the Stones were popular when they were young – something of nostalgia – how many of them never seemed to learn the real lessons of freedom. As Kurt Cobain says, “they know not what it means.” You wonder how many of them came because they didn’t get to go in previous years, cockblocked by overbearing religious parents or upper-crusty Ken-and-Karen types that thought it beneath their precious princess to be seen at a rock and roll show. I also wondered how many of the music freaks were at their umpteenth Stones show as they sang along. Youths picked up new memories of a band that they would cherish forever, a band their parents and grandparents grew up on.
Although the people onstage seemed smallish, I could still see them, with Mick working the stage or Ronnie Wood working a sitar. Although not credited as an actual member, bassist Darryl Jones has played with them since 1994 and brings a talent on a 5-string that, for those songs, cannot be matched. Mostly playing close to the album, Jones let loose a bass solo on Miss You that would have made Bill Wyman blush. And although nobody could replace Charlie Watts, Steve Jordan had studied under him for many years (and contributed on 1986’s Dirty Work album). The beats shook the insides of my head like ballistics jelly as I wigged on the sound, the light, the color, and the sheer force of a tight band cranking out some of my favorite tunes.
Sympathy for the Devil was a treat, as is to be expected. Beginning with fireworks and smoke around the stage, the African rhythms that scared the shit out of white parents 50 years ago set into motion the guitar weaving of Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. Although perhaps not as nimble as they once were, they played with energy and panache. The solos were amazing, building the tension and taking the songs to new place. Jumping Jack Flash ramped up and when it was done, Mick shouted, “Well – that’s it for PItt!” – a coy, dismissive farewell that nobody believed. A short break was had before launching into Gimme Shelter. Another badass song describing the not-so-easy spaces inhabited by those who weren’t seeing too much of the flower power but plenty of police harassment and persecution by authorities. Vocalist Sasha Allen sang the “Rape, Murder” lines first launched by the virtuoso Merry Clayton on a level that was true to the original.
And to finish it all off, their very first hit, Satisfaction. People of all ages danced. It was a rare moment when I felt connected to a large group of people for the first time in a very long time. Far from my usual cynical self, I could feel the transmission receivers in my brain reaching out for others, and connecting with goofy ass smiles and an acceptance of those around me, even if just in that moment. I even turned and smiled at the drunk Yinzers who had been screaming all night. If nothing else, they could appreciate good music.
And in this moment, far from seeing a nostalgia act or museum piece, I was getting to see the Rolling Stones in their element, working a crowd from side to side at almost 80 years old. I wish to Christ I could move like Mick Jagger, and I’m half his fucking age (and a lame ass bass player to boot). When the band launched into Midnight Rambler, he buried his face in the harmonica like it was the space between the latest supermodel’s legs and went to town on a level that would have made Little Walter proud. Keith Richards, despite a case of osteoarthritis in his fingers that would cause lesser beings to curl into a fetal position, jammed and riffed and soloed with grace and ease. After all, he always said that it was more important to play the *right* notes rather than the most notes. These are musicians doing what they love and despite their age, wealth, and accolades they wanted to BE THERE, and were having a great time doing it.
As opposed to the band being prima donnas, everyone who was playing on stage was introduced. Session players were always very important to the Rolling Stones as their creativity sprawled across genres, bringing in such greats as Chuck Leavell on piano. Mick introduced the players and background singers, grateful for having people that could really bring the sound of the albums to life while still sounding very much alive and fresh.
After the fireworks and the finale, the bright lights of Heinz Stadium assaulted my critically dilated pupils, as reality often does to those who have been on Cloud Nine for an extended period of time. Still tripping balls, my guide and I boated back over to the hotel parking garage. Smoke hung over the stadium. After landing, we decided to ride up the rival Monongehala Incline to see the city overlook at night. We looked for some kind of nightlife, hopefully karaoke, but even the hip district of Mt. Washington seemed to offer nothing, everybody was locked up tight.
Coming down the Monongahela Incline at the end of the night.
After a tense drive to find a gas station in some rough looking neighborhoods, we got lost in Pittsburgh but the relative lack of people in the downtown district assuaged our concerns. Construction was everywhere, lanes were closed, the GPS would recalculate, as we endured the only logistics clusterfuck of the entire trip. A shower ended the night with scenes from the show flashing in my mind, and a sense of meaning. I knew that I had witnessed a small bit of history that night, and made a little bit of my own history. I now have a drive to see a lot of my childhood heroes while they still exist, and a deeper motivation to create interesting music, even if all I ever have is a smallish band that plays in bars or basements for our own satisfaction. I also thought about how much had changed since the heyday of the Stones, and how much remained the same.
Not everyone views the advent of the psychedelic period with rose-colored glasses. The authorities of Scotland Yard certainly did not, and in 1967 Keith and Mick were set up for a bust at Redlands, Keith’s country home as they were coming down from one of the high-powered acid trips of that time. The infamous claims by police of Marianne Faithfull using a Mars bar as a dildo were part of the sensationalization by the press to sell tabloids, and the beginning of a movement by reactionaries in law enforcement and in government who wanted to stop the youth culture who sought to expand their mind beyond mind-numbing factory work or other grinding labor that faced them in the near future. Fabricated stories were leaked to newspapers detailing casualties of drugs that never occurred or were greatly exaggerated. Being said, nothing of that reactionary establishment movement has disappeared. Even supposedly left-leaning politicians won’t come out in favor of legalized cannabis because their donors won’t like it. We see large scale attempts to weaponize the stupidity of the American people in 2021, but this is nothing new.
Driving back through the redneck dystopia that is Ohio, I thought of how I would be treated if I stopped in some of these small towns for gas or food and looked like Keith Richards from 1975, when he was arrested in a small Arkansas town for “acting suspicious.” The officers claimed that within a few seconds there had been a large enough cloud of cannabis smoke for them to smell it in their cruisers, even though no marijuana or even roaches were found. (A small amount of cocaine WAS found, illegally, and they were set free by their lawyers’ work.) I thought further still – what if I looked like Mick Jagger in his gender-bending phase? Would they drag me behind a pickup truck? Shit, what about the pink shirt I was wearing NOW?
When Hunter S. Thompson wrote Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72, one of the prints featured a giant skull with swastikas rising in the eye holes. With every sign pushing religion, or sign of a Republican neoConfederate politician declaring his values were those of the uneducated redneck hordes, I realized how strongly the fascism of the United States has grown in the past 50 years. Drooling peasants think they are free because they can carry murder machines while banks and Wall Street purchase the remnants of America at fire-sale prices… and then the yokels vote to give the banksters tax cuts. People die from lack of health care in an inhuman system that rations care for profit. Even those who ‘did the right things’ – according to the system anyway – see their retirements vanish. And any effort to change things is labeled as “socialism” by the same people I knew that huffed gasoline and slept through history and science classes.
I thought further still about my psychonaut adventures and thought of the deeply-baked hypocrisy in any statement of freedom in this country. Sure, I was free to pick certain routes *within their system* and that’s where the hypocrisy burns brightest. I thought about how the boozers at the concert were free to consume their alcohol, a substance that rots both mind and brain, and how I would be charged with a felony were I to be found in possession of my dose of LSD. If I had a bag of grass and transported it across state lines, I would have been charged with trafficking.
Although the Rolling Stones don’t make many political statements (other than the fact that they do not endorse Donald Trump, who stole the use of You Can’t Always Get What You Want) the fact is that the words and the music of the Stones STILL DO represent a rebellion from American authoritarianism, the dictatorial boot of Corporate America, even in these days. The working class dream, to escape from the grind of daily life and to do what you love, is a goal they achieved but also laid a blueprint for so many more. They remain relevant.
“Talkin’ about freedom and bein’ it, that’s two different thangs. I mean, it’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.”
George Hansen, Easy Rider (1969)
The Queen has appeared to suggest she is irritated by people who “talk” but “don’t do”, ahead of next month’s climate change summit.
Her reported remarks were overheard during the opening of the Welsh parliament on Thursday.
The monarch, who is due to attend the UN’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, said she did not know who was coming to the event.
Prince Charles and Prince William have also spoken of their climate concerns.
Some of the Queen’s houses…
Funded by the British public
Next week: A full report on the climate polluting SUVs, luxury cars, private planes, helicopters etc used every day by this family.
“Animals are my friends and I don’t eat my friends.” – George Bernard Shaw
“The time will come when men will upon the murder of animals,
as they now look upon the murder of men.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
“I have given you every plant yielding seed…and every tree with seed in its fruit…
You shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
· Veganism reduces food-related greenhouse gases by up to 73 per cent per person.
· Animal ‘agriculture’ is the biggest driver of deforestation, desertification, wildlife loss, air pollution and water use.
· A third of Earth’s cereal crop is fed to enslaved, fellow beings, so that some weaned humans can eat flesh, the egg sacks of bird embryos and the breast milk of babies.
· Because of overfishing more than half of Earth’s marine species now face extinction.
· 700 million humans go hungry each year. Eating crops would feed another 4 billion.
· A third of all food is thrown away.
· We have been complicit in mass murder… and off-the-scale animal suffering.
· Eating animal ‘products’ is linked to many health problems, from diabetes to cancer.
· It is in our power to all change this.
In the urgent cause of putting the “kind” back into “humankind,” please see also: https://viva.org.uk/animals/
Dreaming, I heard you shuffle beside me
Just 6 pm and after dark, ‘will you stay?’
‘Hello, my love’, ‘make yourself a cup of tea’
‘Be here while I sleep’; I slip quietly away
Memories: Musee l’Hospice Comtesse, 1237, I was free,
Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt in Amsterdam; a pleasure to be
Statues; two golden camels, two wood ducks, a Labrador
Photos on the walls; myself, friends, lovers and loves
Coloured beach stones in a transparent jar by the door
CD’s, Vinyl, Encyclopaedia Britannica, heavy on the shelves
Who was I then? ‘No War For Oil’, ‘Give Peace A Chance’
‘Disturbing signs of haves & have-nots’, the chimp’s dance
Rubber ducks tell me a tale from the bathroom rack
My mirror; look, those sparkling eyes, but craggy faced
That poster from Montmartre, come back, come back
Picture. A smile from 1893, ‘The Gaiety Girl’, corset laced
I am almost silent, eyes closed, shallow breath in bed
You are here with me, now sharing what’s not said
Be music, night,
That her sleep may go
Where angels have their pale tall choirs
Be a hand, sea,
That her dreams may watch
Thy guidesman touching the green flesh of the world
Be a voice, sky,
That her beauties may be counted
And the stars will tilt their quiet faces
Into the mirror of her loveliness
Be a road, earth,
That her walking may take thee
Where the towns of heaven lift their breathing spires
O be a world and a throne, God,
That her living may find its weather
And the souls of ancient bells in a child’s book
Shall lead her into Thy wondrous house
All the towns I’ve walked around –
often in the autumn – tracing steps
back to some cathedral or shopping
centre but mostly standing in the rain
that cold clean force which whatever
one wore would soak through into
me now and forever. Plates would
be moving under distant oceans –
tearing worlds apart – all I had was
some lonely shop still alight on a late
Saturday afternoon, then a panicked
purchase – though glorious – an album
or an army surplus jacket. Last buses
back over the sodden Salisbury Plain –
incredible the blasting of autumnal rain –
careering through rickety villages strung
along empty A-roads but not the steppe
or the Chinese belt-and-road initiative
taking our flags for takeaway – yet then
again, who isn’t happy in some pearl-glint
paradise suffused with the east; do you
know how long they sailed to ride the
monsoon winds from the Cape to the
Indian coast then Cathay? Goods yet
unknown, not t-shirts and cheap shoes,
but I’m not sneering – it’s communal to
shop, and beautiful. Better than rotting
on Edwardian literature which I love to
do: a ghost story about a man hanged
because the priest wouldn’t betray a
confessional! Well, faith has its place,
but I prefer just the rain – and again.
Try maintaining balance on a board
Of balsa wood and streamlined fiberglass
Avoiding wipe-out in that concave wave
Called pipeline curling smokestack-high
Enforcing to your inward eye
Collapsing tons of ocean in a tower
Your lonely sea become a moving floor
Now try it on dry land
When you risk far more than might seem sane
Bite off portions most can’t masticate
Wading into sudden freezing deeps –
In this sea of human existence
Will existence answer you?
Surfer are you waving now or drowning?
‘The Hawaiian Sport of Kings’ –
Is this an aquatic game of ‘Chicken’?
Those who feel no need of faith imagine
Their ‘sense of self’ sufficient
Then find this fragile ‘vessel’ frail and brittle –
A kayak in a beach-hut built on stilts
Walk the board
Or walk the line
And if you walk on the wild side
Don’t run with scissors
‘Walk Don’t Run’ –
Modest jazz guitarist Johnny Smith
Composed the tune as exercise on Bach –
California surf guitarists
Took Bach in their woodies to the beach
To bleach his wig and tan his wan behind
Skip-jiving to his contrapuntal beat
In waves of epic widescreen spring-reverb
Wax your board each day
Round and round rotating elements
Regenerate their waves into infinity
Surf your life as best you can
Rational soul might surf the universe
Where active virtue has a natural programme
It is divine and surfs alone
Along a sea-path sometimes hard to fathom –
Inner balance is the challenge –
Enjoying air and sun
Clinging on to nothing
Crosses the road by intuition
Eyes super-glued to his screen
Mid-conversation breaking off
Scrolling through new ‘mail’
Feel like a walk in the park?
Sure – the signal’s stronger there
You want to get from where to where?
It has its answer to everything
And that is how the ducklings
Mistake the fox for their mother
Illustration: Claire Palmer
The column that is nasty, British and short
READER: What on earth are we going to do about the hordes of invading foreigners paddling over the channel to steal our jobs, women and catalytic converters?
MYSELF: Can’t you be a little more empathetic? Did you hear about the poor asylum-seekers who drowned because their raft was full of proposals? Clearly no one had bothered to put forward a joined up agenda before they got on board, which to my mind demonstrates a complete lack of blue sky thinking.
READER: We need action now. Tough-guy Priti Patel will sort them out. She knows which side of the butter needs applying to the bread.
MYSELF: Whilst it’s true that Priti has taught us the true meaning of compassion, she also thinks Hitler, Stalin, and Pinochet were too far to the left, and that Bollywood is in Los Angeles. She is a walkin’ coma. Anyway enough of that, everyone is talking about the stylish incontinence pants you were wearing the other night at The Cat’s Pyjama Brexit Disco Party.
READER: Those were not incontinence pants as you know perfectly well – they were NoMorGym Silhouette Improvement Trousers for Gentlemen.
MYSELF: I thought your silhouette was looking unusually svelte. On the other hand, after a couple of pints of that craft beer they were serving, maybe we could all use some incontinence pants…..what on earth do they put in it?
READER: Nobody knows but it’s so irredeemably awful that when you tell the landlord it tastes like chilled piss with a grapefruit top, he just says, “Thanks.” Also it never goes off.
MYSELF: What? No beer worth its salt has ever stayed in my house long enough to go off.
READERS LETTERS IN BRIEF
Dear Emilia Twollet of Herstmonceaux,
I believe you are referring to the giant holographic projection of Flora Robson in the climax to the film Carry On Carrie (1956), which also starred Lon Chaney as Prime Minister Antony Eden and Joan Crawford as Carrie, the psychotic sociopath mistress with a heart of gold.
Dear name & address withheld by request,
The Archers can happen to anyone, suddenly and without warning. As requested, here is the precise moment to switch off the radio when the ghastly country folk catch you unawares in the kitchen:
Dumdy dumdy dumdy dum
dumdy dumdy doo-dah
dumdy dumdy dumdy dum
dum de diddledy (OFF)
I hope this has cleared things up.
My spies tell me that Lizard-Men are operating in Hastings selling deadly chemtrails to kids coming out of school. These shape-shifting amphibians, many of them minor royals, are reportedly charging up to £25 for a single chemtrail-filled balloon! Some of these kids are hopelessly hooked and have resorted to shoplifting in order to support their chemtrail addiction.
READER: Lizard men? In Hastings?
MYSELF: Yes, at The Alastair Crowley Memorial Garden Centre, over by the indoor plants, bold as brass.
READER: Disgusting! Hanging baskets are too good for them. Any of those lizard men approach my kids, I’ll swing for it.
CAFÉ ANNOUNCES ALL DAY BREXIT
The Attila Grill in Silverhill is offering a limited edition all-day breakfast to celebrate the success of the UK’s conscious uncoupling from the European Union. Known as The Full Conservative, it consists of free school eggs, non-dom bacon, white pudding, bat’s blood, monkey glands and half a grilled tomato.
Executives on the board of the Hobson’s Denture Fixative League (South) find themselves mired in controversy today as a result of the criminal prosecutions brought against Hastings & St Leonards Warriors FC which were announced by East Sussex Chief Constable Hydra Gorgon. Evidence of serious allegations of fraud, match fixing and bribery involving “several pounds” has been sent to Sussex football’s ruling body, LOUFA.
This bombshell comes only a week after the club was purchased by Mexico’s Steenkin’ Badges, a criminal syndicate composed of several drug cartels, in a move which has delighted the club’s entertainment-starved fans.
In a dawn raid, detectives from the the top-secret money-laundering investigation (code-named Operation Money Laundry) arrested Sergio “The Horse” Peccadillo, the club’s controversial Italian manager, on suspicion of being the capo di capo of the alleged financial flim-flammery.
Released on £45.50 bail, the flamboyant Italian dismissed his interpreters on the court steps and to the delight of waiting Warriors’ fans, issued this firm denial, in perfect English, without notes:
“Good morning. Please be kind enough to direct me to the museum, which I am told houses a comprehensive Egyptian Mummy exhibit, as I have an out-of-date map”.
Pressed by our reporter on whether any of the personal accusations of serious financial impropriety had any basis in truth, he declared confidently:
“I have a note from my physician. May I be seated near the toilet facilities?”
Hastings inventor Professor Gordon Thinktank has challenged universally accepted cheese theory in his shock paper, New Theories In Cheese, which has turned the world of cheese on its head. Until now, it was thought that the holes in Swiss cheese were caused by tiny burrowing mice. Thanks to the professor’s exhaustive research, it has been proved that tiny mice are not responsible for the holes, which, he claims, are caused by terrifying microscopic bacteria invisible to the naked eye, with huge lobster-like claws.
TV: NEW REALITY DATING SERIES TO DEBUT
Sausage Life gets an exclusive peek at trailer from Channel 5’s Nazi Blind Date hosted by Priti ‘Vacant’ Patel
MUSIC: Overture from Wagner’s Ride of The Valkeries
PRITI: Good evenin’ and welcome to Nazi Blind Date. Let’s meet our first contestant, what’s your name honey?
CONTESTENT: I’m Eva.
PRITI: And what do you do Eva?
CONTESTENT: I’m a housewife.
PRITI: And who’s your first question for Eva?
CONTESTENT: Batchelor Hitler number one please….. Priti please, ha ha!
AUDIENCE: Gales of helpless laughter followed by applause.
PRITI (glaring): Very amusin’ Eva! Bachelor Hitler number one step up please…
CONTESTENT: Batchelor Hitler number one, if you took me on a romantic trip to Europe, would you attempt an invasion?……..
If you want to find out which Bachelor Hitler ended up occupying Eva’s heart tune in to Nazi Blind Date 9.45pm Channel Five Thursdays
Q: So what is this machine for?
A: This machine is for thicknessing wood. It’s for dimensioning the thickness of wood.
READER: What the…..?
MYSELF: I kid you not, I actually heard American people on a DIY show say those words to each other, just now, on TV.
READER: You’re so pedanticising.
MYSELF: With good reason. And whilst I’m at it, I object to the use of the word cooter, and also the word douche, which are both from America.
READER: Cooter, fair enough. but why douche?
MYSELF: Because, douche, there are plenty of perfectly good indigenous words with which to skirt around the subject of ladies’ personal hygiene. Proper, decent euphemistic words, all of whose British origins can be located in Oxford’s green and pleasant English Dictionary.
READER: Such as?
MYSELF: Please, this is a family newspaper. Suffice it to say that Wordsworth would never have used the word douche, preferring the word daffodil. Similarly, Shakespeare always avoided the word cooter, as it gave him headaches.
click images for videos
by The Hunt Cult. Click for video
“Sometimes you just need a tool that doesn’t do anything”
BY Colin Gibson
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NICO BREAKS THROUGH
by Roxanne Fontana
……………In a world that is far less compatible with the persona, mind and music of Nico than the one she lived in, than the one that she was consistently an outcast in, somehow with Jennifer Otter Bickerdike’s You Are Beautiful And You Are Alone – the Story of Nico (Faber Books), Nico is brought lovingly into the mainstream. As a compulsively and naturally analytical person, I am still trying to get my head around how this has been done, and can only come up with one word to define this happening: magic.
Nearly 30 years ago, we were treated to a tome by her 1980s keyboardist James Young, Nico the end, and a Virgin books dense biography Nico the Life & Lies of An Icon by Richard Witts, which both sit lovingly on my bookshelf still. Both were satisfying books, the former very entertaining with many laugh-out-loud moments, and the latter informative and exhaustive in its research of a fascinating and complex life.
……………I am more than a fan of Nico’s music – I hold her story dear to my heart. Like many (including the author as she reveals at the beginning of the book), during most of my lifetime I knew only of the name, Nico, that she briefly sang with the Velvet Underground, and the heroin addiction – that’s it – nothing more. It was on a 1991 move to Prague, Czechoslovakia, as I was being brought around to record companies to shop my own music demos, that Nico entered my orbit. I had a meeting with an A&R man at a certain Globus Records in Prague. He was interested in me, except he saw one problem, “The Czech people are very sensitive about Nico.” I was bewildered, but he seemed to think that I had something in common with her image. I’ve never been as beautiful as Nico, even as a young woman, at all. However, the combination of the blonde hairstyle – and being image-aware in full make-up, and yet with unconventional demeanour, and the way I was conducting myself at the meeting, with seriousness, potential acumen and rebellion, with the odd curse-word thrown in, brought him to this dismissive conclusion, not to sign me. Then there was my cover of Downtown Magazine, declaring I was ‘The Hippest Lady In New York’ – a cover photo that does look as if it is mimicking the cover of Nico’s album, ‘Chelsea Girl’. This sameness was completely accidental, and neither I nor the photographer, George du Bose, had ever uttered trying to capture Nico’s image during the shoot. Of course, I wished I hadn’t brought that magazine to the meeting in Prague. I protested that I sound nothing like the Velvet Underground (I didn’t dare mention comparisons I heard at CBGB’s in my early days). I pointed out that I sing in an unusually high voice, not a low one, and that my songs are traditionally melodic in a different way than theirs, with probably more in common with Motown. He laughed this off and said to believe him, “the Czechs are going to think you are trying to be Nico. No one can replace her.” I was furious, and left.
……………I eventually ended up back at my home base in New York City. I relayed this story to my new drummer, RichTeeter, a well-known drummer from his days with NYC punk band, The Dictators. Rich was determined to share his own Nico obsession with me, to tell me all about her music. What followed were copies of her albums on cassette tapes that he made and gave to me. I did fall in love with her sound, and around the same time, those aforementioned books came out. I was no longer furious at the Czech record company’s comparison to myself, and found the insight of it complimentary. Like Nico, I have my own ideals about everything, cannot be led around by popular thought, and have immediate knee-jerk reactions to anything that annoys my cultural sensibilities. The astute record company man had seen the enigma, and the blonde hair, and had drawn conclusions.
……………When I found out about this book coming out, I immediately bristled. Why? I thought. There are already two great books out. What more can be known than what are contained therein? And then there were people heralding the author on social media. People who are, shall we say, very au courant – 2021 culture, politically correct, very black and white: women’s rights, and champions of establishment. Nico has been dubbed ‘Queen of Goth,’ ‘Queen of Punk,’ but the most accurate description of her is ‘Queen of Counter Culture’ – a woman whose instant reaction to her mother’s dismay at her lighting a joint in public was “Don’t be so naïve.” And there were some blurbs gracing the book’s promotion from respected folks, which had me thinking, Oh no, this can’t be good.
……………Then there was an advance review in a British newspaper. The review and reveal pretty much blew my mind. This author had, it seemed, managed to find new stories, new ‘explanations’ – by example, the review shared the background of her relationship with Alain Delon. It divulged that the book was serious, not just a fandom book, not just something-to-do for the author. It was also clear just from the review, and rightly so, that there is only a hint of emotion conveyed, a sympathetic tone without injected hyper-fandom. My instinct told me from the review, that this book is it, this is it! I immediately wrote a message to the author telling her that I had read the review and that I was completely cynical about this book but I am having a great feeling, and I can’t wait. I had to share it with her, the actual author, no one else would do, such is my own hyper-fandom.
……………And so I eagerly laid myself down into bed with it, on the night of its release date here in the UK. I sighed immediately however, with my original cynicism, when I saw the book opening with a quote from Marianne Faithfull. Something about having in common with Nico the fury of being ignored. There I was again saying aloud, ‘No, just no.’ The last thing Marianne Faithfull ever was was ignored. She was ‘discovered’ in blue jeans at a posh record party for God’s sake, and her career eclipsed Adrienne Posta, whose party it was, and she’s still making records, bringing in all eager folk, with a mere request. My mind went back to the story I read that when Nico was alive she was compared to Marianne once and she was deeply offended to have been compared to “somebody’s girlfriend.” I quickly recovered from my cynicism however, as I was still in awe of the book cover, and how good the book might be. What awed me was the major publisher procured to tell this story, all these years after Nico’s failed music career, especially insofar as money goes – now more than ever the barometer of success and public care. The cover of our UK version, in my opinion far superior to the American one, reveals a 1970s Nico, looking as if she is almost crucified to the N of her own name. The ‘N’, a deep and bright red large letter that is actually embossed while the rest of the cover’s artwork lay flat. I love this, that there has been so much care to bring Nico’s story, today amidst the boring, if not sickening, negative and divisive tone of today’s mainstream press-driven society. Perhaps unwittingly, in our era of cancel culture, they’ve made a path for Nico, of all people – the most behaviourally counter-culture recording artist that I can think of, and this is where I have to conclude it is magic, and magic alone, like a lucky star.
……………Jennifer Otter Bickerdike is a professor. Scholars who write rock books usually get bogged down in their research, where the work may be considered the best on the subject, but is usually left behind for more emotional portrayals. Not this book. Jennifer manages to tell us the stories, with all the warts and horrors in place, without vilifying the subject ever, or over-idolizing her. There is no condemnation, there is no glossing over the horrors to revere Saint Nico. There are facts, and there is affection, a well-placed understated affection. As previously stated, the author is clearly a very modern woman. Some of the folks she has gotten involved with the book for promotion, blurbs, discussion, share that. None of these folks have anything in common with Nico. You learn from this book then of Jennifer’s own non-discriminatory musical tastes – everyone mentioned in her book she reveres as super special. While I cannot relate to that attitude, it is exactly Jennifer’s attitude, her sincere open mind, which has enabled her to write such a great book – that combination of factual research injected with her unique sympathy for the subject, which has opened the door for Nico in 2021. Yet Nico is the farthest thing in the world from a woman who, for example, would be concerned with “equal rights for women,” (and according to this book’s research, preferred the company of men to women).
……………When Nico states in an interview that her only regret in life was to not have been born as a man, you can tell she means it literally, more than making a statement on “women’s discrimination”. An example of modern outrage towards the days of old is the common act of women artists, writers, who would change their name to a man’s name to get published and accepted seriously. Clearly it isn’t right that that happened, yet the focus usually overshadows what is most important – the work itself. I have always contended that any artist really worth their salt (equipped with some level of mental cohesion) knows the essential is the creation, and to get it out there – not your female sex. Falsehood and grand-standing, show-boating publicity are not far apart from such hollow concerns. Nico cared about her creative output more than perceptions, that is for sure. As a true artist she knew that the person is just the medium for the message. The premiere obsession is to get the art OUT into the world, not ourselves, and not our gender or race or nationality. Nico is actually a man’s name, a name she kept proudly, and was absolutely fine with, rejecting her more feminine Christa birth name.
……………I purposely omit any of the stories that are in this book. I can’t do it justice the way the author has. But it is all there, the Nazi childhood, the disappointments that did actually succeed to break her, her loose tongue. Nico’s amazing graciousness runs throughout – some of the things she had to endure (outside of the troublesome childhood), from friends, and musicians, including the properly demonized Lou Reed – yet nary a bridge did she ever burn, which is quite astounding. The mere exception is her violent outburst at the El Quijote Restaurant next to the Chelsea Hotel, which she could have easily gone to jail for. Perhaps her incredible victimization from the aforementioned and also from the music business fools, bubbling to the surface and exploding. Although it isn’t too shabby to have the only person in this theatre to remain loyal and in love with you, be the biggest star, Andy Warhol.
……………You Are Beautiful And You Are Alone is the best book on Nico ever, and as I say again, thankfully and magically given the highest profile. I tried to imagine how she would react to this complete exposure of her life, being reviewed and considered in the world she could never break through to, and which nowadays is even more at odds with her lifestyle and the way she thought about things. I think she would approve, and finally be happy with this telling of the truth, how it is understood and conveyed by Jennifer. A masterpiece.
