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Friday, September 20, 2013

What the Hell was Kate Bush singing about??

Kate Bush
She's so quirky.
I love Kate Bush. She nearly got me suspended from school once for bunking off to queue up for tickets to see her tour back in the 1970s. I also met some acquaintances of hers on a school field trip once. They said she was a pain in the arse. I think they were maybe just a teeny bit jealous. Anyway, When 'Wuthering Heights' was a new thing, it was quite unlike anything we had heard before. I knew it was loosely based on the novel of the same name.


But what the hell was she singing about? Well, now it can be revealed. Listen to this video and read these lyrics at the same time. If you can. Or listen and read. You know what I mean. Who Theo Kaffio-Concolman is may never be known.

Wuthering Heights

Out on the whiny, windy moor
Sweet Roland fall in brie.
You had distemper, like my jealous seed
Too hot, too greasy.
How could you leave me when I need a tube?
Possess you, I ate a chew
I loved U2.
Bat dreams in the night -
You told me I was going too loose, too polite
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering, wuthering heights.

Here Cliff, it's Theo Kaffio-Concolman
So go-o-o-o, let me in, oh your wind! Oh oh oh oh!
Here Cliff, it's Theo Kaffio-Concolman
So go-o-o-o, let me in, oh your wind! Oh oh oh oh!

Ooh, a guest's dark, a guest's lonely
On the other slide from you
I pine a lot, I find a lot.
Paul's through without you.
Wanna bag now? Cool - he's Cliff
My wandering, myopic master.
Too longer room in the night
Come in't back to his slide
To pull it right.
Coming home to wuthering, wuthering, wuthering heights.

Here Cliff, it's Theo Kaffio-Concolman
So go-o-o-o, let me in, oh your wind! Oh oh oh oh!
Here Cliff, it's Theo Kaffio-Concolman
So go-o-o-o, let me in, oh your wind! Oh oh oh oh!

Ooh, Lemmy habit, let me grab your soap well
Ooh, Lemmy habit, let me grab your soap well
You'll always be crappy ...

Here Cliff, it's Theo Kaffio-Concolman
So go-o-o-o, let me in, oh your wind! Oh oh oh oh!
Here Cliff, it's Theo Kaffio-Concolman
So go-o-o-o, let me in, oh your wind! Oh oh oh oh!

Here Cliff, it's Theo Kaffio-Concolman
So go-o-o-o!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Brief encounters

Darren 'Wiz' Brown
You meet people from time to time who have an effect on your life beyond what you might expect. One of these, for me, was Wiz from Mega City 4 whom I was lucky enough to help interview for a student magazine in 1993. We spent probably twenty minutes with him in a corridor in a venue and he was lovely - open and down to earth. It was his music later that night that I really connected to. I love it still. When I read that Wiz had been taken ill and died in 2006, I felt I had lost something. Our relationship amounted to those twenty minutes, maybe a forty-five minute music set and my subsequent enjoyment of his music. I still feel sad that he's gone.

When I had a go at writing a novel, it inevitably drew on my lived experience. It was about an enduring love and I suppose I put a bit more of myself into it than is wise. The object of this enduring love was not based on a particular individual but was an confection of all my teenage crushes seasoned with a fair bit of imagination about how my fictional character might have dealt with such a situation. Fiction indeed, but what was true was the residue of emotion that those crushes left in the real me. These were people that had flitted through my life on the lightest of feet. But they had left heavy footprints.

So last Friday found me in the middle of a collapsing world, staring at a stark screen where, one week before, red and blue pixels had rippled with a tiny heartbeat. No heartbeat now, just the stark, silent fluorescing of the tiny bones destined never to grow and the gathering storm of grief flying around our heads.

Is there a silver lining? Of course there is. Things are a bit more vivid, I appreciate the good things that I have got. I am grateful in a way for the clarity, perspective and the feeling of renewal this grief has given me.

And I'm still sad. In that scrapbook in my heart where Wiz and the others who passed through have left a message there are a couple of pages dedicated to what might have been.

