Tuesday, 11 November 2014
Book collecting is one of my hobbies. I blame a bookshop in my childhood home town of Brackley. It was they who enlightened me to the true and certain knowledge that the only thing better than reading a book was reading a book in its best possible state. In some cases that means a first edition, no matter how poorly it was produced; in others, that means seeking out a handsome new edition, with attractive illustrations, or else a handsome new binding, perhaps with an informative new introduction.
I am always on the look-out for books. Every shopping trip, every holiday, every dull fag end of a Saturday afternoon, it doesn't matter where or when, I simply cannot help but fill any empty available timeslot with a quick visit to the nearest bookshop, antiques emporium, charity shop or village fete. As a consequence I have bought many dismal books of supreme worthlessness but happily the odd random discovery ensures that this hobby funds itself, thus supporting my belief that money spent on a good book is never [or perhaps better to say 'rarely'] wasted.
This is my most recent discovery. Given the current interest in all things 'gothic' [an interest, incidentally, that I have long sincerely nurtured] I thought it might interest others. It is I believe an unrecorded rarity, and possibly represents the true first American edition.
'D. Polidori' [Dr. John William Polidori]: THE VAMPYRE
Cameron & Ferguson, London & Glasgow [n.d. circa 1890].
Small octavo pictorial paperwraps, string bound. Stamped 'Price Four Ce(nts)' to lower front cover. Collects 'The Vampyre' [1-20pp] and 'The Dean Of Badajoz' [20-24pp]. Slight discolouration & wear to pale yellow covers, fragile covers partially separated from each other along lower spine edge, affecting perhaps one third of the spine. Rare cover details other titles offered by publisher. A good to very good copy.
The Scottish publishers Cameron & Ferguson were formed in 1871. Prior to this, George Cameron had been publishing since 1855 on his own, mostly musical titles. According to the available listings at COPAC, their first joint titles were listed as being published in Glasgow, the later titles London & Glasgow. It is likely that subsequent to the inauguration of their partnership that they decided to broaden their scope, which resulted in several different product ranges i.e. 'Threepenny Novels', 'Boys Famous Tales', etc. The majority of these titles were rousing adventure stories although there are also several fairy-tales and gothic novels.
The titles listed on the rear cover [which, incidentally, do not mention 'The Vampyre'] refer to an 'American Fourpenny Library' but all of the books in this series are priced in British pence, indicating that they were American-themed stories marketed at a British audience, for example, 'The Yankee Scout', 'Rube The Hunter, or The Captive Of The Crow Village'. None of these titles are listed in American cents. The Cameron & Ferguson edition of 'The Vampyre' also features original artwork which clearly depicts a man in a Stetson-style cowboy hat, indicating that it was targeted specifically at the American market. This artwork is uncredited although the initials 'B.T.' appear in the lower left corner of the front cover illustration. On the basis of this evidence, my surmise is that the Cameron & Ferguson edition of 'The Vampyre' was produced for sale only in the USA, and as such, may be the first American edition.
No copies of this edition are listed with any national library in the UK or USA [refer COPAC, Library Of Congress, Yale etc]. Nor is the edition referenced in any reference book at my disposal. Cameron & Ferguson's 'The Vampyre' appears to be an unknown, unrecorded edition, and as such may be the true first American edition, given that earlier recorded editions of the book were published only in London and Paris [refer the first edition, published by Sherwood, Neely & Jones, in London, 1819; the so-called 'second edition', same publisher, but claimed to have been published in Paris, 1830; and also the John Dicks 'Popular Edtion', published in London, 1884, in double-columned magazine format, with a misleading illustration of Lord Byron].
Extremely rare, to the point of 'unheard of'.
Saturday, 27 September 2014
This odd allocation for the Koko gig seems to mirror Cave's preference for 'connecting' with attractive young girls in his audience, a process whereby he selects and then invites one of the lucky nubiles to place their hand upon his bared chest. This whole scenario reminds me of the Hollywood cliche whereby leading men are allowed to age in the context of romantic or sexual interaction, whereas their female consorts are expected to be young and fresh-faced. Well, it reminds me of that scenario, and also of Peter Stringfellow's dress sense, by virtue of the open-necked shirt and glittering jewellery. Cave seems to be struggling a little with his visual image these days.