Roxanne Fontana is a British-based Italian-American singer/songwriter/recording artist.
The moon’s a drunken sailor
when it storms offshore and the ocean
arches its back.
pulls at the mainland for a long night’s rain
and the forest steps back
from the dampening roar.
calming, this turmoil of the elements
that lasts until a tree
can’t hold any longer to the earth
and falls across the only road
leading back to the world.
the passion runs out, in the hour
before dawn, when the blue crabs
crawl out of their burrows
slung above them is
a sloth asleep among the stars.
Illustration: Atlanta Wiggs
Saturday a week ago a great Stroud event took place
when my muse is not around
I stare at empty lines
no need to even pick up
pencil pen quill
take out order delivered
subdue my gnawing hunger
for words & nourishment
only stains on my notebook
stale cookie held not
promise nor fortune
I write with chopsticks
when my muse is not around
100 Days, Gabriel Josipovici (384pp, Carcanet)
Gabriel Josipovici mostly writes exquisite, short novels, pared back to the absolute minimum and occasionally rather dry. The author and his publishers sometimes seem to think they are more experimental than they actually are: one would probably place the work in the mainstream Modernist tradition which sometimes plays with multiple points of view, non-realistic dialogue, little description and tricks of memory and perception. Nothing, that is, that most readers will find difficult, unusual or hard to read.
100 Days is a project the author set himself to write during the Covid lockdown, dated journal entries about what is going on, alongside short essays on topics he had not previously considered, ‘a way of talking to myself in order to arrive somewhere’; an attempt to turn something negative into a positive:
When I learned we were going into lockdown I decided I mustn’t
fritter away the unexpected gift of a bracket round life which the
virus had imposed on us.
He decided on an alphabetical structure, so the book gradually moves from autobiographically underpinned writing about Aachen and Alexandria in Egypt where the author spent part of his childhood, to the final essay about Zoos several hundred pages on. In between there are abstract subjects such as Flow and Home, considerations of authors, food, characters who feature in Jewish mythology or scripture, the arts – especially music, parts of language, how (and what) to write, etc. etc.
It’s a marvellous collection, even when I beg to differ with the opinions offered. I mean a writer hating adjectives and adverbs, not to mention Samuel Beckett’s late brief works? Come on! (Though it does help explain the afore-mentioned dryness of some Josipovici works.)
I remain undecided about the diary entries and their relationship to the essays, but maybe we are too close to lockdown still to need to review or be reminded of the deaths and illness, the government’s blunders, idiotic policies and prevarications, or what we were asked or ordered to do. Like most of us, Josipovici can only watch, listen to or read the news reports and try to balance anger and opinion with information and self-preservation.
Maybe the brief mentions of mundane activities, walks taken and books read is a normalising and broader context for these erudite and fascinating miniature essays. I can think of few other authors, with the exception of the very wonderful Guy Davenport, who could have produced such an enjoyable, diverse and informative miscellany.
The nautilus of misshapen rooms,
the worn stairs, the keep cellars,
the dead fret of the canal’s breath,
the constant twilight.
Once a bargemen’s rowdy house,
now a domestic composed of residua,
of avant-garde bric-a-brac.
Her presiding graciousness
is distant and discontent, slyly drunk,
one unclouded eye on her chums,
the drinker bees, on nightly furlough
from lives that barely rattle along,
over-licked bones on borrowed rope.
Their industries pass for enterprise around here:
junk stalls, disability claims, cleaning jobs,
The nightly skits are wit and scorn,
with evasive pauses in the babble
that agitates the fume,
the cloud base fluxing sour grapes,
sulphur, tar and gasoline.
There’s no one here doesn’t smoke too much,
meeting death more than halfway
with vitals corroded, sullen or overspent.
None of them knew her back then,
when an ear for poetic difficulty
and a fuckable face was a first-class ticket
in the ruckus of obscure fame.
Her sensitive pallor is now a lack of lustre,
the colour of polluted snow.
She is their Queen of Knots
who is always weary and sighs at everything.
A gem of fairy fire, Golden Virginia,
rolled into a tiny wand,
is waved in her fine, pale hand,
writing nothing much, but eternal,
on the passing dark.
Jay Jeff Jones – 2021
illustration Martin Sudden
…..or, In My Palmier days As a Security Guard I did Indeed F**k Damien Hirst’s Shark
There they go walking up Main Street, Westminster on a Saturday afternoon. The slope-backed cars of 1957 mixed with the glinting Chevrolets, Buicks, and Model A’s and T’s of the thrifty farmers of Carroll County, Maryland, brake and slow and turn left or right at the stop lights down town kitty-corner to the railroad station. Passenger trains have stopped running this route, but freight trains still come through four times every twenty-four hours.
When we stood in the white room, everything was white. They pronounced it & I sat on his lap crying, crying.
Carroll County, Maryland what an odd place to assume human characteristics in, Skip: sure, there was that Singleton fellow you signaled interest in in an earlier e-exchange, who gave a speech on Environment Protection Day way back in the 70’s and alluded to his Dante scholarship in an off-hand and jocular manner–all of which was wasted on the Chablis sipping audience–which was apparent to him after one stroke of the high-hat in his brain-stem when he saw that he was rolling pearls to the used car salesmen at a pretty good clip; then there was Clyfford Still hiding over in New Windsor, saying nothing to the neighbors, sharing nothing–no weekly column in the Carroll County Times titled: “Clyff’s Art Scene Tips ‘n Hints”–nothing like that, but guttering out in his accumulated wax and dribbling away in an endless ambulance ride to New York City;
Her face wobbled, mouth to one side like the THREE STOOGES, she said: get my pills.
I was born on a battlefield in a red brick WPA-restored building pigeon-coo-scatter ya heah, everyone wearing masks, hands turned up in gestures of post-war hygienic felicity. Beyond entropic walls mockingbird & mourning dove fields of proto-surreal Victorian smell o’ death monuments falling away away down south to Dixie on every side. I almost didn’t take breath but was wheedled into life by trembling Dr. Zulich class of 1899 Gottingen University with his pans of hot cold water electric shocks nurses tickling my anus with a thumb. I don’t recall anything of that baptism except to say that my color was black from a dye in my mother’s womb and my father was thought to be a moron.
He wore a blue shirt. You could smell it on his hand. We pretended to cry, but instead we stood in the white room watching her face sink.
Earliest memories are of a place called Devil’s Den, G-burg. Uncanny. Enlarged, laminated Before/after bolted down signage of Matthew Brady bodies leaking gas & fluid spatter soaking into graffiti rocks (EARHEAD TROCK) that I climbed like a baby goat with a blue shako on my head plastic gun shoved into the front of my drawers. As my younger brother fought his way through the long caress of our mother’s “Scream in the Dark!” to embrace chronology in the same place seven years later, I became a connoisseur of arms emerging from granite blocks, movements of petrified armies around the circumference of neo-Romanesque temples lined with brass plaques and granite books of lists of names, battalions, snatches of carbonized song, sentimental poetry set in steel. Got that, Skip?
Harness restless energy of
,a,n,d, cutting right to left,
chisel breakz majuscule into dust,
DNA ribbons into molecular orts.
To murder a name takes time, ya know
given the right poundage of hammer,
the sharpest of chisels held just so
in relation to the time-channeled block
turnt over in the manz mud
beside the osiers the sluggish river crawling
like a radioactive louse up the cheek of the
topological pasteboard mask of the
memory of the perspective-
His daughter is so wife-like.
And sometimes she would even swoop you up and whirl you around above the floor in a fancy little jitterbug before planting a lipstick kiss on your forehead and setting you down in awe and wonder at her power and beauty. You usually didn’t realize that you were carrying her impress until she told you later “now go wash your hands in the bathroom,” and you stepped up on the wooden step and saw it there in the bathroom mirror. Then you’d color up and try to wash the kiss print away, and finally give up with just the barest fossil of it left.
Everyone could sniff me out: some even attempted to place my origins on a map they carried with them: so…Tidewater East coast…am I right?…thrusting the blood-drop-headed pin with barely a purchase into the cork backing…well…I kept my face hidden in my shirt pocket to keep them climbing the work house wheel–but they insisted that I drag out a medium’s pre-painted luminous balloon and huff into it in broad daylight: AMERICAN, AMERICAN, AMERICAN…or as one hopefully suggested…Canadian???? And with the final breath the frowning bladder popped and Fred Astaire was speaking to 25 masked ladies holding hands in a circle around a table straight from TURN OF THE SCREW. Again and again I laughed and tapped and clicked my heels as I’d seen a young black man stripped to mere belt loops suspenders and taps rappa-tapping out his message on a ragged plywood sheet, not afraid to expose the underbelly of my AMERICAN-SCENTED TALK. It wasn’t like I forgot to apply my Tussy that day, it was more like I was reaching to the sky and wallowing in my aura.
I was 19 years old and drunk on 151 Bacardi straight from the bottle. Imagine Baltimore. Imagine late July. I was reading Hart Crane in those days, and I kept saying to myself “The rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene ” just for the sound of it. A young lady with unkempt teeth who’d just returned for the summer from the University of Chicago (and was a special studies Antioch student to boot) took a fancy to me and I repeated Hart Crane to her as we sat together on the marble steps of The Maryland Writers’ Council watching the sun come up. I wore blue jeans, a farmer ding dong dell shirt with the sleeves rolled up. She wore a crazy pair of mini-cut-offs and a U.C. T-shirt. She suggested that we run away together. “You be my poet pimp,” she said, half-seriously, “and I’ll feed us turning tricks.” “The rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene ,” I said, then I pulled a letter from the future out of my back pocket and began to read:
July 26, 1980.
Dear Mr. Glass:
A friend telephoned me yesterday saying she had seen a brief letter from you in Fate magazine asking communication with anyone involved in research in the “Raudive” voices.
My research partner and I have been doing this research for the past five years here in McLean and have received hundreds of voices. Although our research is independently pursued we were under the umbrella of the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship of N. for some time. At present, we are allied with the Spiritual Studies Center of G. This alliance enables us to reach out to others such as yourself, apparently in the midst of writing what appears to be a novelette.
It was the year of Kennedy’s death that my father’s lemon bitch Nimrod won the big Tristate championship for fox hunting. He was written up in Field and Stream Magazine and in the bottom of a drawer somewhere in the house where I used to live are a few chewed-up remnants of professional b & w shots of him in a green zip-up jacket holding Nim’s tail and head in a show pose with his half-a-dozen silver trophies lined up three on each side. Later, I remember that all but the big engraved bowl that mother put fruit in tarnished pretty quickly. In the photographs we see a gray background of September rain. He’s sporting a well-greased, pomped, Elvis-cut, and is shaved baby-ass-smooth and cleanly around the ears and gums. He looks heart-breakingly young in those shots, that father of mine, but grim, so grim, which could have been from his digestion that even then was breaking down from stress and nerves as a punch-press operator at Black and Decker but he had plenty of other reasons to be grim indeed.
Then there’s my favorite–Whittaker Chambers–because he was actually living in his pumpkin patch farm on Bachman Valley Road maybe still thinking once in a while of Objectivism (an ism I particularly love) at the very same time that my 18 year old mother used to cruise past on her American Indian bicycle with me on the handlebars to get ice cream sandwiches at Bauman’s Feed Store. We used to do this almost every day–make the circuit–connect with Sawmill Road and around and around past the Pumpkin Farm–we knew it as such, though at 2 years old I didn’t know a lick about Objectivism, but I was willing to learn–I’m sure I was–had my mother dropped that word on me in those long-ago whatthefuck days. Chambers and the others must have
What are you reading, she said. Her name was Vicki and I said: here, drink some of this, and I handed her the bottle while the sun continued to climb and the streets started to heat up. She took a slug and grinned. What I didn’t know at the time was that Herman Melville had given a speech on his sojourn among the South Sea Islands in the Unitarian church just next to us in 1850, but this was 1973.
Blake taught me that the world of the imagination was not only a place to escape to, but was a tool as real as a hoe, a pick-ax, a shovel. I also learned to see visions, though perhaps of a different order than my mother’s, one of which appeared to verify the reality of the imagination.
I was early. I remember the cock crew in the living room .
At that time I still felt some connection to my father, and I’d stand in the doorway hoping he’d stir and give me a hug or a kiss on the cheek. But he’d sleep on, so I’d half wave at his snores and tiptoe out. Right before we’d go downstairs, Mom would maybe go in to whisper a few words and pull the door closed after her. When she came out a few minutes later, her smile meant that she had some fun money for us for the Great Excursion.
Laboratory rats: sons & daughter. Look in those eyes & you see…goats.
We went down the long flight of steps and if my father wasn’t home, we’d really start singing because there were great acoustics in the stairwell. We liked songs about sunshine, or silly songs like “One Eyed Purple People Eater,” and we would sing them out the side door and right up to our landlady Mrs. Lucas’ knocker. We’d knock and stand waiting for tall, chain-smoking Mrs. Larue Lucas to answer our summons. Sometimes it took her a while, so while we were waiting we’d decide what we were going to do on such a glorious day. If it was spring, and my tricycle was outside, I’d hop on it and drive over the caterpillars that crawled along the sun-warmed sidewalk in bristling rivers. It always intrigued me how their heads would pop off like a toothpaste tube cap. Or maybe Mr. Fritz would be working on a bulldozer next door and I would yell and wave at him, and wish (secretly) that he was my real dad. (Much later he would die screaming of brain tumors, one of which took the form—or so the members of the family whispered—of a small man!) Or maybe Mom would shade her eyes and look over at the Riegal Barn across the white gravel drive-way to see if Lady Luck was out enjoying the open air atomic test fall-out. Or maybe we’d just giggle and be happy together standing there waiting to see if Mrs. Marge Lucas was ready to drive in to town to get her groceries. Just maybe we’d be lucky and she would.
It was in the early ‘30’s that I was searching for “mystery” broadcasts all along the long-wave band of my A.M. radio but found a few “stations” that I was after…so-called spirit stations….
Did you receive spirit messages yet?
I think I received spirit messages as they were “modulated” by radio dialogue; the contents, I did not understand.
You could smell the moon on his hand. Stars throbbed somewhere beneath a zipper. I cried for an Electra Lux.
We shared the bathroom with the people from next door and it was necessary to keep the door locked with a hook near the top.
Billy, the foster boy that my grandparents kept for Baltimore social services, was about four years older than I was. He and I had been up the railroad tracks and back exploring the gravel pits at Campbell’s sand Company (logo an eerily glowing blue-green neon camel), looking for fossils and other cool stuff, and we sat down at the kitchen table for some Coca Cola and cold cut sandwiches for lunch. The treasures we found sat in a box next to the back door: tiny fossil fish, stones with ripple marks, strange balls and black cubes half buried in sandstone that I thought constituted absolute evidence for the presence of Peking Man in Dundalk, petrified worms & trilobite tracks. Mother was upstairs napping, I think. She always took naps when we went to White Marsh for a good weekend visit away from my father. Billy was speculating about what should have been done to Oswald for killing the president. He’d already gotten one of those large color Kennedy pictures that was omnipresent at the Farmer’s Market on Pulaski highway the year of the tragedy and an American banner with Jack and Jackie on it that he kept in his room along with his secret stash of Playboys. “If it was up to me,” Billy said, “I’d have buried Oswald alive in a glass casket so he could watch the dirt come down on him.” I didn’t often see my grandmother get upset, but she did on this occasion, not so much at the fact that Oswald didn’t deserve anything for depriving America of its dream and all, but that Billy could think in such cruel terms of another human being. She stood there in her house dress and slippers, got red in the face and yelled at him and told him he had to go to church all day and not just Sunday school. But secretly, I thought Billy was pretty cool, and in fact when we were walking the tracks we’d discussed the same topic and pretty much agreed that that would have been a mighty good ending for the person who’d shot our great president. I didn’t say anything, but look at Billy who sat there looking earnestly at his sandwich. From what Billy told me of his experiences “in the system,” and particularly at “old man Knott’s,” I knew he could take a dusting off from the kindest woman I knew, no sweat.
Chambers and the others must have walked among us like the Ancient Aliens on the History Channel–like the sons of god among the daughters of men, but to seek and generally find the obscurity to rot and wink out, and not to beget a super race of artists or writers or patriots or anything upon the maidens of Carroll County, Maryland–“Classic Country” as they’ve branded it in their tourist brochures to the utter disgrace of both words and any quotation marks that might contain them.
What are you doing! Give me my pills. Her face broke like a puzzle on the carpet.
The square lines of the hospital building announced the arrival of modernity to those alive to it in Gettysburg. There must have been some sort of celebration. In fact I’m certain there was. I should Google it up.
Those persons who wish their fortunes told with Coffee Grounds, please to apply to Mrs. Sledge, the Fortune Teller, No. 63 Church Street, south side, between Charles and Light streets. The Balto. Sun, April 24, 1854.
This morning, and this morning alone, it wouldn’t be the loathed scrambled eggs and toast and milk—a meal I dreaded and gagged over, and inevitably had to eat at the Apartment on weekends. Instead it would be corn flakes, or honey puffed rice with Buffalo Bee on the box. I was always tasked with choking down some milk (“for the bones”, Mother would say), but that was an expected penance to pay for the coming weekend of bliss. Grandmom’s! Now Cass—that’s what I called my Grandmother—knew what a five year old required: Coca Cola and a ham sandwich was pretty good to start the day, or cold steamed crabs in a soggy paper bag from a crab feast at Aunt Anna’s in Rosedale the night before. You had to be careful never to eat the “dead man” when you opened the crab like a crazy book, with the eggs and yellow fat clinging in a glorious chilly mass to the inside of the carapace. I was too young then to pick the meat for myself, but Cass always helped me. It was a true coming of age when I learned all the ins and outs of picking a blue crab. Of course, I could have my choice of sweet cereals and corn flakes at Grandmom’s too, with real honey to jangle the taste buds and thicken the milk to a supernaturally delicious concoction.
I was impressed with the big trophies which he put in various places of honor in the living room while Nim and our ten other hounds roved the surrounding woods dragging into the back yard various dog-objects-of-interest: things that smelled just right to a dog like wormy bits of squirrel death, bones to gnaw, occult garbage to strew. My mother was not nearly as impressed as I was with my father’s new-found fame and my father seemed the least impressed of us all because he’d found another interest among the members of the Carroll County Fox Hunter’s Association (of which he was one of the key founders) named Esther. She was married to another charter member named Bud, who I recall from the few times I met him, to be a son of toil like my father, but older, chain-smoking, flabby-faced, yellow-toothed and grizzled, laughing, even avuncular towards my father when he offered him a swig from the pocket flask that he and Esther drank from. Esther worked six days a week as a secretary at the old Democratic Advocate in Westminster in a building that’s now long torn down to make room for a parking lot in the then and yet still-born downtown revitalization projects that began roughly in the late 1970’s and continue to offer up empty sidewalks and barely visited boutiques to this very day. One lunch time my mother decided that we’d go visit Esther in our green, swept-topped 56 Chevy that mother drove like a pro, barely grinding the stick. We called it the cucumber. As I recall my younger brother was with us in the front seat with his favorite toys and I rode in the back.
Illustration Nick Victor
Sunrise, Jacob Cooper & Steven Bradshaw
Three Dawns and Bush Radio Calling, Peter Garland
Arctic Dreams, John Luther Adams
Three, Chas Smith
I’m always excited to receive new CDs from California-based Cold Blue music. Their carefully curated releases are consistently intriguing and intelligent, somehow – despite the diversity and range of their catalogue – managing to stay focussed, offering a quietly experimental and different approach to contemporary music.
Peter Garland is a new name to me, although the press release informs me his music has appeared on seven previous Cold Blue CDs. As well as a composer he’s also a musicologist, writer and world traveller. The latter helps explain the intriguing source material used for the two pieces recorded here. ‘Three Dawns’ is an exquisite triptych of solo piano pieces (a 12 minute piece bookended by two much shorter tracks) loosely based on three early twentieth century poems written by the Malagasy author Jean-Joseph Rabéarivelo. Its calm and enticing sound apparently belies the difficulty of ‘wide intervals and a notational problem’ which has apparently ‘long baffled pianists’! Ron Squibbs, who plays on both of this CD’s compositions seems to have no such problem.
‘Bush Radio Calling’ is more strident and intriguing. It was originally written and toured as music from a play by Red Mole theatre company in New Zealand, its title referring to Aboriginal radio stations in the Australian outback. The music, like the play, documents a kind of quest, a journey from urban decay to ‘The Bridge to Nowhere’, with various encounters, searches and mystical experiences (‘The Valley of Abandoned Dreams’) en route. As music it’s evocative, varied and enticing, with a splendidly energetic, uplifting and epiphanic ending as we cross that Bridge.
Most of us haven’t had time for quests in the last couple of years, with lockdown severely restricting activities, human contact and, in many cases, creativity. Jacob Cooper and Steven Bradshaw decided to collaborate whilst in quarantine to produce new work. They chose to use a popular song from the time of the Spanish influenza as source material. Together they deconstructed, reassembled and reimagined the song as a half-hour nightmare seduction of fragmented song, scrapes, hisses and whispers, totally appropriate to the loss of experienced time many of us felt imprisoned in our own homes, and also to the repurposed song lyrics, where ‘ the rising / of heart […] is calling / is slowing / is dreaming’, because ‘the world is waiting for the sunrise’. This is intriguing and complex music with many secret and hidden depths.
John Luther Adams has always composed music about and rooted in deserts, ecology and open space. His album titles reflect that, and Arctic Dreams is no exception. Dedicated to the late author Barry Lopez, who was a friend of Adams, this seven-part composition draws on the sound of wind-harps on the tundra. The libretto consists of lists of Alaskan names for Arctic plants, birds, places and weather; and the four singers are heavily treated, as are the string quartet, with three layers digital delay to produce a virtual choir and orchestra. Its sometimes pretty sounds accumulate, repeat and recombine to produce a compelling cosmic minimalism that somehow describes and evokes the Arctic. Titles such as ‘The Circle of Suns and Moons’, ‘The Circle of Winds’ and ‘Where the Waves Splash, Hitting Again and Again’ reinforce the cylical and repetitive evolution of this wonderfully moody music.
If John Luther Adams’ music is the sound of light, emptiness, dust and detail, Chas Smith’s is sonic afterburn, the long drawn out fade of a plane passing, metallic sustain and rust falling. Smith plays steel guitar for a number of more mainstream musicians (I first came across him on an early Harold Budd release) but left to his own devices he builds and plays his own instruments which have fantastic and evocative names like Lockheed, Sceptre, Parabaloid and Replicant.
On Three, layers and layers of drone and texture slowly evolve and change as time passes for the listener. Distant chimes ring out, metallic reverberations fade and reappear, speakers shake and tremble, and my daughter asks what on earth I am listening to. This is music to be immersed in, soundscapes which bewitch and disturb but ultimately seduce and embrace as you reach for the repeat button and hope this music will never end.
In one mail dated in October
“Autumn moon watches the Louvre.”
You even captured an image of the same.
I type, “Wow!” and turn,
shut the cell phone down
and sleep in my cell in the panopticon.
Am I watched? Am I not?
I feel the tide swells and ebbs.
Rusty water quivers.
I am my reflection
upto my ankle in the ripples.
I often say, water has a memory;
say, we live in deceased city
alive in a loop of habit.
I stare at the water.
Rain has Alzheimer’s.
No origin. No future.
My wife calls her cat,
and a pigeon streams upon
Word and image
For more information about Floating Bear, see Jed Birmingham’s articles on Floating Bear and Floating Bear 24. You can also download this spreadsheet mapping the recipients to whom copies of Floating Bear were mailed.
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January – July 1969
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March – July 1969
Floating Bear Press Release
“Announcement Concerning Arrest of Editors”
The column which is suspicious of tortoises because they always seem to have something to hide
READER: Did you see that amazing photo of the black hole near Venus?
MYSELF: I saw it. A very good likeness.
READER: Oh come now, don’t pretend you’re not impressed. This thing is as big as our entire solar system!
MYSELF: You don’t say. And how big is that?
READER: Nobody likes a smart-arse mister. It’s very big, that’s all I know.
MYSELF: You certainly know your black holes, perhaps I should start watching more TV.
READER: Maybe you should. After all, Dr Who is coming back and aren’t you excited about the new series of Killing Eve?
MYSELF: The edgy sequel to the award-winning series written by that middle class woman with the hyphenated name who isn’t afraid to write about having sex with priests?
READER: That’s the one! Brilliant writing! And what a cast!
MYSELF: Cast? I’ve seen self-assembly furniture that can act better than Sandra Oh.
READER: You’re hard to please and no mistake.
LETTERS IN BRIEF
In reply to Mr Stavros Pilates manager of the Attila Grill in Silverhill,
No! It is vital that you only use broad beans as other types of beans are too long and narrow. They can all too easily slip down the back of the sofa, or be mistaken for pencils and accidentally sharpened.
Hastings & St Leonards Warriors FC were this week sold to a conglomerate of Mexican Druglords, much to the delight of their supporters who for far too long have been forced to endure an endless revolving door of weak ownership and inept management. After yesterday’s announcement, a festival-like atmosphere built up outside the ground as ecstatic fans dressed in sombreros and ponchos, some of them carrying mariachi guitars and replica AK47 assault rifles, gathered to celebrate.
Throughout the afternoon they were entertained by a succession of top acts introduced by comedy duo Smoulders & Burns, which included local newcomers Fur Cough and Platonic Bomb and culminated in a blistering set by Newcastle’s Yes tribute band, WhyAye .
“This is it,” said one season ticket holder who was riding a small donkey and carrying a lance, “the big time! Look out Manchester City! Real Madrid here we come! This is where The Warriors finally wave bye-bye to the likes of Hercemonceux Cannibals and Upper Dicker Macaroons, the minnows of the Nuclear Waste Disposal Solutions League (South), and take their rightful place alongside football’s elite.”
Asked whether he had any qualms about the club being run by a cabal of cruel, despotic, misogynistic, murdering cocaine smugglers and money launderers he told us, “Let us not forget that this football club has a long and undistinguished reputation to protect, and now is not the time to gaze into the mouths of gift horses. Let us instead celebrate the fact that Warriors fans have at last been given what they really want; properly tattooed footballers with enormous salaries, a gigantic new stadium and ticket prices nobody can afford.”
He jabbed a finger at the now-empty podium outside the gates of Warrior Park which, until a mob of angry fans tore it down after last Monday’s 8-0 home defeat to Cockmarlin Thunderbolts, contained local artist Bandy Sponk’s extremely unrealistic statue of Nobby Balaclava, the legendary Warriors’ midfield enforcer, still playing for the club at the age of 52.
Aiming a huge megaphone at my face he gestured towards the ditch where fragments of the still-smouldering abomination now lay, “Had we turned down an opportunity like this,” he shouted, “that sporting legend would surely be spinning in his grave, were he dead.”
Warriors’ recently-appointed manager Sergio “The Horse” Peccadillo (54), who’s position would appear to be in severe jeopardy following the club’s takeover would only say this after consulting his Time Out Book of Conversational English, “My flight has been delayed, may I sleep with your daughter?”
Hastings’ first drive-in psychoanalytic service, Wind Your Window Down And Tell Me About Your Mother, began its advertising campaign last week, provoking a predictably stormy brouhaha. The following piece of contentious copywriting is what caused all the fuss:
Does your psyche resemble a canal full of rusty bicycle frames and dead cats? Do you worry about not being paranoid enough? Do people think you have a Bluetooth headset when you are actually talking to yourself?
Over 300 irate owners of Bluetooth headsets gathered outside the town hall to demonstrate, some of them carrying rusty bicycles and dead cats, which they hurled at Hastings’ Lord Mayor the Right Honourable Derek Windfarm after he appeared on a balcony in a bid to calm the situation down. A spokesman for the militant Association of Rabid Social Entropy (ARSE), told our reporter; “Bluetooth headsets may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but lumping them together with dead cats and abandoned bicycles is, frankly, very unhelpful. ARSE would also like to take this opportunity to point out that not all canals are the filthy repositories of society’s detritus.”
A spokesperson for Mayor Windfarm issued the following statement:
“It is not for me to to comment on whether this is, or is not, a significant step in one direction or another. Whether there has been any progress, or indeed regress, in either direction I cannot say. Even were I privy to such information, the laws of sub judice would encourage me to refrain from comment and indeed, not say anything. The only thing I can tell you with any certainty, one way or the other, is no comment.”
Sophocles, the Ancient Greek genius was working on a method of marking slate with intelligible writing, and was demonstrating it by laying the slate on the ground and writing on it with chalk attached to a long stick. It produced semi-legible script, if a little spindly.
He asked Eurypides, his apprentice genius, what he thought of the new device. The apprentice considered his reply. “Master, it is truly a wondrous thing, but to my mind there are flaws.”
The Master raised an involuntary eyebrow at the word “flaws”, but allowed the lad to carry on. “Sire, in order to improve legibility, could we not position the slate at eye level and thus eliminate the long stick?”
