All posts by adrian

My Record Collection 73

The Doors – I actually came to this band quite late.  I first really became aware of them in 1972. The Weeley ‘pop festival – and ‘Riders On The Storm’ was played a lot during changeovers of acts.  I think I had heard it before but loved it and bought the album L.A. Woman of the previous year when I got back to London.  Mind you I got into so many bands after Weeley – Edgar Broughton Band, Barclay James Harvest, Lindisfarne and Genesis to name just a few.  But for whatever reason I didn’t go further back into their 60’s music (or forward for that matter either) until the early Eighties.  I had a girlfriend then who loved the Doors and we would listen to their earlier stuff together.  Eventually I bought most of it too, And though never on my real favourites list, I still do quite like them.  Starting with their debut The Doors (1967).  And immediately you are into that distinctive Doors sound, a lot of bass and driving keyboards.  Of course the band became famous because of lead singer Jim Morrison and his stage antics including being constantly arrested for exposing himself – but it is really the sound of the band that is the key, especially Ray Manzarak on keyboards that created the pioneering sound; in fact they are constantly being sampled by rap artists of today.  So – the album – it is really good, and so different from everything else in that momentous year.  Best songs ‘Soul Kitchen’, ‘The Crystal Ship’ and ‘Light My Fire’.  It is almost spoiled by the excesses of the final track ‘The End’ – but it was 1967, the year of psychedelia.  And there is even a Kurt Weill song in there too…

It was busy days back then for bands…Strange Days came out later that same year.  If anything it is even better and spawned two big hits ‘People Are Strange’ and ‘Love Me Two Times’ – but the whole album is pretty good; the usual excesses on ‘Horse Latitudes’ which I doubt anyone understood (or even the title), but ‘You’re Lost Little Girl’ and ‘Moonlight Drive’ are excellent.  A year later and after month’s of touring the band attempted that difficult third album.  Lead singer Jim Morrison had used up most of his lyrics and the band struggled to write songs in the studio, the resulting record ‘Waiting For The Sun’ was a bit disappointing; however it did get to number 1 in the US album charts.  In my mind the only really decent song is ‘Hello, I Love You’ – The rest leave me flat and a bit bored.  A year later and The Soft Parade came out.  And, in my mind – no real improvement.  To tell the truth I recently bought the box set of 5 Doors albums; I had the Greatest Hits and once owned a couple of vinyl albums. But I was quite disappointed bu these two middle albums.  The title track is the usual excessive nonsense from Morrisson and only one other track really stands out  – ‘Tell All The People’.  The Doors were a strange mix; they had ‘Hit’ singles which were quite poppy, they had excessive ‘Weird scenes in the gold-mine’ long songs and a lot of bluesy stuff.   Anyway – the next record ‘Morrisson Hotel’ seemed much better to my ears.  Quite bluesy really – but the songs sound more focused as does Morrissson himself.  Best songs ‘Waiting for the Sun’, ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Ship Of Fools’.  But they really made a classic in 1971 with the majestic ‘L. A. Woman”.  And it was quite tragic really – just as they had found a remarkable streak of form, Jim Morrison died of an overdose in Paris.  I have visited his grave in Pere Lachaisse.  The band were never the same; they did release 2 more albums but without the strange chemistry of Jim Morrisson it never seemed to work,  anyway the album is simply sublme.  I love nearly every track – ‘Hyacinth House’, ‘L.A. Woman’ and of course ‘Riders On The Storm’ are standouts.  Riders still sends shivers down my neck,  And just to prove there is life after death a couple of years later they released what is almost my favourite Doors album American Prayer.  This is Jim reciting his poetry, some of which is familiar from earlier songs and the Doors in the background.  Simply sublime – there is something about Jim’s voice that is gentle, evocative and raging but that is compelling too – a great loss.  Well the album is exactly what the Doors should have become – intelligent and moody and brilliant.  Anyway, as a coda it is exactly appropriate.

An American Prayer

People Who Boast

Don’t you just hate boastful people.  I am not sure if it is a particularly modern disease, but I seem to come across them more and more often the older I get – and the more intolerant I become of them too.  You know the sort; they cook a meal and immediately declare that no-one else make a paella like them; isn’t that the best paella you ever tasted? They declare.  Being well brought up and not rude enough to declare “Well, actually no, it is okay, but I have tasted many better” you simply say “Yes, it is very good”.  Which of course simply re-enforces their self-worth.  And then there are those who tell you in great detail how they have rebuilt a motorbike form scratch, or done their own plumbing or re-wired their own house – all brilliantly of course.  I do sometimes wonder if they have omitted the inevitable floods and burnt junction boxes that must have ensued.