Life goes on.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thomas Pynchon - his part in my tattoo

I haven't read any American literature since my O levels, back in the late 1970s. This was pretty much a choice. I didn't have the cultural toolkit to understand it. I felt, incorrectly, that film was somehow the cultural barometer. European films were cool and cerebral, British films were gritty and clever. Hollywood was crass and simplistic.

I was, of course, wrong. But I never had the chance to find out.

When Punk Rock found me, I was a blank page. More properly, I was a seething mass of adolescent tension desperate for something to latch on to. I never did the lifestyle. I was too middle class and timid for that. Saturday punk styling, cheap biker jacket from Camden Market ... But my head was awash with  the new thing. If you're thinking filth, fury and teenage rebellion, you're wrong. It's difficult now to disentangle the wheat from the chaff, the cartoon from the high art, the Plastique Bertrand from Buzzcocks.

And there we have it. Buzzcocks.

Something cataclysmic happened when the universe threw Buzzcocks and me together. Firstly, there was simply a thrilling energy to the music quite unlike anything I had experienced before. But that was just one facet. There was love and loss, yearning and triumph ... best of all, it was an instant text that I could relate to, a new intellectual buzz that transcended just words and music.

It's almost impossible to talk about punk now that you can buy glitter Ramones T shirts and Green Day albums. It's also a bit crass (see what I did there?) to claim some sort of punk moral high ground. It's also difficult to explain how energising the very idea of punk was. This was the ethos around Buzzcocks. A band - yes, but also a loose collective of hi-energy creativity. Linder Sterling, the young Stephen Morrissey, the great and the good of a particular place and time. If your understanding of punk rock is limited to Sid Vicious and spitting, our new-found friendship is, alas, over.

There's a core of intellect in the Buzzcocks canon. They gave us "Oh shit, I thought you and I were friends." They also gave us "I wandered loaded as a crowd, a nowherewolf of pain". Don't be fooled by the casual swearing and the distressed couture. Underneath all of that was a torrent of ideas. Ideas!

One of those ideas was the Secret Public. The paradox. A fan club, a society revelling in its own paradox. I never joined then. Buzzcocks was a solitary pursuit for me. My time with the Secret Public was to come later. But then, back then in the heady days, the scene was set. The icon of the Secret Public, that enclosed world within a world within a world was the muted post horn.

"In these times of contention it's not my intention to make things plain ..."


So somewhere in this weapons grade intellectual stew, someone had made a connection and repurposed the Trystero symbol from Thomas Pynchon's novella The Crying of Lot 49 to denote a new secret public society based on Buzzcocksworld. And that's how and why it eventually got on my arm.

The allusion is unambiguous. Essays longer than the book itself could be written to explain Pynchon's text. Through the Secret Public, I came to the symbol, and thence to the book. I like the parallels. I like the paradoxes. Can I explain the book? I cannot. It's a crazy trip. But not understanding is not a drawback. Some critics and even Pynchon himself hint that there is nothing to understand beyond the immediacy of the language itself and the loops and tricks it performs on your head.

I read the book. Twice. If you like language and if you can connect with the times from which it sprang and the labyrinth of references, you'll get more out of it than I did. But reading it made me feel different. The way punk rock did. I'll maybe read it again. Maybe.


Monday, July 2, 2012

#notmurdered - the beautiful and The Damned


Breakfast of champions
So Saturday morning does not bring the hangover I was dreading. The drinking was steady, I only had a couple of what I have heard recently described as 'cooking lagers' during the Buzzcocks show and after so the head's pretty good.

There is no possible way I could have consumed everything in @JelloPuss and @CardinalPhink's gift basket so I cram as many of the packets of goodies into my rucksack as I can. You never know when you'll need to get your face around some hairy pork fat, right?

Breakfast includes a bloody mary. It's a fine start to another exciting day. The sun is splitting the stones, another rock n roll adventure awaits. We even get to watch a bit of the qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. I'm a happy boy.