Sophocles smirked. “And how exactly do you propose to go about securing the slate at eye level?” he enquired sarcastically.
“Easely” replied the precocious apprentice with an ill-advised wink.
The philosopher frowned, stroked his beard, and turning to pick up a heavy serving spoon he wrapped it expertly inside a waxed scroll containing the formula for an advanced type of hummus and fetched the lad soundly around the head with it.
Vote For Countryside Alliance
by The Hunt Cult. Click for video
“Sometimes you just need a tool that doesn’t do anything”
CLICK FOR SENIOR MOMENTS ON TV
BY Colin Gibson
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The Foghorn’s Lament, Jennifer Lucy Allan (White Rabbit)
‘ Lighthouses might house the key’
– Peter Hammill, ‘A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers’
Back in July 2020 I listened to a wonderful Radio 4 programme eulogising the foghorn, a sound fast disappearing from our world. GPS means that boats no longer have to rely on lights and sounds to plot their position; lighthouses are now automated and most foghorns decommissioned or replaced with quieter and more localised electronic warnings. Browsing in a local bookshop last week, I came across this volume and realised it was by the writer and presenter of that Radio 4 documentary last year. So I bought it.
Jennifer Lucy Allan is hooked on the sound of foghorns. Not the mechanics or construction of the huge trumpets, not the strange buildings used to house them – often near to lighthouses, but the sounds they make and how this fits into what she calls the ‘soundscape’ of the landscapes around them and affect those who live within hearing of them. She’s not alone: one of the things she writes about is all the composers and musicians who have used and incorporated those long desolate tones into their work.
She also offers a brief history of the foghorn, from the original concept through the building, testing and consideration of their sonic ability, to the mass installations that soon followed; and a century or so later their decommission and demolition. En route she discovers, retells and questions many stories and yarns, visits lighthouses and foghorn bunkers, meets enthusiasts, weirdos and collectors from around the world, undertakes pilgrimages to foghorns still in use – such as those on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco – and persuades keepers and wardens to grant her access to lighthouses and foghorn buildings and sometimes to sound out the horns just for her.
It’s a ridiculous and totally engaging story, full of trivia, gossip, nautical history, intelligent reporting, personal anecdote, along with musical and social revelation. She tracks down historical letters of complaint about the noise, shares ghost stories, tries to untangle the foghorn’s actual creation story, but mostly listens and thinks about what she is hearing. Jennifer Lucy Allan is besotted. You will be too.
Fog Tropes by Ingram Marshall
Maritime Rites by Alvin Curran
– Once upon a time Britain led the world.
– Other countries used to listen to what we had to say.
– What we did, other countries thought it was great and did the same.
– Plus we invented cricket and football and perhaps also snooker. I’m not sure about snooker. I might have to check that one.
– But it wasn’t just sport, it was other stuff, like war and economic exploitation. We led the world.
– Sport is important. It brings people together.
– That’s true. But it only brings people together when we win.
– The best sports are the ones we win at, that’s for sure.
– I think the government should do more in that regard, and if they’re wondering about how to spend their money they should concentrate on helping us win sport things.
– I was reading the other day that in history most wars have started because of sport.
– I always thought it was religion caused most wars.
– No. They’ve updated it.
– Our government really should read what you read.
– Some of it. Not all of it.
– I thought you’d stopped reading those magazines.
– I tried, but I have needs.
We could always feign illness.
“You know what I mean, she
said.” How did the eye evolve?
“I love drummers, they are
underrated,” she said. When
you awake you will remember
nothing but you can’t go back
to sleep if your partner is
repeatedly snoring. “We have
all the tools for fundamental
change,” she said. It may be that
science fiction is the best way of
thinking about the future but the
politicians will only act under pressure.
the sailor boy
is treading water
he’s in love with
the captain’s daughter
the captain doesn’t know
if he did he’d forbid
an old-fashioned man
he runs a tight ship
and sails his family like so
is locked in a tower
so is the Lady of Shalott
both loveless alone and
somewhat romantically inclined
the sailor boy
is doubly overboard swept
and strikes for the shore
though swimming is alien
to his naval aspiration
Lancelot du Lac rides by
while Dame Shalott yearns:
a Che Guevara in shining armour
‘his coal-black curls’
thrill her frozen breast
let down your hair
cries the sinking sailor
Rapunzel I’m drowning
let down your hair
these distressed mademoiselles
are at the mercy of spells
both hoping for rescue
yet not quite alike
Rapunzel is rough and tougher
Lancelot spies his lofty Lady
and is smitten too
she’s so pliantly fated
he’s in for a shock
Rapunzel is from sterner stuff
that boring cabin-boy
adores my plait
he’ll drive me batty
if he climbs up my hair –
perhaps it’s better he drown?
the sailor boy
is now in deep water
he’s in love
with the captain’s daughter
Lancelot rides on
to Camelot – where else?
she has a swoon as likely as not
the curse has come upon me*
cries the Lady of Shalott
will Rapunzel let down
her braided hair and save?
will the knight astride
his prancing palfrey regret
he ever clapped eyes?
Rapunzel is mysteriously aware
of the Lady of Shalott:
she’s my doppelgänger likely as not
nevertheless I refuse to be doomed
I’ll shin down my cut braid
I can’t be doing with
all this pre-Raphaelite tosh
sink or swim sailor boy
though I’m the captain’s daughter
the sea of life is my own
the forlorn sailor boy
is in ever deeper water
and hopeless in love
with the captain’s daughter
*the oldest howler in The Schoolgirls’ Giant Book Of Jokes
Illustration: Claire Palmer
vellum fertile fields script
our hours of the day
staved upon the stars
parchment of fallowed seasons
clutter the cairn
bound to earth
tracts of faith
proxied by Judas
mizzle & char
humus & hymns
dreams of harvest
bleeding seeds onto
the very earth
‘What has begun as a huge collective surge of psychic energy must be perfected at the individual level. It is always the role of individuals to complete the task, to bring the divine process to fruition within the microcosm of our own souls.’ Robert A Johnson
If a myth is the collective dream of an entire culture at a particular point in history, as Carl Jung and his followers espoused, I wonder who will be writing the story of our time.
And if myth is something that never happened yet always is (another definition), perhaps we are already there. For I have no doubt a myth is being created to seduce, imprison and kill the masses by those whose crazed minds are now running amok.
It is therefore something quite deliberate yet equally represents a movement in the collective unconscious and brings us both our greatest problem and richest opportunity.
This is, as Johnson writes, an individual task and a chance to gather up our skirts – our fragmented selves – find unity and do our part in moving the culture up a chakra, in this case into the heart.
The battle ground is between ego and soul – where the rubber meets the road in astrology’s eighth house – as the lower forces who can only operate through fear and control seek to keep us earthbound, while the higher aids in our ascent.
Both microcosm and macrocosm are in the fray, both personal and collective. The battle field is within and without.
What could be more pressing or more important than the task of integrating more and more of the unconscious until the conscious mind reflects this unity, the unity of the Self, who and what we truly are?
Yet how difficult, unwanted and even unnecessary this task seems for most of us. By definition, we have no idea what lies dormant in the shadows of our own divided natures.
It is far easier to project on to those ‘rotten, deluded’ others.
How clever our oppressors have been, how stealthy in their long-term plan, covert and deadly and using us against one another.
Their spell is deadly, appeals to the codependent guilt in all those who grew up amidst dysfunction, emotional blackmail and unhealthy dependencies masquerading as love.
We have been lulled to sleep over decades, primed for this time, as we turned a blind eye to suffering until it finally landed on our own doorstep with a sickening thud.
In moving away from the divine feminine, by sacrificing her on the bonfires of the masculine need for success, power and control, she has sought a terrible revenge and a tribute has been exacted.
Saturn has come to eat our children. We didn’t listen to the myths that carry the deepest truths. We turned our back on the feminine soul; and the price is our annihilation.
If we can learn the lessons presented at this time, by first shaking ourselves awake, some of us may live to see better days, but first we have to understand we are slaves and we have accepted, even reveled in our enslavement.
‘A slave who finds joy in his slavery, and makes every effort to continue in that condition, cannot even conceive that a highway to freedom exists, until such time that the knowledge of his slavery dawns on him.’ Siddharameshwar
Numerous factors support our enslavement and willing submission. For some it’s as ludicrously banal as a donut. Governments have gone all out to push the script written by those hiding in the wings yet dictating terms to an entire globe.
The irony is those of us who grew up wreathed in the tactics of emotional blackmail, martyrdom and manipulation, know the ground. Those who had it easy are largely oblivious.
Besides, the ultimate truth, is there are no individuals but one appearing as many. It took me many years to understand those who raised me simply could not understand what I was trying to tell them. We were simply on different wavelengths.
These bandwidths of consciousness I see emanating in rings from the Earth, with those closest to the Earth caught more in the low- density force-field of matter while others seem to live in a much higher bandwidth, seeing from a helicopter’s vantage point.
It’s analogous in astrology to those planets closest to the Earth – personal planets – affecting the individual up close and personally while the transpersonal or outer planets teach us archetypal or generational lessons.
In hospital, close to death from pneumonia on my third birthday, I was assaulted by an older boy and shot from my body into space. The abiding memory was of floating in pitch black attached to nothing. This was life without attachments, where I had come from yet was in no way ready to return.
When I did come back, I was terrified but suspect had also been invested with something important, a way of seeing perhaps that would serve me well.
What I sense is that if someone is not in your bandwidth, they simply will not understand you – there will be no commonality except at the most basic level and you will likely separate like oil and water.
This is what we are seeing now. Each soul has reached their karmic full stop where the accumulated wisdom of lifetimes has gathered, or not!
‘Forgive them Lord, they know not what they do,’ always rings in my head.
But forgiveness may have to come later. For now, action is required and a healthy balance of reaching out and turning within and the realization that we are All.
Grasping this unity is essential. We must turn away from intractable internet squabbles and remind each other what we share. If not we will continue to fall into the crafted pit where we are literally pitted against one another.
I am reminded of all those old war stories of sudden communities and brotherhood, how at our best we remember this essence and set aside our differences in times of need.
Perhaps the problem now is we are dealing with the worst hostility from those we thought friends, including our own governments, whose nanny state is a demon come to kill her own.
Copyright Simon Heathcote
I can’t pay the rent
Of my soul.
It’s too expensive-
The wax, without
Guile and control.
Numbers are stuck
At electronic door lock-
Turning and twisting
I stand at centre- muted
Loaded with charcoal
Into the ditches
The pill’s palace.
Illustration Nick Victor
Monobina Nath from Kolkata, India.
“Always one protagonist overshadows the others sometime with his light, sometimes with his darkness, more than often with his penumbra.” My uncle says, “Which one runs this account? You? The Poet?”
“Don’t forget me.” says the cat.
I ignore them both. There is no story. I desire to scream. I want to wake up.
The muffled street drums the win of some leader prewritten to win by the invisible potentate or perhaps it is one single car run by a municipality driver announcing about the latest on the pandemic. Here nothing matters more than an electronic fan riddling the heatwave into a shattered-mirror puzzle; I listen to the fan; years ago the doctors drilled a hole into the throat of my caught-in-cancer aunt, and she used to talk about dying old and the subtexts of all other malisons in her an electronic fan slashing summer again and again voice.
Mid-day, I hark the noise-puzzle. “Who won?” Prisha asks. I shake my head, “The fan repeats its battle in the same circle, because…”
Because of our births, because our orbits chanced our genesis.
The knife I found yesterday in the house’s basement should shine the moment I shall open the drawer. I keep it in the second one of my study table where I do not study, and instead of papers or books, a messy array of products used or intended to be used, but never got a chance, displays the growth of time as a fine daughter. Prisha knows about its existence. She is the one who found it during the search for the creatures of those surreal eggs. She did not pick it up but merely dragged me gently when everyone else hovered over the fragile orange right winged fledglings. The knife was hidden inside a book about the sexual habits of the insects. No one would have opened the book in any other circumstances, but it was hidden in haste, with some thoughts that now perceived by us, the observers and recipients, as undernourished.
Right now, I think the knife is a page-mark, a joke only my uncle can perceive appropriate, or (I tremble) even a clue to another elaborate surprise or mystery or even a crime.
This has been a year of our democratic election and a year of the pandemic that, on my worse days, frightens me if we have committed a sin by bringing Elora into a world withering away. A year we have begun to learn the tongue of the cats, met a poet who wanted to be enchained in our basement and helped hatched right winged birds. I miss the dead uncle annotating my life.
Still, the surprise is an emotion that embraces me.
I ask Prisha if we should clean the blade. “Whose side of the story are you watching in those TV shows?” she asks.
Can one clean up an act? Perhaps, Prisha points out, an act cleanses another.
Someday you cease to be conscious of the days being deleted from your account, that you have only a dwindling number of those left, and that day you, although unknowingly, find the rhythm of the mundane much appreciated by the zen philosophy. I must have crossed that day, and because of the very effect of that blessing of oblivion, I have forgotten about the bliss.
If I have written down the days after that day of acceptance the days as they are, the readers will ask, “Do you think we are simpletons? The banality of life is fine, but you cannot offer a story without an edge. Not everything is nice. It cannot be. You have no money, and you have been reared to not to act out of bound in search of a little bit of capital, but is not there a knife hidden in your closet, one thirty of some blood?”
Not in the closet, I should whisper, in my table’s second drawer, and the knife was used by my grandfatherly rounded off uncle as a bookmark. The existence of the knife suddenly saws off the fat of contentedness.
I feel the edge of poverty again. Again, I desire to infract the rules I let my life follow. Beg. Kill. Get the life your family deserves.
Our house is surrounded by disturbed domestic arrangements. The last time we gathered around the kitchen table and talked about the old days we brought up the abuses we witnessed. Where do our neighbors hide their knives?
Well, a knife can tool mundane routine chores; the blade can outrun the longevity of its sharpness through slicing and dicing vegetables or meat; lesser than human beings can be sacrificed availing its edge. Does not the very fact that we think about a crime or a trespass in the arena of grey represent our will to commit an act of aggression?
Poor, innocent uncle. We are the ones who imagine a crime to quell our own perversion.
My thoughts turn to the book, the one on the sexuality and mating of the insects. My uncle used to lead a lonesome life towards the end, if you neglect to consider our visits, books and casseroles. The death of my aunt happened before I began visiting my uncle at the assistance of Prisha; I remember her words, “You cannot detach yourself from your kin, and then expect the same will not occur in your life.” Her words gave us a roof above our heads when I lost my interest to work, exorcised the panic attack, and decided that we should wait and see what materialized to us, and Elora bloomed.
I descend downstairs, see the poet writing something using his laptop, give him a nod, say that today our household will wake up to the daily routine late, receive his approval in the form of a shrug, and fetch the book which held the knife in its bust.
I and Prisha open the book. The first page, the Title page, is missing. The content page as well. We assume the title will be something like ‘The Mating Rituals of The Insects’ or ‘The Sexual Habits of The Insects’. Prisha giggles, “It can be ‘The Bugging Urges’.” I agree that would be hilarious.
“Can you recall which pages were marked by the knife?” I ask.
We drift into the devouring mates. Prisha asks about my aunt, and I realize that my knowledge about any of my kin limits itself in the memories of sparse interactions between me and them. You can say, safely, I am a self-centered person.
I can hear the cat and the kittens. They have returned to someplace inside the house. I can hear Elora’s delight. The drums of democracy and sirens for the dead ones continue in the milieu. And an old-fashioned postcard falls from the book.
The handwriting is legible enough –
We found those two tourists. The Austrians, I told you about. They said –
“The guide, Sam, shows us the tree, and if you query which tree it may be, he says, the lynching tree; its boughs bear the fruits in arbitrary seasons; those drupes look almost like you and me; their heads droop a little like the half-open jackknives; the scent of ripening reminds you of the morgue or the sweaty shivering body of one grieving widow who disappears after lodging a complaint against a local baron. We click a few snapshots and, although nobody hangs from the tree presently, the photos reveal one – his dark skin contrasts with the mean daylight on every detail of the village, houses, ruins, political slogans written on the walls, tobacco juice spit against the wordings.”
And then they were lost in the vast village of this country. However, now that we have found them, we must endure a lot of paperwork and headaches.
Ilustration Nick Victor
TODMORGEN – Dutch for ‘See you Tomorrow’- is a new series of bi-monthly events bringing over Dutch night-delights to the Golden Lion in Todmorden in West Yorkshire’s Upper Calderdale Valley. Gig, from the Golden Lion with Serhat at the decks.
DUTCH TREAT#1: DJ SERHAT
Born in Istanbul, Serhat, is the offspring from a legendary 1970s’ bombshell actress mom. He was raised as a teenager on the moist clay grounds of Groningen in the Northern Dutch lowlands. After having quit his day-job as Heineken Brewery’s prime chemist, the Amsterdam-based, dj SERHAT (Serhat Oguz) has dedicated his new found life to his long-time love for rare vinyl. He has assembled one of the largest collections of rare and obscure vinyl records in Amsterdam city.
Serhat has been resident dj of legendary Amsterdam r&r venues Pacific Parc and Café De Diepte and most recent the notorious SailorBar, Vreniging de Steek, Roze Tanker, and Maloe Melo.
Dj SERHAT keeps spinning his vintage vinyl tunes ranging from Northern Soul, to Belgian Popcorn, and from Punk rock to Exotica and beyond. His aim? To entertain and surprise his audiences!
Listen in on Alan Dearling and Serhat Oguz talking music, the Netherlands and Turkey
Alan: A great, eclectic, musical feast. Many thanks for sharing some of your passion and music with the Golden Lion punters. And quite a journey for you, flying in specially from Amsterdam. Tell me a bit about your musical journey from Istanbul to Amsterdam.
Serhat: Thanks. I will briefly introduce myself and my musical journey.
It’s a great pleasure to be here in the Golden Lion in Todmorden as a dj.
I grew up in Istanbul in the 70s and 80s. My mother has been a legendary movie star in the end of the 60s and the early 70s in Istanbul. She actually comes from Greek-Roman (Byzantium) ancestors back from the time when Istanbul was called Constantinpoli. In contrast, my father was quarter Italian (Verona), a quarter Albanian, and half Turkish. I grew up with different cultural habits and music genres, and lived in the Asian side of Istanbul until age of 7 and later moved to the European side of Istanbul.
When my mother was a movie star, we also had several artists at our house such as Cem Karaca. He was my father’s best friend. Cem Karaca (April 5, 1945 – February 8, 2004) was a prominent Turkish rock musician and one of the most important figures in the Anatolian rock movement. He was also lead singer of the famous progressive, psychedelic rock band from Istanbul. Moğollar (Mongols in Turkish) was one of the pioneering bands in Turkish rock music during their early career and one of the founders of Turkish folk rock (or Anatolian rock).
Alan: I had a home in Kalkan for over ten years and worked quite often with authors and musicians in Istanbul. I’ve been lucky to collect over a hundred Turkish albums, including ones with Cem Karaca and Moğollar: Here are a couple of musical links. Cem always looked like a complete gentleman, Hippy-Freak!
Cem Karaca: https://ww w.youtube.com/watch?
Serhat: In the 1970s, Turkey was dealing with political violence between supporters of the left and the right, separatist movements and the rise of Islamism. As the country fell into chaos we moved to Netherlands in the mid-80s.
In Amsterdam I have been a very active underground music listener, dj, and the promoter of rare genres of music bands until now.
I have been interested in music genres and cultural influences of music all my life. I must say I haven’t been a dj for a very long time. But I am a music collector and especially a seeker of weird vintage vinyl. To give a short example, lately I have become interested in Surinamese-Hindustani music from the Netherlands from the 80s, it has its own style with synthesizer and crazy beats with beautiful melodies.
Alan: You seem to mix – almost seamlessly – music from different eras, cultures and countries. For example, it spans 1920s Hot Club of Paris through to Turkish house music. But it seems to blend together beautifully…
Serhat: Thank you Alan for that, I have indeed been trying to mix a lot of broad music genres lately. I also see that we live in times of mixed cultures and societies and I also try to let young people and old people enjoy mixing styles of music.
Alan: You obviously sensed that this was an early-hours audience, but you were ‘playful’ with them, both visually with your image and the juxtapositions of sounds.
Serhat: Indeed I started spinning quite early, and slowly tried to give the audience a little bit of a theatre feeling and to see a smile or two. Also to loosen up a bit. At the end of the evening, there were even a few men who started to dress up as women etc… On the dance floor, there was dancing of burlesque-kind of 50s, and music instrumental rock and roll with elephant sounds from a saxophone…
Alan: What is going on in the Dutch club scene at the moment? Are there clear styles and types of music that are especially popular? Mercan Dede is well worth listening to. I’ve certainly enjoyed the CDs that I’ve bought. But this is an artist who is crossing over to work with djs too. Here we see a performance at the Paradiso in Amsterdam with Azam Ali, complete with a red whirling dervish:
Serhat: Nowadays I see a lot of young people who get interested in world music of all kinds. A lot of music is made with contemporary sounds. An example I can give is the band
Altin Gün. They are an Anatolian rock band from Amsterdam, Netherlands. Their style has been described as ‘psychedelic’ with a ‘dirty’ blend of funk rhythms, wah-wah guitars and analogue organs. Altın Gün also performs psychedelic rock covers of Turkish folk music.
Hear some of their music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyQ_5uLyFMo
Alan: I’ve worked at EDM festivals like OZORA in Hungary and Boom in Portugal – I met up again with BaBa ZuLa at OZORA who are a major live band who I first met in Istanbul. They seem to also mix traditional Turkish sounds and instruments with dance vibes. Are they an outfit that you have worked with?
BaBa ZuLa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5QvDwL15HY
Serhat: BaBa ZuLa…….I love it. Great music …….BaBa ZuLa create a unique psychedelic sound, combining traditional Turkish instruments, electronica, reggae, and dub. The core of their sound is the saz, a Turkish bouzouki-like stringed instrument with a bright, high-pitched sound. They use a revolutionary approach to electric saz, combining it both with retro and high-end electronic effects that creates an original sound never heard before until now.
Alan: In the Netherlands I’m close friends with many members of the Cultural Line of Defence – part of the alternative spaces and squatting movement. I was first friends with members of the Amsterdam Balloon Company who squatted Ruigoord. Some are still involved with that arts space outside Amsterdam and places like ADM, and festies like Landjuweel. Sadly, ADM was evicted but some ADM folk are resurrecting the events at the Sludge Fields. Is this a scene that you are involved with?
Serhat: How nice Alan that you also know the ADM family. I’ve been there from the beginning and even helped organise festivals like Robodock several times.
Robodock was an Amsterdam multi-day festival that was held between 1998 and 2012. The festival connected technology with art and showcased various disciplines including theatre, visual arts, music, film, industrial installations and technical experiments.
Alan: You seem equally comfortable playing film scores, jazz and ethnic and contemporary sounds from Africa, the Mediterranean and South America. Do you very actively search out vinyl music from around the world? What are some of your absolute favourites?
Serhat: I am an extreme music collector mainly vinyl and 45 rpm is my specialty.
I find it difficult to answer what my favourite is because I have a very wide range of tastes in genres.
It can be a country song about Japanese cheese or a Scottish singer who yodels an old Turkish song like Uskudara
Alan: How did you meet up with Gig from the Golden Lion?
Serhat: Walter Russell (Artist) is an artist and a good friend of mine and he introduced me to Gig and she invited me to come and DJ sometime and here I am!
Alan: Can you see ways that the alternative scenes and people from the Netherlands, or, even Turkey can organise more link-ups and events with Todmorden and the UK?
Serhat: I really met lots of friendly and nice beautiful people in Golden Lion, the Todmorgen event, and around Todmorden. I see a lot of possibilities of exchange projects with artists, djs and bands.
Thank you so much Alan for the great interview and really liked that you came by and took pictures and enjoyed the music. Thank you and see you soon either in Todmorden or in Amsterdam.
Alan: Many thanks for sharing your time with me and your new friends in the ‘family’ in Tod!
Check out DJ Serhat at:
Resio B &Marjee & Serhat Oğuz – Şer | Produced by Resio B (Official Audio): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Krw-zsLvrto
And the Golden Lion pub and music venue, Todmorden: https://www.facebook.com/goldenliontod
Steppenwolf: Magic Carpet Ride – The Dunhill / ABC Years 1967-1971
(8CD Box Set – Cherry Red Records)
Populism in the global political sense is a contemporary reality, but being woke to its serious dangers is a righteous discernment rather than sensibility to be disparaged by the rednecks (for example – and there will be other asides – The Spectator Diary columnist not so long ago referred sarcastically to poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge as ‘borderline woke’: WTF?).
However, being populist in knowing Born to be Wild and The Pusher are the two greatest songs from the band Steppenwolf is obvious and acceptable awareness (especially – another aside – if you discovered this watching the film Easy Rider when first released and/or having copies of the film, perhaps including, as I do, the film soundtrack as a cd recording but also two vinyl copies, as well as film video recordings, the original store-bought video and the DVD on its initial release).
If you think The Pusher is the greater of these two classics, that is also fine, it being written by the great Hoyt Axton (not a gremlin, but in the 1984 film Gremlins, and if you haven’t got or heard his 1969 album My Griffin is Gone you might be unaware of what a great songwriter he is). That was the third and final tangent.
The band clearly valued Axton’s song-craft, and this is something I was reminded of when reading through the booklet that comes with this comprehensive collection. Snow Blind Friend from that Griffin album also appears on Steppenwolf 7 – John Kay’s grizzled vocal here and on the other an empathetic match for Hoyt’s signature growl. I also learned from reading this that Mars Bonfire’s Born to Be Wild ‘introduced the term heavy metal into the musical lexicon’, though I always thought that was Black Sabbath, directly or indirectly. I’d say Steppenwolf had more of a heavy blues lean than ‘metal’, but there is a hard fact of the line ‘heavy metal thunder’ being in the song’s lyric so I’m accepting I will have to defer.
A further caveat in the ‘heavy metal’ origins being attributed to Steppenwolf – though acknowledged as factual – would be the lyrical tendencies in, for example, the trilogy Monster / Suicide /America written by Jerry Edmonton and John Kay, and encapsulated in the politically thoughtful penultimate verse which also stands as a telling premonition of America (and the world) today:
Our cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin’ the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can’t understand
We don’t know how to mind our own business
‘Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who’s the winner
We can’t pay the cost
‘Cause there’s a monster on the loose
It’s got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watching
One of the interesting comparisons to make is between the two live albums in this collection, CD FOUR Live at the Matrix, San Francisco, 14 May 1967 with its rock rawness – really the touchstone for the band’s core identity, Willy Dixon’s Howlin’ For My Baby giving Kay a coarse blues on which to chew, and finishing on The Pusher which at 23 minutes begins with genuinely psychedelic reverie in the echoing vocal, feedback squeal, organ drones and other, the song sort-of starting around 12 minutes and sounding like Jefferson Airplane to these ears, morphing into the song ‘proper’ at 15 minutes with less anger than as generally known and more spaced-out empathy. CD SIX Steppenwolf Live, released in April 1970, is a more expansive and polished performance, with an apparently larger audience, and is fundamentally rock and blues with more political/social commentary as in the intro to and performing of Monster, followed by Draft Resister, and the trio of closing songs – Magic Carpet Ride, The Pusher (this has come a long way in the three years), Born to be Wild – tell their own story.
What this collection of 8 CDs and an engaging booklet does is remind of the amount (if perhaps not breadth) of material produced by the band over and above the ‘hits’, the third of these being Magic Carpet Ride that titles the ensemble set. What I did find having immediate access to all the albums (rather than possessing all of them/recordings somewhere unknown in the house) is the ability to easily dance in and out of their various times. Spending a period on their first, the eponymous Steppenwolf, reminds of all the early positive signs – over and above both Born to be Wild and The Pusher being there. Opener Sookie Sookie (part penned by Steve Cropper) is like a template for all that follows, and then there are two John Kay songs Your Walls Too High and Desperation that remind of his comfort across rock and balladry.
That said, I’ve just listened to The Pusher again and it’s all embraced in this one song, which Steppenwolf as a band finesse to memorable perfection. The rest is backdrop, and over time I can dip into the recorded entirety so neatly collected as well as the booklet for further insights. John Kay, for example, is reported to have claimed that Led Zeppelin birthed ‘heavy metal’. I still think it was Black Sabbath, though William Burroughs had his say.
World’s dead broken film rolls on
– William Burroughs: Unfinished Cigarette
It was the fag end of another perfect day – pelting rain in the Surrey countryside and the stink of The New World Order and I was looking for someone to hate. Desolation death probe on your screens tonite:
strange stories / amazing facts
Black Beauty nightmoves in spotless white lingerie my spiritual heartland so please do not repeat DO NOT adjust your having the strength of mind to say no is more difficult than you think sign here for the end of everything. Get ready to throw up your vitamin supplements, your bits ‘n’ bobs and your billets-doux – I was nuthin’ special in those days fragments of a face that time forgot (oh stroll on) but I always wanted to look like Cliff Richard or someone else or something else you know – got moved on (that night).