Besides this live excellence there is Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' outstanding back catalogue. One of the first LPs I ever bought was "From Her To Eternity", and I still know most of the lyrics by heart. Barely a day goes by when I don't listen to a burst from "Murder Ballads" or "Abattoir Blues". The songs 'The Curse Of Millhaven' and 'Nature Boy' make for near perfect driving music.
"20,000 Days On Earth" was only shown for two days and on a small screen at our local 'arthouse' cinema. It therefore played - somewhat predictably - to a packed house. After enduring thirty minutes of loud and tedious adverts, the film finally began, starting approximately ten months after I had, via Facebook, first expressed an interest in seeing it. The circumlocutory route it seemed to have taken before hitting UK screens had contributed quite considerably towards heightening my expectations. Anyway, all griping aside, it started promisingly enough, with a spinning digital clock counting upwards from 0 to 20,000 as the viewer was treated to a barrage of collage, images culled from Cave's life, starting from birth, racing ever onwards through youth towards middle age. But then it cut away to Cave waking in his bed, next to his silent and otherwise absent wife Susie Bick, and as it did so, a sombre and rather depressing gloom descended upon the film, setting the tone for almost everything that followed.
I'm not going to dissect the minutae of the film scene by scene because people can watch it for themselves and form their own judgements. It would also take too much time and I would rather spend it more creatively elsewhere. However, I thought the film failed for several reasons, as follows.
The absence of many key figures was striking. Cave's wife and children were featured but did not contribute anything of their own. His mother was often referenced but was never seen. Mick Harvey was notably absent. Apart from Warren Ellis, the other band members were not invited to contribute anything. No fans were interviewed. The camera never once turned to film the production, and thus reference those behind the lens. In terms of the music world, there was a notable absence of third party heavyweights, fellow performers or music journalists, who could either contribute valuable insights into Cave's work, or else entertain with amusing anecdotes. We weren't even properly introduced to the all-but anonymous archivists who apparently maintain Nick Cave archive.
The aim of the film wasn't entirely clear. I didn't know whether it was meant to be a promotional feature to support the "Push The Sky Away" album or a biographical reflection upon Nick Cave's life. The frequent references to Brighton suggested the former but the vaguely philosophical musings about life, the universe and everything hinted at the latter.
The gloomy narrational introspection was punctuated by a series of odd segments in which Cave was either interviewed by a psychiatrist, or else drove around in a black Jaguar talking with Ray Winstone, Blixa Bargeld and Kylie Minogue. All of these interviews seemed staged and clipped. None of them flowed, none were revealing. The only exchanges which came close to flowing with anything approaching fluidity were those involving Warren Ellis. Ellis comes across as an amusing and pleasant raconteur.
The live footage shot at the Koko gig was disappointing. The snippet from 'Stagger Lee' completely failed to communicate the dark and edgy bass-line brilliance of the song. There were no excerpts from old videos. The penultimate scene shot at the Sydney Opera House, in which the song 'Jubilee Street' built up to a slow and powerful crescendo, was so drawn out and drip-fed that I felt like standing up to shout "Bloody well hurry up and transform then!"
Two things struck me about the production of this film, both linked to statements that Nick Cave made himself. Early on in the film he revealed that the key to (his) writing was 'counterpoint'. He said that the juxtaposition between two disparate things could create something original and exciting. (He didn't use those exact words but it's close enough.) He illustrated this by talking about a scenario in which he would put two things (a child and a bear, I think) into a room just to see what happened, and if that didn't produce something of interest, he would introduce a clown. If that didn't stimulate something then no problem, you could just shoot the clown. It was a funny and clever example, vaguely echoing Brian Eno's 'Oblique Strategies' method of creativity. However, it was clearly not a process favoured when making "20,000 Days On Earth". The film has no counterpoints. It has but one perspective and one agenda, that of the man calling the shots.
