Saturday, 24 September 2016

In Cassidy's Care: 2: Last Monday

2. Last Monday

It had been a tense and testing week for Cassidy. 3 a.m. early last Monday, his neighbour’s latest lover (in a long line of latest lovers) had threatened him with a butter knife. Cassidy had been awoken by Monty’s screams.
“You fucker. You’ve fucking killed me Claude, you fuck
Armed with a single leather slipper (left foot) and an early morning erection, Cassidy charged upstairs into the darkness with only his dressing gown for cover. As he reached the communal landing, a hooded figure blundered past before turning on him.
“Want some? Want some?” lisped the livid stranger, apparently Claude.
Cassidy hit the light switch and his bleary eyed bravado evaporated. It might have been but a butter knife but Cassidy definitely did not want some.
“Come on big boy, you gonna frisk me or fuck me?” drawled Claude, eyeing Cassidy’s now gaping gown. His eggy eyes popped and then narrowed; there was a smell of whiskey and stale sex. Cassidy pulled himself and his gown together. He felt naked and vulnerable without his glasses.
“Just go”, he said in a voice that was an octave higher than it should have been, and stood impotent, squinting as Claude’s sorry hooded ass stumbled down the stairs. Cassidy tied a double knot in the belt of his dressing gown and tentatively pushed open the door of Monty’s apartment. Monty sat bolt upright on a sofa, clutching at his right side.
“The fucker’s killed me”, he wailed.
There was an odd gurgling sound. Cassidy thought of his boys with plastic straws, clearing their coke bottles of that last holy half-inch.
Not good.
“Hold it together Monty, I’ll call an ambulance.”
“I am holding it together. Literally. Look”
Monty raised a bloody hand from his satin pajama jacket. Even without his glasses Cassidy could see an ugly gash leering up at him, pink and frothy.
“Did you meet Claude? Isn’t he a charmer? From New York… one of yours Peter... I mix him a Manhattan and the fucker stabs me”
“He did that with a butter knife?”
“Uumphh” Monty started to roll onto his side.
“Stay with me Monty” Cassidy’s mind raced. He searched out the bathroom and returned with a towel, rolling it up into a ball.
“I want you to press this against the wound, Monty. Pressure’s the thing here.” 
Thank Christ for compulsory first aid classes he thought and reached for the phone.
“Is your phone working Monty? I’m getting nothing from 911?”
“That’s because you’re living in London you prick” guffawed Monty before dissolving once more into that ghastly gurgling.
Cassidy reddened. He always knew he’d be found wanting in an emergency. Amelia had always maintained that it was a blessing he’d led an uneventful life.
“You’ll be crap come the revolution”, she had said just before testing her theory.
I love you, goodbye…
Cassidy; crying out loud again...
“Up yours” muttered Monty.

Later that morning Cassidy sat at his desk in the lower school lab, eating a stolen doughnut. Second graders were easy pickings. He liked the kids, liked the school. He was ‘Head of Department’ now, admittedly a department of one, but the title was worth an extra eleven hundred a year, even though it did come with a few extra curricular responsibilities. He also got to teach Daniel and Archie daily, so that was good.
“Teaching’s good” he said to his reflection in the monitor screen and heard his father’s voice. He pictured him on the porch of the family’s beach house in Cape Cod, poking at his plants with a rusty trowel.
“That’s good. Teaching’s good”, Harry had said when Cassidy showed him his college application forms.
“One more teacher means one less delinquent.”
His father could be an acerbic old ass but Cassidy recognized his approval.
As he prepared his first class of the day his mind fixed on the early morning’s events. An ambulance had arrived 17 minutes after he’d finally hit 999 and with Monty en route to hospital (and after changing into a more supportive jogging suit) he’d started making his statement to the police; a statement that he finally signed at the local station in Maida Vale four hours later.
It transpired that Monty had met Claude the week before “somewhere in Old Compton darling” and after a couple of dates had invited him home “for nookie and a nightcap”. Monty had caught him rifling through his drawers.
“He only got the Rolex, my worthless inheritance, all that my father left me. Tight arse.” Cassidy had walked beside Monty as the medics stretchered him down the stairs, towards the ambulance. “Lovely crocodile strap but never kept time.” He grasped Cassidy’s hand tightly. “Over wound, beautiful and useless. A bit like Claude really” he guffawed and then grimaced. “Sorry Peter, you Americans don’t do irony, do you?”
As Monty disappeared headfirst into the ambulance his bluing feet hung pitifully over the edge of the stretcher and Cassidy hung his own slippers over the clawed toes of his injured friend.
“Thanks old boy.” Monty’s voice echoed dolefully from the darkness within, “You’re a good egg. My extremities were beginning to feel rather chilly.”
He’d wondered if he’d ever see Monty, or his slippers again.
Finishing his doughnut, Cassidy brushed sugar from his tie and eyed his emails, noticing one from his oldest brother Tom. “Urgent. Ring home. Dad not good.”
“Dad’s had an episode; a stroke they think. He’s gone into a coma”, explained Tom two hours later when Cape Cod finally awoke. “They don’t think he’s going to make it.”
“Jeez. How’s Mom?”
“Annie’s OK; sitting by his bed, shouting at him to wake up and stop milking it. Keeps asking him what he wants for supper.”