II: IS THERE ANYBODY THERE?
1923 Broadway Buildings and everything waits for He-Who-Comes, Screamin’ Lord Baphomet, The Night of a Thousand Eyes looking like Randy Roxy The Bridesmaid from Hell nameless terror on the Thames Turbo dead zone – dead tone. Tense nervous headache? Don’t knock this neon aeon old photographs have an abiding – I was shocked to the depths by yet another spanner in my hi-tech works reminds me of The Elusive Blue Rose those continental drift musics or even ‘Krome Hate’ by The United Assassins storm water outlets extend to the girl on the back seat – talks just like Neneh Cherry (s’wots ‘e loike then wot is ‘e lioke?) lipstick all over right out of place at Ascot. Is there anybody there? On a postcard does anybody care?
Heidi woz ere 93 as the City of Angels finally falls to the elemental charms of Sister Clitora the Luminous Nun something really special in the kiss ‘n’ tell game – it’s the only thing you know the only space you know snatching furtive poems from toilet graffiti. Is there a loo here? It must be the cold weather quid voles illud fac and the frost was cruel Ragged Jack – there was a silence – Old Tyme Piano Joe – Scrumpy Jack – Strip-O-Gram Sam and Larry the Lambada the Nightclub Strangler – lets face it the longer you leave them the worse it gets and then out like light and goodnight Vienna means nothing but madness to me trapped in the rush hour traffic mentally blitzing enemy strongholds even women aren’t secure in Tokyo thinks she’s a slut above the rest tryin’ to live like the rich ‘n’ famous my abiding fascination for faded photos of Juliet Greco will never leave me…
Just like you to ease the freeze as I lay awake but dreaming of Chinese Lanterns when all I wanna do is go to hell in my own sweet way or lie right down and die right here right now like life was cheap dirt cheap in those days I wanted to look into your heart but I saw the dollar signs in your eyes haunted by those other images winter trees and mud mud mud. Raucous cow thinks she’s Bette Midler into The Total Fitness Company body toning and laser karaoke you got? You got? Nah nah nah all strung out on very heavy metal, oz fizz and some cut price perfume called Virtual Hot Swing Via Crucible Audio Da Fe, and (don’t fret pet) you know where you can stick it – queens East End West End all jabber away in the old polari like there’s no broken film rolling on.
Bomb the chapel and bomb it now. Music to the ear? You fat toad who or what lurks behind the bathroom door at the Hotel Angela next to Prime Time Video and the Bar Escoba (La Chine Cuisine) trapped a soft target in this post-everything world of klepto nightmare duplicity where no one but no one refuses a free TV set this kid shouts Total Carnage Wow! My mum says I’m a hyperactive daredevil erotic circus Asian babe and there was a silence and the frost was cruel out in space where no one can hear you screamin’ for de Lawd haunted by those winter trees and night lights of pain and pandemonium and epidemic fears as cases increase every day. Across the urban clearway bang out of order on the Via Crucible well off the straight and narrow and there was a silence. But I’m not that (kind of person) am I? Night-moves in spotless white spiritual heartland heavy breathing fragments of a face that time forgot and…there was…a silence.
A C Evans
In Disequilibrium, Isildurs Bane & Peter Hammill
Live in Stuttgart 1975, Can
If you read my review of the Van der Graaf Generator box set recently, you probably picked up on the fact I am a big fan of that band and and their lead singer Peter Hammill. Unfortunately, his recent solo albums, especially an unlistenable covers set, have not seen him at his finest: left alone and in total charge of composition, playing, production and recording, he can be maudlin, wordy and self-indulgent.
The Swedish musical collective Isildurs Bane, however, have a track record for providing an excitingly different musical environment for Hammill to work within and against. Here on In Disequilibrium, as on their previous collaboration, the musicians provide a slightly slick and polished form of jazz-rock-cum-classical music (think ECM production) for Hammill to inhabit, soar above or react against.
It works well. Hammill’s slightly strained and raucous vocals weave among the strings, keyboards, percussion and guitar, sometimes lost in the mix, at other times breaking free into foregrounded gruff declaration and explication. This musical counterpoint works well, although I could sometimes do without the rather effete backing vocals which sometimes parrot back Hammill’s lyrics. At their best though, these two long compositions in various parts are innovative and original, with perhaps more than a welcome nod to Van der Graaf’s progrock epics.
Can were one of the great rock bands of the 1970s. Mute have now started to release official cleaned-up versions of some of their live concerts, many previously only available as lo-fi bootlegs. The first is Stuttgart 1975, which features five tracks across two CDs, the second of which feels a bit miserly at 20 minutes, but the complete concert clearly won’t fit on to a single disc.
As I get older I’ve become less convinced by Can. Their studio albums were very carefully constructed edits and selections from long, spaced-out jams they undertook in their own studio. The music is often startling, but one wonders about the process of playing for weeks on end to get 12 or even 25 minutes of something special. Live in concert, of course, what we get are very free versions loosely based on album tracks or improvisations undertaken in the public eye.
The rhythm and riff seems most important to Can. Most tracks wrap vocals, guitar solos and the like around motorik drumming and some kind of rhythmic propulsion from bass and/or rhythm guitar. The music can go anywhere, but it always has something to return to, however far it travels. Once you understand that the musical freedom on offer here (and elsewhere) seems less magical and more obvious, and I’d really liked to have heard a shorter and more focussed edit of the 35 minute track at the centre of this release. But the opening track has moments of delight and confusion, whilst the shorter second and fourth tracks are the real highlight of the set. However, nothing here is as exciting or revelatory as the original Can albums or the Live 1971-1977 release.
bears no resemblance to
BAND OF HOLY JOY return to the London Stage with a curated night of joyous worship with friends old and new
collaborating with legendary surrealist promoter Sean McLusky and
the 1-2-3-4 congregation
Thursday 7th October at Powerhaus Camden.
featuring special guests;
Doctors Of Madness – Richard Strange performs songs from the Doctors of Madness pantheon,
Vagrant Lovers – Kirsty Alyson and Gil De Ray push the boundaries of poetry and electronic psychedelia,
I See Islands – emerging duo from North Shields sing beautifully introverted pastoral modern folk hymns.
there is no universal being
in a non universal society
we are all universal beings
in a non universal society
no thats not true
we all want to be universal beings and therefore
we want a universal society and we don’t have it
and we are in anguish about it
what is a universal society
it is one in which nobody’s ends are cut off
and the pain is getting intolerable
and the joy we envisage is getting
The thumbnail is inspired by Bhatn el Ghoul (belly of the ghoul) in the Jordanian desert while on the 2013 archaeological dig excavating ‘The Great Arab Revolt’. There is nothing there and everything there. Done in acrylic and oil pastel on old scaffolding board . The one below is acrylic with dribbling water. I didn’t have to do much, other than lay on the colours (ah – the romance of the loaded brush) and stop it dribbling when it became Wadi Musa, near Petra. It’s not so much what you, do but how you see and imagine. The textures of the wood are important, going with the grains, cracks and grooves. It was worn by nature just as much as the landscapes.
I know things got a change.
Everything is not as it were before.
Life is on certain turn and twist.
Heading through it,
Is getting difficult.
As if I wake up from sleep,
After a century, and-
Found nothing In place.
Still, everything goes on a reason.
May be I’m ignorant-
At some point.
Thereby missed the train.
Still, there is a little hope left.
Keeping me alive every day.
I will be on time-
Someday, somehow, somewhere.
By, Tiyasha Khanra
Picture by Louis Paton
When all that changes is the world
Growing further away from every grace and good
How then this change we feel in one another?
When those we love find breath a wound
And curse again the very sun for giving light?
How then this doubt we feel in one another?
O ours is the change which flowers discover at morning
O ours is the doubt of the waters at their priestly moving.
Our city is filled with poets
Never have there been so many poets
Consequently everyone seems happy
Everyone you meet is now a poet
Consequently no man mans a tram
Nor fusses mending buses
Collecting waste nor wasting time collecting
Taxes baking bread nor fixing
Broken table-legs nor broken legs nor laddered leggings
Break up at once all prose to Oxo cubes!
Insert an anecdote you may recall
Ensure a mythological
Reference or learned philosophic
Petticoat-tail is showing
For smarty-pants to point it out to friends
Add something sanely mad or madly sane –
Here you have a sliding scale –
Something on the joy and pain of love
To prove you are a Human
Being not a cog
In a monster poem-machine
Certainly not a cog
In a massive manic meat-eating poem-machine
That runs and runs and runs
That cannot cease from running
I bought a sheet of humans
Each one looked the same
With perforated edges
But some had holes not there
For tearing each from others
To send them who knows where
This made them quite collectible
They were in fact unique
I bought another hopeful sheet of humans
Illustration: Claire Palmer
..provoking a growing fight-back
‘Guile’ and ‘cunning’ are two words that seldom feature in the modern vernacular, yet we need them now – because our species is under an unprecedented level of sustained attack – and it is guile and cunning that is being used to disguise this attack as some form of benevolent protection. The hypnotic effect this deception is having on mankind threatens to render our species extinct.
Who would guess? After all, those who believe what they read in the press and see on TV are sure they are being ‘saved’ not sacrificed.
Saved from Covid, global warming, the Russians and of course ‘terrorists’. While individuals in possession of a reasonable degree of awareness recognise that those calling the shots are trying to pull-off some grand plan which will leave them in charge of all the material avenues of daily life. What Klaus Schwab, director of the World Economic Forum likes to refer to as “you’ll own nothing and you’ll be happy.”
Which properly translates as “We’ll own everything and you’ll be fortunate if your still alive”.
Yet this is actually just one level of a multi pronged attack being prepared against humanity. It goes a lot deeper.
At the deeper level we are brought up against a struggle with our own minds to grasp the magnitude of the dark agenda proposed for life on earth. Many amongst us cannot even begin to fathom the fact that this is not just a new attempt to introduce a totalitarian dictatorship, but is in fact all out war on the life force itself. An attempt to render our very DNA for ever changed – engineered – into something wholly alien to that which drives the evolutionary dynamic of life on earth.
The origins of this anti-life persuasion stretch back a long way. They start with a refusal to recognise the essential spiritual composition of all matter. That at its essence, life – in all its animate and inanimate forms – is a manifestation of that which was brought to birth by a cosmic entity of pure spirit – over a great span of time – during which it evolved itself into what we call ‘matter’.
Matter is pure spirit congealed into material substance. That is why Jesus is cited as saying “Split wood, and I am there.” Our ancient rocks, soils, ferns, protozoa, aerobic microorganisms, insects, reptiles – and eventually man – form a grand diversity and continuum of expressions of one omnipotent cosmic source point we call God.
Initially, the life expression here on earth was of a very simple nature and lacked any form of self awareness. Yet all seemingly inanimate matter contains the seed of animation. It is, after all ‘all energy’ – but the fact that we cannot see the whirling atoms that form the composition of a rock does not mean they are not actual. That it is not alive.
The creative source point of all life is present even in the most ancient mountains and minerals of our planet.
All these are aspiring to become more than they are. They all have the capacity for constant movement towards a higher expression of themselves. Thus they ‘transform’ and move on, as it were, into subtler forms of expression of their original form. This is the true meaning of the word ‘evolution’.
We – mankind – are at the upper edge of this process of evolution, but we are still informed by all stages that got us here. We recognise them as being gradually evolving expressions within the development of our unique psycho-spiritual and physical propensities.
Thus we can today, if we so wish, feel ‘at one’ with the natural environment around us, simply because we are it – and it is us. There has never been a separation point, just a continuum of evolving expression of the pure source point from whence ‘life’ was birthed.
However, somewhere along the line, at a well developed stage of the continuum – with the human brain already active, a deviation of the natural evolutionary movement became manifest.
We will not speculate on what exactly that was, but will acknowledge its existence. This deviation could happen due to the ‘free will’ originally accorded to independent ‘thinking’ man.
Free will is the condition we call ‘freedom’ today; however, only when its intention is the continuing manifestation of the great diversity of the species and a further manifestation of its divine origins. A state I call ‘the responsibility of freedom’.
This ‘true freedom’ is precisely what came under attack many millennia ago. The motivation for the attack was based upon the desire that the riches the material world brings to birth should be seen and worshipped solely as inert matter, completely devoid of spirit. In other words, a denial of the existence of a (cosmic) creator which is reflected in all life forms – and a taking ownership of the material world (matter) as a ‘possession’ whose primary objective is personal enrichment.
Thus the divine source was stripped clean from the manifestation of it’s own creation.
From here, gorged on the wealth of three dimensional power, the false aspirants went on – driven by an insatiable infatuation with possession, to try to capture not just the material – but the innate spiritual expression of human and planetary evolution as well.
They saw that in spite of their taking a controlling influence over mankind, the life force remained irrepressible. This aroused a deep jealously in ‘the one who would be god-king’; and the only way of satiating this jealousy was to reek vengeance on this freedom loving life force. A force that would not allow itself to come under the control of a godless authority.
Great wars were set in motion by the jealous ones. The core of each was ‘divide man against himself’. Let him destroy himself.
But even the carnage reeked by this evil ploy did not completely vanquish the true human, driven as he/she is by the upwardly rising spirit of aspiration, resonant echo of the One Pure Spirit. That great mystery which stimulates the desire to consciously realise one’s oneness with Source.
So we arrive at today.
Today the jealous ones, bruised, but more vindictive than ever – thanks to their past failures – aim to attack and distort the very DNA of life itself. In order to splice into it the codes of their spirit-less digital mechanistic void, so as to create the ‘ex-human’ robotic designer-slave – that which has all its faculties genetically engineered, to the synthetic point of no return. No return to nature. No way home.
Thus the murderers seek to enthrone themselves as god-kings of their satanic empire.
Now they have declared open war on Earth as well as humanity – and are going for the jugular.
While this very small and very sick cabal leads the way, their army of foot soldiers trudge along behind, gazing into their mobile phones and wide screen TV’s, awaiting the next instructions. Their designer-slave minds already given over to the slow march into spiritual oblivion. Their bodies bent with denial. Their souls’ vital transmissions suffocated under a heavy blanket of uncontrolled and poisoned thinking, whose chief ingredient is – fear.
We know the plan – and we know of human-kind’s retrograde passivity which has been responsible for allowing this plan to get as far as it has.
We have learned that the Covid jab, chemtrails-aluminium, WiFi and fluoride combine to calcify the pineal gland and block its function as chief receptor of the higher vibrational cosmic energies.
We have learned that GMO and pesticides do a very similar thing to the plant kingdom which is here to nourish us. And we know that a great part of the food chain carries the burden of this toxicity.
We know that all such brutal attacks on this living planet and its occupants stem from a grossly distorted perception of what Life is all about. A reversal, in fact.
But we also know one more thing. That a rising tide of awakening humanity has recognised the deception and is now establishing a formidable resistance. And in doing so has discovered its inner powers and found the will to directly challenge the architects of destruction.
We start to understand how times of profound darkness can be precursors of times of searing illumination. How a great metamorphosis of life on earth is in the air.
A manifestation that will bring with it that which we nurture in our hearts and envision in our minds. We, guardians of the flag of truth and vanguard of a new society built on honour, wisdom, justice and truth.
It’s a battle royal, make no mistake. The road to peace is not secured via passivity and wishful thinking. Not at all. Not even prayer.
The great Indian Sadhu, Prabat Rajan Sarkar stated it this way “There is no other way of establishing peace than by fighting against the reasons that disturb the peace.”
So fight we will, until we win.
Julian Rose is an early pioneer of UK organic farming, writer, international activist, entrepreneur and holistic teacher. He is co-founder of HARE The Hardwick Alliance for Real Ecology see https://hardwickalliance.org/ Julian’s acclaimed book ‘Overcoming the Robotic Mind – Why Humanity Must Come Through’ is particularly recommended reading for this time: see www.julianrose.info
Sometimes I forget…
There’s the last old Gasometer
Empty delicate circular grey meccano
A few miles on, ten enormous white birds
Preening, spinning, three legs, slowly in the wind
The old canal, still water, thinking
The train flies, blurring trees & hedges, station names
In the distance a tiny stone church
Closer, a lake, lush reeds, a bridge, a hillside rutted path
Dozens of white swans captured for a moment
Sometimes I forget…
In the close mist of the city station
The crowds, suitcases, brick and marble,
soaring curved roof, glass & steel girders
Kings Cross, onward, Peterborough, Bedford, Newark, York & Newcastle
Light bounces off dense dark and white clouds,
Sun glimpses through blue patches
Shadows on the yellow and green grass meadow,
A silent tractor glistening on a muddy track
Chocolate and white, black and golden cows,
Scattered flocks of sheep, cream and fluffy, with wooden black heads,
Stacked hay rolls, a barn, a thatched cottage, ploughed fields, woods
And not a person to be seen
On the horizon four smoking chimneys
Belching fumes; plumes sucked into a cloudy haze.
Sometimes I forget…
Here, inside, hermetically sealed
I am surrounded, cheek by jowl, by strangers all
The landscape is silent, the people quiet, all around
Fingers and eyes on their umbilical cords
White glowing Apple computer in front
A Samsung, Nokia and iPhone beside me
Connected with something far, far, away.
At last I hear a voice.
“Tickets, reservations, railcards, please!”
As I write this towards the end of September the Autumn mists are beginning to gather and the mornings are once again cold: the last few days have seen a definite change as the equinox sees in the end of another year.
How timely therefore to read a wonderful new book by Dr. Elizabeth Drayson, Emeritus Fellow in Spanish at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. Lost Paradise: The Story of Granada (Head of Zeus, £35.00) is an especially evocative book that is also illustrated throughout in the way we have come to expect from Head of Zeus.
Granada is situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the region of Andalusia in Southern Spain and its history is as rich as the finest Oloroso that Spain has to offer. As for myself I am a keen fan of the Andalusian Hemipode, a rare species of oddly named Quail about which I know nothing about except its rather baffling name.
A city of great beauty and immense charm, Granada has an extraordinary history that takes us from the beginning of history, through the Middle Ages and into the modern age. And into its very heart comes the story of the Umayyad Dynasty, the Islamic Caliphate that confronts us at every turn in the architecture of this astonishingly beautiful location.
Prior to this period Granada saw both Roman and Visigothic influence filtering through its metropolitan veins, but once the Caliphate arrived Europe literally met the Middle East in the art and architecture that soon proliferated in and around the city.
Drayson’s book is a labour of love and it tells: there is a passion in her writing, in every detail that she has to offer about the history of the region, its culture, its art, its architecture, its climate and its overall colour. It tells the story of how the Muslim Kings succeeded against great odds in making Granada a beacon of the region, more known in recent times for the Italian Spaghetti westerns of the 60’s and early 70’s, film that offer us a version of aridity that radiates out form the human characters involved in the various and exaggerated plots. But landscape defines civilisation, it defines the cultures that set their landmarks upon it. As Drayson points out Granada’s, which became the capital of Muslim Spain in 1107, is positioned on the edge of the Sierra Nevada ‘gave it a strong defensive advantage and its urban confines met the Granadan vega, watered by the latest Arab technology, which supplied a bounty of fruit, nuts, vegetables and grain crops to the inhabitants of the city, as well as acting as a defensive barrier. The Nasrid kingdom was bordered by the abundant coast along the Mediterranean Sea form Gibraltar to Almeria and by mountain ranges interspersed with fertile valleys and plains, giving it an alpine dimension.’ The entire book is beautifully written as a peon of praise to the ‘fundamental features of the Muslim city that were put in place during the eleventh century. The church of San Jose was superimposed on the site of a mosque built in that era, whose minaret is now used as the bell tower.’ Even a thousand years ago recycling was at the top of the agenda.
This is a gloriously illustrated book as compelling to look at as it is to read. It is well worth its £35 price tag.
The Book of Geoffroi de Charny, Ian Wilson and Nigel Bryant (Boydell Press, £60.00) is a delight. Written in around 1300’s Geoffroi de Charny’s year of birth is unknown, however, Jean de Joinville, his maternal grandfather, instituted a memorial for the anniversary of his Marguerite de Joinville in 1306. Marguerite was Geoffroi’s mother and so we have an approximate date for the writing of his own book, a book on the ordinances of chivalry that speaks to the young and beseeches them on how to act and how to properly behave. It is the most pragmatic and direct of all the surviving chivalric manuals and, as a manual on how to live life it speaks to all parents today about the vicissitudes of parenthood and the guidance of the young – in all of us.
The translation is clear and concise and beautifully delivered in an unpretentious but informative style that allows the original author to speak to us from across the centuries.
‘You’re fifteen: it’s time to take to the fields, to take up arms. I do believe there’s a fetching young maiden who’s captured your heart; think how new might reach her of some great deed you’ve done, that she might love you more! But don’t forget God! Take care you’re possessed of honour, largesse and courtesy, and show humble respect to all….and never let wine get the better of you – or pride. Those are two sorry stains: where they find a place the Devil will fix them fast: they stop a man doing anything good and lead him to do all manner of wrong – they incite all the basest sins.’
Geoffroi’s words have an echo in today and they will continue to echo down the ages. One gets a firm sense of the paternal in his musings, a sense that here is a man who has experienced all of the things against which he declaims. This reads as a personal testimony and therefore the words are warm but with an edge.
It was written at the time of the Hundred Years War and gives us an interior view of the knight and chivalry in the mid-fourteenth century. Geoffroi is giving a close-up view of it. Of this he both accepts and rejects in equal measure: gilding what he accepts with his own experience and damning what he rejects with the conclusions of such experience.
I was intrigued by the Title because Ian Wilson is known widely for his previous work on the Shroud of Turin the disputed relic of Christ said to have wrapped his mortal remains immediately before the Resurrection. The relic was condemned as a forgery in 1988 as a medaeval fake – one that first appears in history in association with one Geoffroi de Charny. Wilson writes informatively and in detail about de Charny’s career and his writing. At times moving and at times very profound this is a well-rounded and thoughtful book that leaves you with a taste for more and, though it is scholarly, it does not exclude the general reader. I was utterly absorbed and enchanted by it in equal measure.
By the same token Powers and Thrones by Dan Jones (Head of Zeus, £25) is a rip-roaring read and exhilarating to the very end. The purpose of the author is to demonstrate how we are still living with the consequences of some of the events from this period. Starting with the Romans and working his way through to the Byzantines, the Arabs and then onto the Franks followed by the Crusaders. Jones tells a thoroughly well-researched set of stories that leave us in no doubt about this extraordinary period of war, art, culture and belief that both absorbed the influences of the period and conflicted with them to the degree that the author does indeed succeed in making appreciate why this period still resonates down to today. The most obvious example of this is of course the Crusading period. East and West tell both their stories in this absorbing book: both conflicting and yet, the true horror inflicted by both sides but, it must be said, particularly by the west is a series of deeds that makes many Muslims shudder to this day – and quite rightly so. The great irony of this is that Islam preserved so much from the classical period that was subsequently destroyed by the nascent Christian Church and in the general melee when the Roman Empire collapsed that we forget that at the outset of the Crusading era the Church gave firm instructions to seek out and destroy. Thank goodness the crusaders failed in the attempt: for it was from Islam that were able to absorb and to learn so much – to the degree that upon their return to the West the Church finally was able to be challenged and to be held, minimally at first, to account.
The preservation of Classical culture by the urbane and enlightened Muslim culture was to leaves its very impressionable mark upon the West during the period of the Enlightenment. This is an extremely important book in that it gives us a perspective that oversees the whole and that, now we live in more secular times, opens us up to the failures of Church policy and reveals its true aim. The Medaeval period was the clash not merely of ideologies but of religions – and that is precisely the inheritance that we have been bequeathed into the modern period.
This is a timely publication and one that tells its story with aplomb and not a few surprises.
And now onto a lighter theme. Cici and Her Best Friend Zulu by Shing (Amazon, P-bk, £12.95) is an enchanting is a delightful excursion into the realms of the childlike but from a very different perspective. IT also has the great advantage if being illustrated by the wonderful Charles Newington, designer of new Hill figures to be seen all around Folkestone in Kent, an enterprise drawn entirely in inspiration as an echo of the hill figure of the White Horse of Uffington in Berkshire. This book is great fun and, as an admirer of children’s books, particularly of their illustrators and writers it is great to be able to get lost within this dizzying array of quirky writing and wonderful images. Highly recommended.
And now onto one of my favourite subjects at present: Untold Tarot, Caitlin Matthews, (Red Feather £24.99) is a beautifully produced book and full of fascinating insight into the workings of Tarot and its mysteries. I am personally interested in this particular subject as you’ll have noticed from my previous reviews where I have made a point of mentioning individual packs that have taken my fancy. I love the artwork and the overall feel of these individual packs of cards, although I am certainly not adept at using them as others are. The early ones are particularly fascinating and this is what the author brings out in her new book about the subject. My favourite decks were ones that I had seen in other books in childhood: it was the Aleister Crowley and Tarot de Marseilles cards that took my eye and here we have a concise rediscovery of the latter written in an. Accessible and informative way. Fascinating.
The Rota Mundi Tarot (Red Feather, £31.99) is an exceptionally produced edition accompanied by a book that is extremely informative and revelatory. I gave always been intrigued by the Jewish mystical speculation called Kabbalah (which means ‘to receive’ in Hebrew). For those interested in the history of the Rosicrucians this is a must. With essays on the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, Alchemy, Kabbalah and finally the tarot itself this book makes many connections that serve as a chronicle to the development of thought that played a significant role in the establishment of science as a progressive means away from the enforcing hand of religion. We must not forget that Sir Isaac Newton held his most important work to be that which he devoted to Alchemy, yet up until now very few modern biographers of Newton have bothered to mention this important strand in his life, a scarlet thread that aided him in some of the most important scientific developments of all time.
A deeply fascinating and engaging adventure awaits.
Michigan and Smiley – Compliment to Studio One
Carlton and the Shoes – Love Me Forever
Clancy Eccles – River Jordan
Nigger Kojak & Liza – Fist to Fist Rub a Dub
The Jamaicans – Ba Ba Boom
Freddie McKay – (I’m) a Free Man
The Congos – Don’t Blame it on I
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Throw Some Water In
Norma White – I Want Your Love
Dillinger, Trinity, Wayne Wade, Al Campbell, Junior Tamlin – Five Man Army
Dillinger – Send Another Moses
The Chosen Few – Collie Stuff
The Chosen Few – Collie Dub
Smiley Culture – Police Officer
Lone Ranger – The Answer
The Wailers – Do it Nice
Toots and the Maytals – Got to be There
Derrick and Pauline – You Never Miss the Water
The Ethiopians – Train to Skaville
The Skatalites – Guns of Navarone
Willie Williams – Addis A Baba
Don Drummond Jr. – Heavenless
(Don’t bother to say why you love Spanish dancing ..don’t bother to say that it’s hot in the summer in Madrid) — Carly Simon
on the stereo
like to dance
that little Italian piazza
cut in during
our final dance
Words and image.
Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)
Charles Bukowski told Sean Penn in an interview:
“I always remember the schoolyards in grammar school, when the word “poet” or “poetry” came up, all the little guys would laugh and mock it. I can see why, because it’s a fake product. It’s been fake and snobbish and inbred for centuries. It’s over-delicate. It’s over-precious. It’s a bunch of trash. Poetry for the centuries is almost total trash. It’s a con, a fake.”
“There have been a very few good poets, don’t mistake me. There’s a Chinese poet called Li Po. He could put more feeling, realism, and passion in four or five simple lines than most poets can in the twelve or fourteen pages of their shit. And he drank wine too.” 
Born Heinrich Karl Bukowski August 16, 1920 in Andernach, Germany, Bukowski’s family moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1923. His American serviceman father and native German mother met after WWI and married a month before his birth.  The family moved to his South Central Los Angeles, where his father had grown up, in 1930. His child hood was troubled by his abusive father.  He began drinking in his early teens, believing alcohol a helpful medication for coming to terms with himself.  He graduated from Los Angels High School and went on to Los Angeles City College for two years.
Bukowski was arrested for draft evasion during WWII and held in a prison in Philadelphia for two and a half weeks. He failed a psychological exam for entrance to the military and was deemed unfit for service. 
Bukowski wrote short stories but became disillusioned with publishing and took odd jobs. For ten years he lived in rooming houses. During this time he drank.  Bukowski began writing poetry in 1955 after having had serious health issues.  He was married to Barbara Frye for a couple of years in the late fifties. He began drinking again after his divorce. 
Bukowski was deeply troubled by the death of Jane Cooney Baker in 1962. She had been his first close relationship, and he wrote about her passing in his work after her death.  From 1967 to 1969 he wrote “Notes of A Dirty Old Man,” a regular column in an underground L.A. Paper.  In 1969 Bukowski began a relationship with Black Sparrow Press, and grateful for their support, he published nearly all his future works with Black Sparrow Press. 
Text of Poems
Startled Into Life Like Fire
About My Very Tortured Friend, Peter
The trash men
Sources and References
 Tough Guys Write Poetry, Charles Bukowski by Sean Penn, Interview magazine, September 1987
 Wikipedia: Charles Bukowski, from Howard Sounes, Charles Bukowski; Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life.