And these serial boasters never seem to have any conscience or consciousness that we, ordinary incompetents, are both unbelieving and bored, while simply amazed that anyone can have such a high opinion of themselves.  Then we have the name-droppers; not only did they go to school with famous people but worked with them too – and probably taught them all they know too.  There are also the boasters by proxy – who relate the achievements of their children, the gods of the new age, dripping in University degrees with huge salaries and mansions – as if their achievements somehow reflect on their equally brilliant parents.

No…Please no more.  Let us raise a very small flag for diffidence.  Let us praise the discreet ones, who may occasionally quietly reflect on their own very small achievements, rue their personal failings, but would never dream of broadcasting to the world how wonderful they are.  Because, we are the real achievers; we who simply carry on against the odds, who make very small waves, are not full of ourselves but try by small acts of kindness to leave the world a slightly better place.

 

 

 

Anywhere’s A Better Place to Be

March 1969.

My dear Jane,

So sorry I haven’t written for a while – letter writing was never my strength; besides, as sisters we have hardly ever been apart, so there was never any need before.  I still can’t get our parting out of my mind.  That windy railway platform, when you thought I was going back to Uni, to Leeds – but really, I had already decided to leave all that behind, and start a new life for myself here in London.  And I never got the chance to talk to you about it, or maybe I just felt that we had drifted apart a bit; what with me away and only coming back to Suffolk occasionally.  It felt, to me at least anyway, that what we once had – that special closeness – was slipping from our grasp.  Somehow our growing up that last year had also seen us growing apart.

Oh, I do hope not.  Our relationship was always more than just being sisters.  It was far more than that.  As you know our mother had always seemed, well – away with the fairies, I suppose.  She never seemed that interested in us, especially when we were little.  And I sort of filled the gap and became like a mother, if only two years older, to my little girl.  Do you remember how I used to read to you; I could just about read when I was only five, I can’t really remember who taught me – but I always picked things up easily.  And each week we would cut out the outfits for Bunty together, you cackhandedly hacking away with the scissors and me waiting patiently for you to finish.  Ah, how we loved those little outfits, dressing our cardboard backed Bunty with new clothes every week.

Seems a long time ago now Jane.  In fact, it all seems a long time ago; Suffolk, school, growing up – though so many happy memories, where I struggle to recall much of my one year at Leeds.  In some ways the less you know about Leeds the better.  I wish I’d never gone.  You see, I suddenly felt lost there.  Back in school I was kingpin, head girl, popular without really trying, top of the class at nearly everything – it all seemed to come so easily to me.  And then – suddenly I was nobody, surrounded by all these seemingly far cleverer people than me.  And I stupidly got in with a bad crowd and in my naivety thought that smoking dope and taking pills was so cool; what the groovy people were doing; and if I did it too, I would become one of them.  That I would be free of all convention, that I could escape the mundane life I had lived so far. I never realised until too late that it was never escaping, never freedom; it was just as much a trap as I thought I was slipping into in our back-water little town.

Listen, you may not have heard it – but there is a song by a guy called Harry Chapin.  “Anywhere’s a better place to be” and it’s about being so lonely that ‘anything’, ‘anywhere’ is better than the life you are leading.  Really, you have to hear it to truly understand.  But I felt, the more I listened to it, that Harry was singing directly to me – that the words were actually about me.  And I never felt so lonely, surrounded by all these so-called cool people, in my life.  Everything seemed to close in on me, and it was only drugs that lifted me out of that tunnel of loneliness.  When I was ‘high’ I couldn’t care less, nothing mattered except the music, drinking and having a good time.  But when the drugs wore off, I was far further down than before.

And I knew I had to escape.  The song was telling me – ‘Anywhere’s a better place to be’, and somewhere, anywhere, else seemed to be the answer. And really without a lot of thought I just ran away.  From home, from Uni, from the friends who weren’t really friends at all – and from the desperate need for dope, for pills and all that rubbish.  But sadly, I left you too Jane.  And that is what I regret most of all.

But just a few months ago London seemed to be the answer.  I felt I just had to get away from everyone I knew. I craved anonymity.  I was looking for oblivion really, sweet o-bloody-blivion.  You know, when you hear nothing and see nothing and best of all feel nothing.  I just had to find a way of blocking out all the bad things in my life.  I had thought that drugs were the answer, but of course they were just another wrong turn.  Maybe I had to make those wrong turns in order to find my true way; in order to find myself.  Who knows?  Anyway, I drew out all the money in my little Post Office Savings Account – you know all those Prince Charles stamps we had stuck in as children.  It was a few hundred pounds actually; lots of birthday gifts which Dad made me save rather than spend on sweets or toys.