Friday, 23 September 2016

In Cassidy’s Care: 1. This Sunday

 “I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists”
Robert Browning

“I hope you live a life you’re proud of.
If you find that you are not,
I hope you have the strength to start all over again”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time”
Taken from ‘Little Gidding’ by T. S. Elliot

“Where some have found their paradise
Others just come to harm”
Taken from ‘Amelia’ by Joni Mitchell

1. This Sunday

Cassidy’s eyes stung.
His throat ached.
He could barely swallow.
Something had happened.
A memory briefly recognized and then moved beyond.
Behind him, and yet…
He stood like dawn, on the edge of something.
Searching for a word.
He pursed his lips.

“Will Mayfair Mac still go to heaven Dad?”
Thankfully Archie was sitting on Cassidy's shoulders and was unable to see the single tear snaking down his father’s gaunt grimacing grin. Daniel, his eldest, caught his eye and tugged his hand. Cassidy tugged back and then, with Archie still on his shoulders, sat down on the park bench. This was now a part of their Sunday morning routine; Archie on Cassidy’s shoulders, skinny legs dangling like knotted rope. Cassidy sitting.
Daniel ripping Velcro, pulling off his brother’s trainers, reaching into the Arsenal rucksack for his cleats, his football boots; carefully sliding them onto Archie’s restless feet; pulling them on with the leather tongue; pulling tight before looping long laces under the sole and back; pulling tight again; making two loops, bunny ears, painstakingly concentrating on tying the perfect double knot. Cassidy loved the way that Daniel cared for his little brother, admired his attention to the detail; a man after his own heart.
He and his boys had four hours before the three o’clock curfew.
Another two hundred and forty minutes in Cassidy’s care, then back to their mother in Bayswater.
He'd met Amelia right here.
Nine years and thirteen months ago, to the day.
Thirteen months since the ‘last supper’.
Thirteen months separated, including ten days divorced.
Cassidy had accounted for that.
“I love you, goodbye”, she had said, waving papers, stiffly shaking his hand. Civil, cordial even, but he knew that he was now on her list; things that she was better beyond: capers, clowns, Cassidy and his bloody cactus.
He couldn’t remember exactly when he had stopped loving her, or she him.
Had he ever really loved Amelia?
They first met in this park, on this very bench.
Nine years and thirteen months ago, to the day.