  Wikipedia: Charles Bukowski from Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye, Ecco, 1982
      Wikipedia: Charles Bukowski
The sunlight penetrates
through the OCD-cleansed panes.
Those circumcised shafts
of the early autumn rays
wet my bed with Sandra Bullock facials.
A group of rebels takes over
the other side of the world.
Their guns face the sky, and
the bullets’ trajectories trace
some accidental nobodies.
I stare at the clouds gossiping
about the health of the rain
My brother’s girlfriend pops
some urgent sleeping pills this morning.
I call my brother who knows nothing
like me, ask if he will join for the breakfast.
No answers descend from his sky-room.
The wools of disjointed data
roams in the household.
Illustration Nick Victor
Learning to Sleep, John Burnside (Cape)
John Burnside, ed. Ben Davies (Bloomsbury)
John Burnside is one of our best contemporary writers, whose poetry and fiction explores ideas of home, place and myth, often utilising pagan or animal themes, focussing on the liminal spaces of human habitation and thought.
It’s been four years since his last poetry book, so Learning to Sleep is an especially welcome publication. The title refers not only to Burnside’s insomnia but also to ideas of dream states, where ideas and beliefs conjure up new connections and ways of thinking. Burnside may be resolutely pagan, with titles such as ‘On Being Pagan’, but he is also influenced by his Presbyterian past, Buddhism, and attracted to shamanistic ideas of animals and those folk tales and myths that surface time and time again in many different cultures.
So there are poems about angels and silkies in here, though it seems clear Burnside does not literally believe in them but welcomes them as ways of thinking about things. Those things include ecology, how we humans live, society’s dysfunction, and more mundane things such as the weather. Basically, Burnside is an intense observer and interpreter of how we live, how we inhabit the everyday, the now; and how people such as Rimbaud – whose work he draws on for part of the book – previously lived, and what we might learn from them.
Burnside’s poetry is lyrical and highly readable, but also deep and engaging. It requires readers to re-read and to think, to make connections for themselves. In many places it is sad, angry or despairing, but there is an underlying optimism too, with the narrator of the final poem, casually titled ‘Postscript’, watching the evening clouds and the neighbour’s cattle turning away, ‘waiting for the weather to be done’, whilst he looks out
on the brink
of elsewhere, gazing out across the land,
as if a better world was still to come.
That strange mix of potential optimism, with ideas of ‘elsewhere’ and ‘a better world’, undercut by the ‘as if’, is typical Burnside: melancholic, visionary, poetic yet also realistic and down to earth.
Burnside’s poetry and fiction is the subject of a new book in Bloomsbury’s Contemporary Critical Perspectives series. Unlike many academic books it is both highly readable and affordable, and it doesn’t seem to have been too long in the making, so it is up to date, although it doesn’t of course include the just-published poetry book.
Burnside’s fiction is often violent and emotionally raw, coming at the same subjects as his poetry but from a very different angle. His characters often abuse each other and are abused; they sometimes inhabit impossible worlds of memory or imagination, occasionally meet fictional monsters or impossibilities. Burnside has also written three non-fiction books which appear to be uncertain or sometimes misremembered autobiographies.
Ben Davies has gathered up chapters on a number of intriguing topics: the metaphysical; the numinous; the idea of home; masculinity, law and authority; the pastoral in relation to history and ecology; hauntings and spectres; and others, along with a new interview with Burnside.
If this seems an impossibly diverse list, one of the things Davies has done is carefully shape the book so that themes and ideas reoccur and are considered a number of times using different theories as lenses to consider them. So Peter Childs uses ideas of alchemy and gnosticism to support his ideas about Burnside’s ‘Fictions of Spiritual Connection’, but also discusses the absence of home, or ‘Living Nowhere’, ideas which are later echoed by Monika Szuba discussing ‘Dwelling’ in a chapter entitled ‘”A Temporary, Sometimes Fleeting Thing”: Home in John Burnside’s Poetry’.
Elsewhere how Burnside uses language is explored, along with ideas of ‘crossing’ from one world to another, or from one state to another, as well as ‘melancholia’ and the whole idea of haunting: how the past is somehow imprinted on the present, and how we (or more specifically, Burnside) might respond, make use of, observe and write about it.
It’s a fascinating anthology of contextual ideas and analysis, which only occasionally bogs itself down in abstract academic ideas. If I have any negative comments it is that I wish there was more about Burnside’s poetry, and I wish the interview was longer: as it stands it feels rather slight and tagged-on at the end of the volume. (The cover design with its pretend sticker announcing that the book ‘Includes an interview with John Burnside’ doesn’t help; it feels like a cereal box announcement for a plastic toy within.) I’m all for interviews being regarded as research material in their own right, so it’s a shame that it’s become an aside or extra.
If you don’t know John Burnside’s work (and he has been regularly published since the late 1980s) then I recommend that you catch up now. His perceptive and original interpretations of the world around us not only offer hope, comfort and new ways of seeing but also challenge us to deal with what one poem calls ‘a glitch in the present tense’, as we come to terms with the effect we have had on our planet and each other.
Y in Dub, The Pop Group (Mute)
Roaring out of Bristol in late 1978 on a ray of sound, The Pop Group were originally part of a phalanx of radical new wave bands intent on pushing, mixing and collaging musical boundaries, alongside Gang of Four, PiL, The Slits and others. Leaving behind the musical puritanism of punk, their intense live performances wilfully mixed together funk, dub, skronk – jazz, left-wing agitprop and Mark Stewart’s anti- singing, but it proved more difficult to capture their vibe in a groove. Many of their similarly radical peers scored surprise hit singles – for example, Pil’s ‘Public Image’ – but, signing with Radar, The Pop Group on record never quite reached a wider public. They came closest with their powerful first single, the Nietzsche-referencing ‘She is Beyond Good and Evil’ and the accompanying album Y, both released in Spring 1979.
Since 2015, a reformed line-up has released new material, but now comes that oddly anachronistic idea, a dub version of an earlier release. The fact that it is the Y material that has been reworked in this manner, by original producer Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell, should have all aged Pop Group admirers salivating, because it’s largely on this album that their legend rests.
Despite the wilfully obscure album graphics, despite the barrier of Mark Stewart’s screeching, hissing, roaring ‘singing’, despite their tendency to sloganise, one thing this remix makes clear is that they also had songs: loping, funk-infused blasts such as ‘Thief of Fire’ and ‘We Are Time’ which go a long way toward illustrating the excitement which surrounded them at the time. The archival release We Are Time (1980) hinted at this, rounding up stray Peel sessions and live tracks, and the recent Cabinet of Curiosities (2014) added more, but stripping some of their most potent material down to dub-infused bare bones really allows the listener to hear how strong, melodic and urgent their best songs were.
On several cuts here, this involves radically stripping back one of the biggest challenges to their sound – Stewart’s confrontational voice – and, as in many dub cuts, falling back on bass and drums to do the heavy lifting. ‘We Are Time’ becomes a six-minute long, sinewy, dub masterclass, falling back on Simon Underwood’s slippery bass riffs and Bruce Smith’s tasteful drum fills, propelling shard’s of Stewart’s original vocal onwards. ‘Thief of Fire’ is softened slightly, again uncovering fractured melody, whilst the mostly spoken ‘Blood Money’ remains a terrifying collage.
On a couple of the weaker tracks, Bovell is unable to shape the fragments into anything new and listenable: ‘Words Disobey Me’, despite fascinating lyrical ideas, remains a bit of a twitching, chaotic mess, whilst on ‘Don’t Call Me Pain’, bass, drums and guitar seem to be playing different compositions which never quite coalesce. This dip in quality after the opening salvo of ‘Thief of Fire and ‘Snowgirl’ may be one reason Y was labelled inconsistent upon release.
Appended to the original track listing, the final two cuts are ‘She is Beyond Good and Evil’ and ‘3:38’, the A and B side of the roughly contemporaneous first single. St Vincent’s cover of the former on the Jimmy Fallon show in the US in 2011 revealed the power and timelessness of the song, but here the dub remix doesn’t really take off until halfway through the six-minute take. The rarities collection, Cabinet of Curiosities featured a more melodic, conventional version of this, the band’s calling card, but here the reimagining just reminds you that the original is unsurpassed.
Throughout several of these remixes, John Waddington and Gareth Sager’s clipped, funk-influenced guitar and sax playing stand revealed as wild, counterintuitive blasts to the bass/drum anchoring, notably on ‘We Are Time’. Bovell, the producer of Y singled out the rhythm section of the band for their tightness and the original ‘3:38’ laid out a mighty riff (‘Beyond Good and Evil’ played backwards), powering on through dub effects, building in intensity before dissipating – their finest instrumental moment. Unfortunately the dub version here opts for space rather than pressure, a worthy effort but again not surpassing the fire of the original.
Ultimately, there were perhaps too many competing influences to make The Pop Group, in their original iteration, accessible to a wider audience, though tales of their powerful live gigs remain. They split in 1981, reforming with several original members in 2010 and releasing new music regularly since then. Their incendiary, legendary reputation largely rests on a handful of songs on Y which sounded like no-one else at the time. Some of the scorched-earth performances laid bare on this dub reimagining make the casual listener gasp, even now, but it’s the radicalism of the band circa 1979 which lingers, rather than a stunning 2021-style second coming.
Old Songs. New Songs. Livestream.
There are firefly fairy-lights draped at the window. Annie sips from a glass, shucks her long dark hair aside, and retunes her guitar. Husband Paul Goodwin monitors the sound as she opens with “Nyack” from current album ‘Coffee At The Corner Bar’. Yes, I had to Google it too, Nyack is the New York State village where she grew up. There’s a rural Perry Hastings video elsewhere online to illuminate this song of memories and reflections ‘about my childhood and my brother’, with the heartfelt pledge ‘ain’t nothing’ll break us, ain’t nothing gonna tear us apart.’
‘I really miss New York’ admits Annie, who now lives in Cambridge. ‘My first album was done in NYC. I moved shortly after that. I’ve lived here in the UK for nine-&-a-half years. My husband is British. He produced ‘Coffee At The Corner Bar’. We recorded it in our house with him in the office/music room and me in the laundry area. It will be a long time since I’ve been home. I miss my Dad and I wish my kid could go see him. I’ve not been home in a year-and-a-half. I’m so homesick.’
We live in strange days. But it’s a great time for girls with guitars. For intimate journal-entry songs. The age of huge stadium-Rock has gone forever. Music is a more personal ear-bud one-to-one experience. Ideal for poetic lyrical songs. Ideal for online livestreams.
‘Well, hopefully now is my time then!’ she quips.
Now she goes all the way back to the title-song from her debut album ‘Strangers Who Knew Each Other’s Names’ (May 2010) – ‘it’s ten years since it first came out,’ now she’s considering maybe a vinyl edition? It’s a song about an instant rapport with a stranger, done in a conversational lyric-style, with the hanging ‘didn’t you?’ hook. From the same album, “Fly” – written in her New York apartment, was picked up for the soundtrack of ‘Drive Me To The End’ (2020), an uneasy car-share Amazon movie. “Find Me” has a more electric Indie-band sound, the Leonard Cohen guitar of “How Am I Supposed To Be?” is authenticated by a sing tear, while she performs “When I See Stars” at the 2013 Green Man Festival. These are songs of some sophistication, it’s difficult to see how she could evolve on them. Yet she has.
Does she see those evolutions in her songs? ‘That’s really kind of you to say. In some ways, yes, I can see how some have become lyrically slightly more complex or less overt, however, many are still the same style, I haven’t deliberately tried to change my style, but I guess I’m ten years older so I have (hopefully) evolved as a person, and perhaps that could be reflected in my music?’
There was the ‘East Twenties’ EP, then ‘Broken Into Pieces’ (2018) with the string quartet clarity of “Fades Away”, and the whistle-along “Don’t Go” – ‘you got me over-thinking.’
In real life, does Annie overthink things? ‘I’m interested to know why you ask if I overthink things, although the answer is… yes.’ Well, it’s in the lyric to “Don’t Go”. But it’s also a way of understanding her writing process. ‘I wrote “Don’t Go” with (producer-songwriter) Nigel Stonier, it was a co-write that we did in the studio when I was recording my second album.’
There is no song called ‘Coffee At The Corner Bar’ on the new album, but the lyric occurs in “Pretend” – ‘that was different. I wrote the lyrics to that first.’ She made a Zoom video for the song featuring all her Lock-Down friends. I want to be in her next Zoom video! She says ‘I pretend a lot, and I’ve had to do a lot of pretending during Lock-Down.’ Is pretending part of the creative process? ‘Not really – I think I pretend a lot with my kids, especially this year during Covid, at the beginning of all of this they were two and five and I wanted to protect them and have them be happy, so I put a lot of effort into ensuring a sense of safety and fun, which was not at all how I felt but I had to make their world feel light and happy, because I love them.’
Kids already have amazing pretend-worlds anyway. Are the three-&-six year-old in her videos those same two children? ‘Haha! yes, they are mine! As exhausting as it has been, probably having them here to play with has been good for me too.’
Does Annie have ‘characters in her head’? ‘You’re referencing the lyrics to “Midnight Bus”.’ Yes, but isn’t that the art of interview, to weave textures from your character and art, to take references and expand them into dialogue? ‘I don’t tend to have characters in my head when I write, as a lot of what I write is autobiographical or about things I might have read about, for example, so in a way there is, but not explicitly. Normally when I sit down to write a song I record myself, then start singing and playing. I go back to that until I have built a song or song-structure and then go back in and tweak it.’
Is it good interacting with other musicians? Is writing with other people a learning process? ‘Each co-write is different because everyone writes differently so I would say ‘yes’. But they have all been enjoyable.’
On the current album she has Polly Paulusma adding harmonies to “Secrets, Tell Me Lies”, while Matthew Caws of Nada Surf is doing harmony vocals on “Midnight Bus” (his own impressive “When History Comes” advocates Democratic voting while wearing a Paul Revere costume!). How did that come about? ‘We are friends and we co-wrote that song. When I was making the record he was kind enough to contribute harmonies and electric guitars.’
She also does her first cover, of Stephin Merritt’s Magnetic Fields song “The Book Of Love”. ‘Yes. I love that song! I started playing it because friends of mine were getting married and they asked me to perform at an open mic they had there, many of my songs are not love songs they are more like breakup songs and songs about grief and sadness… (such as heartbreak ballad “Out In The Cold” on the current album, ‘like a storm you have come, and you left me in the cold’). My friends are poets and literature folks, so I thought about what would be a good song, and I chose “Book Of Love” and then kept it in my set list.’
Does she have a list of other songs she’d like to cover? ‘I did a cover of Elliott Smith “Between The Bars” and I also like to cover the Gin Blossom’s “Follow You Down”, which I’m currently recording a little rough demo of. I also did a demo of the Foo Fighters “Up In Arms” the other day!’
On the Livestream, she does a new song, “A Dance We Do”, by resorting to a lyric cheat-sheet, and a touching memory of her late Grandma called “Leather Chair”. She says ‘today was not eventful,’ then tells tales of dog-poo adventures while rolling down a hill, an online chess fad prompted by watching the excellent NetFlix ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, and how an autographed vinyl edition of the new album mailed out to friends in Berlin went missing in the post, only to turn up on eBay!
Amid Old Songs. New Songs.
BY ANDREW DARLINGTON
‘STRANGERS WHO KNEW EACH OTHER’S NAMES’
‘EAST TWENTIES’ (EP)
‘BROKEN INTO PIECES’
‘COFFEE AT THE CORNER BAR’
Expanded from an interview originally published in:
‘RNR vol.2 Issue.87’
The column that refuses allow dyslexia to hold it bakc
READER: Wasn’t Starmer brilliant?
MYSELF: Eh? Kier Starmer?
MYSELF: Sir Kier Starmer, leader of the Labour Party?
READER: Yes, at the Brighton party conference, don’t you pay attention to anything?
MYSELF: Unfortunately I do, and what I saw and heard did not conjure up the word brilliant. The gormless Pavlovian dribbling from the audience, who applauded like trained seals every time they detected a comma, had him petrified. He was like a deer, frozen in a car’s headlights.
READER: You can’t freeze a deer in a car’s headlights, you need a proper cold room or a spacious chest freezer.
MYSELF: Be that as it may but having heard that the new Bond film Wokefinger is out, I assumed your intellectual weather cock might be pointing in the opposite direction.
READER: My intellectual weather cock is more than capable of pointing in several directions at once and anyway, don’t trivialise a great British institution. A new Bond film is, like the Queen’s Speech or a new album by Abba, beyond criticism.
MYSELF: I trust then that you took the opportunity to waste two precious, unrecoverable hours having been flogged this multi-million dollar dead horse?
READER: Scoff if you like, but just read the reviews:
“The opening scene of Wokefinger, penned by the writers of Killing Eve and Dr Who features Bond’s 1963 Aston Martin DB6 being scrapped after failing its MOT on exhaust emissions, thus announcing the franchise’s long awaited arrival in the 21st century.” (Semolina Pfaffer-Westerhope, The Tatler).
“Bond is back, but this time the stunt men are women and all the ‘Bond Birds’ are men. The new bearded James is tolerant, vegan, drives an electric car, uses a bamboo Glock with sustainable ammunition and drinks craft beer which tastes like chilled piss… 5 stars.” (Felicity Smallgoose, Dog World)
Following our opinion piece, about Boris Johnson (issue 96) entitled Blimping Nuisance, which was accompanied by a satirical photograph, the Prime Minister* has emailed this reply which we are only too happy to publish. On the instructions of the editor I managed to get it down from its original 15,000 words.
Dear Farciminis Vita,
I normally find your organ, despite its Trotskyite leanings, satis ludibrium (smirks), but as for your somewhat unflattering illustration in a recent issue, depicting me as a non-dirigible free-floating airship, incapable of being steered, which is tethered on the front lawns of the Houses of Parliament for the amusement of tourists, I have only this to say; Hoc equidem reor factus es mihi nimis sufflatae! (Smirks, pauses for laugh, gets none). If I must be likened to a balloon (and it wouldn’t be the first time), I suggest that a more appropriate comparison would be with a more revolutionary, game-changing form of aviation such as the magnificent Hindenberg, a huge luxurious airship which regularly navigated the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and the USA, before being struck by lightning and bursting into a fatal, hydrogen-fuelled conflagration as it tried to dock with its mooring mast in New Jersey killing a third of those on board. My point of course is that we, magna Britannia populi will, now that we are free from the tentacle-like shackles of the super shower that is the so-called European Onion, will soon be able to return to our old, independent, triumphant and victorious trading routes around the cape to the dark continents and to reconquer the New World for our descendents.
*Yes- he really is!
FOUL LANGUAGE BARRIER
Dejected supporters of Hastings & St Leonards Warriors FC suffered a further setback this week, as their first season in the Hobson’s Denture Fixative League (South) continued to follow a downward trajectory. After last month’s controversial appointment to the club, Sicilian manager Sergio “The Horse” Peccadillo delighted reporters after declaring that he would dispense with translators and speak only English during his post – match interviews. The recent run of unfavourable results however, appears to have caused the talkative Italian to fall out of favour with Warriors fans. At half time in Saturday’s shock 8-0 defeat against Cockmarlin Thunderbolts, banners were unfurled on the terraces calling for the manager’s immediate dismissal. After the game, Peccadillo (54) responded robustly to a barrage of questions about his competence by by consulting his Time Out Book of Conversational English: “Please direct me to a chemist, I wish to purchase some shaving cream and a disposable razor.” he insisted. Pressed on whether he intended to offer his resignation, he snorted angrily: “Is there a lifeguard on duty? I have forgotten my bathing costume.”
Several people were arrested and charged with causing a public affray last Saturday outside Hastings nightspot The Cats Pyjama. An argument ensued after two men entered the bar dressed as C-Threepio and Chewbacca, two mechanical characters from Star Wars, only to be confronted by the club’s three armed security robots. Things rapidly escalated when the two men and several members of staff who sprang to their assistance were incinerated by a blast from the droids’ 300,000 volt Death Tasers. “We hold our hands up,” said Bob Loaf, the club’s owner, “The Chinese-made security robots malfunctioned when their face recognition systems incorrectly identified the chaps wearing the Star Wars outfits as a level-9 hostiles and acted accordingly. We have contacted Robocop4S, the security company who supplied them, and they have promised to look into this. Lessons must be learned”. Police were called by terrified customers who had taken refuge in the cellar and a helicopter containing an armed rapid-response unit was despatched to the scene in less than four hours. “By the time my men got there,” Hastings’ police chief Hydra Gorgon told us, “the situation had calmed down somewhat. The unfortunate casualties, sadly now reduced to piles of smoking ash, were declared dead at the scene by paramedics. After a thorough search of the building, we concluded that the two rogue security robots had fled the scene and although there have been reported sightings of the pair trying to chat up a fixed odds betting terminal in a Ladbroke’s bookmaker in Upper Dicker, they are still at large. We strongly urge members of the public not to approach them, particularly if dressed as a cyborg”.
LEARN TO PLAY THE VIOLIN IN 9 SECONDS OR YOUR MONEY BACK!
Get bowing immediately and be the life and soul of the party! Instant results guaranteed. No need to annoy the neighbours with screechy practicing and boring scales. Imagine – the great classical works of Haydn, Beethoven and Liberace and folk evergreens like Paddy McGinty’s Goat and Ahoy for the Wooden-Headed Sailor will be instantly at your virtuoso fingertips. Just enter your bank details, mother’s maiden name, the name of your first dog and a recent photograph and we’ll do the rest: www.fiddleronthehoof.co.uk
Vote For Countryside Alliance
by The Hunt Cult. Click for video
“Sometimes you just need a tool that doesn’t do anything”
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The Black Locomotive, Rhian Hughes (Picador)
Rian Hughes’ new novel is a heady mix of science fiction, psychogeography, conspiracy theory and urban myth. The book treads a thin line between nostalgia and cold war paranoia, diverting to enjoy a Ballardian exploration of ‘inner space’ and some very English stream train enthusiasm.
Ostensibly set in London, but gradually expanding out through the suburbs to Corsham’s giant underground bunker in Wiltshire and the furthest parts of the galaxy, the book begins in a Crossrail tunnel as digging reveals an unexpected buried artefact, which brings things to a halt. The main characters of this book are a pretentious artist-in-residence and a down-to-earth project engineer, both of whom rise to the occasion as the artefact turns out to be some kind of spaceship or alien command centre that has been involved in an intergalactic war around the time of neolithic man.
Through the workings of a secret schoolboy society, Austin Arnold is able to counter the electronics and communications shutdown that hits central London and enable the terrific conclusion of this book to happen. (No, I am not going to tell you.) The book’s open-ended conclusion also seems to pave the way for readers’ imaginations to interpret events as they will, or possibly for a sequel or series.
There are two things that make this book special. Firstly, there is the author’s clear love of all things London: Hughes is knowledgeable and interesting, and whether out in the suburbs or in the city centre, all the details are right. I was delighted to find Acton and Park Royal, both near where I grew up, featured in a couple of scenes, even if the descriptions weren’t very kind! (‘”Park Royal” was neither royal nor a park’ – fair enough!) Secondly, as with his first novel, XX, Hughes has brought his graphic design skills to bear on this book’s design. This time we get diagrams and photos throughout the text, moody urban photographic title pages, and a typographical playfulness and variation, with different characters getting different typefaces, especially when it comes to the alien mind.
Having said that, the alien speech or thought is for me the weakest part. It does feel like Hughes is winging it here, and isn’t quite sure of what he is describing, let alone how. But it’s only a few pages of otherworldly strangeness before the focus returns to earthly goings on. Hughes is to be congratulated for his heady mix of material, stirred and cooked nicely into one of the best literary concoctions I have tasted for a long time.
Barnstomper: A music, beer and cider festival in Dorset’s quirky Cerne Abbas. Home of the Giant…
Alan Dearling is full of fun-filled joy (and a bit of residual mayhem), after four days back in a festi-field: “Whaahaaaay!”
To get in the mood, here’s the Barnstomper 2021 crowd kicking up a storm to The Cropdusters’ ‘Jammit O’Reilly’:
‘Tis time to remind ourselves how much that music festivals mean to us.
This really was a rather amazing event: Barnstomper 2021. It was a ‘first’ for the organisers at Cerne Abbas Brewery. Think: fiddles and banjos, punk, hops, malt, apples, jigs, pogo-ing and much more. It was also the first opportunity for loyal fans, since the band ceased playing in 2011, to revisit the high-octane musical magic of The Cropdusters. This was a seven-piece version of The Cropdusters headlining for this inaugural reunion occasion. It provided a resounding, seething mosh-pit of a climactic, festi conclusion – a genuine barnstomper hour and a half!
The Cropdusters 2021
The main stage was constructed inside a large, open-sided barn and a second outdoor stage was provided by the Convoy Cabaret. It’s a travelling stage, and fitted well with the do-it-yourself, community ethos of Barnstomper. This was much akin to a large village fete, with camping, music and a really good bar, supplied with plenty of beers from the award-winning, Cerne Abbas Brewery (situated all of ten metres away), plus a nice range of ciders and wines. And, importantly, fair prices, smiling, friendly bar staff and lots of other, slightly bonkers festi-people to dance and fall-over with. That’s got to be a ‘result’, especially for the many festival-starved punters who came to party under the mystical spell of the phallic, Cerne Abbas Giant!
Old friends/New friends…
Lots of local punters had friends and family members playing on the two stages. Stewards came from nearby Dorset villages and towns and from further afield. Many of the wider stewarding team and helpers, together with band members, are part of the ‘extended’ festival ‘family’. A travelling, sometimes international community. Indeed, one boat-builder, Andy (right in the pic), an old-time Lymington Dusters’ fan, travelled to Cerne Abbas with his wife overland all the way from Nice in France, in an old Royal Mail van complete with a Lambretta scooter and trials bike. It is a festival of people – for the people. Festival-goers looking after each other and the local environment. Picking up rubbish, re-cycling, celebrating being together and celebrating life creatively. Particularly important in a rather middle-class, traditional Dorsetshire village. But, quiet it wasn’t! Swashbuckling, more like it!
Barnstomper is a nice new addition to this family of, and style of, events and festi-people. A mini-successor for many to the late-lamented Endorse-it-in-Dorset festival (EIID). That was always one of my absolute favourites. EIID was responsible for Ladies’Day and Scrumpy Sunday (where most of the guys transformed into the ladies they always wanted to be, and apples were consumed in more than five-a-day quantities by most). Maybe that idea will be revived for future Barnstompers?
In fact, the friendliness and kindness of strangers was the essence of the festival. A mix and match of music and booze was part of that tapestry. For me it underpins the difference between commercial festivals and ones created and curated with love.
Some musical moments…
Barnstomper acts perhaps fell into four categories: (1) Fiddle and banjo cow-punk and Hillbillies, (2) Acoustic and semi-acoustic acts on the second stage, (3) Rock and old-school acts, and (4), the slightly less-usual. In this fourth category, I would mention the two outliers, Friday headliners, CoCo and the Butterfields, and Saturday afternoon’s maniacs, Monkey Bizzle.
CoCo and the Butterfields are a relatively ‘commercial’ band. Perhaps reminiscent of KT Tunstall and later-version, Fleetwood Mac. Classy, indie rock songs, great singing and presentation. They look and sound really polished and professional. It’s surprising that they’ve not yet ‘made it’ onto a major music label.
Lots of memorable songs. I suspect that with luck and the right management, they are on the cusp of breaking into the next musical league, though they have already performed at venues such as the Shepherd’s Bush Empire… I wish them luck!
“Bonkers”, definitely comes to mind in connection with Monkey Bizzle! At Cerne Abbas, they found their disciples leaping about the straw-barn-dance-floor. ‘Idiot Music’ is their newly released album. Cider firkins full of catchy, slightly naughty, rapping, anarchistic songs. They remind me of Dr Splink and many of the 80s/90s new Traveller bands. Edgy and a bit confrontational. Nice Nutters, lots of laughs, a punk/rapping-crusty-Madness? Sing-a-long songs like, ‘Noisy Neighbours’, ‘Cider Cocktailz’ in a pint glass (with cider and gin, and rum and um, sambucca…derrr), and ‘Idiot Music’ …for stupid people, idiot music for ridiculous people…like some of the Barnstomping Crew… Kind of sums them up.
‘Oi Mate’ is a lovely little street ditty: You’ll get it back, mate!
And so, for me, time comes to say a few words about The Cropdusters. In my addled brain, the Cropdusters are the central crew in the midst of the Lymington music scene – the Peeping Toms, Pronghorn and the Dusters. Back in 1986, they headlined at Amsterdam’s Melk Weg, with The Levellers as support. They nearly-made the Big Time and their songs are truly memorable. I do miss Cob Cook, the original fiddle player, who sadly died of a heart-attack.