I thought I would make it in London.  You know, become someone, a face maybe, get into a band, become a model or something.  But I had no idea where to start.  I went into shop after shop down the Kings Road, into Biba, into the crazy ‘boutiques’ in Carnaby Street – but no-one wanted to know me.  The shop girls seemed to be laughing at this gawky country girl.  They all looked down their long lashes at me.  And I gave up after a while.  I ended up just sitting in my little bedsit and letting the days drift by.  Listening to the radio, popping out to buy milk and bread and fish-fingers and cigarettes.  And I watched my little pile of money dwindle too.  And I sunk into a kind of stupor, for the first time in my life there was nothing to get up for, no lessons, no lectures, nobody wanting me for anything.  In fact, nothing at all.  And in that nothingness I discovered that that sweet oblivion I had sought was emptier than anything I could ever have imagined.   And then that song kept coming back into my head “Anywhere’s a better place to be.”

And slowly it began to dawn on me – that it wasn’t the place that was the problem.  It wasn’t the ‘anywhere’ I found myself; it was actually me that was the problem. And I was the one who had to find the calm place in my own head, nowhere else, that was the better place to be.

And so, I have decided to come back home.  In a week or two I expect.  And I want you to tell Mum and Dad, to prepare them, to try maybe to explain to them, ‘cos I know they are furious with me about giving up Uni.

Yes, I am coming home; to Suffolk.  Because on reflection it wasn’t that bad was it.  And I will get a job locally, maybe working in a bank – you know I was always brilliant at maths.  I have managed to kick the craving for drugs now too, and even the ciggies taste flat. I’ll try to stop those too. I miss all the old friends we used to have, and the Mikado coffee bar where we could sit for hours over a coffee and listen to the songs on the Jukebox together.  But most of all Jane – I miss you. I miss someone I could really talk to; you know, about stuff that matters – and stuff that doesn’t matter too.  And Jane, you never criticised me.  Ever.  I mean I can’t remember you ever saying ‘no’ to me.  Maybe you should have.  No, I don’t really mean that either.  I just need you.  I need you, my little sister, to help me, your big sister, finally grow up.  And even now I can hear that song in my head; ‘Anywhere’s a better place to be’ – even our crumby little town in Suffolk.

So, Jane – I’ll let you know the day and the train I’ll be coming home on.  Promise you will meet me on the platform and walk home with me.  I don’t think I could do it without you.

Love – and sorry for all the craziness – Harriet.

 

My Record Collection 72

Dire Straits – another biggie, in fact , they are the eighth biggest selling artists in UK so far.  Like nearly everyone, I was hooked from the start; that wonderful soft guitar sound and just as wonderful is Mark Knopfler’s voice.  The band appeared almost fully-formed – but it was all about Mark, who wrote almost all the songs too.  Debut album Dire Straits (1978) was a big hit, especially with hit single ‘Sultans of Swing’ on it.  And yet this was only two years after punk, which had threatened to sweep away all that wishy-washy lovey-dovey stuff – well, Dire Straits soon proved them wrong.  A lovely album – best songs ‘Sultans’ and ‘Down to the Waterline’ and ‘Wild West End’.   The follow-up Communique the following year was even better; the songs are just wonderful – favourites ‘Lady Writer’. ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ and the closer ‘Where Do You Think You’re Going?’.  Mark seemed perfectly at home singing soulful ballads as rocking out.  Next year and Making Movies was released; another excellent record.  Great single ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but also ‘Tunnel of Love’ and ‘Les Boys’ – but again not a poor song on it.  And they just kept getting better really, if slowing down on the albums, they were touring extensively – joining the rock elite as one of the latest really Big Bands.  In 1982 they released Love Over Gold, which at the time I thought could simply not get any better.  The superb 14 minute long opening track ‘Telegraph Road’ and ‘Private Investigations’ and rocking out on ‘Industrial Disease’.  A triumph of an album.