Cassidy was new to London then. He’d recently taken a position at a large international school in the north of the city. Lower School computers. After ten lazy years in a sleepy Connecticut primary, he was hungry for advancement and adventure, keen to taste the wider world. He’d stay in London for two years, no longer. Appetite sated, he would move on, onwards and upwards. Cassidy was a creature of comfort and settled easily into his London life; he started to feel at home in his rented bachelor pad; he’d even brought himself a cactus for company. After a successful first term he had returned to Cape Cod for a family Christmas and was now back and well into his second semester.
At weekends his early morning jog took him out of the cramped basement flat in West Hampstead, up through Swiss Cottage and St Johns Wood, before he hit the northern slopes of Primrose Hill. He was learning to love the parks of London. That bright winter morning he followed the central path leading to the brow of the hill. From there amongst the dog walkers and kite flyers, he could look down upon the possibilities of the city. He always paused at the same park bench; leant into it to stretch and stare and reset himself for the return journey.
That February morning the bench was occupied, a lone figure silhouetted by the pallid sun as it rose over the distant marshes of East London. As she turned towards him he saw sun splashed pigtails and the grain of her hair, all burnt copper and straw. He thought of Andrew Wyeth’s studies of ‘Helga’, an impression reinforced as the keening sun kissed her pale broad features; large ochre eyes, wide set beneath heavy unkempt brows, high cruel cheekbones, a generous mouth, kind and vaguely amused. She simply said “Hello handsome” and that was that. Cassidy sat down beside her and followed her finger as she traced the eastern marshes, the Isle of Dogs, the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, past the Post Office Tower and beyond towards the Houses of Parliament, her steady slender hand finally fluttering over the leafy hills of Hampstead, where they would meet later at the Holly Bush for a ploughman’s lunch and pints of real ale.
And her name was Amelia.
‘Amelia’ was Cassidy’s favourite Joni Mitchell song. How weird was that? He loved Joni. The song now assumed a fresh resonance and he sang the words to himself whenever he was troubled. ‘So this is how I hide the hurt as the road leads cursed and charmed.’  He felt horny every time he thought about The Cactus Tree Motel’s ‘strange pillows of wonderlust’; Amelia crashing into his arms…
They married forty days later at a registry office in Holborn and within two years had two sons.

Cassidy had always been at the centre of things, a dragon slayer, the master of his own destiny, but now his first waking thought would never be of himself again. With a young family in his care, lofty ambitions were grounded by duty; he took his parental responsibilities seriously and acquiesced willingly; the boys were in and of his blood.
Daniel and Archie.
D ‘n’ A.
Nice one Cassidy.
He was now in a world beyond himself, living in someone else’s film. No longer the protagonist, Cassidy now assumed the role of bit part player; his life became one of subsistence; father, provider, and protector. There were inevitable dramas; a litany of tiny victories, a derby of defeats, which Amelia took badly; they diminished her. Amelia liked order. Defeat came as second nature to ‘Punch Bag Pete’; what didn’t kill him made he and his family stronger: a peanut allergy, an orthodontic procedure gone wrong, a new air filter and wheel bearing needed for the ‘Cassidymobile’.
Defeats? He would laugh them off, sing in his thin reedy voice, “Amelia, it was just another false alarm”.
Cassidy paraded as ringmaster, knowing all the while that Amelia was the real master of ceremonies; mistress of emotional geometry; dynamic and well balanced; her slender grip sure and steady while his big clammy hands shook. How easily things slipped; they let go of their own imaginings and relaxed into a domestic bliss. And so began the gentle fall, a creeping shift towards contentment, a big circus of small dramas, which soon declined into drudgery, their intended life of surprises somehow became a trudge. There were heated arguments in the early years as salvage seemed possible, but then came recognition and disappointment. Daniel and Archie watched on bemused and bewildered as their parents’ passion diminished; two party clowns, too tired to fight, laughing wearily as they put their faces into each other’s pies.
Maybe they sought humiliation to better rescue and reset themselves. Maybe this was a part of the process of adult survival. Maybe Cassidy thought too much, talked too much, still telling the story of his life, but now in the third person.
As the fourth person…
Was this vulnerability part of his charm?
Could you be charming and know it?
Didn’t that make the charm an affectation?
Wasn’t charm akin to innocence?
Once you recognized it as one of your virtues was it was not gone, the spell broken?
Cassidy knew now to keep these questions to himself. Once he and Amelia would lie naked and spent in silvery moonlight, discussing anything and laughing at everything. When the laughter stopped so, it seemed, did the care. There was no spite or unkindness, just an imperceptible removal of intimacy; they simply ceased to adore each other, merely endured as functioning parents; the boys the sole focus of any affection.
Still, there was always the refuge of music.
Cassidy loved music.
Sometimes you didn’t have to understand everything. You simply accepted an invitation to inhabit the world, the possibility, of a song.
“I wish this pain would just go away
I wish that dogs had wings”
Marc Jordan.
He wasn’t sure why the thought of flying dogs made his faltering heart swell, but Cassidy loved Marc Jordan.