The run to Liverpool airport is trouble-free. Almost. Note to airport car park operators: your car parks are confusing. Get it sorted.

Liverpool to Belfast, well you're no sooner up than you're down again. While my companions are getting their baggage, I go to pay for my parking. This is where disaster strikes. When I try to get some money, computer says 'no'. The car park ticket machine wants thirty-odd quid, I have to get petrol to get us out to our hosts on the other side of Belfast and back up to the North Coast the following day. And there's the small matter of socialising. My cards only get me enough to pay for the parking with a bit left over. Something's gone wrong again. Ah well. I genuinely don't know what to do or what has gone wrong.

We're on a tight schedule. We have to get to East Belfast to our hosts and then back into town to see The Damned at QUB. All the excitement that had been building all day has been sucked out of me. Time slips away. There's a burned-out bus on the M2 and the traffic is backed up. We also go awry in a certain estate. It's navigation device finger error, postcode digits transposed. Schoolboy error. We eventually arrive at @DeadbeatMum and @dirt_bird's sumptuous dwelling (helpfully picked out with  black goth flag accessory). A calming drink with a pomegranate seed in it helps get me on an even keel.

All my excitement for The Damned gig has been sucked out of me. While the gang (@CardinalPhink, @JelloPuss, @DeadbeatMum, @dirt_bird and @IsGrandmaThere [resplendent with a dashing purple streak]) are in Boojum having a delicious burrito, I'm pacing Botanic Avenue trying cash machines. Same deal, not a local error. I'm definitely out of funds. This was not in the script. Resolution? Generous friends. I'm humbled.

Just for you, here's a love song ...
So, on to QUB. There is a lot of black going on. And who's this? Maxine and Steve from Buzzcocksworld*, whom we also saw the night before in Manchester. Us aside, it's an odd crowd, actually quite unlike Buzzcocks the night before. It's nothing to do with provinciality either, The Damned have a quite unique following. Not so many middle-aged punk-curious here, it's a lot more alternative, grimly Gothy. Yes, there are the 77ers. Maybe they're here for The Defects who, from what I can hear, are living the punk rock dream still. Everything in their world that has happened since 1978 has happened to other people.

I've never seen The Damned. I have no reference points. Even so, I can say with conviction that this is one of the top five shows I have ever witnessed. It's the last night of the tour, maybe there's some additional playfulness in the delivery. The sound mix is clear and perfect, the band look upbeat. We get it all - theatre, banter, fun, hits ... everything a performance should offer. Dave Vanian is in fine voice and, despite his dark and serious persona, you get the feeling that he's having a ball. Captain Sensible cannot fail to make you feel happy. He's a paradox, a pantomime creation with divine guitar skills that kill stone dead the idea that punks can't play. That's a nonsense. And what songs! It's just a sensory battering of the most glorious kind. And for me, another piece slotted into my personal punk jigsaw. I'd have been happy if they had performed the whole set again. And again.

And then it's over. We're corralled into the bar for a Goth Disco. It begins promisingly with 'A Forest' but soon industrial music takes over. I already know how Goths dance, I've seen it in Germany. Seems it's the same here. Feet still, a lot of gloomy arm waving ...

We roll home to East Belfast. I'm feeling battle fatigue, I'm looking forward to my own bed on up the road. But that's tomorrow night. The craic and company are first class. The next day brings sausages, more sun, a Grand Prix al fresco and a leisurely run up the Antrim Coast behind the world's slowest driver. And then home. I'm shattered.

And that's where we leave this odyssey. To return to the central theme in this thread of blogs - #notmurdered. It might seem foolish to entrust yourself to the mercies of strangers.

"I can't think of many other circumstances in which you would blindly put yourself in the care of people you had never met."
Well, I did. My life has been enriched because of it. You can find good people via social media. New friends that feel like old friends. And for the record, I didn't murder anyone either.

*was nice also to meet (albeit briefly) @marshwigglegoth @5Lighters. Apologies if I have missed anyone else.