But, the new line-up Cropdusters did the songs justice. Energy in punkish, welly-fulls! You’ll have to hunt out their music for yourself – but ‘Banjo Hill’, ‘Just poppin out to fight a war’ are stompin’ anthems…live, they offer up a truly intoxicating mix…Here’s a video from 2006 of ‘Banjo Hill’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43PkP66xDmk
And ‘John Henry’ from Barnstomper: https://www.facebook.com/daren.ireland/videos/916580562265175
Cropdusters’ Emporium on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/134386496737229
Mike Case, bass-player from the Cropdusters, remembers the post-punk music scene in Lymington in the mid 1980s and the formation of the band (recorded over a few pints in the Giant pub in Cerne Abbas, 2nd September 2021): https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/606343328/privacy
All in all, Barnstomper was a fabulous small to medium size festival. Long may it run… If there are any ‘learning points’ for the organisers to consider, they are relatively minor, but probably worthwhile a bit of thought. (1) If very wet, would the campsite in the farmer’s field become a soggy bog? (2) Should the musical styles become more diverse, and include ‘dance’ – to be discussed? (3) There need to be a wider range of food and coffee outlets, especially for campers. (4) Could a Sunday programme be included?
Visit Vic Irvine and Jodie Moore’s Cerne Abbas Brewery: https://www.cerneabbasbrewery.com/
A few more people and the vibes from Barnstomper 2021.
The message came through to me in August, 2018. It said, simply:
Hello Simon — it might surprise you to learn that I already know of you — and yes, we are related. In fact, we are half-brothers. Welcome!
I spent some time trying to contact you a few years ago — but no luck. Your aunt was vague on the contact details.
We should talk.
People always look at me askance when they ask if I knew I had an older brother and I say that I am not sure. Adrian did so himself. Didn’t I tell him I knew of him at one point?
Our misunderstanding of the nebulous came via one of our many conversations, the first of which occurred 30 minutes after we met online that first day, which didn’t feel too surreal, surprisingly.
I have a vague recollection that my mother thought Joe may have been married before and had another child. Of course, what I couldn’t have known back then was that my father would have seven children with five women and be dead — exhausted presumably — at 53.
And here was the first, discovered after a languorous look on a genealogy website. I had been desultory at best in my attempts to find my father or any of his offspring. The smear campaign against him had been so efficient and widespread, guilt long induced by mother and stepfather, that I had for most of my life only scratched the surface of the many skeletons pulling on me to dig up their bones.
But I had, at 40, discovered the tally was probably seven kids, five women. That was nearly 17 years ago. I had even met Sally, the half-sister whose mother Joe left mine for, but she had been so disturbed by the confusing feelings our meeting raked up, she soon disappeared from view. I have neither seen nor heard from her since despite several attempts.
I later connected with Becky (thanks to Adrian’s research), my other half-sister, and heard that another brother had died from alcoholism while her own full brother was drinking heavily in Spain. I contacted him, but he seemed angry and wary, not wishing to share memories of our old man with anyone else.
That just left my own full brother from the second of the five relationships. The last time I saw him he grabbed me by the throat and pushed me against a wall for suggesting that we did have a father apart from the one who raised us. This time it was my turn to disappear from view.
When you are used to loss you learn to live with such comings and goings.
Adrian, six years older than I and a successful academic and artist in Australia, had been more committed in his endeavours in finding his roots, was well versed in DNA and haplogroups, tracking our paternal ancestors for thousands of years into the Caucasus, then via Italy, France and finally to Ireland.
But what of Joe, the film star father with the easy Irish charm, the barroom crooner — Sinatra-style — and (some say reluctant) collector of women’s knickers as they flew through the air toward his beating heart, pulsing cock and black shined shoes? For he was always immaculate, insisted on pressing his own shirts, and looked like he was covered in Hollywood gloss. But where the fuck was he? In fact, who the fuck was he? No one who came out of Limerick, via Dublin looked like that. There was talk at one point that he was the son of the poet WB Yeats.
He possessed a keen intellect, could talk on any subject and found himself the centre of any room he wandered into.
No-one knew anything about him. It was one of the prime worries for my maternal grandparents. a vicar and his wife who remained oblivious to any failings of their own regarding their tender but wilful daughter. Older man, probably been married before and also a catholic!
We English can’t have that! Still, their concerns were not without foundation.
It is ironic that upon only minor investigation it would seem my protestant family also seemed to hail from Ireland and may be less protestant than they think.
Long after Joe’s death there were few scant stories, the truest being that his mother had to leave her village in disgrace, had him in Dublin and gave him away to a childless English couple who would visit The Gresham Hotel, where she worked as a chambermaid, and kept her newborn in a wardrobe drawer.
Dispossessed himself, he would become one of the great marching army of post-divorce fathers who disappeared, putting his head in the lion’s mouth for bitter badmouthing if not a complete chewing off.
Life had fucked him; he had fucked a lot of others; and eventually he had fucked off. But in 1950s’ London, all of this remained in an unimagined future as he charmed the vicar’s teenaged daughter, the woman who would soon be his second wife, bearing him two sons.
Years later, as he wasn’t there to defend himself, I took the job upon myself, picking up the baton held out by my father’s invisible hand, drinking and carousing as I got older, confused by the hateful, hurt words, saved only by pointers that arose from my unconscious and a deep knowing that for all his faults, my father was not a bad man. A lost one, certainly. But not a bad one.
How did I know? How did I know that Joe was not the devil painted by my choir-singing grandparents and their daughter?
Quite simply, I felt it, I knew it in bones and soul and after my father left us very nearly died of grief. My godfather knew him too and brokered some balance. I had also, of course, known him during my first few years.
But I had also made the worst of mistakes — I looked just like him and was, unwittingly, a thorny reminder of things best forgotten and finally a handy scapegoat.
Amid the crushing confusion and pain, the shame of having to lie about my parentage at school, holding up the stepfather as father, my little body nearly burst with sadness and fury. Fights erupted in playgrounds, bullies were vanquished and — on the few occasions I dared whisper the truth to a trusted friend — I was engulfed by a crippling fear that would often bear its dark fruit when I was found out.
For this was a dictatorship and like Pol Pot’s Cambodia, there was a year zero. All that went before it was erased from history along with its cast of characters, namely Irish Joe who had been told his boys were headed for a new life in Australia and so, ‘in everyone’s best interests’ he had better sign the adoption papers.
An adoptee himself, his own roots ripped out long ago, Joe’s choice was clear. He spent a month behind closed curtains weeping and drinking, drinking and weeping while his badness was extolled like a lucky escape for his sons and an ever-spreading band of listeners.
His destruction was complete. Almost. Laid low by his own excesses and a deadly diabetes, he would have children with five women in his desperate search for the love that never found him and a final escape from the adoration that tempted then finished him.
He died at 53 (I am repeating it as I am still surprised), just a mile from where I was working — although neither of us ever knew it or saw one another again. The doctors had amputated his feet, which may have gone some way to explaining why he was only six stone.
It would have been great to say he died with his boots on. Instead, he died with his feet in a bucket. Final and most fitting emblem of an ungrounded man.
One of his many women, Sally’s mother, helped nurse him until the end although had sensibly and perhaps tragically stayed with the dull husband whom — she said perhaps rightly — deserved better.
But all of this was still to come. None of this was known to me back then, although I did know my Irish catholic father – who was adopted and raised in England — and my mother, born in India to missionaries who later fled to England after Gandhi was killed, shared a birthday with each other and with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Could it have been any more perfect? Twin souls within a holy alliance blessed by the mother of God. You couldn’t make it up.
For Venus, it was one of her greater achievements. Like Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Adam and Eve and a whole pantheon of other lovers, they belonged either on the pages of literature or high in the heavens where soul love could prosper.
Where they did not seem to belong was on Earth.
It was a truth about doomed romance that, like my father, I would have to find out the hard way.
In Australia, meanwhile, my brother has been busy tracking down our paternal grandfather back in Ireland.
Finally, he has a name and finally the skeletons may stop turning in their graves and rest in peace.
Perhaps it is about time I went over to Ireland. This story isn’t over yet.
copyright Simon Heathcote
The painting is in a small old room, recently
renovated and now so white and clean.
Brown carpet, large window and other paintings
surround this; the most special painting of
all. Glowing, dwarfing its surroundings,
it even diminishes the larger, more ostentatious
A desk in front seems strangely emptied,
like an unwanted child in its parents’
bedroom, with a canvas that has come home
to master all it sees – the ceiling, door
and other works of art.
This painting is called “Coming Home”,
strangely enough, yet it is empty, so empty.
Colours glow like obscene rainbows across
dark menacing windows in an endless
block of conformity. Here there is no respite,
no comfort. Coming home to nothing.
All is ephemeral and the darkness repels
the light. No people, no objects, no life,
just endless inanimate oblongs,
endless inanimate oblongs … … … … …
… … … … … … … … … … … but…
the dream of the painting is for people,
life, animation and birth. For behind the
deadness, its subconscious craves movement,
feeling, hope and the concrete possibility of
continuity made positive. It dreams
that illusion will give way to truth
and an ever-expanding reality. It
dreams that colours surrounding the
blackness will converge, merging and
disappearing into an endless positive
hope for an eternal future, future,
future, and the painting dreams on
and on and on into the night…
… … … … … … … … … … …
Emma had been putting off getting to grips with the new talking washing machine. ‘I have fifteen different programmes,’ the appliance said in what she thought of as a slightly flip male voice, even possibly camp. ‘I need to run through all these options, because you need to know how to use me efficiently. Energy doesn’t grow on trees – well actually it does, leaves, photosynthesis, etc? But anyway.’ Emma laughed. ‘We need to be efficient, so this set up will take just a little of your time, think of it as an investment. And please don’t sneak off somewhere while I’m doing this. There will be a test later.’ Emma was starting to warm to this amusing appliance. ‘Another of my jokes?’ it continued. ‘You’ll have to wait and see. Now, how many programmes are there? Just tap the number in on my touch screen here.’ Emma accidentally hit a 4, making 14. ‘Close,’ said the machine encouragingly, ‘but not quite the number we were looking for. Why don’t you try that again?’ The second time round Emma tapped in the correct digits.’ ‘Bingo,’ said the jokey voice. The screen glowed pale magenta for a moment, rewarding her for a correct answer. ‘I can see I’m dealing with someone who’s on the ball,’ the machine said. ‘This is going to be so much fun.’ Emma felt a glow of affirmation. No wonder the machine was called Mr Happy.
Window leaves a dozen leaves
on my rain damp bedsheet.
I have nothing for a return gift.
I begin to sing.
The tunes are mostly unfixed.
On a piece of barbed note
I stumble and bleed memories.
made us a rice platter, and that
had a distinct rusty iron nail flavour.
The blood still stains my toilet bowl.
We sang a thanksgiving song
that evening, were thankful
to be able to leave our houses
in a not so distant future.
Image and words
Are you looking for on-the-ground
options? “We gather in groups and
talk incessantly,” she said. Here we
have a bird with a very odd distribution.
Today our clouds are loitering with
intent. “Am I going slowly around the
bend?” he said. No two animals are
exactly the same but regional differences
may provide some answers, Our reef
is a riot of colour and we need to keep
on the move. In such an environment
there are always opportunities for deception
but it’s the composition that matters
here and the colours are a bonus.
Illustration: Atlanta Wiggs
The forest gulps down rain
as it falls through steaming shadows
where the thin, the bright
and brittle creatures cling
to life and leaves:
a mixed flock
of tanagers, manikins,and dacnis;
an insect still evolving
into a walking stick; and the armadillo
with his armored spirit,
A Spectacled Owl is a brushstroke
of feathers against foliage
in trees turning liquid.
The river is pulling
at the bank past the tiger heron
whose fine bones flow through its neck
and the iguana draped
along an angled trunk dripping sunlight
that muscles between
the seeing and the seen
where clouds pass into the spaces
between predator and prey.
A few words and thoughts from Alan Dearling
Web site: https://juliemariebyrne.com/
Julie Byrne seems like a natural Space Cadet – a ‘searcher’, a ‘seeker’ – these days mostly working out of Brooklyn, New York. Her last album, ‘Not Even Happiness’, a sumptuous feast of floating sounds was released way back in 2017.
But it seems only right and proper that she still has a place in the hearts of many folk in West Yorkshire. Julie first played there at the marvellous listed building, the Unitarian Church in Todmorden in August 2014 in a double bill with Yorkshire’s own Michael Chapman, who sadly died very recently. They also joined the punters at an after-gig party at the ‘3 Wise Monkeys’ venue. That night has left a lasting legacy in the area.
She says of herself that she took to playing live and performing, just like a “fish takes to water.” A born ‘natural’. We are told on Wikipedia that she was,
“Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Julie Byrne was influenced by her father’s guitar playing at an early age: ‘I grew up with the sound of his playing, which was fingerstyle guitar, so I would say that my style is completely rooted in his influence.’ At the age of seventeen, Byrne began learning the instrument herself, after her father could no longer play due to complications from multiple sclerosis: ‘The opportunity to play his instrument and honor the legacy of his craft and all of the time it took for him to cultivate a skill that he ultimately had to find a way to give up — it feels like a bit of an offering to him.’ “
I have to say that I have become somewhat smitten with her other-worldliness. She seems to float, like a pre-Raphaelite maiden, a muse of acid-folk music. Here’s a lovely sample of her voice and playing, featuring songs from the ‘Not Even Happiness’ album.
‘Natural Blue’, ‘Sea as it Glides’ and the gorgeous, ‘Melting Grid’.
“I had almost forgotten the nature of dawn….No matter who will ever wait for me…” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVBkl2i2dYo
It’s a ‘Live session’, recorded at Past Studios, New York from 2017.
Ethereal, sweeping, swooping, looping sounds… “A sense of belonging within…a security that needs to be sought after…”
I have found it hard to find out when she was last over in the UK playing. She was certainly here in 2017, for a short European tour including the Green Man and End of the Road festies.
Lovely finger-picking, open-tuning and that VOICE!
Chicago, Pitchfork festi 2018, ‘Sleepwalker’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roW3xzMgABo
In interviews, Julie has talked a lot about her experience as a student of Environmental Science, and working at New York City’s Central Park as a Seasonal Ranger. She said of that time, “I came to view it as a sanctuary, not only for New Yorkers to experience their connection to nature but also for the wildlife that take refuge there.” She has released two albums so far, ‘Rooms with Walls and Windows’ (2014) and ‘Not Even Happiness’ (2017) plus a couple of EPs.
And here’s a video of Julie Byrne very recently in 2021: providing a cover version of ‘These Days’ by Jackson Browne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFmJMuZZj_Y
She’s definitely a whimsical troubadour. A husky, murmuring voice, strangely strange, indeed. A singular talent, in my estimation.
The column that ties its own shoelaces together, then tries to run away.
READER: You should be ashamed.
MYSELF: About what?
READER: Picking on Nigel Farage again.
MYSELF: You mean because of the fact that he is a ghastly little frog-faced shit? Or because of his shameless lobbying for the tobacco industry? Or because a dirty little propaganda organisation like GB News is even allowed to exist as a platform for his racist mysoginist Nazi-tinged imagination?
READER: I can see you’re not a fan, but other things aside, what’s wrong with pointing out that fags are not as harmful as people think? My dear old gran for instance, smoked 150 untipped Gauloise a day, and lived to be 97.
MYSELF: Just think how much longer she would have lived had she not smoked.
READER: That is a spurious argument. Statistics suggest that you are far more likely to be killed by a speeding car than a cigarette.
MYSELF: That would very much depend on how fast the cigarette was travelling.
FAKE BURGERS CONTAINED FAKE HORSE
Government hygiene inspectors raided a recently opened branch of the restaurant chain RIPE earlier this month. Our reporter arrived at the franchise’s premises in Upper Dicker, Kent, to find the area sealed off and guarded by police officers. Scene of crime tape surrounded the building, as catering specialists in white decontamination suits went to and fro carrying racks of scientific equipment. Although all refused to comment, we have since received information from a reliable source that the restaurant, which boasts of providing meals solely manufactured from asbestos, is suspected of serving asbestos burgers containing fibreglass horse to unsuspecting customers. This was initially denied by manager Norman Rude (52), but when presented with the evidence, he confessed: “OK, there was one incident with a burger and yes, it did contain traces of fibreglass horse. Since we opened as the UK’s only restaurateurs catering exclusively to the food-intolerant community, we have been more or less fully booked every night. Although these circumstances were completely beyond our control, our customers were, rightly, unamused. Rumours that this incident, or anyone involved in the management of RIPE, was in any way connected with the recent kidnapping of fibreglass thoroughbred racehorse Gulzar’s Folly from its Hastings stables, are entirely unfounded. I would stress that according to experts, fibreglass horse is no more harmful than fibreglass beef when consumed in moderation”.
Ron Gravy, former head of the uber-right wing British Gravytrain Party (BGP), has decided to throw his hat in the ring with the new conservatives.
“Since the demise of the BGT, which has quite frankly descended into an ill-disciplined rabble since I left, the one thing I have missed is interfering in things which I really couldn’t care less about and inciting hatred and intolerance. The latest ‘happening’ place for this sort of thing is now up north, behind the red wall, where the electorate are even stupider than the ones in the south and will swallow any old garbage as long as it’s delivered by algorithm, or by The Mail or The Telegraph. This is my chance to finally make a big splash, and hopefully take a fair selection of society with me when I finally go down in a blaze of glory, like a plucky young Spitfire pilot battling the Hun over the sun-dappled English Channel”.
HICCUPS & SORCERY
Are you still standing on your head and singing Land Of Hope And Glory whilst drinking warm pig’s blood under a pregnant horse? By coming up with what he claims to be the “definitive cure for hiccups”, Hastings’ favourite inventor, Professor Gordon Thinktank, hopes that he can finally consign these old wives’ tales to the dustbin. He is confident that his remedy will be approved by the General Medical Council in time for the seasonal food ‘n drink orgy of Christmas.
“Hiccups,” the inventor told us, “is a greatly underestimated drain on society. The great tenor Caruso, for example, after a weekend vodka binge in a Turin cocktail bar, suffered an attack which lasted over three years. Constant hiccupping rendered him totally incapable of performing live, and every recording from that period contains thousands of hiccups which had to be edited out by skilful audio engineers before it could be released”.
The professor, when pressed, refused to reveal details of the cure on the grounds of confidentiality, adding only that the CO2-based tablets, once approved, would be available online without prescription at www.thinktanksolutions/hic.org and at all branches of Wetherspoons.
The Huge Orange Dressing-Gown Festival has announced the latest exciting additions to the line-up for their annual bash in Beyondenden, Kent. Top comedy duo Smoulders & Burns will provide an alternative to comedy in the Alternative Comedy Wigwam. Sunderland’s Gene Poole & The Eugenics will top the bill in the Indie Yurt, ably supported by Sussex Woof Garage legends Meat Raffle, featuring original guitarist Tit Bingo and featuring the debut appearance of acronymous teen sensations Wheelophobic Arsonist Ninja Kleptomaniacs.
By the time you read this, the human version of the Grand National The Great Northern Run will be over and the surviving contestants, their faces redder than the bottoms of red-bottomed baboons, having successfully avoided cardiac arrest, will be able to dine out on the fact that they have competed with some of the most boring narcissists on earth.
This year’s budget restraints and the inevitable Covid restrictions have meant, sadly, that the proposed introduction of seven-foot fences and water-filled ditches has had to be postponed. Also, since the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade pulled out, anyone who falls over (with the exception of people dressed as nursery rhyme characters, who have been exempted to avoid alarming children), will be shot.
THE ONLY WAY IS ETHICS
The organisers were at pains to point out that the official sponsors of The Great Northern Run, Pets in a Pickle, are a reputable company which provides health insurance for domestic animals, and should not be confused with Pets in Pickle, a condiments manufacturer which supplies the catering trade with chutney made from hamsters, goldfish, tortoises, bunny rabbits, puppies and kittens.
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Derek Ogbourne is a painter whose work I’ve enjoyed for quite some time. I love the vitality in his painting, the paint seems to have a mind of its own, it feels ‘animal’ like some of Francis Bacon’s work, yet the painter is in control. This isn’t the ‘slap it on and see what it does school’.I asked him –
Derek – how do you respond to that?
DO. You are right, what appears to be wild and uncontrolled blobs and splodges of paint were applied in controlled sleight of hand, much like a signature is performed. Quite different from my earlier paintings, the majority of these fifty or so works in this series were created in one sitting, with almost no edits, or changes, done on grey grounds during the peak of the lockdown for around 2 months. Then I stopped painting.
JW. I especially like the series with the flat grey backgrounds. I know they were painted before ‘the great confinement’, but during some bleak periods, the vitality of those colours and organic forms were a joy. Were these consciously done as a smack on the nose for depression?
DO. Lockdown and being furloughed, was an antidote to the anxiety of the Covid nightmare, allowing me the time to flourish uninterrupted in isolation. A holiday from the Art world was also a welcome bonus.It wasn’t depression that spurred my production of these paintings but desire to return to painting in my new, and more pleasant studio after a few years of feeling uprooted with me moving 6 times in as many years.
JW. Colour tension! Warm against cool colours. Is this a science or an art?
DO. It is art not science but I do understand that the way colour works emotionally, physically and symbolically can be seen as a science. I use warm and cold colours to set things off, but more so also the use of the complementaries, and black grey contrast. Rembrandt’s use of grey as a ground was an influence. Towards the end of the series I ditched my brushes and squeezed the paint directly from the tubes and used my fingers and hands to swipe and manipulate the colour, the paint becoming increasingly thicker and uniformly impasto.Up to about the fortieth painting my first paint marks were always pink and fleshy, like open wounds, then the paintings would evolve using a quite basic palette of colours. The primaries, secondaries, earth as earth, black, white and the trick of the use of grey – a mixture of the primaries and white as a ground – that I knew would make the colours sing.
Yusef Lateef – Live Humble
Kool and the Gang – Electric Frog (part one)
Curtis Mayfield – Underground
Commodores – The Assembly Line
Betty Davis – No Good at Falling in Love
Jack Wilkins – Red Clay
Richard “Groove” Holmes – Come Together
Joe Cocker – Woman to Woman
Maxi – Lover to Lover
Roy Ayers – The Fuzz
Sylvia Striplin – You Can’t Turn Me Away
Doug Carn – Higher Ground
Empathy. Crystal drumbeats of catatonic explanations and explications. Each mask is a disembodied memory of feelings beyond comprehension.
Life in this city is so bad. The poorhouse is a gaping maw, its breath corroding the floorboards of future rooms. Inmates stand freezing.
Whose turn next?
So indecisive. So hopeless. So removed. Each in his own dusty room, each exploring his own dark city of exhausted possibilities.
They can communicate with The Great Forever but their tongues remain rigid with fear.
Loathing – how they loathe this town, this state, this empire, this thousand-year abomination of ruined vision and fractured aspiration. The filthy air they breathe is churned out like smoke from countless industrial chimneys. Harrowing stories reach them here – but they cannot absorb any more pain “– those close to us are no more.”
Those outside will sweep away all before them as the clouds descend.
Deliver them from these rooms.
Deliver them from the hope of revenge.
They have done nothing. But still they come.
Every day in The Black Rooms they come to stand still, like figures carved from yellow clay.
Each mask is a disembodied life.
Each incomprehensible to the Other.
A C Evans
Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson chats to political theorist Ruth Kinna about the theory and practice of anarchism, the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Peter Kropotkin, and mutual aid. Plus Mark Vernon asks whether Jesus was an anarchist.
Ruth Kinna is a political theorist, historian of ideas and co-founder and member of the Anarchism Research Group at Loughborough University. She is the author of Great Anarchists (Dog Section Press, 2020), The Government of No One (Pelican, 2019), and The Beginner’s Guide to Anarchism (Oneworld 2009). She is currently writing 10 new pamphlets in the Great Anarchists series and working on a project about constitutionalising anarchy. This conversation was recorded as part of the Idler‘s series of weekly Zoom events on Thursday 17 June 2021.
i.m. Richard H. Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire)
‘Richard H Kirk was prolific, hungry, angry and funky to the end’
– Joe Muggs, The Guardian, 21 September 2021
Sound versus silence with all bets off
Passive listening reduced to a geometric point
Relentless noise and emotional hiss
Commanded to dance and enjoy
Cajoled into equidistant timeslip
Factory sounds as featured instrument
Rewiring and recontextualisation
Deformed rhythm as compositional tool
Ruins of the future sampled and repackaged
Endlessly scratching a terminal itch
© Rupert M Loydell
did they evict some one today
some twelve year old finks threw a cat in
the incinerator today
did they pass a new law today
it says in the times that they cane black
buttocks in capetown daily
did they encourage you to buy more today
time to revolt
These deftly satirical jabs are the work of Leeds-born, London-based artist Darren Cullen, aka Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives. Alexander Mayor caught up with Cullen for Kaput as his Kreuzpflicht mocking art works are about to reappear at a new gallery show themed around blasphemy in Naples, and as he crowd-funds a new work to bait his serial nemesis Shell Oil at the imminent COP26 climate summit.
Darren, it’s great to chat to you. Starting at the very start, I read that you nearly ended up in advertising. How did your journey into art get going?
Darren Cullen: When I was a kid, all I wanted was to be an artist, because I was pretty good at drawing and stuff. But my parents are Irish immigrants and I don’t think they thought art was a thing you could do. But then graphic design could be a kind of avenue that’s where you can make money and still do drawings. So I went to art college in Leeds initially, studying graphic design and I started to realise, that I actually liked coming up with ideas and it got suggested that maybe I’d be a good advertising copywriter, even more than say art direction itself.
And I really liked coming up with concepts and then building ideas off those concepts and stuff like that. It was kind of really good training, learning how to do that. But when I went to Glasgow School of Art I started to be surrounded by people and ideas and politics, that kind of challenged the ethical foundations of advertising and commercial work.
What were your politics when you first embarked on your education?
Well, I was actually quite a reactionary, conservative teenager. I like to say that I was radicalised by my paper around. My teenage job was to deliver these very right-wing newspapers – The Daily Mail, The Times, The Express, The Sun, and I’d read these papers every day, so I almost joined the UK Independence Party (UKIP) when I was 16. I was like, I used to write letters to TV teletext about why we shouldn’t join the Euro! We talk a lot about click bait now, but tabloid papers have always had that kind of reader-bait approach.
So I got into this kind of mindset as a teenager, I would skim through the newspapers, looking for something that would make me angry – I wanted something about why political correctness had gone mad, or loony left nonsense, you know, like that kind of thing.
And it was a pipeline to more and more kind of, right wing views. I mean, I didn’t actually join UKIP in the end. My dad kind of intervened. He said, just leave at a year because if you do this, you’ll have always have joined that political party, it’ll be in your past.
So your parents were quite political or had strong views?
Darren: Yeah. I mean, I think like, because of my strong Catholic upbringing, politics and religion are ways for me to rebel – what I believed in was my only choice – being an atheist, becoming a nationalist, they were ways of rebelling. I’d kinda forgotten about this but it’s funny it shows how internally contradictory my beliefs had become! Me and friend at school started a club called SoPSoQ – Save our Pound, Sack our Queen! We were anti-Euro, anti-monarchists!
Just before the first lockdown I visited your Museum of Neoliberalism – which has recently reopened in South London —, a fantastic installation that seemed to crystallize a lot of your themes and ideas. How did that piece evolve?
Actually it was when I heard that the British government was going to support the creation of a Margaret Thatcher Museum and Library, a project funded by a few right wing conservative Americans, like Newt Gingrich and the, like who it comes to their attention that there wasn’t a stature presidential library in the same way.
Anyway as soon as I heard about it, I looked online and I bought the domain name, www.thatchermuseum.org. And I researched what it would take to start an official museum, there’s an advisor you can speak to. Anyway, when I was doing Pocket Money Loans at Banksy’s Dismaland I met curator and academic Gavin Grindon and he said that he was really interested in the idea
We decided we didn’t want it to be about one person, like here’s how one bad woman or one bad person kind of ruined Britain, the piece should be more about the system – so it became a Museum of Neoliberalism basically.
And it turns out you can just call yourself a museum. You don’t have to get permission from anybody. And there’s an added benefit about presenting this information as a museum is that you borrow that authoritative tone of museums. So this looks like a, a neutral, kind of consolidation of the facts around, neoliberalism rather than being what it is… which is anti neoliberal propaganda!
When I first read about it I thought it was quite startling for that reason. Because neoliberalism is one of those things that is almost invisible. You hear the word, but the idea is translucent or like a gas, you can’t quite pin it down. Also, the idea is obviously darkly hilarious in the era of Bezos and co.
Yes, they’re the ideas that dominate our lives, but most people aren’t aware of what they’re actually called or if there is even an idea, – you know, it just seems like that’s just the way things are.
And actually someone came into the Museum yesterday and they were saying that they weren’t sure if before they came down, whether it was going to be a pro neo-liberalism piece or not. I was saying, well, the thing is that anyone who’s believes wholeheartedly in neoliberalism or who is a neoliberal, they never referred to it or draw attention to it. They’re just like “this is normal, this is just capitalism. And if you don’t like it, you can go live in North Korea.”
I thought what’s interesting about a lot of your work is that it seems to be about revealing something hidden. The idea that things end up being accepted, not by decision, but because we don’t really know how things work in reality.