He stopped loving Amelia when she stopped loving him.
Tit for tat, just like that.
Was it really that simple?
Sure, but no less real.
Cassidy got lazy, Amelia got sad.
She developed an edge, became less understanding, less forgiving. She withdrew all understanding and would now chastise him for his feckless nature, his prosaic platitudes. “Christ Pete, this isn’t art, this is life.”
And then, thirteen months ago, with the boys in deep sleep, she had prepared a meal to celebrate the ninth anniversary of that first meeting, a date that they valued more than their wedding anniversary for some reason. The Last Supper: a beautifully simple dish of linguine with Parmesan, pine nuts, butter and sage. Purple sage of such intense flavour that Cassidy had asked Amelia where it was from.
“It’s from a friend…” she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “A friend from work. Bill grows it himself in this tiny garden in Bayswater...” he lost her eye for a beat, and he knew.
Tiny garden.
Purple sage.
Bayswater… Bill.
The Last Supper.
For Cassidy that was their moment of separation.
He couldn’t forgive her.
She had diminished him.
He demonized her.
Once he’d been a dragon slayer, now the dragon was burning his French fucking toast… For a while and “for the sake of the kids” they expertly avoided each other in the small basement apartment; their lives disconnected.
And then they just… separated.
So, life no was longer a travelogue of ‘picture postcard charms’ then.
Cassidy didn’t dream of 747s.
That was travel.
Cassidy wanted escape.
He’d got the urge for going.
Amelia beat him to it.

Time was a concertina; the essence of a failed marriage in the time it took Daniel to tie the laces of his brother’s boots. From “hello” to “goodbye”; vital edges to the arc of their love, a rise and fall that had brought him meandering back up this hill exactly nine years and thirteen months later. Back to the source, back to that bright moment, back to this park bench.
Archie fidgeted on Cassidy’s shoulders sending his glasses flying. Daniel picked them up and carefully wiped the lenses on his shorts before dutifully handing them back to his father.
“So, will Mayfair Mac still go to heaven, Dad? 
Archie squeezed his knees together and Cassidy’s ears sang.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

In Cassidy's Care: Intro

Miracle Mile's last album was 2013's 'In Cassidy's Care'.
It's genesis is perhaps worth repeating; it might even lead you to the album for the first time. I have a few spare copies...
The album is based on the story of a friend in need. 
I wrote letters to him. 
The letters became a story. 
The story became songs. 
The songs became an album.
I'm going to post a chapter a day.
‘In Cassidy’s Care’ details the trials of the titular character’s ordinary life, charting the small dramas that inform Cassidy’s fall and final redemption as he recognises his victories and losses and learns to hold them close. If you don’t come to care for the man, at least maybe you’ll learn to whistle his tune…

We’re all connected by our unravellings; a recognition that can be a comfort of sorts. A good friend (let's call him 'Cassidy') was having problems. His life was as disheveled as his appearance; he was coming apart at the seams. He needed to speak about this dishevelment but wasn't taking advice. My sympathetic gaze was met with the blank stare of a man marinating in misery. What to do? I thought about writing him a letter. No one writes letters these days so maybe that correspondence would resonate; he might take notice. So I wrote out his story, detailing things as objectively as possible, that he might better see his predicament and move beyond it. But oddly, as I kept writing, this letter to a friend became something else; a work of fiction. I had a title; 'In Cassidy's Care' and soon the thing had its own momentum. I used Cassidy's situation and personality for the narrative and found him a great point of reference; he never let me down. It was no surprise when I found myself writing songs that related directly to the predicaments of the Cassidy character. I presented Marcus with those small dramas and he developed the musical landscape in which our hero now abides. Small dramas indeed, his story is as mundane and relevant as yours and mine. 

Beyond fiction, thanks to Cassidy for letting us hang the fabric of this fiction so loosely on his bones. He's still disheveled but you'd find him a much happier man these days; in fact, if you knew where to look, you wouldn't recognise him at all...

Reviews for the album were kind:

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Hat Club: October 1st: Blue Rose Code

It's that time again.
The Hat Club
October 1st
Blue Rose Code (aka Ross Wilson)
His new album 'And Lo! The Bird is on the Wing' is securely atop my 'Album of the Year' pile.
Whilst I've admired the previous Blue Rose Code releases the bar has been significantly raised here.
The tin would probably read: Emotional, heartfelt folk with a gentle touch of jazz.
Regardless of the beautiful sonics there's no over polished parade here. It's all genuinely engaging: moving storytelling with a modicum of misery and a hatful of hope. My album of the year thus far.
And Ross Wilson is playing The Hat Club in Beaconsfield on October 1st.
I'll be on the front row. 
Why not join me?Guests are welcome.
Late bar.
As ever all takings go directly to the artist.
Why not come down and swoon along with me?
Here's a taster. You can always judge a man by the knitwear he sports...