The second thing that struck me was this. When talking with Blixa Bargeld, Cave asked his former collaborator whether he thought that some of their earlier work had gone on for too long, and whether it might have benefited from firmer editing. Bargeld agreed, saying that a judicious edit could completely alter a piece of music. Cave added that now he was solely responsible for such matters, he had adopted 'brutal' or 'ruthless' editing techniques (I forget which of the two words he used). I think this is significant. It helps explains why "20,000 Days On Earth" is such a bleak and single-minded production. It hasn't been so much edited as exsanguinated.
The legendary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker created some memorable films about musicians such as Bob Dylan, Little Richard and David Bowie. What I like about his production style is the free-flowing shooting style which dispenses with authorial narration in favour of fly-on-the-wall observation. In contrast, "20,000 Days On Earth" strikes me as a cheerless alternative in which rather than give free reign to third parties, Cave's editorial presence haunts the film, like the Phantom Of The Opera standing in the wings. Clearly he feels uncomfortable in front of a camera and cannot act to save his life (the notable exception being when he is performing, at which times he seems to come alive). Indeed, Bela Lugosi as a sleeping vampire is perhaps more animated, and arguably more endearing. Furthermore, Cave's bleak midlife-crisis of a monologue hangs over the film like a mist of lead. As the end sequence played out, depicting Cave standing alone on a dark Brighton beach, transforming into what I have yet to discover, I felt like loading my pockets with stones and jumping into the sea, such was the sense of doom and melancholy imparted.
"20,000 Days On Earth" is a bleak, introspective and pretty unilluminating film. It avoids the key issue I thought would be uppermost in Cave's mind, which is that of loss. Indeed, I think it probably is uppermost in his mind, but unfortunately his inability to address the issue head on is disappointing. Instead he flits about the subject touching upon peripheral issues. Cave begins the film by calling himself a cannibal but he stubbornly refuses to take a bite from his own body, and instead feeds upon those around him. Yet like any sensitive person faced with old age, and surely one who has lived in the public spotlight for so long, Cave is probably acutely pained by the loss of his own youth - and by the loss of his looks, the loss of friends, to say nothing of a dwindling excitement in all that life has to offer - but instead of using this platform as a starting point, he talks about the singular fear of losing his memory, a fear that is illustrated by his frequent trips to the 'Nick Cave Archive', and in references to childhood escapades and conversations with his father. This is too selective and too prescriptive. It shines an obfusc light on just one part of the issue.
This is why he needed to cede control over production to an objective third party. It would have drawn this out and centralised it as the theme. This lack of focus is, when taken in the context of his singular reference to a fear of memory loss, rather troubling, as are the constant allusions to his 'transformation' into something unstated and ambiguous. All in all, I thought the purpose and aim of the film to be confusing and befuddling. I am surprised that few critics have picked up on this.
I remain a Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds fan. However, as Cave has pointed out himself, it never pays to meet your heroes, for they always fail to meet expectations.
Wednesday, 27 August 2014
I tried [unsuccessfully] to persuade those who manage Aickman's copyright to release the readings on CD but to no avail. The reasons for this seemed to be as murky as anything the author might have wished and appear to have involved misappropriation [not, I hasten to add, by the literary agent].
Around the same time I also learned that after the author's death, several unpublished drafts of new stories had mysteriously vanished from his office, and were [allegedly] subsequently passed off as the work of another author who was known to Aickman, without the knowledge of the literary agent.
The matter of the 'missing ninth collection' remains shrouded in mystery, as does that of the audio recordings that no one is allowed to hear.
Tuesday, 15 July 2014
The sudden appearance of a new, unexpected album in March 2013 made some kind of obvious marketing sense given that it coincided neatly with the high-profile retrospective, "David Bowie Is", which was held by the Victoria & Albert Museum between March and August of that very same year. Bowie is nothing if not adept, and few artists could resist profiting from such staggeringly good publicity. Besides, as revenue from album sales dries up in the post-apocalyptic reality that is internet piracy, then an artist must eke out a living from somewhere, especially when said artist is unable [or unwilling] to tour.
Just take a glance at poor old Kate Bush. Rarely has there been an artist less inclined to emerge from the safe shadows back into the judgemental public spotlight than the reclusive Catherine Bush [estimated 'worth' £30m, according to that vile rag, the Daily Mail]. For 35 years stage-shy Kate avoided touring but then suddenly in March 2014 she surprised millions of middle-aged, cardigan-wearing dullards with the announcement that she would be touring in 2014.