But the best was yet to come.  Three years later and one of the finest albums ever, emerged – Brothers In Arms.  If it took three years it was well worth the wait.  This album just happened to coincide with the success of CDs themselves, and it soon became the biggest selling disc on that format and has sold many millions since.  And deservedly so – it is one of a very few must-have albums, the Eighties equivalent of Tapestry or Sergeant Pepper.  There is not a weak song on it, and such a variety.  The sheer pop of ‘Walk of Life’, the brilliant satire and rockiness of ‘Money For Nothing’ and the sadness, the empathy of ‘Brothers in Arms’ itself.  Even minor tracks like ‘Why Worry’ are great.  A faultless record.  And of course the brilliant video for ‘Money For Nothing’ which seemed to be playing endlessly on MTV – and an appearance at Live Aid with Sting made that song (and it’s sentiment) almost the anthem of the Eighties – Thatcherism indeed, even if the song is satire of the first order.

Well, the band sort-of broke up for about five years while Mark went off and pursued other ides (see K).  They reformed in the early 90’s and had one more studio album, the slightly underwhelming ‘On Every Street’.  And almost universally it was seen as a disappointment, mind you after Brothers in Arms anything would be.  It isn’t a bad record – just unexciting.  In many ways I think Knopfler was quite content to draw the curtain and continue on his solo noodlings (see K).  I also have the obligatory couple of Greatest Hits  – Money for Nothing and Private Investigations, which latter does include some of Mark’s later solo work.  After just a year on the road Dire Straits sort of disbanded, although they have made rare appearances here and there.  Never say never….

 

 

 

My Record Collection 71

Dexys Midnight Runners (Dexys) – another strange one, this band is simply the nom de plume for Kevin Rowland (see R), lead singer and songwriter.  They emerged in the late Seventies and went through complete band changes in their first flush of success and three albums.  Kevin is absolutely sincere and bonkers in equal measure; dedicated to a form of English Soul Music and refusing any degree of compromise.  Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t.  Big Hit ‘Gino’ was followed two years later by even bigger ‘Come on Eileen’, both peaking at number one in the UK charts.  Anyway – I have a greatest hits Let’s keep This Precious – which is a mixed bag; all the hit singles are there and are pretty good, but a lot of the songs seem boring really.

Anyway I also bought a far more recent album 2012’s One Day I’m Going To Soar – mostly on the rave reviews in Uncut magazine.  The band had broken up in the early Nineties but Kevin reformed it as a trio in 2011 and renamed it Dexys – this album was the result.  And it is really quite good; Kevin has a habit of speaking in the intros of songs and I find this both charming and naïve – there is no doubting his sincerity and honesty.  But this bunch of songs are really good, and I am tempted to buy the follow-up which features songs about his homeland Ireland.   Bets songs on this one are ‘She Got A Wiggle’ and ‘I’m Always Gonna Love You’.   A minor star but a great talent.

Neil Diamond – is a colossus in the ‘Pop’ industry, and when he started it was literally that. He worked in the Brill Building in New York writing hit songs along with Carole King (and Goffin) and Neil Sedaka and many others.  But like those other two he ventured out ion his own in the mid-Sixties and had huge hits with ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Cracklin Rosie’.  And right through the Seventies and Eighties with ‘Song Sung Blue’, ‘I am I said’ and many others.  A prestigious talent – who stayed mostly in the ‘Pop’ realm.  So I start with his Greatest Hits – one of many I suspect -but not a disappointment here among the twenty or so songs.  Just great and finishing with Sweet Caroline – so good you have to play it two or three more times.  I also have a press give-away – Hot August Night, which is a live record, 10 songs; not bad really I suppose – a few hits and one or two I didn’t know.  I am never sure if I should really include these give-away’s in my collection – are they truly valid.  Anyway – there it is.  Far more important are practically the last two records he made a few years ago with Rick Rubin.  Inspired no doubt by the fabulous records made with Johnny Cash, Neil put himself at the mercy of this producer – who stripped back a collection of 12 Songs into almost just a guitar, piano and voice.  And what a revelation, not only are the songs brilliant – but so is Neil. Gentle sometimes, a bit rocky sometimes, but always honest. Barely a poor song on this – but ‘Oh Mary’,’ Delirious Love’, and ‘Hell Yeah’ really stand out; Neil’s voice seems as good as ever, and at last he seems to have moved out of the centre of the road and into the left-hand lane.  He followed this up a couple of years later with Home Before Dark. And yet somehow the magic seems to have faded.  The songs don’t have quite that feeling of honesty.  And after this Neil and Rick Rubin parted company.  Actually it’s not such a bad record at all – just compared with it’s predecessor it lacks something.  Best songs – ‘Act Like A Man’ and ‘Pretty Amazing Grace’

Image result for images of neil diamond now

My Record Collection 70

The Dear Janes – I bought this CD Sometimes I on the strength of a couple of CD singles bought back in the Nineties.  It features two girls singing quite pleasantly really, but it is the content that intrigued me; quite a few of the songs are about sex and sexuality – with titles like ‘My Guilty Hand’ ‘Brides of the Cross’ and ‘Jesus take me down’ – repressed Catholics I presume.  An oddity, but I quite like it really.