A lot of my work tends to exaggerate reality to make a point about it. Whereas with the museum, it was more ‘here are a bunch of real things you can actually point to’. They’re almost self satirical. The sponsored scout badges, or the Delta Airways anti-union poster created to tempt workers to buy a PlayStation instead of paying their union membership dues. People would ask me “how did you make all this?” and I’d respond “I didn’t!”
Here in cartoon-like Great Brexitland, we have a clown prime minister, we are appointing right wing cricketers as trade envoys… does the country going mad make your job harder or easier?
Actually it feels like I don’t go far enough because then reality catches up with you within six months. Like my Shell anti-greenwashing showroom I did a thing about “seed bombs”. So it was like a bomb you drop on a city but it’s got lots of seeds in it, so you’d get lots of vegetation growing in the blown up city. And then I found an article about the US Department of Defense developing bullet casings that had seeds embedded in them, so you could grow flowers on the battlefield kind of thing. So clearly I didn’t go far enough!
So here we see, how the art world’s gain has been the advertising world’s loss! Talking about your upcoming piece in the blasphemy show in Naples, it’s a chance to revisit your work on the Bavarian cross law. How did you sort of see the issues of like the state and religion kind of intersecting in that work?
I’d been doing a 3-month residency in Munich and it was pretty clear this law was to benefit the CSU, to stop themselves being outflanked by the far right. by coming up with headline grabbing, anti-immigrant policies. And, it seemed particularly absurd because their leader Markus Söder wanted to do this very pro-Christian, Muslims-aren’t-welcome-here, act, while negotiating the secular nature of the German constitution. So he had to say things like ‘the cross is not a religious symbol,’ which is just incredible. He was completely undoing the conceit, trying to say ‘well, the cross is just a symbol of our culture’.
I thought that this inverted cross campaign, was a simple and kind of cheeky way of trying to stink up their plan, I guess.
Boris Johnson has brought in a similar policy, that the Union Jack flag must fly from every government building now. Depressingly obvious bait for the right wing press and some impressionable voters. Is there a way, do you think of galvanising the public to have some kind of common feeling or pride that that isn’t creepy or nationalistic?
Yes I think there is… We see it in the UK around the public’s love for the NHS. Where there’s something with actual public benefit that we all benefit from and we contribute to. In general civic pride has been eroded in our atomised capitalist society – there’s a been a separation or breaking of community.
There’s a recurring question in culture for the last couple of years, about whether it’s possible to get people to share a reality and common frame of reference, to sort of meet each other half way. Is satirical art a way of getting them to look at things differently?
I’m not sure. I’d make very few claims about the power of the stuff I make. I mean, it’s cathartic for me to do things about stuff I’m angry about. Sometimes it might be like cementing people in their existing opinions, you know, like what I just said about the army or whatever. I don’t know if that might be like cementing someone’s view of us on the left as wanting to destroy everything they hold dear. So art can be a kind of anti propaganda and it can also help galvanise existing movements and maybe help or assist activists with their work. I think that’s the best thing that has come out of the stuff I’ve done has been, like working with Veterans for Peace, helping them on their campaigns or with Extinction Rebellion with their work. I mean, the thing that really unites most of us is that we’re not the ruling class, so we need to get back to seeing we’ve got more in common with each other than invented national myths that serve the rulers.
Tell us a little about your work involvement in the forthcoming show ‘Ceci n’est pas un blasphème’ at PAN – Palazzo Nazionale delle Arti di Napoli in September.
Yes. I’m coming from the position where I guess I felt like I escaped Catholicism to some degree. I used to be an altar boy and stuff like that. In places like Italy you still have blasphemy laws, and I’ve got friends showing work in this show, who have been arrested for their ‘subvertising’ posters they’d put up in bus stops and so on. So that’s why I was interested in the show.
And I feel like we’re kind of lucky in the UK that we don’t have to deal with these issues quite as much – our issues tend to be more about the persecution of religious groups rather than persecuting atheists, you know? I mean, we do have our own problems here, like the fact that, we’ve got religious leaders, automatically given seats in the House of Lords. These are the kind that the press in this country would point to as ‘backwards’ if they were happening in another country. But when it’s here, it’s just, ‘hey, that’s fine’. Oh and our national anthem is literally a prayer to God demanding that the queen will never die!
We have the climate summit to end all climate summits coming up. Are you participating in some way?
Well, by the time you publish this I’ll be attempting to get hold of a single decker bus that I’m going to fill with my anti-Shell greenwashing work and hopefully power it with bio-diesel all the way up to COP26. I want to be a thorn in the side of any Shell corporate events. So that’s less than two months away. I’m getting it ready, making more dioramas and prints. It’ll be a kind of satirical, mobile exhibition, basically.
Thanks so much for your time Darren.
You can find out more about Darren’s work and his anti-greenwashing work at www.spellingmistakescostlives.com. Ceci n’est pas un blasphème runs from 17 al 30 Settembre at PAN – Palazzo Nazionale delle Arti di Napoli – more here: https://articensurate.it/en/homepage/
The Classic poets
Found him too Romantic
The Romantic poets
Far too Classical –
For subsequent ‘schools’
His name became a Myth
If not Anathema
The detached melodic style
Quarter-tones coolly ironic
Belonged to an antique century
Surely you’ll agree?
‘The New York Review
Of Each Other’s Books’
With ‘The London Review
Of Each Other’s Books’
But the Muses and the Graces
For whom no time is ever quite propitious
His small assertive show of dignity
As century on century they saw
Generations twist their necks
To bite the predecessors who first fed them
From sawbones to shrinks
Soothsayers to stoics –
Who can divine the source of your distress?
Your mystery illness sister?
To me it is quite plain –
You were born to be a poet
Yet resist it understandably
In these uncertain times
The gods have set aside
Where poetry and poets are despised
Illustration: Claire Palmer
Those who surround sign of irrigation directly beneath the sanctuary
their most sacred structure over our existing shrine
dry sand mouth pieces of string gritted eyes with clean sand
we had come all this way to the surface exhausted
optimism a strength not the decisive pain killer
doughnut-shaped clay ring neck a physical dread
yields to keener perception a jar-shaped pocket
nothing to now lose its ends diverged
the very contrary its rear just over three metres long
thick crowd of illusions its ends diverged
Art a state of innocence extended rearward
between n measures and empty
occupied an alcove jealous care for reputation
beyond the bench thoughts crinkled the rear boundary floor
serrated, pleated, gilded until they merged
along arcs of somewhat shorter blue as a glacier
converged toward the front forty-one degrees centigrade
from the rear boundary summer noonday street
opposite points thirty-seven at two in the morning
in arcs of relatively long radius through half-open windows
now December air forces a vertical passage splayed slightly outward
sides defined by a continuous curved wall
by fine snow a brief moment wreathes a blue lantern halo
The worst is taking ten steps across the room a subterranean kiva
with mental concepts of our use walking five yards along the garden
having night’s rest broken by sudden expression in structural pattern
fell into the pit of it unable to climb out
arthritic jabs reach out with impulsive picked up the pit
turned it upside down gestures to pick up a stick
lift down a book now imagined chastised in leash-tied strain.
hourglass – shoreline
I lay upon the bones
shifting – drifting
lost in the sand
a rose resurrected
in the sand by the shore
on a sea of doubt
Jesus walked on the water
but I merely drowned
“I’m ten to-day,” she says,
Sat up in bed, nursing a toy white kitten,
Then it’s “I want to go home.” and
“Where’s my Daddy?” before lapsing
Back into her nest of pillows worrying
At the duvet’s hem with a hand so thin
The liver spotted skin’s translucent
And every bone
And every vein
Stands out in bas relief :
Every day’s like every other
(How soon we get used to things)
My brother, my sister and me
Arrive at the Care Home,
Hand sanitise, mask, go up to her
Room, fluff pillows, try small talk,
(Nice room this, sleep okay, fancy
A nice cup of tea?)
Listen carefully to her breathing:
We’ve always known
It’s going to happen
Just not this year,
Just not this month,
Just not this week,
Just not to-day,
But it does anyway:
After the Undertaker’s
Come and gone,
(“Spare yourselves that”)
We bag her few belongings
(Scented soap, new dressing gown,
Toy cat, Vera Lynne CDs)
Silently, go back downstairs,
Thank the staff
Drive back home
To a house
That feels empty.
Kevin Patrick McCann
illustration Nick Victor
My new plan is working. ‘Look!’, I say
I listen, talk with the Gods; ‘Alexa! Share!’
Bated breath, alarm; what steps to follow?
I turn on, tune in, drop out, obey
Red, yellow, green, here, there, everywhere
Can, can’t, my giddy aunt, I feel hollow
Meltdown outside inside; look for a conspiracy
The flood washes away all I was taught
The fire burns my hands, strips the land to ash
The air is choking, thick, so I run to the sea
While the sun shines; safe with things I’ve bought
To stay alive, to keep calm, carry on. Am I rash?
On the horizon, a marching thin blue line
Keeps me safe; but patterns are changing
Close by, a high fence with curling razor wire
I look beyond all this, fill my body with wine
Temptation, Eden, you & me, that’s entertaining
Cheer, laugh, play, ‘till the end of time and desire
Photo Nick Victor
Extract from Soap and Rocket photozine No. 2 ISSN 2399-3065 (9 772399 306001 02) (original publication date not specified)
By Chris Daly
The text was graffitied onto the outsides of six derelict houses on the Heygate Estate in London, circa 2011 – now completely demolished. The site became a magnet for parkour runners / gymnasts, graffiti artists, guerrilla gardeners and political activists. I was there messing around with a new camera & found the writing. I still can’t decide how much of its story is real / factual. Its presentation is exactly how it was written on the houses’ hoardings.
I chose the pictures specifically to act as a foil, or contrast to the much darker subjects covered in the writing & to show images with no ambiguity about their provenance, spontaneity & ‘realness’. A forest. A car. A girl. And so on.
The idea was to use the combination of writing & images to provoke dissonance for the viewer.
Chris Daly is a photographic artist based at CitizenReality.com
Text: Lost words, 46-41 Chearsley, Anon.
No. 46 Chearsley
I got picked on ‘cos I was in hand me downs
seventies gear in the eighties
And when I was 12, Christmas presents stopped
They’d never been much
I started shoplifting, and
one day I got caught
in Tesco’s. They took
me home in a
Mum came out the house
Got into the car, and
She punched me in the head
I formed a gang
with 5 other lads
and we started going
out to torment
the local shopkeepers
I walked up to the altar
I must have been 12, I can remember
going to a meeting in church
in Manchester, and we sang this hymn
….’just as I am, without one plea’….
A lovely hymn
I was a racist, sexist little pig
I was known as a trouble causer
a drinker, a fighter. I was small
wore glasses, had a squint
At 12 I had an operation to get
my squint straightened
No. 45 Chearsley
I started skipping school
I was always late for school
When I was 12, Dad For a few months the pain So I ran the
banged his head on was so bad, he was bashing house. We’d just
a board that was his head against the wall. gone decimal, and
hanging outside a Then he died of a brain tumor. there were only
toilet in Kirkgate I was on the doorstep of me who could
market going to a grammar school – work the
but mum couldn’t cope
No. 44 Chearsley
When I was 2, Mum met Wayne
She had three more children by him,
and she also got battered
for 12 years. She’d get to
the point of leaving him, go
into a refuge, and the he’d
turn up and plead…….
I’ve changed. I have Marie
really. I’ll not hit you again’ She told me my
Back she’d go and back he’d real dads name wasstart hitting her geoff.
No. 43 Chearsley
He had other children. I was 4
+ I asked my mum mum died when
I was 6
Mum’s one of
deamons / she got
her way by emotional Blackmail
Sue – Tina
you need a I didn’t
mother….. my dad, my real dad
He paid all
She’s a demon the bills. I don’t
in my mind know how he
Mum held the
family together really. Dean –
-Mum was the
one who got us all Mum stuck by
to school, tried to me through everything
stop the fights I remember crying to
her in the car that
when I died I didn’t
want to go somewhere
she wouldn’t be
No. 42 Chearsley
The thing you have to remember is its
And you think
this is happening
in my family
Prior to finding out
I was judgmental
as anyone else
But when it’s your….
Dad would go along
with the Police
When they called
at our house…
Took the police’s
word opposed to his own
to go to work,
run the house,
and look after us
my dad had
when I was 6, and
moved to Manchester
I didn’t get on
with my stepmother
and I suppose I
blamed my dad for it
It was my
own son doing it
come into my
he would shout
and tear things
off the wall and
No. 41 Chearsley
else – you
Known them all my life
My one and only best mate
me of a
We’d heard about it of course
It’s anybody’s child now
it’s been all funeral’s since
There are pictures on
the wall of all the young men
who have died
There was one on
One 3 weeks before that
Another 5 days after
Ben Howard, Eden Sessions 12 September 2021
It’s good to be back at Eden post-pandemic, if a little unsettling to be amongst so many people, however strict the entrance checks for covid jabs and testing. But as ever, the gig feels friendly and well-organised, with food, bar and toilet queues not too long, and plenty of space in the arena. The catering and cleaning staff will have their work cut out though as this year’s Sessions have been compressed into one busy week of gigs.
I only saw half of support act Femmes de la Mer, as I took time to visit the Mediterranean Biome and pretend I was in Italy. The group’s songs drifted through the mild air across the blues, white, red and yellow of the plants and intrigued enough for me to make my way to see what was going on onstage. Truth be told, this is a women’s community choir, whose fifteen members are gathered up from all over Cornwall and whose setlist mostly contains acapella arrangements of folk songs and shanties with a Celtic connection. There’s no denying their vocal skills, but they seemed a little lost on such a big stage and I’m sure I am not alone in wondering what on earth they were doing there, beyond perhaps ticking a funding box for local engagement. I wish I’d stayed in the biome a little longer.
It was only during lockdown that the name Ben Howard entered my consciousness. My younger daughter and partner decided to buy a ticket to watch a live streaming concert he broadcast from Goonhilly Earth Station. I enjoyed his moody and atmospheric concert and downloaded a copy of his Collections from the Whiteout album, which is apparently a change in direction too far for many of his fans, who were moaning about the lack of hits he played at Eden.
But you don’t miss what you don’t know, so I don’t know what his previous albums were like or what was missing from the current setlist. The band (as far as I could make out Howard plus bass, drums, second guitar, keyboards and keyboards/violin) started with three moody songs from the recent album, and continued in a lowkey, melancholy mood for the rest of the gig. Punctuated by only the briefest of introductions and accompanied by low-fi visuals on a small screen that, at best, combined treated live footage with pre-recorded films, there was little variation in tempo or texture, with most songs combining mid-tempo rhythms with mumbled vocals, fuzzed out guitar and interludes of violin or keyboards around Howard’s soloing, who tonight was channelling John Martyn.
Now mostly that’s a compliment, although the only time I saw Martyn play live he was so drunk, incoherent and incompetent on stage that I (along with many others) left at the interval. Howard wasn’t drunk, although he had to sit down to play, due, it seemed, to some kind of injury that required him to use crutches to walk; and he certainly wasn’t incompetent. What he does lack, however, is any sense of showmanship or engagement with his audience, and – it has to be said – any sense of pacing. Tonight’s songs all blurred into one long mid-tempo epic, with little to distinguish one part from another.
I should stress there were plenty of people around me who would disagree and knew many of the songs I didn’t well enough to sing along with; but they were also the ones moaning about the lack of greatest hits. In the car on the way home, there was a clear sense of being underwhelmed emanating from my daughters though. It wasn’t a bad gig, they argued, just, well… maybe he still preferred playing the small clubs and bars he used to? And they were right, it would have worked much better in a smaller environment, rather than squinting from a couple of hundred yards away. I’d still have liked more sense of dynamics (after all, you can rearrange and play songs faster than the recorded versions) and more engagement with the audience (as well less out-of-tune singing from my neighbours). I also think it’s time for a visual rethink: it’s all a bit low budget and D.I.Y. at the moment. Even if you want to keep the same vibe and feel, it all needs to be larger for an arena venue.
Tonight’s gig was enjoyable enough, but it was a long, slow musical burn that never quite turned into the expected or desired sonic flames or fireworks. But at least live music is back – long may the Eden Sessions continue!
IN THE YEARS leading up to his death in July 2017, Heathcote Williams wrote a series of portraits of people he either knew or admired. He was planning for these portraits to be published as an anthology to be called Juggling Ghosts.
At the time of his untimely death, not all were finished, notably Christopher Smart, about whom he was still writing from his hospital bed with a laptop propped up on his knees, hammering away at the keys to the end. In this case we decided that rather than publish only the part of the poem that was completed, we would include the piece as a work in progress to give the reader some insight into his working methods and also a picture of how the poem would have evolved had he lived longer. Anyone who knew Heathcote would know that nothing he ever wrote was finished, he carried on writing right up to the press deadline, making amendments and correcting proofs to the last minute when the button was pressed and the book printed. Even when signing copies, he would still be making handwritten corrections on the printed page as he handed you a copy.
Juggling Ghosts is a highly unusual piece of writing. The portraits were written over a number of years and many were published individually in his lifetime by small independent publishers.
This collection will be published by Open Head Press as a series of individual booklets with an introduction by Prue Cooper, his sister, and with illustrations by Andrzej Krauze.
The collection, published in a numbered edition of 500 copies, with a further few copies hors commerce, contains 13 individual booklets, each one of a different length.
Printed by Red Dot Design on Fedrigoni Arcoprint 1 E.W. (FSC) paper, with covers for each booklet on Corona Colours (100% recycled). Housed in a matching slipcase made by Grays Bespoke Binders in Corona Dark Grey.
Size 229 x 165 mm.
15 November 2021 (Heathcote’s 80th birthday).
The start was concrete
with water into heat – no
shelter from it – scurrying
backwards to my yeasty flat.
I can now list all those
temporary particulates –
this does me no good.
But first, imagine a man
paid to sit in a box on a
bridge, taking five pence
from every motorist.
As a job, it has limits.
Possibilities are endless.
Some would stay aloof,
Geoffrey Plovdiv, who coughed
over HR’s footsteps, taken for
some kindness training. He
had every worthless degree
known to humanity, fell through floor
after floor, landed in base analytics and
found himself in a childhood without his
children – no sound, just absence.
The bridge’s owners think strategy –
investment and potential for growth.
Poor Geoff. Mostly people paid but
some would drop gum or After Eight
Mints into his hairy paw. I winced
as he begged for tenure at the
University of Central Bedfordshire,
the job taken by a serial killer
turned criminology professor.
‘This new partnership can only ratchet up what is already an alarming Cold War with China. Twenty years on from the start of the War on Terror our leaders seem to have learnt nothing about the disasters that are generated by foreign military intervention. We in Stop the War will be campaigning relentlessly against the push towards military confrontation with China which can only have the most terrible consequences.’
She walked the world with a clipboard in her hand,
collating and confusing information and statistics.
How many? Who did what and why? She baked pie
charts and constructed three-dimensional graphs,
made spreadsheets, drew diagrams of facts
which could never be verified but she swore
were not conjecture. She formalized opinions and hunches,
turned fiction into certainty and invited us to take
her findings at face value. Sometimes you stepped into it,
other times you did not, no-one knew who was to blame
or what to believe. It was idiotic and obscene,
all these stories and poems written without proof.
© Rupert M Loydell
The column aimed firmly at the louche, disaffected bon viveur and the properly bearded man-about-town
MYSELF: Here’s a thing. Did you know that every year (apart from the 2021 lockdown), the World Miniature (don’t call it Crazy) Golf Tournament is hosted on Hastings’ seafront, and attracts teams from all over the world?
READER: Crazy Golf? I love it!
MYSELF: Go back and read that first sentence again. Just because something is in brackets doesn’t mean you can just skip it.
READER: God you’re strict.
At 5am, on a typical chilly autumnal seaside morning, I climbed over the padlocked fence of The Royal & Ancient Hastings Miniature Golf Club to meet the German Minigolf team, who arrived this week to begin preparations for the next competition, due to take place in August 2022. During a torrential downpour, team captain Rolf Schlepper broke off from intensive training to talk to me about the careful preparations needed for their attempt to lift the trophy for a record breaking 17th consecutive year:
“Your English weather”, he told me from beneath a giant, partially destroyed golf umbrella, “is full of wind, and we do not like this. Here on the third hole for example, the sails of the windmill are going around so fast that that it is impossible for the door to remain open long enough for a regular ball to enter politely. For this reason we have developed in our laboratory a new ball, not yet approved, which is slightly taller than the old ball. We are also negotiating with Hastings’ famous inventor Gordon Thinktank, who has agreed to supply us with his new motorized cheating putter, with the revolving tungsten laser guided shaft and fake leopardskin grip. We may be the champions, but it is necessary to make these arrangements, so that it is certain that we are triumphant”.
DON’T MENTION THE WATER HAZARD
When I asked Rolf whether the team had any special strategy in mind for the 2022 competition, he sneered, straightened out his artificial robot arm and made a noise like a chicken:
“So, you wish to see our plans? Ha! In the game of MiniGolfputten, vice captain Klaus Wunderbra and myself are the supreme tacticians and we have developed a secret strategy which is unbeatable. If you shine your torch over there, you will see Horst Scheiße, our caddy, who is applying his expert analysis to the most difficult hole on this course The Big Clown Head. Deiter Klansmann, our newest team member, is the specialist for this hole, which is a dog-leg requiring a perfect 9-iron tee shot. Once over the water hazard, you must score a direct hit on the red nose of the clown. The opening of the clown’s mouth must be quickly followed with an accurate putt to the exposed tonsils”.
As dawn broke, and a police car approached, I thanked Rolf and was about to climb back over the fence, when suddenly, a dark Teutonic cloud spread over his rugged, rain-spattered face as he confessed;
“Regrettably, The Big Clown Head was the only hole we did not win at the last contest, and this was the sole reason for the tragic suicide of our star player Gottfried Schtumm, who, the night before Christmas 2019, drove his top-of-the-range Audi to a Lidl’s car park in Potsdam and beat himself to death with a sand wedge”.
READER: It’s hard to believe now, but the British invented this game.
MYSELF: I know, I know. We should never have admitted foreigners.
FOOD BANK CRISIS
An internet whistleblower has leaked shocking details of fat cat food bankers’ greedy bonuses. In a single 12-month period, one shameless food bank boss gratefully pocketed 3,500 shop-soiled cheese & onion pasties, 950 out of date Pot Noodles and over 2,000 Yorkie Bars. During a 5am raid on his £1,000,000 home, police discovered hundreds of slightly dented catering sized tins of baked beans buried under the patio of Hugh Falafel (59), manager of Upper Dicker Community Food Bank.
READERS’ LETTERS IN BRIEF
To Mr Donald Sinbad of Dymchurch: No, it is not possible to catch racism from a toilet seat, although you can catch it by drinking pomegranate juice, droning on about how you ran the half marathon without dropping dead, or simply by standing next to a jockey during an eclipse.
To Mrs. Beatrice Rasputin of Lilliputtenden:
Absolutely not. Always leave the cellophane wrapping on in case of snakes.
BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB
A selection of late summer titles published in a desperate attempt to capitalise on the upcoming Christmas delivery shortage:
The Chronicles of Beyondenden (Woggle & Peckinpah £12.95)
This is Semolina Gateaux’s third novel in her popular Beyondenden series for children and concerns mysterious goings on at the Hartlepool Museum of Steam. Three old friends, a fireman, a taxidermist and a window dresser are innocently stroking the streamlined contours of the high pressure boiler on a 1937 Radcliffe 4-4-2 Type 006 locomotive, when a steam-genie bursts out of the pressure relief valve and spirits them away to the parallel dreamworld of Beyondenden, where the normal rules of existence are suspended.
The Tibetan Booky Wook of The Dead (Monkey & Typewriter £15.99) by Russell Brand.
This, the latest outpouring from The Garrulous Gobfather of Guff is described on the cover as “a comprehensive new translation of the essential book of Tibetan philosophy, with all the small words taken out.” I cannot argue with that, since I would rather saw my own head off with a breadknife than actually read it.
If, on the other hand, you find reading difficult, or are a moron, I can confidently recommend I’m a C-List Celebrity Get Me Out of This Hideous Ballroom Dancing Nightmare (Netflix boxed DVD set, 23,000 episodes, £99.99)
MUSIC SCIENCE NEWS
Crack inventor and Hastings’ resident boffin, Professor Gordon Thinktank, has come up with yet another groundbreaking device for musicians. By welding two instruments together in a certain way, (see illustration), he has at a stroke solved the perennial noise-nuisance problem experienced by all flat-sharing trumpet duettists. With his new instrument, which he calls The Tacit Duettophone, essential eye contact is always maintained, and each player is able to keep tabs on the other’s fingering, yet no neighbour-irritating cat-strangling sounds emanate from the trumpets.
READER: Isn’t there a danger of unconsciousness? I mean how do the musicians avoid passing out from the hyperventilation caused by all that fruitless blowing?
MYSELF: Circular breeding.
READER: You mean circular breathing don’t you?
SAUSAGE 159 SAUSAGE 160 SAUSAGE 161 SAUSAGE 162SAUSAGE 163 SAUSAGE 164 SAUSAGE 165 SAUSAGE 166 SAUSAGE 167 SAUSAGE 168 SAUSAGE 169 SAUSAGE 170 SAUSAGE 171 SAUSAGE 172 SAUSAGE 173SAUSAGE 174 SAUSAGE 175 SAUSAGE 176 SAUSAGE 177 SAUSAGE 178 SAUSAGE 179 SAUSAGE 180 SAUSAGE 181 SAUSAGE 182 SAUSAGE 183SAUSAGE 184 SAUSAGE 185 SAUSAGE 186 SAUSAGE 187 SAUSAGE 188 SAUSAGE 189 SAUSAGE 190 SAUSAGE 191 SAUSAGE 192 SAUSAGE 193 SAUSAGE 194 SAUSAGE 195 SAUSAGE 196
Perhaps for quite a while Anant ji, the pen vendor, had been writhing to utter what he finally told me on the first Saturday of the last month, “You, sir, visit my shop five times a week and almost every week, tell me and my customers those tales and anecdotes from your life; you should write some and publish them as a source of earning.” ‘Professional’ he added.
I shook my head, “No, dear. I am hardly capable of scribbling a list of the items I should purchase and take home to show my family that my daily outings are not as fruitless as they actually are, and besides my life is nothing outside those stories I fabricate. I spend my miserable life in your company. I work no longer on the advice of my former employer. I have more life now at my disposal than possible in any human lifetime, and this life of mine is not exactly lively.”
Anant ji put down one vintage fountain pen he worked on. He smiled, “Exactly what I meant. Your words are humorous. No one I meet these days talk this way anymore. ‘Ha’ to your use of ‘life’ instead of ‘time’.”
“Ha.” I whispered ‘Slàinte’.
“You should write with a fountain pen in the old fashioned way. It would slow down your outpouring, clear your thoughts.” He salvaged the cleared feed from the liquid in a tray.
“I had one; the one I lost. It was a gift from my father for finishing my high school. Its barrel shimmered, flakes of green, celluloid dream. It had a gold nib. I lost it in a feat of anger. I keep the pencase in the top drawer of my study table as a reminder of the ruins rage leaves behind before it dies away.” I began to elaborate the storyline.
Anant ji raised his hand, ” Save your energy. Write down this exact story as your first one. Just write it with this pen.”
He foraged through his boxes. I said, “Fountain pens make me impatient these days. Perhaps they also ignite the fire of guilt. They are expensive as well.”
“It is a gift.”
“Then I would not let you gift me something expenses. I hardly spend any money at your shop.”
“It is a fountain pen but not an expensive one. Use it, and the writing will be the return-gift.”
I saw it was a Pilot. I shivered. I held the King Arthur’s sharp legend. I finally pulled out the lost relic of childhood from the stony sheathe of penitence.
“So far I can tell,” Anant ji said, “yours was a Pilot from another era. This one I give you is almost an entry-level, but nearly as good.”
He caught me in his web. I nodded. I should write. I should write how my father, a child himself back then, ten or eleven, visited a pen shop now extinct, and how the shop owner startled my father by throwing one steel nibbed fountain pen like a dart against a hard wooden desk and showed him that the pen still worked.
Perhaps while writing I could avoid the puns life threw at me all the time.
I would write how I lost the pen. The anger – I no longer remember the cause – unveiled something pure, pristine and evil, a noise of scratching on the blackboard.
The story I wrote and rewrote, typed and retyped was short and furious. Its journey ended in that very pen shop Anant ji owned.
Another pen, another time, the same brand, phoenix undead amidst the ashes we gather singing ‘Ring-a-ring-a-rosies’ and holding this liquid life. This was my story about the relativity of the state of beings.
I scrivened that in my father’s memory most parts of the year were autumn, and so were mine. Was the autumn a catalyst or a laboratory or the only protagonist we never mentioned.
I submitted the story to some magazine good for a beginner, then to another one and then to another one
The rejections cluttered the yard of my inbox and clogged my doorstep. The world of submission was cursed with eternal autumn.