But Kate isn't touring for the money, though. No, as the Daily Male faithlessly points out, Kate is 'worth' an estimated £30m. Indeed, an unnamed 'friend' is quoted as saying:
"It's not about the money, because she could have done bigger venues, and in any case she is wealthy."
So, that solves that mystery then.
[Turns to camera and winks.]
Incidentally, Kate Bush's announcement led to another nauseating stampede for tickets by her most pathetic fans, reminiscent of the one involving Led Zeppelin a couple of years ago. Gah. If just one type of music fan deserves to be skewered and roasted slowly over the open burning pit of Hell for all eternity [and I fear that there are, alas, many such music types], then it is surely the music fan who scampers about pleading his or her case as to why they should receive priority treatment for ticket allocations, and ooh, isn't it a cruel and awful world when a badge-wearing superfan can't qualify for a gold Willy Wonka ticket, blub blub blub.
Hmm...where was I? Oh yes, Bowie. I claimed that the surprise release of an unexpected album in 2013 was odd, despite the fact that the V&A was holding a retrospective exhibition of his life and work, and that it consequently made good commercial sense.
I am perhaps more than passingly familiar with Bowie's work. As a teenager I gorged on his back catalogue, ranging as far afield as The Mannish Boys and The Lower Third. Bowie became the mystic portal who guided me towards The Velvet Underground and Nic Roeg. My bedroom wall became adorned with lyrics from 'Cygnet Committee', cut and pasted punk style from newspapers. To this day, I still attempt to run through the entire lyrical content of "Ziggy Stardust" in the shower.
[Except for 'It Ain't Easy', which isn't a proper Bowie song anyway.]
Given this amateur knowledge, I personally found it odd that "The Next Day" was released in such a perfunctory manner. It was certainly odd that no advance news had leaked out, and that there was to be no accompanying tour, given that touring is the obvious income generator for musicians. I actually think there was no album. I think that Bowie has been slowly producing the odd piece of work here and there over the last decade, and that he simply slapped it together as the V&A retrospective came along, and passed it off as a new album.
Bowie has a track record of continuously producing work and just putting it on a passing album rather than appropriating it more correctly. This certainly happened early in his career. 'Life On Mars' should have been held over for "The Rise & fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars" rather than slapped on to "Hunky Dory". From every perspective it would have made artistic sense. Indeed, had 'Life On Mars' been on "Ziggy" - along with 'All The Young Dudes' - and had 'It Ain't Easy' been bumped - then it would quite easily qualify as one of the greatest albums ever made.
Anyway, I don't believe that "The Next Day" was an album in the sense that his previous albums were albums. I think that Bowie simply drew together the various odd bits that he had been working on over he last decade and stuck them into the same songbook. This is what I find odd about the album.
Odder still was cover, which simply repeated the original artwork from "Heroes", over which had been pasted a plain white square, along with the album title in plain black print.
[This is my own idea. Stay with me.]
Now, in the history of popular music, let alone that of just David Bowie, there are few images as iconographic as the cover for "Heroes". The record company tagline for this ground-breaking album was:
My theory is therefore this: David Bowie deliberately chose an album cover which reflected the delf tenné abatement because he knew that, although billed as a bona fide new piece of work, "The Next Day" was not by his standards a proper conventional album. He then selected the image from "Heroes" to be his heraldic device and then blanked it out in recognition of the fact that he had, in releasing a faux album, revoked his own challenge - perhaps while cocking a wry snook at the British Establishment that had tried to buy his fealty with titles.
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Rarely, I venture out to sit in National Trust gardens, studiously avoiding eye contact with my fellow man. Here is a picture of me doing precisely that at Whitewick Manor last month.
Arguably the most impressive performance at the Glastonbury Festival 2014, you have just three weeks to watch the complete Interpol set. In my humble opinion, it was an extremely professional and modest performance.
And the setting sun is sublime.
Monday, 9 June 2014
Monday, 19 May 2014
[I fictionalised the story 'The Tableaux' sometime back, and further attempted to visualise the imagined horror via a home-made video, now - thankfully - lost in the annals of forgettable self-promotion.]