Del Amitri – another 80’s Scottish band; I first heard through their catchy singles.  I have only bought sporadically their albums starting with 1992’s Change Everything, which was their third album.   And a nice mix of songs it is too, I love lead singer Justin Currie’s voice.  I believe he wrote most of the songs too.  Best songs – ‘Just Like A Man’, ‘Be My Downfall’ and ‘The Last To know’.  Although there is a similarity about most of the songs on the record, not always a bad thing I suppose.  I seem to recall that I picked up the three studio albums of theirs in second-hand shops; I used to spend far too many lunchtimes browsing the racks in Soho record shops – Sister Ray and Reckless Records being my favourites.  Next up is Twisted from 1995.  Another excellent batch of songs – slightly rockier if anything.  Part of the trouble for Del Amitri was that they were categorized early on as a ‘Pop’ group and struggled to establish their credentials as a serious rock band.  Best songs – big hit ‘Roll With Me’, ‘It Might As Well Be You’ and best of all ‘Driving With The Brakes On’. My last original album was their last real record Can You Do Me Good. (2002), and it seems almost a last desperate throw of the dice.  It is practically a solo album – and no surprise Justin Currie went solo after this, though apparently the group is still going in some form.  A couple of good songs however – ‘I’m just A Drunk In A Band’ rocks along and ‘Cash and Prizes’ is pretty good.  It seems that bands in the Nineties and after don’t seem to be able to sustain themselves for that long.  Maybe it has always been that way except for a very few – the Stones limp on, as do the Who.  The Floyd are no more, and U2 barely exist at all these days.  Maybe money and age take their toll – though some artists like Neil Young and McCartney still seem to have an appetite.  I also have an excellent greatest hits Hatful of Rain, and it’s sister CD of B sides Lousy with Love.  And in a way these are all you need, all the hits and some great B sides are here; ‘Kiss This Thing Goodbye’, ‘Nothing Ever Happens’, ‘Spit in the Rain’, ‘Tell her This’ and of course the great Scottish world cup song ‘Don’t Come Home Too Soon’.

Sandy Denny – Ah, just one more rock casualty really.  A singer-songwriter she was in the Folk vein and never quite broke through to the mainstream.  Though back in the Sixties there was quite a bit of cross-over.  She was lead singer in Fairport Convention and a lesser known band Fotheringay before going solo.  She died of drink related problems in the late 70’s.   For some reason I bought her debut The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (1971) (probably because the cover took my eye).  It was quite different from my usual batch of West Coast inspired artists; very English, very low-key and sparse – in some ways she reminded me of Nick Drake (see D).  Listening again now and with the passing of time I realise it was quite a mixture of an album – some songs like ‘Late November’ and the title track are very folky – but she ventured into blues on a cover of Dylan’s ‘Down in the Flood’.  For whatever reason I didn’t buy any of her other three solo records – but a few years back I discovered a retrospective No More Sad Refrains which covers her entire career.  This is a double album; and aptly named, it really is quite dirgy – and this from a Leonard Cohen fan – but I must confess I don’t really like this at all.  This CD may well join a very small pile of rejects….oh dear.  Now I know why I never liked ‘folk’ that much.  Oh Well.

 

 

Five Go Mad In Brexitland

Little Nigel was playing with himself.  No, I mean really on his own, when he suddenly had an idea.  “I will invite my chums Boris, Liam and Michael to go on a trip to Brexitland”.  Now Nigel knew all along that Brexitland didn’t really exist, it was just an illusion, a dream that some mad kids in the private school down the road at Eton had dreamed up one day – but he thought it might be fun anyway.  Liam was keen right away as he had friends in America who told him Brexitland was THE place to be.  Boris had to be persuaded because he feared that Brexitland might be full of Bongo-bongos or slit-eyes – and Michael slithered along behind as he knew it might make him Leader of the gang one day.