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

200,000 Hissyfit Hits

I'm fast approaching 200,000 Hissyfit 'hits'.
That seems quite a lot for someone who's only ever sold 11 CDs...
My initial intent was to use the blog alongside the Miracle Mile website so that I could update folk daily with the ascension to world fame and fortune that was inevitably coming the way of me and Marcus and our music. Marcus and I have worked long and hard on both Miracle Mile albums and my solo stuff and I'm wondering if there's anything left in the tank. The creativity reservoir is currently running a little dry.
Anyway... thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read my ramblings and contribute here.
If you haven't yet heard my music with Miracle Mile or as 'Jones' why not give us a listen?
To celebrate hitting the 200,000 mark I'm going to make you an offer that you might refuse:

- Order any album through the website and get 2 more free
- Yup: that's 3 Miracle Mile or 'Jones' albums for £10
- Simply go to the Miracle Mile Store here
- Order an album via the Paypal button and, with your order notes add the words: Hissyfit 200,000 - - Please remember to include the titles of the other 2 albums that you'd like and I'll do the rest
- If you'd like to buy Happy Blue on vinyl I'll offer it for £10 plus one CD for the same period
- Offer lasts for another 2,000 views; i.e. until I get to 202,000 hits. 
- That should give you a week or so... I'll be lenient with postal orders

Ay; if you don't use Paypal you could post a cheque directly to me including the titles that you'd like.
Cqs to:

'Trevor Jones'
18 The Green
Wooburn Green

I'll leave you with a piece of music that is currently floating my boat.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Kindness of the World: How Best to Serve...

Listening to this and, after the last couple of days, wishing that we could trust in the kindness of the world.
A cold and hard truth is that the world's cold and hard.
Thank God for music...
It'd be blithe to make dedications but I hope this helps my French friends see some light beyond the current darkness.
Viva Le France?
They are a strong, proud nation and can look after themselves. For a multi-cultured culture, theirs is a strong sense of patriotism that surely promises a severe response. Let's hope for something other than simple retribution. But what? Christ, the last lines of La Marseillaise warn:

They’re coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons, your women
To arms, citizens/Form your battalions
Let’s march, let’s march
Let an impure blood
Soak our fields!

It's an ancient chant but oddly prophetic.
I hope not.
Victor Hugo famously said:
“Serving the homeland is half of duty, serving humanity is the other half.”
History endorses that no profound wisdom can prevent an injured party from beating its shield and baring its teeth.
Let's hope for a measured response, not a knee jerk.
And beyond that hope? What a dilemma...
As the reality of Brexit kicks in I've never felt closer to Les Bleus.
Vive la Liberté?
As a wicked minority try to press their values upon the world I guess that's the question...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Hat Club: Dean Owens

Tonight The Hat Club welcomes Dean Owens to Beaconsfield.
Dean is one of Scotland's finest songwriters and this is wonderful opportunity to enjoy his artistry up close and personal.


This is a return visit from Dean.
Here's a review of his Hat Club debut from music writer Paul Woodgate's fine blog:

If you are unfamiliar with Dean's music here's a top tune from last year's wonderful 'Into the Sea' album.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Into the Arms of the Undiscovered

But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered
And I don't know if I've ever loved any other
Half as much as I do in this light she's under