"Now we rise and we are everywhere."
Indeed, Joe Boyd wrote to me that he was uncomfortable with my take, questioning the need to romanticise Drake's memory. Furthermore, I am currently midway through expanding said story into a long novel, and had the not unreasonable anxiety that the not-so departed spirit of Nick Drake might cast a dark spell over my endeavours, to ensure that not only would my project fail, but that I might trip upon the steep slope leading down from the end of the graveyard, or be trampled underhoof by a herd of possessed bulls in the gently sloping fields behind Far Leys. However, despite these concerns, I enjoyed the strange pilgrimage, and came away feeling content and rewarded.
Thursday, 24 April 2014
I keep meaning to write about blood. But I'm not sure what I want to say. Or how.
Blood. Or 'blôd', to give the word its original English pronunciation. 'Blood, blood, everywhere, nor any drop to drink', to paraphrase Coleridge. Except that I do know what blood tastes like; I know all too well.
Picture the scene. Early evening in May, young children safely tucked up in bed, sitting watching Mastermind or similar while digesting the evening meal. A curious urge to vomit. Could it be the revenge of the spicy curry? A sudden dash to the downstairs bathroom [actually, just a plain loo, but I have always felt uncomfortable with the unsophisticated terms 'loo' and the bluntly utilitarian 'toilet']. Standing by an open sink, glancing into the mirror at a pale face, wondering whether fingers would be needed to trigger an increasingly essential propulsion of food, when events swiftly overtake me, and a powerful spasm heralds a forceful gush of dark, scarlet fluid into the basin; and not just a short burst of liquid as one normally experiences during a typical throwing-up, but an unrelenting torrent of the red stuff, like rainwater pouring from a gargoyle on a church roof during a raging storm. Soon the sink was full because huge clots of dark red jellylike matter now blocked the plughole. As I sank to my knees, I was handed a washing-up bowl, and quickly filled that too. As my family began to dash about I closed down internally, deliberately blocking-out the external world so that I could cope with the weirdest of sensations, fearful of the adrenalin surges that would soon make me bleed completely out. I slowed my breathing down to the maximum degree of controlled, laboured sloth, and lay back with the bowl on my lap, while the creamy crimson blood sloshed around with the glossy grace of liquid mercury. My clothes were soaked in blood; the floor was thick with blood; my mouth was full of blood.
What does blood taste like? It tastes of death.
For those who witnessed this event, I should imagine that it resembled the scene from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, where blood begins to cascade from the doors of the elevator, engulfing the floor in a tidal wave of thick, surging, haemoglinting foam. I was later given a 'Get Well' card from a friend's daughter who had seen me lying there in that pool of blood, and it simply said "When I last saw you, you were dead, but now you are alive".
"You should call people in to say goodbye," I later overheard someone tell my former wife, as I lay shivering on a hospital trolley, the wheels clanging up and down on the floor as powerful, uncontrollable tremors swept through my bloodless body. It must be bloodless, I reasoned; the evidence was all around.
Passing out as I was rushed into theatre, licking my thirsty lips but tasting only blood, the last thing I remember was the surreal sensation that I was floating on my back, feet first, through a dark, silent void, towards a blinding, shimmering light.
Waking later the next day, blood pressure 80/30, too weak to raise my head, dirty bloodstained clothes, utterly fatigued. A succession of blood plasma infusions and vitamin K injections. Nurses whispering like in the dream sequence from Rosemary's Baby.
"You've lost a lot of blood. Your stomach lining burst. We've put in seven gastric bands to stem the bleeding."
Glancing up at the drips, vaguely alarmed to see blood plasma with an expiry date of that day. Memories of reaching through to the back of supermarket shelves for the freshest possible stock: was blood expiring today good enough?
Amusement at seeing a plasma bag labelled "Tested for sickle cell anaemia" because of my late father. Had he received such an infusion, he might have employed Alf Garnett-style concerns, apropos of one growing-up in the East End of London after the war. Black man's blood felt good though. It might help restore my mojo quicker.
I have never exchanged bodily fluids with a man but almost certainly I have received blood from several of them. Women too, of course. Technically, I have been intimate with a great many people. My body has welcomed and received their freely-given offering. I can walk down the street and pass complete strangers whose red blood cells and platelets still course through my veins.