Well, on their way they decided to allow little Theresa to join them, she had to wear an ill-fitting trouser suit or people might realise she was a girl after all.  Along the yellow brick road they danced.  One had no brains, one no courage and…oh, sorry that’s a different story -but true none the less,

They asked the man on the way how to get to Brexitland.  His name was Michel and he spoke in a funny accent like all foreigners.  He told them that all the wonderful things they had heard existed in Brexitland were here already, but they were still convinced that something better was just over there on the other side of that fence.  Arriving at the gate called Parliament, which they had to go through to get to Brexitland our five intrepid adventurers were stumped.  The bar of Parliament was too high.  It had a label on it which they could just read, it said.  “Common Sense”.  Try as they might they just couldn’t get through Parliament to Brexitland.  Looking round Theresa discovered she was on her own.  Nigel and Boris had run away, telling her she was on the wrong path to Brexitland.  Michael was playing games and plotting to be leader of the gang himself one day and Liam was in a world of his own trying to swap conkers and old toys with anyone – but no-one wanted them.

So Theresa had to ask that nasty Jeremy to help her get to Brexitland.  But try as they might they couldn’t find a way either.  You see children – Brexitland was always a silly idea.  The lesson we should learn is that things are never quite what they seem, and sometimes you have to ask the grown-ups like Yvette and Hilary and Oliver to help you see sense.

My Record Collection 69

Deacon Blue – a Scottish band from the mid-eighties.  There was quite a revival around this time, with Prefab Sprout (see P) and Everything But the Girl (see E) and Deacon Blue in the forefront.  These bands were kids when The Beatles were in their prime and that influence has carried through, gorgeous melodies, accomplished playing and sensous soul-infused vocals.  After all the madness of glam and punk and new wave this quieter, more eloquent sound emerged.  I used to have their forst album Raintown on vinyl, but my first CD of theirs is their second and commercially most successful record When The World Knows Your Name (1989).  I simply love lead singer Ricky Ross’s voice, almost pleading, sexy and yearning.  Best songs  – the big single ‘Real Gone Kid’, ‘Love and Regret’ and ‘Feregus Sings The Blues’.  A very good record. They followed this in 1991 with Fellow Hoodlums which for me was their very best.  Opener ‘James Joyce Soles’, the gorgeous ‘Your Swaying Arms’, ‘Cover From The Sky’ and ‘Closing Time’ – just beautiful.  A lovely record.   Two years later and they released Whatever You say, Say Nothing – which was not quite so successful.  The sound had changed, a bit more mellow, a bit less edgy -though there were still some very good songs; ‘Your Town’ and ‘Hang Your Head’ – they had lost impetus somehow. Many groups go through the same thing; six or seven years of success and then a decline and inevitable break-up.  Maybe the treadmill of albums, promoting singles and tours takes it’s toll.  And then someone leaves and it is never the same.  But worse still sometimes is the just as inevitable re-union.  But before that of course comes the greatest Hits Compilation Our Town, which is really a great place to start (or end) if you quite liked a couple of the singles. It does contain a handful of new songs too – but somehow they don’t quite excite me.

Anyway the band did reform on a part-time bases in 1999 and have released a couple of new albums – which I haven’t bought.  To tell the truth I barely noticed the reforming at all, the band is now quietly treading water somewhere…

Fellow Hoodlums

A Most Amazing Experience – A True Story

Well, let me begin by saying that all stories are true – it’s just that some of them haven’t actually happened – so, if you don’t mind. I will leave you guessing.

The first time that anything happens is usually pretty amazing – and not always for the right reasons, but new experiences seldom fail to leave their mark.  That first hesitant kiss, the soft almost not-there touch of her lips, the guilty look in your eyes, you glance sideways to see if she has read your thoughts – but no, her eyes are closed in blissful anticipation so you move in and let the gliding edge of your tongue slide over her gorgeous plump lips.

Ah, enough of this mundane stuff – we have all kissed – but I suspect none of you can quite remember that first time.  Anyway, not in the graphic detail I can.

And that of course has always been my problem.  I remember everything.  Each falling leaf as it begins its downward spiral to earth is captured in my memory.  Each handful of silvery sand I let slip through my fingers – just like the women I discarded; so many fallen petals, faded flowers, wilting and clogging up the drains after rain.  All there – my memories; lined up in their little white boxes, sublime treasure-chests of remembrance, just waiting for the lid to be prised open and re-lived.

Just like the first time I killed a woman.  Oh, I had no intention before it happened.  This was not pre-meditated.  Honestly.  Thoughts of death had never crossed my mind.  Seduction, persuasion, a little light tussle maybe – but not killing.  Besides this was my first time; my very own virgin murder and I was hardly prepared.   For anything, I might add.