Sometimes it's good to set off on a path without a destination in mind.
It'll always surely lead you home.
It's my last full day out here on the Suffolk coast and I intended to make the most of it. I awoke to a shedload of emails from work and spent most of the morning wading through them. The weather was fairly bleak but by the time I headed out for my daily promenade the sun was peering suspiciously through the grim grey. As I missed breakfast I pop into The Bell and just make lunch last orders by a minute. A Prosciutto & Pheasant Scotch Egg (yup) and chips washed down with a chilled pint of Adnams Jack Brand Dry Hopped Lager. It's as lovely as it sounds; all citrus and flowers.
I walked towards the next hamlet down the coast, Dunwich, taking a back route away from the beach and marshes, up into the heady meadowlands above. The sun beats heavily on my back; it's the quintessential English Summer's day. Beautiful fields of bluebells abound and is that the overpowering scent of honeysuckle? Not a soul. Taking a path that I think leads to the sea ends up taking me in the opposite direction, and it's joyful diversion. Sometimes a road leads nowhere, sometimes an avenue of flowers just opens up in front of me. Moments of grace jump out of nowhere; a minor chord where a major 7th was expected...
And here I am, half wishing that Di was with me to share the bliss but kind of happy that she's not.
There's a lot to be said for solitude.
There's a lot to be said for silence.
That said... a few songs jumped out at me during my walk. I don't usually disappear into headphones but do so today. One of those Mood Spotify Playlists; 'Classic Acoustic', was the only thing available to me offline. Strange how well known adages can take fresh meanings when you're not staring them down. Sometimes it's good to see new light shed upon familiar things. Suddenly songs that would normally have you indifferently tossing tomatoes in their general direction can... break your heart. Perhaps it's my weariness and knackered knees that opens me up; makes me drop my guard: I'm loosened by the labour of the stroll. Sometimes you've got to earn the right to yearn. It's often the direct simplicity or implicit tenderness of a lyric that undoes you. Homely homilies can cut deep. Don McClean's 'Vincent' nearly has me retching tears.

Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand

I'd never heard Graham Nash's 'Encore' before.

And how you gonna feel if friends follow fortune?
How you gonna feel if the music dies?
How you gonna live with the soul sadly sighing
Into the wind that is our life


And... have you ever heard 'Me & Magdelana'?

Me and Magdalena
We're driving south through Monterey
As the sun is slowly sinking
Into a distant ocean wave

And I don't know if I've ever loved any other
Half as much as I do in this light she's under

Tell me Magdalena
What do you see in the depths of your night
Do you see a long lost father
Does he hold you with the hands you remember as a child?

But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered
And I don't know if I've ever loved any other
Half as much as I do in this light she's under

Me and Magdalena
Always leaving early and sleeping late
Secluded in the canyon
Lost within a turn of fate

But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered
And I don't know if I've ever loved any other
Half as much as I do in this light she's under

Isn't that beautiful?

But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered

A call towards the past from the future.
A call towards the future from the past.
Just lovely.
I couldn't read the track details because the sun was full on blinding and I'm half blind.
I later checked it out when I return to the pub. 
The Monkees.
The Bloody Monkees!

As I head for home along the beach I start mithering.
Sometimes you need to dislocate to put yourself back together again.
You need to honor yourself and trust your instincts.
Makes me think of the damned Brexit dilemma.
There's not a lot of honor there; just mad infighting and miscommunication.
If you disagree with either argument you are a twat...
One man's half story v the other's.
In or out?
We're damned if we do; damned if we don't.
My random thoughts might condemn me later but here they are:
"The EU is an antidote to democratic government... The price of true freedom is uncertainty" 
Unsure where that quote is from but it resonates... 
Trouble is that we are being run by the unelected. 
Trouble is that the EU is an ideal. And easily defended as an 'ideal': moral high ground that's easy to hold. The idea of a European Community was meant to make us feel connected. We're just seemingly linked by labyrinth of regulations and impenetrable bureaucracy.  Centralised power = less competition and choice. And removes freedom, even to make bad choices. EU bureaucracy is so complex that it cripples natural competition. Our businesses can no longer think on their feet; are effectively shackled and hamstrung so as not to get ahead of the game. We've agreed to it so can't cherry pick the bits that we like... but there's a lot not to like. The power of negotiation is the implicit knowledge and understanding that you can walk away from the table... although Donald Trump said that I can see the point. The EU represents unity? We're becoming culturally homogenized. Whether it's the EU or NATO's fault... it's still the elephant that I'm currently drinking my Japanese Whisky off...
I'm wondering if Cameron and his cronies want to remain in because it lightens their load and offers the odd European jolly with another expense account to batter. If we vote 'OUT' it'll definitely be more work back on Dodgy Dave's plate. Things will surely initially take a turn for the worse before things... settle. And... he'll no longer be able to cast the blame at Brussels. He'll have to start owning his judgements. I guess that at least we can then call them 'our' mistakes. The majority did elect him.