My blood is a mongrel hybrid of other peoples' blood. I am no longer pedigree, and hopefully healthier because of it. I have Everyperson's Blood.
I'm not sure how much blood I lost that day but I have a pretty good idea because I saw most of it and tasted the greater part. It is a sight and taste that I will never forget, and the reason why I disfavour rare steak. The internet throws up lots of figures and statistics - the so-called 'Tennis score' guideline being a particular apposite one, which suggests that 40% blood loss effectively means 'game over' - but I am pretty sure that I lost at least five pints of blood. In fact, I am pretty sure that I should be dead. I didn't quite see God but I certainly glimpsed the mystic portal.
Pneumonia, MRSA, blood poisoning, norovirus and a liver transplant were a breeze in comparison. Psychologically-speaking, of course. In terms of sheer physical pain, few things can beat getting on the wrong side of a sadistic male nurse at Addenbrookes, who ensured that I went eight hours without pain relief just a few days after abdominal surgery. It was like reliving live surgery for several hours, and was agonising, utterly, pitilessly, agonising. But on the positive side, I now have a better insight into Post Traumatic Stress.
People write quite a lot about blood. They sing about it too. Vampires, junkies, lovers, serial killers, everyone seems to have a different take. Blood as a metaphor, blood as a stimulant. Blood infected with disease, blood transmitting disease. Blue blood, scarlet blood, blood spurting like a fountain. The blood of Christ. Blood lines. True blood, royal blood, haemophilia. Pernicious anaemia; that's a good one. It has the right timbre.
I nearly saw blood spurting from my wrist once but that's a longer story, and one that I am a little ashamed to speak of.
They say you are safest to only write from experience. If that is the case, then my advice to writers seeking to describe blood loss is to stick to voyeurism, because without an acutely well-developed sense of empathy, you will never be able to truly understand what it actually feels like to bleed out. Speaking for myself, I prefer to be victim rather than perpetrator for reasons of conscience, but on balance, I would rather not have had the insight.
Bloody ungrateful as that may sound.
Friday, 11 April 2014
"Many were the summer rambles taken by the young poet in the woods surrounding Inverary Castle..[and it was during these]...that the encounter with a poor maniac occurred, which gave rise to the well-known balled of 'Crazy Jane'. The alarm naturally excited in the breast of the lady, at a meeting so startling - possibly exaggerated by the imagination of Lewis - threw an air of romance over the adventure, which, suffused into the poem, gained for it a degree of popularity scarce yet abated."
Baron-Wilson reproduced the poem, which she copied from Lewis's own handwritten manuscript.
Why are marks of dread imprest?
Can a wretched, helpless creature
Raise such terrors in your breast?
Do my frantic looks alarm you?
Trust me, sweet, your fears are vain:
Not for Kingdoms would I harm you-
Shun not then Crazy Jane.
Does thou weep to see my anguish?
Mark me, and escape my woe:
When men sigh, flatter and languish,
Think them false - I found them so!
For I loved - O! - so sincerely,
None will ever love again;
Yet the man I loved most dearly
Broke the heart of Crazy Jane.
Gladly that young heart received him,
Which has never loved but one;
He seemed true, and I believed him-
He was false, and I undone!
Since that hour has reason never
Held her empire o'er my brain.
Henry fled! - With him forever,
Fled the wits of Crazy Jane.
Now forlorn and broken-hearted,
And with frenzy'd looks beset,
On that spot where last we parted,
On the spot where we first met;
Still I sing my love-lorn ditty,
Still I slowly pace the plain!
While each passer-by in pity,
Cries 'God help thee - Crazy Jane!'
Baron-Wilson discusses the popularity of the piece:
"Jane is seduced by Henry Percival, who deserts her and sails away to the West Indies. She has an abortion, goes mad, is called 'Crazy Jane' by the villagers, and dies in the grove in which they used to meet. Her lover dreams of her on the night she dies, returns home 'pale and emaciated, a living skeleton', is declared a maniac, commits suicide and is buried beside her under the same yew."
'The Crazy Jane Series' is an odd, occasionally jarring set of poems. For example:
'A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.'