Read parts one, two, three and four of this punk rock odyssey.
If you like my writing, please consider giving my novel a go - thanks!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thursday wallows, Friday follows ...

There's nothing worse, I think, than Twitter users shedding all dignity and begging for followers. I call it begging, because that's what it is. You're asking for something without offering anything in return. It's also one of my 'unfollow' criteria. The implication is that the volume of followers you have somehow validates your own worth. That's a nonsense. I have vented about this already, so no more here.

"Gather followers by being engaging. Don't be afraid to unfollow bores and people who just jibber-jabber to fill a void."

With this in mind, I have gathered a list of people whom I follow and recommend to you. This is not the #ff methodology usually employed I suppose, but Twitter never allows room for context. I would not expect someone to follow anyone just because I said so. In some kind of alphabetical order:
  • @_MuckyWaters_73 fast cars and blues guitar. What more do you need to know?
  • @CardinalPhink and @JelloPuss - punk rock hearts smothered in strong alcohol and cheesecakes. Not murderers.
  • @cath_caldwell - Mum, student ... heartwarming tales of boiler repair men ;-)
  • @DeadbeatMum and @dirt_bird - an hilarious living sitcom but also insightful and thoughtful comment on a variety of issues. Sweary DIY-related tweets. Cats (if you like that sort of thing).
  • @DonColerainey - the Teflon Don of the North Coast. Articulate and very, very angry most of the time. Not a man to cross.
  • @hannahhou - beloved #1 daughter. F1 and BTCC news and views. Her beau is @TheJonnyMoore.
  • @IsGrandmaThere - hilarious and widely-travelled social commentator and raconteur. Impeccable taste in music.
  • @jasebell - stick fiddler, wry observer of the human condition. Has bass desires.
  • @JudithR33 - Secret Publican, masochist swimmer, photographer of vivid scenes and dunnocks. Has a good pie recipe.
  • @kezwilliams13 - multi-talented and knowledgeable muso with many hats. A good egg.
  • @loftspace - government bullshit filter, social conscience and mum.
  • @muldutch - scrabbler. Pretty handy with a taunt and a riding crop.
  • @M_Corbett - writerly, thoughtful and funny. No fan of the grocer's apostrophe.
  • @paul_beattie - first rate photographer but first and foremost, thoroughly bloody nice real-world bloke. Great chef. No TV.
  • @sera_mcdaid - The Agoraphobic Fashionista. Truly original and inspiring.
  • @siralanwhite - the Sage of Wrenthorpe. Purveyor of humorous asides.
  • @VictoriaKLM - strong views, forcefully expressed. Good for a debate.
  • @wonderwaff - funny and touching insights into motherhood and family life. From Finland, like the Moomins.
I may have missed people.

Until next time, social media fans.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

#notmurdered - I'm So Excited

It's a holiday in Mancunia, where the people dress in black - part IV

So you rejoin us outside the Manchester Apollo where punks and the punk-curious from far and wide are gathering to attend Buzzcocks' landmark Back to Front show. Back to Front is Buzzcocks from three eras: the current line-up perform a set of songs drawn from the 1996 - present catalogue; the 'classic' line-up (1977-81) do a set drawn from the first three albums and associated singles; and finally the original 'original' line-up with Howard Devoto will perform the songs from the self-financed and seminal Spiral Scratch EP. This is unparalleled. It has taken a long time to set up. Bassist Steve Garvey has flown over from the US for these two shows (more about him later). I'm excited.

Manchester Apollo is a cavernous ex-cinema. It's filling nicely, there's a goodnatured buzz of anticipation. I spot Buzzcocks' manager Raf at the desk. There is the aftershow business yet to be arranged, I might as well grasp the nettle. Apollo security are not letting anyone near the desk but I have a go anyway and explain that I know Raf and that he knows me. I ask Raf what the plan is for joining the aftershow. He's bemused. He assumes this is all sorted out. He tells me to go to a particular door at the side of the stage after the performance. Hmmm ...