Back on the beach I get caught playing air guitar to 'Hotel California' by a bunch of lost ramblers who sneak up on me from behind. I offer directions smugly like a local, suggesting The Bell as a good spot to stop off at for refreshments. In fact I join them for a well earned guide's pint of Adnams Jack Brand Dry Hopped Lager.
Full circle then.
Another pint and I head back to The Studio for the sunset. 
As it's his 90th birthday Miles Davis is my sundowner. 
'Kind of Blue' but kind of content too.
I'm sitting in the front window overlooking the sand dunes. I can't see the sea but I'm content in the knowledge that it's there. Atop one of those dunes a child is flying a kite for the simple joyful folly of being connected to the wind. Lovers and young families walk past en route to the water's edge, to stare out at the limitless possibilities of life. Old couples with dogs shuffle along the same path, towards the same view, but with a different outlook: perhaps to ogle at what might have been, the improbabilities of life. A baby rabbit is chomping grass below my window, blissfully unaware of a beautiful white owl hovering above. Thankfully it's too close to humanity to be taken.
Maybe ignorance is bliss. Sometimes it's good to set off on a path without a destination in mind.
It'll always surely lead you home.
Won't it?
Le Corbusier said "Home should be the treasure chest of living."
I'll buy that t shirt. 
Home for me has always been where a certain brown eyed lady resides. 
I need to learn to not take that for granted, even though I thought that was the point...

But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Breaking Bob

Off the back of yesterday's Bobfest in response to his 75th birthday...

"... Blood on the Tracks became one of those records which I have, which we all have, in our armory or in our medicine cabinet or under our bed, and go to whenever we need it, whatever we might need it for..." 

I love Sylvie Simmons' writing.
A functioning music journalist needs to get the job done, but Sylvie does it with such vigor and élan that you can't look away. I know that a lot of the 70s/80s generation rock journos' considered themselves as important as their prey; auteurs (often 'failed' or frustrated musicians it seems) who used their chosen oeuvre as a platform for... themselves. Nowt wrong with that; ambition and confidence/arrogance have been essential armor and ammo for many a fine writer. It's just that Sylvie writes with such admirable restraint about her chosen subject. You know that she's been there, done that; ticked many a box, and yet you also sense that she's holding much back; perhaps to keep her powder dry, perhaps out of modesty or in coy respect to some 'gentleman's agreement'. And yet she applies herself keenly to each piece of writing with such vim that it almost feels as though she's pitching her first curveball. It's that knowing naiveté that is so infectious. Whatever her subject she always leaves a little bit of herself in there, not so much a careless statement of ego, more as a personal endorsement and recognition of the irresistible and undeniable effect that this thing we call 'rock and roll' has upon us. That's her 'style' and perhaps the reason that she's successfully bridged the decades that span the vagaries of our beloved rock of ages.

If it's your Mum and Dad that 'f*ck you up' then it's rock and roll that puts you back together again. And there's Sylvie, to walk us through the wonder of it all.
Here she considers an album that came to be her 'breakup record'.
It's Bob's 'Blood on the Tracks' and her investment is so infectious and honest that it made me rush to put it on again this morning even though I fell asleep to it last night; surely the sign of great writing.
Here's Sylvie:

"Sylvie's Bob Dylan party Part 3. Some of you might have seen this already but hey, it's my party and I'll post if I want to. It's something I wrote for a fine publication called Radio Silence, based in the SF Bay Area - the first of three pieces I wrote for a triptych called 'The Best Part of Breaking Up.' The idea was to take three albums I loved that coincided with some heartbreak or other in my life. My first choice was a Dylan album. They were set to appear in a book that Radio Silence published, but the magazine lost its funding and went under. (An aside to any rich tech companies reading this; if you've got any spare money over from all those tax breaks, perhaps you can do a good deed and bring Radio Silence back to life).
Anyway, here it is:
The Best Part Of Breaking Up, Part I © Sylvie Simmons