Yeats' prose takes a cue from the myth of Crazy Jane, as evidenced by this piece:
IV. CRAZY JANE AND JACK THE JOURNEYMAN
I know, although when looks meet
I tremble to the bone,
The more I leave the door unlatched
The sooner love is gone,
For love is but a skein unwound
Between the dark and dawn.
A lonely ghost the ghost is
That to God shall come;
I -- love's skein upon the ground,
My body in the tomb --
Shall leap into the light lost
In my mother's womb.
But were I left to lie alone
In an empty bed,
The skein so bound us ghost to ghost
When he turned his head
Passing on the road that night,
Mine must walk when dead.
And so finally we wend our way to Nick Drake. Or rather, I do.
Of something that’s past?
Do you find things are moving
Just a little too fast?
Do you hope to find new ways
Of quenching your thirst?
Do you hope to find new ways of doing
Better than your worst?
The legend of Crazy Jane could be the 'remnant' of Jane Arnold's past.
But I do hope not, for hopefully obvious reasons.
COPYRIGHT CRB 2014
Thursday, 6 March 2014
Most of the titles depicted fall into the category of weird / supernatural / horror fiction from the 1850-1940 period. Authors include M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Marjorie Bowen, Barry Pain, Bram Stoker, J. S. Le Fanu and Walter de la Mare.
I have been collecting books seriously for about twenty years. My interest in seeking out original copies was first sparked by the owners of the Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley [John & Julia Townsend if memory serves me correctly]. I would often haunt the bookshop during the school holidays when I was growing up, spending most of my paper-round money on paperback copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Saki.
Ah, those halycon days, where are they now? To be young and able to read all day by the school lake was very heaven.
When I returned in my early twenties, the Townsends steered me towards a fine presentation copy of M.R. James' "The Five Jars" [Edward Arnold, 1922], reassuring me that the £28.00 outlay would hold its value compared to a cheaper, later edition. It certainly was, because the book turned out to be the copy that James gave to his literary peer, E.F. Benson.
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
I shouldn't eat bacon, fried eggs, clotted cream or ready salted crisps
I shouldn't smoke fags, drink beer, or kiss sugar-coated cherry lips
I shouldn't use plastic bags from Tescos, cos they clog up the drains
I shouldn't be buried in a coffin, I should let birds peck at my remains
I should exercise, moderately, four times a week
I should drink tap water, with flouride, and swill it round my cheek
I should trust the banks, shop ethically, and work before I rest
I should give adequate notice of my intention to protest
I am unhappy, statistic, ballistic with shame
Isolated in spreadsheets, anonymous, without name
I am statisticus, ridiculous, politicus, sublime
A victim of dehumanised, number-crunching times
© CRB 2014
[With apologies to Ian Dury and John Cooper Clarke]
Tuesday, 25 February 2014
nihilism [noun]: the rejection of everything
decadence [noun]: new sensation arising from decay
[source: my head]
had to sell his shoes and travel third class to Berlin to
record "The Idiot" and "Lust For Life" with Iggy Pop.
"Every pleasure which emancipates itself from the exchange-value [of a capitalist society] takes on subversive features."
Theodore Adorno [1903-1969]
A questing intellect requires both diurnal and nocturnal stimulation, all the more an artistic one. Here are three key albums which to me at least exhibit a dark cocktail of psychological emotion.
1. IGGY POP: The Idiot 
The legendary four albums recorded in Germany in the mid 1970s by David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Brian Eno began with the issue of this landmark work. Described by Bowie as "a guinea-pig for what I wanted to do with sound", The Idiot features material which was both productively innovative and hugely influential. The impact of punk has often been exaggerated; in contrast, the influence of The Idiot is evident in the work of many important bands and musicians, including Joy Division, Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Human League, Sisters Of Mercy, Death In Vegas et al.
The Idiot stands out from the other three Berlin albums [Low, Heroes and Lust For Life] because of its dark, hypnotic, cerebrally-corrupting nature. It is dirty, highly-crafted subversion, evoking a sulphurous, poisonous atmosphere, not dissimilar to the nightmarish horrors of Poe's 'The Masque Of The Red Death', or the decadent eroticism of Baudelaire's 'Les Fleurs du mal'.