Torpor! Enervation!
The three sets are superb. There are plenty of reviews of this show you can read, and this is not my task here. Let's just say that it's chaotic, the sound is fucking awful and it is thrilling and brilliant. We surge forward to the pit for the second set. We're just in front of Steve Garvey. I love him. It's hell down there though. Pissed-up and very determined man mountains are not to be denied their place at the barrier. Poor @JelloPuss, crushed at the front. @CardinalPhink and I are trying to be gallant AND enjoy the experience but it's pretty hairy down there. A raging sea of drunken, bellowing bonhomie. It's not for the fainthearted.

At the end of the show we gather at the appointed place. This is where things take a turn for the worse. The notoriously intolerant Apollo security are herding us out. That we were told to wait side of stage makes no difference. Our resistance is spirited but useless. We are pushed back to the lobby, where we mill about, pretending to look at merchandise. I make a few calls to the 'inner sanctum'. While we're waiting, I hear my name being called. It's @JelloPuss and she has Steve Garvey in tow.

You have to understand what a profound effect this man has had on my life. My Buzzcocks epiphany was based on borrowing an album and then playing it incessantly for about three months. On the cover of that album were four moody young men in black. One of them was Steve Garvey - mean, moody, so New Wave ... he was (is) also a superlative bassist. I wanted to be Steve Garvey. Ideally, I wanted to be Steve Garvey IN Buzzcocks, but hey ho. Anyway, he was my role model. I learned to play bass because of him and I've had a few adventures of my own because of it. Thanks to him. So when I was introduced, all the things I wanted to say flew out of my tiny head. I was the starstruck teenager waiting outside the back door of Oxford New Theatre thirty-odd years ago. I could have gone home happy then.

Apollo security get their wish and chuck us all out. So we loiter outside, about fifteen diehard Secret Publicans unaccustomed to being outside after a 'Cocks show. My 'phone rings. It's Pete Shelley*. Well, it's Pete Shelley's 'phone. Someone will be down with passes shortly.

The legendary Steve Garvey and a fat bloke.
So, armed with the privileged green wristbands, we get up to the bar where the party is in full swing. There are lots of family members, the Secret Public family, everybody's happy nowadays. And I get my chat with Steve G. I tell him all the stuff I have been carrying all these years and he seems happy to hear it. I'm totally made up now.

There is also business to transact. We're gathering items to auction to support the running costs of secretpublic.com. Pete Shelley has something special for us - bespoke underwear hand-stencilled by Lou who makes his stagewear. If you want to win this stuff by the way, stay tuned and I'll post the link to the auction when it happens. We also have a Back to Front poster signed by all iterations of the band. This is cool, desirable stuff.

The venue win again. they want everyone out of the building. We get to chat to the people we want to chat to - in many ways this is my extended family. We meet at gigs all over the place. Oddly enough two of them - Maxine and Steve - are going to be at a Damned gig in Belfast the following night. About which more next time ;-)

A great night, made better for turning out all right. Good friends, new and old, a few beers ... you know what? I Don't Mind.

In the next instalment, I find myself financially embarrassed, go on a tweet-up and mingle with Goths.

*It's not smart or funny to drop names. Kenneth Branagh told me that.

Read parts one, two and three of this NW punk rock odyssey.

If you like my writing, please consider giving my novel a go - thanks!





Monday, June 18, 2012

Are 'Inverted Commas' Necessary?

The paint's peeling off of his walls ...
I have been posed a challenge.

In 1979, Gary Numan and his Tubeway Army released what was, at the time, a seminal piece of dark synth-pop called 'Are 'Friends' Electric?' My challenge, thirty-odd years later, is simply to discover why the 'Friends' in the title is separated out in inverted commas.

Simple, huh?

Well, no. I'm sure all the cod pop psychologists, lyric autopsiers and Numan fanatics have debated it endlessly. I'm simply not interested in their analysis. I need to hear it from the man himself.

Can it be done? Watch this space ...