The blood – of course.  And how could anything, any degree of premeditation prepare you for the blood, that metallic aroma that fills your nostrils, the bright red pulsing colour of it, the stickiness – no matter how you try to wipe it away it clings to your fingers; you glance in the mirror and there are spots on your face, your glasses splattered, it even gets in your hair.  Your clothes are ruined, of course; they will have to be burned – and if you are stupid enough to kill her in your own rooms you have to use gallons of bleach to eradicate the stains that seem to lurk, like shadowy reminders of the woman she once was.  And the screams, those piercing high-pitched screams go right through you, yet in a way they simply encourage you to keep on stabbing, to stifle, to silence her, to extinguish the very air in her lungs.  And then the body limp and collapsing around you; as you reach for an arm her leg flops out of your grasp.  The weight of them too, who would have thought something so light on its toes, so sprightly, so energetic one moment – could be so unresponsive, so inert, so – well, dead, to put it bluntly.  And the disposal of the now completely distasteful body presents a whole new set of problems.  And I mean it when I say distasteful.  Please do not mistake me for some sort of pervert.  A dead thing is simply that, there is no sexual attraction in a corpse, even less than in a living being I might add.

But like everything in life, I have found, the first time is always the hardest.  After a while you develop strategies for dealing with these issues.

But the first time was I must admit quite an amazing experience.  As I said I had no idea of killing the woman at all.  It had all started so innocently; a date – innocuous in itself, though I am sure a suspicion must have been lurking somewhere in her consciousness.  Surely, she must have known that my intentions were not exactly honourable.  Possibly she knew all along that we would end up entwined in a passionate embrace.  Isn’t that what the game is about, after all?

Anyway. Let us not preach semantics.  How we got there is unimportant suffice to say – there we are wrapped in each other’s arms and kissing, quite torridly as I recall.  Then, all of a sudden she pushes me away saying “No.  I really shouldn’t be doing this.  I have a boyfriend already.  I have to leave.”

How irrational, I can’t help but think.  I feel like saying “My dear, if you were already committed to someone else what the hell were you doing with your tongue halfway down my throat?”   But of course, you only think of these witticisms after the event – never at the time.  In fact, as well as being completely taken by surprise I am actually quite annoyed.  I had not forced her to come back to my squalid little bedsit, I had not even plied her with drink, my usual desperate ploy.  She had seemed quite keen.  And yet, unbelievably here she is protesting some sort of innocence.  I couldn’t quite believe how stupid she must think me.  Stupid enough to just smile and order her a cab I suppose.  No – my lovely, no cab for you tonight, you are going nowhere.

I push her back on the sofa and grab both her wrists in my left hand while my right undoes my belt.  She is kicking quite furiously now and screaming at me.  This only serves to make me angry – and yet, even despite the initial rage, a strange calmness descends on me. I tie her hands and reach for her cardigan (discarded, just like her morals, on the floor).  I manage to get her legs tied too, and then a tea-towel wrapped over her obscene mouth.  I can barely believe the filthy words spilling out of her. “Shut up woman.”  I command, but she stupidly continues, her body bucking under my strong grip.  Suddenly I feel I have had enough of this nonsense.  You see, I simply want her to stop screaming and shouting at me.  If she had stopped her foul-mouthed abuse none of what followed would have been necessary.

It was in every way an amazing experience.  Looking down at her, I can picture her now, writhing like some captured beast, or a fish hauled out of the river and squirming on the bank.  I was disgusted both at her and at my own ridiculous desire.  How could I have ever found her attractive.

Suddenly I know I have to kill her, to bring both of us out of this ridiculous situation.  I mean, I can hardly simply untie her, apologise, and let her go.  Things will not end there; no doubt she will involve the Police, or worse still her boyfriend, if indeed he exists (she may well have made him up just to satisfy her own guilty conscience). I can see no alternative but to kill her.

I grab a cushion and try to suffocate her, but no matter now hard I press against it she still manages to turn her face away, and despite the gag to gasp for air.  This was taking far too long, so I reach for a kitchen knife.  There is a little resistance I must admit, though that may be the layers of fabric around her chest, but eventually the knife sinks in all the way to the hilt.  She stops her writhing and stares at me, as if in disbelief.  I will never forget that look, pleading and helpless, and yet defiant at the same time.  I pull the knife out and am covered in huge spurts of blood.  She is gushing like a fountain.  So, I stab her again a few more times and the flow of blood slows to a trickle and then a slow ooze.  But oh, how good I feel, how completely in control at last.  ‘That will teach you a lesson you little minx’, I think, ‘You won’t be teasing another man like that for a while, will you?  In fact, you won’t be teasing anyone ever again.’

