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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.