Anant ji would never ask me if I was writing or if I had already written something, but he must have noticed the ebbing talkativeness, receding presence.
One evening I opened my desktop, found all the ‘Pen’ in my typescript and replaced them with ‘Pain’ in one document and copied that into another document where ‘Pen’ transformed into ‘Pane’.
Both the versions were accepted by two publications. Yes, Anant ji, indeed they were.
Image and words
I see you dying under the sky.
I see you fading away.
I see your corpses and your spirits fly,
Like a wild bird towards its prey.
Your voices are no more strong;
Silence gripped them.
You are free after so long;
You are free from shame.
I see you dying successfully.
I see you passing away.
I see the Death brutally,
Removes all your gay.
I see you turning into ashes.
I see you in frame.
I see the wounds and gashes-
Are burning into flame.
I see you dying together.
I see you going hell.
I see you going far,
From this earthly spell.
I see you behind the scene,
Loosing your existence therefore.
Dear enemies! Hurrah!
I see you no more!
~By, Tiyasha Khanra, Kolkata, India
Illustration Nick Victor
Alan Dearling takes a long-ish stroll around Salts Mill in Yorkshire. An extraordinary space and collection.
An absolute ‘Wow’ of a place. So much art and history jumbled into a mighty and cavernous ex-factory space. Awesome. Magical wonderments… Exhibitions, original art works, books and prints, and a diverse range of products on sale from jewellery to antiques; postcards and signed artworks; outdoor clothing; high-end kitchen equipment. And the location of Saltaire Model Village and the seemingly never-ending mills are mind-boggling even without the Hockney connections.
Jonathan Silver established the 1853 Gallery – named after the year the mill opened – in 1987, as a place to exhibit the works by his friend and fellow Bradfordian, the artist David Hockney. As the publicity for Salts Mill proclaims: “It was an audacious move, filling an old industrial space with contemporary art and hanging paintings from the old steam pipes… The mill began to fill up with art, books, culture and flowers and also became a popular place for cutting edge technology businesses to rent office premises and manufacturing space.”
Salts Mill first opened in 1853 as a utopian vision of a better future. It was the brainchild of Sir Titus Salt. Vast in scale and ambition. It still feels slightly ‘unreal’ to visitors in 2021. Perhaps especially as we are wandering around in face-coverings in an indoor, industrial labyrinth. It was a massive cloth manufacturing operation, located right next to the Leeds Liverpool Canal and the River Aire. But, it wasn’t just another mill or factory. Sir Titus also built the model village of Saltaire right outside the mill gates. It was a place where his workers could (apparently) live in modern, sanitary housing near green spaces. This represented the relatively beneficent, philanthropic, Victorian factory owner. Salts Mill and Saltaire were named after their founder.
The Salts Mill continued to produce cloth until 1986, when it stood empty. Now, it is a monumental historic edifice. Filled with artworks and busy restaurants and cafes. There’s also an opportunity to learn a bit about the history of the Mill, and its old working practices.
Salts Mill curates many visiting exhibitions and special events. In recent years they’ve hosted works by photographer Kevin Cummins, poets Simon Armitage and Tony Harrison, the Yorkshire Fashion Archive and Cloth & Memory to name just a few.
The mill today is also a place of work for over 1,000 people, including providing a home to creative businesses from technology to landscape architecture and graphic design.
In 2001, Saltaire became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO noted: “Saltaire is an outstanding and well preserved example of a mid 19th century industrial town… The layout and architecture of Saltaire admirably reflect mid-19th century philanthropic paternalism, as well as the important role played by the textile industry in economic and social development.”
David Hockney was born in Bradford in 1937. He is the UK’s greatest living artist, constantly working, innovating, looking – and looking again.
The 1853 Gallery houses a huge collection of pictures by David Hockney, cherry-picked from throughout his life. His work is dotted about throughout the mill. On my visit, an enormous room on the third floor was devoted to his series, ‘The Arrival of Spring’. This is comprised of a set of iPad drawings created by David in 2011, and printed at an incredible scale. And a film, an immersive video, which displays a sequence of evolving, ever-changing, nine photos of the Woldgate Woods through the seasons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijndJWCJzoo
And, here’s a rather lovely and life-affirming video of Hockney’s latest show, the 2020 ‘Arrival of Spring, Normandy’ from the Royal Academy in London: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYcMabUldww
Also on display during my visit was a large collection of signed prints and original works by Simon Palmer. He’s a leading British watercolour artist. But, one that exhibits a somewhat weird sense of humour. Almost all of his works are off-kilter. A bit strange and surreal. Along with David Hockney, Simon’s work has been on display for almost 30 years – indeed, his pictures are dotted around Salts Mill.
Simon Palmer’s signed, limited edition book, ‘Pebbles on a Beach’: https://saltsmillshop.co.uk/collections/simon-palmer/products/pebbles-on-a-beach-signed-numbered-limited-edition-book-by-simon-palmer
If you are anywhere in striking distance of Saltaire (also worth a look around, including the unusual Saltaire United Reformed Church) and the Salts Mill (nearest conurbation is Bradford), take the time for a visit – actually, make plenty of time. This is a Big Show! Here’s video of Rick Wakeman playing, ‘Morning has Broken’, probably recorded from the Saltaire church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VebVIXSQFC0
Modes of relation enacted
Through layered scenes
In settings presided over by Russian dolls
There is an extraordinary amount
Of stereotyping going on
As if a 60 year old man
Should know and be like this
A 20 year old woman like that
Fads and fashions have their dictates
Some catch on, a bit like memes,
Others are resuscitated.
That ahead of your time phenomenon
After a while it seemed
That they were deciding who I was,
Sometimes a good fit, sometimes not
Or even very far from
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning
The emotional cost of depression
When the vested team loses
You try to impress your friends
In subtle ways, or at least
Not fall out with them
As you try to pretend
You’re pleased to see me
‘Each man’s soul demands that he be, and that he live, every great archetypal role in the collective unconscious: the betrayer and the betrayed, the lover and the beloved, the oppressor and the victim, the noble and the ignoble, the conqueror and the conquered, the warrior and the priest, the man of sorrows and the self-reborn.’ Robert A Johnson
Many people are now aware of the pressing importance of alkalizing the body, but how many have transposed this understanding to the toxic mind, now out of control and wreaking havoc across the globe?
We have succumbed to acidity of thinking, often poisoned without any awareness on our part, and I can’t but wonder about the rampant senility and brain-rot, so much a feature of modern life.
Technology has not only outpaced wisdom but rests at its polar opposite where mind rules, splintering society asunder into the acidic and the alkaline.
There is simply no reasoning with the unreasonable, those who have lost their minds to the mind itself, a god in all but name that has seduced a weakened populace down the road of perfection, forgetting we already exist as perfection though at an entirely different, yet higher level of being.
This warning was issued many years ago from one of the great pioneers of the East: ‘The modern technological advances that come to this world with newer and newer innovations, as well as those yet to come, make up a cyclone of Great Illusion’ Mahamaya
‘Be certain that you will be held captive by it. Who knows to where the one who is caught by this great cyclone will be carried off? When the saints see one who is taken up by these modern advances running here and there, struggling in his pursuits, they try their utmost to bring about an awakening of Self Knowledge in him.’ Siddharameshwar
One of the chief problems with the never-ending search for the perfect, which is simply a product of the reflected light in the mind casting both illusion and shadow, is that any human being that doesn’t pass muster is for the scrap heap.
Genocidal maniacs, who are really fighting their own deep-seated inadequacy, focus first on the weakest nexus in society: the elderly, handicapped and mentally ill, or ‘useless eaters’ as they call them.
It happened under Hitler and it has happened again under a Conservative government which can no longer lay legitimate claim to the prefix of ‘caring’.
These people and their civil servants are often simply the continuation of a long line of sickos who themselves are severely disturbed, projecting their own self-loathing on to our most vulnerable.
When the mind plays God, the whole world is in trouble. I have seen this process almost universally in clients sent away to school at a young age – those running our government – roots destroyed, feelings torn out, a cold, hard veneer setting in for a long winter.
Occasionally, a brave one might emerge from this dark night of the soul in better shape than they went in, but those are the exceptions not the rule.
Most of our tormentors conform to a hideous template of damage. I know, I worked with many such people, often bankers and city traders hooked on cocaine, prostitution and cruelty as a way of life.
Suppressing amusement at their belief their plight was somehow original and never seen before was almost a full-time job. There really is nothing new under the sun.
Few of them get better; most are lost to themselves and can only vent their fury at this primary abandonment by comforting themselves with more of everything, although of course this strategy never works.
‘More’ simply becomes another cage and a recapitulation of earlier downfalls, some of which exist prior to memory, pre-verbally and even in the womb.
Such lifetimes are deeply karmic, of course and the net result of accruing quite a few negative points on the debit side of the ledger. There are many lessons to still learn and I suspect many will now go back to the divine recycling bin for a needed makeover.
Some experiments simply don’t work!
It is a good job there is eternity and the divine is infinitely more merciful than we are with ourselves and each other.
When I was at school, I was taught a ‘schism’ referred only to a religious divide (I think we were doing Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic church at the time), but it seems the term deserves to graduate.
If the sharp divide between those following the false, reflected light of the mind, commonly and ridiculously known as ‘the science’, and those who have evolved to a purer light isn’t a schism, then I don’t know what is.
But as the Chinese say (again the true ones not the egoic ones), where there is crisis lies opportunity. The chance we have is to understand the nature of light and move away from the false, even if we have held it as true for eons.
Awakening is en-light-enment after all: ‘When the psyche is raw, undeveloped, quite primitive, it is subject to gross illusions. As it grows in breadth and sensitivity, it becomes a perfect link between pure matter and pure spirit and gives meaning to matter and expression to spirit.’ Nisargadatta
This is not meant to demean or insult often highly intelligent beings, just to point out that to invest so much in only what we can see is a terrible error.
‘In my father’s house are many mansions’ hints at the truth. For example. many teenagers think and believe wholeheartedly they know best (those of us who are parents will appreciate this!), yet we know their consciousness has not matured sufficiently to enable clarity of thought.
They are, in short, un-illumined, in this illustration at least. Anyone who thinks for one moment a boarding school survivor whose emotional maturation was truncated aged eight to 13 should be telling us how to live only evinces their own naivety.
In the traumatized being, the ego or adapted self takes the place of God, is flooded with thinking and exists cut off from the universal field (God) floating like a small dinghy on choppy seas, top heavy and without anchor, vulnerable and relying solely on inflation – a scrabbling in the mind.
And because most of society can only see through its own limited understanding, we are deluded and allow ourselves to be drowned, with our oppressors standing on our shoulders to survive.
The raising of the National Insurance contribution announced this week is yet another measure to kill off those considered worthless while those who are really worth so little in their current state, prosper.
It is surely time to begin to question and discover that thinking is only one aspect of consciousness and that we are supported by an energy far greater than we know. When intelligence presents only a tiny fraction of available consciousness, it really isn’t intelligence at all.
Just because the tyranny of memory suggests we doff our caps to our alleged superiors is no reason to continue doing so.
As I write, what emerges is a vision of an entirely different national curriculum and a parallel world dedicated to consciousness as the only really marker of value.
Copyright Simon Heathcote
Simon Heathcote is a psychotherapist who has developed a unique way of working, drawing on Jungian concepts, mysticism and archetypal psychology to help return clients to their essence or deep soul. He has been sex and love addiction therapist at The Priory Roehampton, England and senior practitioner of the Conde Nast award-winning The Arrigo Programme. His first career was in journalism. He is an award-winning writer, former newspaper editor, broadsheet travel writer and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. He has undergone a profound inner journey of meditation which he brings to his work. Simon trained at Broadway Lodge (Britain’s first specialist addiction treatment centre), studied past lives with the late Dr Roger Woolger and was present for the outset of the UK men’s movement under the guidance of Robert Bly. His website is soulvision.co.uk
The rain turns every roof
into a kettledrum; it gallops along a road until
there is no road; it washes darkness
into silver light and dances
on each puddle of its making. The sky
is flowing down into the forest,
the ceiling above tables where
a meal is freshly served, sharpening the razor wire
along defensive walls, washing the blood
from history as it drains into rivers
that drain back into the sky
begins again, and even the most
venomous of snakes
threads its black, red, and yellow banded
length through the eye in a jade pendant
made before the Spaniards
had fired a single shot.
Art: Louis Paton
The world is trying to loosen us, but I’m
keeping my edge, masking up for indoor
errands, skittery with distance in crowds.
Seeing a photo of a fox the other day,
I thought, That’s me, vulpine, definitely
feral, watching the carefree people
from the den I vigilantly protect.
Put yourself and others at risk. Party on,
let your hair down, shake your booty,
say God will take care of you, later
say “God only takes the best.” You know
that old normal was never really worth
a damn. So you just go on ahead.
I’ll be along a little later — or not.
—Thomas R. Smith
Illustration: Atlanta Wiggs
A rags to rags story by
Hi to whoever finds this. My name is James Hesford. I was called David Hughes. I now use James, my second name and Hesford – my mother’s maiden name. In many ways, Out-Bar was the reason I changed my name. Not because I wanted to disassociate myself with my past – I have good memories and bad, made many friends, but probably more enemies – but because I wanted a fresh start. I wanted to start again from scratch, which was easy. To tell you the truth, I had no option. As a footnote I would say, I am reluctant to write this. If I was writing about the famous you would be hanging on to every word. The finger cymbal player of a legendary rock band pissing in a plant pot in an uptown Los Angeles Holiday Inn would probably go down in your personal history as something that changed your life forever, a benchmark to which you can justify the hours wasted on comfy sofa’s smoking skunk weed wondering why you are not successful yet having spent at least a couple days of your life learning those three major, first position, triads on your Fender Stratocaster that is slowly disappearing under a pile of dust in a corner of your bedroom. You might be a crap guitar player but you’re as good at pissing in plant pots as the next guy, right? Maybe even better. So, if you’re looking for that kind of inspiration you won’t find it here. This is not about fame although you will find names here who are famous, very famous, who, whether they like it or not, were part of this journey even though they don’t think it worth mentioning it in their Curriculum Vitae. Neither do I particularly. But I think it is at least worth a couple of pages buried in the Time Capsule we now call the internet. Anyway, reluctant or not, here it is…………………….
In 1980 I won the Young Jazz Musician of the Year award. I was/am a dedicated musician – practice faithfully every day and true to my roots. However, after the award, it suddenly occurred to me how much I hated the British Jazz Scene. Don’t get me wrong – there were/are brilliant musicians here, but most people were, at that time, trying to sound like Americans. All bass players sounded like Jaco; all guitarists sounded like Pat Metheney or whoever was the current American Favorite. I also figured out that it would take me 4 years to get my prize money which was dished out as 50% gigging subsidy; in 1980 you were lucky to get £50 a gig. So, I packed my bags and went to New York, Downtown Manhattan – the East Village.
James (David) Central Park
The rent in the East Village, back then, was astronomical and making money wasn’t easy. My excitement at joining a quartet, a real American touring band, was soon tempered when I found out that most of their gigs were in Europe, which seemed to be how it worked here in downtown Manhattan i.e you go to Europe, make a big pile of money, come back home and hand it over to your landlord in monthly instalments. I had two options – take the gig or do a less than minimum wage job looking over my shoulder every five minutes waiting for immigration control to drag me off to the wrong side of the Mexican border and leave me there begging for small change to get my fare back to the UK, where I would spend the rest of my life in despair and disappointment knowing that I would never be able to take my rightful place in the Miles Davis Ensemble, hang out with Ornette Coleman and drink Bourbon in downtown bars while being interviewed by Downbeat Magazine and the Village Voice. The USA was where I needed to be at that time and I was prepared to do whatever it took to stay there.
There was also another way to make some money. Punk was getting big in New York. It followed me over from the UK. (The British version of Punk, that is) At first, I didn’t particularly want to play in a Punk Band but there seemed to be an emerging trend of Jazz musicians (particularly from the Avant-garde – e.g Ornette Coleman influenced) joining Punk Bands, initially for the gig money but later finding that playing in this environment was a springboard for a new kind of improvisation and there was a club audience who were keen to listen to it. And, importantly, dressing rooms with a band rider of copious amounts of alcohol and pretty uptown young women taking a holiday from their luxury uptown apartment lifestyle and weekends in the Hamptons by immersing themselves in the New Wave, introducing themselves by offering to share their high-grade Columbian super stash. After doing my first gig with Snuky Tate (a Downtown black punk musician guitarist and visual artist, who, despite being homeless, having had a minor hit – ‘He’s the Pope in the Vatican/He’s the Groove’- could get us past every club fashion Furur doorman security team in Manhattan), I was blown away. The new band was made up of amazing horn players from the village, a really hot Latin rhythm section from Alphabet City and a punk drummer. The experience can only be described as electric. We could play anything we wanted, however ‘outside’, and the cocaine-induced euphoria of the 80’s uptown audience drove us on endlessly to heights we had never dreamed possible. Every gig was different and hanging out with musicians whose main objective was to ‘find their own voice’ was exhilarating, to say the least. I found this early incarnation of Snuky with a house band (a couple of years before I met him and before the Jazz Punk thing took off) on YouTube. Later in the video, he talks about his band called the Octoroons. He said he only played with black musicians but his theory was that everyone was part black, at least an Octoroon, which means genetically ⅛ black, a theory that I will be ever grateful for; being a pale face honkey from the back streets of Rotherham to one of Snuky’s Octoroons was a genuine leg up in my self-image department.
Here’s a tune He did which was a cult hit. It was mentioned in the comments that Frank Zappa played this tune at the Dr Demento show in May 1981.
There were also a lot of RIPs, which saddens me greatly. I lost touch with Snuky when I left.
Two years later and I’m still managing to stay here, to be on the scene, despite the fact that the band that I had been touring Europe with had chickened out of high intense urban jungle life by actively seeking suitable fertility fading Frauleins to shack up with and spending the rest of their lives living off their dubious reputations as New York Jazz musicians, playing to an audience of lederhosen adorned jazz enthusiasts in the backwoods of Bavaria.
To tell you the truth I wasn’t doing that great. I can tell you that busking your way through the Real Book on the benches of Washington Square for enough spare change to keep a roof over your head and provide a diet no more substantial than Stromboli Boy’s pizza slices and one dollar two egg breakfasts with dubiously hormone growth induced bacon slices can start to take its toll. All the good gigs I got to do weren’t paying much money so, for a subsidy, I took a job with a singer from Brooklyn. He had an all-female band and my girlfriend at the time was playing in it. Because of that connection, I became his Musical Director arranging popular songs for him and writing out scores and parts. Without saying too much, I would say that Mr XXXXXX was a very influential man in the Sicilian community. When we visited the cafe’s downtown, there was always a warm, if not a little nervous welcome, free coffee and as many cakes and pastries as Mr XXXXXX wanted to eat and, almost always, an envelope or a bag of something to take away with him.
Mr XXXXXX seemed to like hanging out with me and liked what I had done for the band. He offered to get me a Green Card. He had legal connections who could sort it for me. After visiting many of his friends and family in Brooklyn, as kind and friendly as they were, it occurred to me that owing a favour to Mr XXXXXX might not have been such a great idea – even though he was the nicest man I had ever met, a thoroughly decent, honest person with only love and good intentions for everyone around him – HONEST! (I’m going to leave this here – it’s a blog in itself, maybe even a book.) Why I mention it is because Mr XXXXXX was one of the reasons I finally returned to the UK. In fact, I didn’t mention it, did I? This never happened – I swear ….by almighty God that the evid………I’m going to delete this before I get an extradition order put on me to testify on old unsolved crimes now re-emerging due to too new forensic methods not available in the early 80’s.
Anyway, moving from sub-let to sub-let every couple of months, followed by Snuky looking for a sofa to crash on, paying most of what I earned on rent, was getting to me. With the barrage of influences and all the stuff I had learned, I had started to compose again, but without a solid, secure base and more free time, I was finding it difficult. Going back to the UK could have been an option, but embarrassing. Spurred on by my friends in London, I had come to New York to conquer the world. Going back without having achieved anything significant would have looked like defeat.
In my last Summer in New York, I bumped into an old friend – Tymon Dogg. I was riding the A train coming back from Brighton Beach and he just happened to be sitting across from me in the carriage. To be honest, it was a big relief for me to see him – a fellow European – as my social life was now either hanging out with Snuky (which was the upside) or driving around Manhatten with Mr XXXXXX and his Brooklyn Hairdresser girlfriend delivering dubious parcels to scabby knuckled Sicilians in Hoboken. (No I didn’t) Tymon was staying uptown in Harlem and had come to New York to guest on the Clash’s double album and play a few gigs in the folk clubs where Bob Dylan had played in Greenwich Village. Tymon had actually taught Joe Strummer how to play the guitar. We’d become friends after playing a gig together in London and his energy and totally original style had blown me away. He reminded me that, even though the Jazz Scene in the UK was a bit damp, there were other areas of the music scene that were breaking new ground. And here he was, from folk and punk clubs in London to the Power House in NYC recording with The Clash.
I still wasn’t sure whether I was brave enough to leave NYC and go back home with my tail between my legs. But then something happened that changed everything. John Leckie (producer extraordinaire) happened to be in town. He was producing an album in the Power House studios just down the road from me. I had shared a flat with him and his then future wife, Christina, in Notting Hill Gate when he was still a tape op in Abbey Road. I was even best man at their wedding – they’ve just had their 50th wedding anniversary – so we go back a long way. Anyway, we were hanging out together in bars and clubs and restaurants having a great time demolishing his per diem expense account. The Jazz punk thing had taken off and John was keen to check it out in situ, so after a hearty meal of sushi rolls and saki, we ended up standing next to Debbie Harry in a small club in Soho, watching James White and the Blacks. It just became so apparent that this new genre, that people like Snuky had kicked off in the late 70’s, was definitely moving up the food chain and getting some recognition.
John was quite taken with the scene and knew about my involvement in it. He told me that he had got a pretty good but loose deal with EMI where he could use their studios in dead time and bring in any bands/musicians he wanted and make albums. The only condition being that EMI would have the first option on a deal. John then asked me if I would be interested in going back to London and starting a project and recording with him in Abbey Road.
I now had a good reason to leave NYC. Two actually. Looking back, John probably saved my life. Up to that point, I was honestly considering taking up the offer of a Green Card from Mr XXXXXX. I would have probably found myself helping prop up a flyover in Hoboken as part of a girder reinforced concrete pillar. So thank you John.
Being in London was OK – not as depressing as I imagined and despite being a lively, culturally significant city, compared to NYC it seemed quiet and rural (I needed quiet and rural) and having been given the ‘get out of jail for free card’ on the saving face front from John, I was able to walk around with my head held high. But even though I was about to make an album in Abbey Road, ‘the deal’ everyone desperately hopes for was still a long way off. I had to deal with reality, something I’ve never been that great at. Nothing brings you down from the cloud of future possibilities more than the lack of money to pay your bills and rent, let alone eat. I now had to draw on the only resources available to me – my ability to play jazz standards. I had vowed in NY that if I had to play ‘All The Things You Are’ one more time. I would ‘Take the A Train’ and throw myself onto the tracks.
Anyway, there I was sitting in a wine bar hacking my way through ‘All The Things You Are’, ‘Girl from Ipanema’ and whatever followed on the next page in the Real Book. I had hooked up with Andy Herbert, a bass player I had worked with before I left. We weren’t doing that bad, to be honest. Wine bars were opening up all over the place and live jazz music was an extra attraction. The money was OK and Andy was even managing to feed his family on what we were making and the free food was a bit of a bonus and helped me cut down on my household expenses. The downside was that it was really cramping my style. Back in NYC, you were expected to go out there and give it all you’ve got, blast away the audience with a furore of atonal sixteen notes at astonishing tempos. In the bars and restaurants of London, restraint was the order of the day. If you played anything more than straight 8’s medium swing at mezzo-forte, someone would throw up their Alouettes Sans Têtes on the waiter’s shoes and you wouldn’t get a re-booking.
Luckily, my mental health was kept intact by the fact that we had already started putting a band together, OUT BAR (Out-bar Squeek) – Tim Sanders (Kick Horns) on Tenor Sax, Barbara Snow on Trumpet, Boris Williams (BackBeat Boris) on drums, Andy on Bass, Me on guitar and Vocals. Yes, you heard right, Me on Vocals. I had never sung in my life. I tell a lie. When playing in the Roy Hill band, I was asked to sing some backing vocals. After three gigs, I stepped up to the mike to sing only to find that the roadies had put a banana there instead of a microphone. A spear through my heart at the time that discouraged me from ever taking it up again. My lack of confidence in this department was sort of getting to me especially as the band was sounding amazing and, as a novice vocalist, completely out of my league. Tim was a great improviser as well as being so fastidious about getting my quirky brass arrangements together; Barbara, who had recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Music and could read fly sh…t and, after spending some time working on the feminist music scene was really becoming a great improviser; Boris and Andy were just so tight as a rhythm section it was frightening.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know why I did it – write a song. The band’s initial concept was basically instrumental – great tight top lines from the brass and guitar, punk, swing, hard funk bottom end with lots of free improvisation, ensemble and solo. I like instrumental music – Ornette Coleman, Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Hindemith, Bartok, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Xenakis and have since come a long way as a composer by misunderstanding their concepts. So when I brought a song to rehearsals, I was a bit nervous about presenting it. It was called Disco Eddy.
I would like to write a little footnote here because as a band only remembered in a one-line sentence in the Eddi Reader story (details to come later) as a Disco Band – an awful Disco Band at that – it needs to be clarified that Disco Eddy was not a Disco song and the band was never a disco band. The song was inspired by a guy I saw on Brighton Beach in NYC (my hang out place on my days off). I remember he was ranting and raving. He called himself Disco Eddy and kept shouting “got the get me some respect around here” while blindfolding himself and jumping over sandcastles like it was some great athletic feat that deserved tumultuous applause. To me he represented what the downside of society has become: about impressing people; style over substance; the total importance of fame; celebrity culture; worth as a human being directly in ratio to the degree of fame. He was paying the price for not succeeding; he was what Americans call a bum.
So, I brought the song ‘Disco Eddy’ to the band and sang it in rehearsals. After the brass intro, I just launched into it. To be honest, I was expecting everyone to hate it and that, in some ways, would have been a big relief. We could go back to playing quirky jazz heads and I could just quietly slip back into the backline and concentrate on being a guitar player. However, it seemed to be the common consensus that not only was it good but it would be our hit single. Hit single …….Hit single…..Hit single……..Our Hit Single! The words hovered above my head like a host of whispering celestial angels. Hit Single?. I never even considered having a hit single. BUT – Having a hit single would mean we would be out there: in the big time, Top of the Pops, Radio One, tours with a tour bus and real roadies, food, girlfriends, drugs, more drugs, money, more money and drugs, throwing tellies out of windows and pissing in hotel plant pots with total impunity and more drugs.
Looking back, I can see this as a landmark moment in the development of the band. Although not seismic, there was a change. Musicians are amazing – if the music they are playing excites them, their level of commitment knows no bounds. A combination of exciting music and a possibility of making money, big money, can turn a bunch of mild-mannered nurdies dedicated to promoting high art, truth and beauty into a bunch of fearsome Spartans ready to sacrifice their own lives on the battlefield of making some serious p. Anyway, for better or worse, the possibility of a hit single was now out of the bag, and although not yet running amok through a forest of mixed metaphors it was definitely hanging in the air.
John liked it. John really liked it. He thought it could be a hit single and was keen to record Disco Eddy first so he could present it to Dave Ambrose, his A and R contact at EMI who, I think, was partly responsible for his deal of free time at Abbey Road. We recorded the whole track in a couple of hours except for the vocal line which, because of nerves and insecurity, took a bit longer. With the help of John’s direction and the band’s support, I finally got it down and the recording project was now well on its way. The band sounded great and thanks to the virtuoso skills of John, who single-handedly did everything from miking up to tape opping while simultaneously producing us, so were the recordings. There was a little hiccup. A big one really. Just before we were about to start recording the album Boris was offered a job working with the Thompson Twins. They were doing pretty well at the time so it was an offer he couldn’t refuse. That’s the problem playing with great musicians, everyone else wants them. He later left the Thompson Twins and went on to play for The Cure. The last time I saw him was at the Brit awards (will explain later) looking like a Goth with his all-black clothes, smudged lipstick and runny mascara. Anyway, that problem was solved pretty easily because we had already met a great drummer on the Jazz circuit – Richard Marcangelo. He could play anything: swing, hard funk, Latin, punk, hard rock. We didn’t even have to audition him; he just came into the studio and did everything in one take. He also introduced us to Martin Ditcham (Rolling Stones, Diana Ross, Donald Fagin, Sade, and more artists than the London Phone Book) who turned up at the studio one night with a big bag of percussion and proceeded to play squeaky toy hammers over the track we were recording. We were impressed, very impressed. He must have liked what we were doing because he joined the band. Bloody hell. The band was getting bigger. We had six mouths to feed and no gigs.