 

Okay, so now I had to get rid of the body.  But a second-hand rug and a tarpaulin and she is stuffed at three in the morning into the boot of my car, then down to the coast and off the end of the pier.  And no-one ever suspected me.  It had been a blind date, she hadn’t told any of her friends.  It was a couple of weeks before her body was washed up.  Another unsolved murder I am afraid.

An amazing experience – to have killed someone, to have felt the life seep out of them. And best of all to have gotten away with it.  It felt like a drug, and I must admit I had dabbled with those too in my dubious past.  And just like drugs it is so amazing you want to try it – again and again.

 

As I said at the beginning all stories are true – it is just that some haven’t actually happened.  I should have completed the sentence though.  All stories are true – it is just that some simply haven’t actually happened…. yet.

My Record Collection 68

Curved Air – were just one of many early seventies prog-rock bands who attempted, and succeeded in combining Classical and Rock instruments and songs.  The incredible voice of Sonja Kristina meant that they kept bubbling under in the charts.  I only have their first two albums – I sort of lost interest, and besides there were so many other incredible albums in the early Seventies. Air Conditioning was their debut in 1970. The opener ‘It Happened Today’ was a minor hit single; apart from that the album is rather overblown with ridiculously fast violins racing to…well, nowhere special.  Better was the follow-up Second Album, maybe because the vocals were higher in the mix and the violins reined back a bit – and for me, the best thing about Curved Air was Sonja’s remarkable voice.  Just a word about this (continuing) attempt to mix rock and classical – the mistake is to imagine that there is any difference at all; it is all music – but the best at combining two different streams were Barclay James Harvest (see B). Anyway, this record was pretty good – best rracks ‘Young Mother’ and the big hit ‘Backstreet Love’ – a few other tracks hit the mark too; ‘Jumbo’ and ‘Bright Summer Day’ are all great too.  A delightful record.  And now I ask myself why I stopped at record number two?  But all decisions, especially which album to buy with limited resources, are arbitrary in the end.

Daddy G – I may have mentioned it before, but my daughter Laura is just as obsessed with music as I am (well almost).  But she loves Dance Music – the disease started with her with Madonna (who I have never really got).  Anyway, she regularly buys me CDs of her favourite artists (trying to convert me no doubt).  Some I really love but some not so.  This one is DJ Kicks – and it is a reggae dub album, quite reminiscent of Bob Marley (see M) and it is pretty good really.  The thing about Reggae is the infectious beat; it just takes you over.  But as you know I am really a wordsman, and unfortunately most ‘Dance Music’ pretty well dispenses with words, or they are so unimportant and repetitious. Anyway, unfamiliar as I am with the genre – I didn’t understand that this was a ‘remix’ album.  Daddy G has taken tracks from Tricky, Massive Attack and a few others and has changed them by remixing and adding beats or whatever.   The whole thing hangs together quite well really, though it does get a bit boring over time.  The thing about music is that so much of it is about the time and place when you first heard it, when you were receptive to it, when you felt part of the culture of it all.  This album is quite pleasant to listen to now and then, but only now and then really.

Roger Daltrey – only the one album, self-titled.  I never had this on CD, but did manage to copy it (poorly) from the album.  I remember it was quite good, lots of Leo Sayer (who was then unknown) written songs on it.  Actually, I fell in love with the cover photo of Roger with full afro curly hair.  I had mine permed because of it.  I never looked as good….hahaha.

Alun Davies – Now this is a real rarity.  As far as I can ascertain he only made the one record on his own; Daydo – but what a record.  Alun was Cat Stevens (see S) guitarist on all those early Seventies albums of his. He came form a folk background and Daydo is very folky – not a bad thing. The record has a charm all of its own; a pleasant voice, great playing and a good choice of songs.  I have always loved it.  Best songs – the first three; ‘Market Place’, ‘Old Bourbon Street’ and ‘Portobello Road’ but ‘Vale of Tears’ is excellent too.  A lovely rarity – not easily available – in fact I’ve just bought it as a German import on CD.  My record was a scratchy copy from record to LP – so nice to have it properly, even if – like most of them -it will only be played rarely.

Ray Davis – the Kinks front man.  An undoubted great songwriter and singer – and I did love the Kinks as a teenager – but somehow in my buying choices they have always slipped through my greedy little fingers.  Just one from Ray; Working Mans Café – a free CD with Daily Mail I think, from early this Century.  And it is good – in places, and yet it still fails to really grab me.  A shame as re-playing it I like the lyrics and the arrangements and his voice.  Oh Well.

CD-Alun-Davis-daydo-2626