To quote Nick Kent from the NME:
"[The Idiot] is totally riveted and fettered to a thoroughly unhealthy aroma of evil and twilight zone zombie-time unease....[the album is] damn unhealthy, perverse, harrowing and...strangely addictive."
1. "Sister Midnight"
5. "China Girl"
6. "Dum Dum Boys"
7. "Tiny Girls"
8. "Mass Production"
'I stumble into town
Just like a sacred cow
Visions of swastikas in my head
And plans for everyone
It's in the white of my eyes
My little China Girl
You shouldn't mess with me
I'll ruin everything you are
I'll give you television
I'll give you eyes of blue
I'll give you men who want to rule the world
And when I get excited
My little China Girl says,
"Oh Jimmy, just you shut your mouth."
She says, "Shhhh..."'
2. "Tainted Love"
3. "Seedy Films"
5. "Sex Dwarf"
6. "Entertain Me"
7. "Chips on My Shoulder"
9. "Secret Life"
10. "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye"
It is a constant source of amazement to me that this album is not more highly revered. It was recorded very cheaply and very quickly; it features some striking and memorable songs; and the sheer vocal ability of Marc Almond is at times astonishing. Perhaps Soft Cell pitched its subversive context too mischievously, as exemplified by the bizarre and disturbing tracks 'Sex Dwarf' and 'Seedy Films', both of which feature dangerous, arguably irresponsible lyrics, poisonous ideas which nevertheless flow through the mind with an evil, seductive charm.
The cynical and knowing references to the seamy underbelly of urban life in Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret was undoubtedly too unpalatable for the mainstream public in the Thatcherite 80s, no matter how popular 'Tainted Love' was to become. Indeed, I suspect that many purchasers of the album bought it on the strength of that phenomenally-successful hit single, but were appalled at what they found. Yet in songs such as 'Youth' and 'Say Hello Wave Goodbye' [and later, 'Torch'], Almond proved that he was supremely talented in both composition and delivery.
"Why do you hate me so much? What did I ever do except leave you?"
[Lyrics from 'Secret Life']
'Frustration' is an angst-ridden rant upon middle-aged repression. 'Bedsitter' is a grim 'kitchen-sink' glimpse into the shallow and empty life of the disenfranchised working-class youth seeking escapism via heavy partying.
'I was born
One day I'll die
There was something in between
I....I don't know what or why
I'm a man
I want to break a rule
I am a no, no, no, no, no, no, nobody
I am so ordinary
I'm so tired of endless hard luck stories
I'm beginning to not give a damn
I wish I could reach right out for the untouchable
Film starring Bruce, John Wayne, Elvis Presley
Experiment with cocaine, LSD and set a bad, bad example
Live a little, run a harem, be a tiger
Meet Bo Derek and be her Tarzan
Reach, REACH out, out, out, out!
Live, live, live!'
[Lyrics for 'Frustration'.]
Later versions of the album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret include the club classic 'Memorabilia'. For me, the Cindy Ecstasy mix is one of the highlights of early electronic music, surely on a par with Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' and Kraftwerk's 'The Model'.
And I don't care if you disagree with me, because you are wrong, wrong, wrong; so very wrong, wrong, wrong.
3. THE CURE: Porngraphy 
Friday, 21 February 2014
WHILE YOU SLEEP
I hold a knife to your throat
My eyes glint like black fireflies
My broken teeth gleam red
For the pestilent rise and fall of your chest
Symbolises little except poisonous unfulfilment.
WHILE YOU SLEEP
I dream of ways to stop you waking
Imaginary guides whisper advice
Offering implements and opinions
Reality distorted so really untrue
I will wake satiated, but then, then I see you.
WHILE YOU SLEEP
I yearn cruelly for your death
And live in hope that one summer's day
You never shall wake, and instead will
Choke, choke, choke, choke, choke
On your sickening guile.
Artwork: Harry Clarke [Out of copyright]
I am trapped inside my construct
No key out and words, clumsy words fail
Immobile and silent, colourless, worse:
Empty, devoid, disappearing, cursed.
Scattering words, scattering brain
An abundance of choice
Yet [long pause]
Words all the same.