Bob Dylan
Blood on the Tracks
Columbia Records, 1975

Of course it was love—me and the boy who gave me the album, I mean. It had just come out, and I was young; I didn’t have money, and he didn’t either. He said he’d won it in a card game. Likely he stole it, and stealing an LP—well, you couldn’t just slip it in your pocket like a compact disc; it was hard work stealing music back then. The kind of thing a guy would do for a girl he loved. So for me, this was a love album. I played it in my room on my portable record player over and over. Eighteen days later, when the boy tore my heart out, I knew it was a breakup album. One of the greatest.
Many years later, Marianne Faithfull told me a story about Dylan. It was the ’60s; she was in his hotel room, and Bob was sitting at a typewriter. “What are you writing?” she asked him. “A poem,” he said—a pause and a burning look—“about you.” Excellent seduction technique, but it didn’t work. I asked what the poem was like, and she said that she had no idea. When she turned him down, he tore it up.
Blood on the Tracks is a masterpiece of torn-up love, the shreds of Dylan’s marriage. The hours I spent with that album in 1975, gouging its life out, rubbing its salt in my wound. The intensity of its emotion, the depth of its pain seemed the very essence of what I thought romantic love was meant to be: theatrical and hyperbolic, a Romeo and Juliet with an alternative ending, odium instead of (the far preferable) death.
So here we are again, almost forty years later. I still have the original LP, but it spits and jumps—half of “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” was rendered unplayable after a bead of burning hash fell on it—so I’m listening on CD. Nothing of it has faded. I could feel tears welling up during “If You See Her, Say Hello.” There’s something about that spare, acoustic melody, its timeless North Country Fair–ness, the words that are all the more effective from being plainspoken, direct, and unfeigned. At least he sounds heartbroken. But pick a track, any track, and he might sound exhilarated.
So many colors in this painting. Where once I only saw darkness and pain, there’s spleen—glorious, gleeful spleen—and liberation where I just saw loneliness. “I haven’t known peace and quiet for so long I can’t remember what it’s like,” Bob sings in the least-heightened (and probably least-quoted) lyrics of “Idiot Wind,” and though they might refer to the horror of being a public figure, or an abandoned husband, they can also turn a harrowing song of love and hate into a “Positively 4th Street” filtered through the clichéd line of a long-suffering spouse. It wasn’t that long before this album that life in Woodstock with his wife, Sara, and the kids and a paintbrush seemed so congenial—listen to “The Man in Me” on New Morning or “You Angel You” on Planet Waves. But their straightforward, unheightened, almost mundane lyrics only lulled us into a false sense of coziness that was shattered by Blood on the Tracks.

Dylan could be as scathing as all fuck about women in his songs (“Like a Rolling Stone” is an instant example), but in his love songs (“Love Minus Zero, No Limit” in 1965; “Beyond the Horizon” in 2006), he elevated them, idealized them, treated them with great courtliness. He and Leonard Cohen had that in common—although Dylan’s chivalry and worship didn’t come with the carnality of Cohen’s. (I do have to say that Leonard’s unmade bed seems a far livelier proposition than Bob’s big brass one.) And if both of them could turn on a woman if she should fall from grace, Cohen would find it hard to beat Dylan’s rapturous contempt and irresistible causticity.
Blood on the Tracks is all mood swings: It’s love, it’s hate, he wants her back, he doesn’t, he respects her for going, he sends his love through a third party, he crawls past her door, pities the next stranger or poor blind bum to whom she hands a dime, and then goes off and writes that rambling, “Rocky Raccoon”−like script to a TV Western, “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” And all of it feels true. The popular view is that it is true, that this is Bob putting his black and bleeding heart on display for the world to see. His marriage had hit the rocks (this much can be verified), and Blood on the Tracks was the revenge porn video, the divorce-court transcript in which Dylan admits to having faults (“I can change I swear”) though nothing as numerous and vile as his wife’s, apparently (“I bargained for salvation, she gave me a lethal dose” is one of my favorites).
But in reality, the album is so full of false leads and riddles and characters—Jesus on the cross, a rich heiress, a gang of bank robbers, Verlaine and Rimbaud—drifting from first-person to third-person (and both in “Tangled Up in Blue”) that Dylan’s supposed most personal album might really be about anyone, or lots of people, or no one at all. Which come to think of it might be the perfect way to write about disintegration, marital or otherwise.
But I wasn’t a rock writer then; I was a kid, and none of this mattered. No, all of it mattered, and mattered so much that Blood on the Tracks became one of those records which I have, which we all have, in our armory or in our medicine cabinet or under our bed, and go to whenever we need it, whatever we might need it for. And of course it will always be the first album that a man I slept with won for me in a card game. Maybe the only album a man I slept with won in a card game; I’m not saying.

The Best Part Of Breaking Up, Part I © Sylvie Simmons