Friday, 29 August 2014

Poem: 'MARTIAN DREAMS'



MARTIAN DREAMS: 
FROM THE SONGS OF 
THE QUANTUM CATS 

(For HG Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, 
Leigh Brackett, EC Tubb, and beyond) 


there are the sands of Mars, and the sands of Earth
the green hills of Earth, and the red hills of Mars
the moons of Mars, and the moon of Earth
there are desert storms on Earth
and desert storms on Mars
there are the mountains of Mars, and mountains on Earth
the airs of Earth, and the more tenuous airs of Mars
the dunes of Mars, as there are dunes on Earth
sunrise on Earth, and the sunrise of Mars
days of light, and evenings of dusk
sunsets on Mars that flood the sky with fire
and sunsets on Earth that reflect that fire
there are canyons on Mars deep with darkness
and canyons on Earth only slightly less dark
some say there are ghosts on Mars, as on Earth
that through broken Martian shadows creatures move
conceived in Earth in wistful yearnings,
memories in flight that conspire fantastic dreams
in the mythology of worlds, of Mars, but dreamed on Earth
winds on Mars that whisper through high towers
in cities that lie beyond something more than death
imagined on Earth, Martian plains threaded in canals
that are mapped by Terrestrial cartographers
there are the sands of Earth, and the sands of Mars…


Published in:
‘HANDSHAKE No.89’ (UK – August 2014)



Thursday, 28 August 2014

Music: GENE PITNEY - He's No Rebel



GENE PITNEY: 
 HE’S NO REBEL


He started out as a songwriter. 
GENE PITNEY wrote “He’s A Rebel” for the Crystals
Then he had hits of his own… and seemed to lose 
the ability to write songs, so when the hits 
stopped, he couldn’t write his way back. 
ANDREW DARLINGTON tries to find out why… 


Who’d would believe it? It’s ten-thirty and the ‘Frontier’ is already cram-full of the usual pot-bellied trendies-that never-were and business-suited twerps trying to pull the perennial birds in a grim half heaven half heartache of fading dreams and phony grandeur, yet they’re jigging up and down, unashamedly blowing their ages and what remains of their cool by singing every word of “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa”. It’s not that Pitney doesn’t have to contend with the habitual rudeness of the club’s chatterers queuing at the Bar, he does, but his determined professionalism in reliving his legacy of well-performed oldies makes for a winning set. And, grudgingly – yes, he still looks reasonably sharp.

And he’s enjoyed a good innings. Something like twenty-three chart-making singles, neatly divided into American and British hits, sometimes with the same record, frequently with different ones, as well as some considerable album success. Even now, when it comes to the grim scampi and chicken-in-a-basket northern club circuit, the ‘Frontier’ is about as big as it gets. Louis Armstrong played here, Shirley Bassey too. But the most reliable tickets are for the golden oldies, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Marty Wilde… and Gene Pitney. Familiar from all those ‘Top Of The Pops’ and black-and-white ‘Ready Steady Go’ appearances, his strong, distinctive tenor works best with big productions which transmute every two-and-a-half-minute Pop song into full theatrical drama, mouth twisting in odd sideways contortions to wring out the full pain and pathos. When he sings “Just One Smile” – the ultimate self-pitying paean to hurt, he grimaces ‘all that I had has been taken from me, now I’m crying and tears don’t become me,’ he’s wrong. Tears do become him. He cried his way through a succession of heartbreak torch-ballads. Each hit single tells a story. And he tells it with absolute conviction.

There’s a strange phenomenon in the inter-relationship between Pop and songwriting that’s worth considering here. There are a number of stars – such as Billy Fury and Leo Sayer, who start out writing their own material. Billy auditioned for Larry Parnes intent on interesting him – not in his voice, but in his compositions, and once signed, his first few singles plus the acclaimed ‘Sound Of Fury’ (1960) album were his own songs. While Sayer not only wrote his own first trio of hits but provided the songs for the Who vocalist’s ‘Daltrey’ (1973) solo album. But once they both achieved stardom, professional writing teams began feeding them hits, and they got to rely on other people’s songs, until it’s as though their own writing abilities atrophied. Once their celebrity burned out, and they were no longer the favoured vehicle sought out by royalties-hungry songwriters, it seems when they most needed it, they’d lost the ability to write their own new material, falling back instead on other’s reject-songs or reviving oldie’s. Neil Sedaka, by contrast, was always a writer. When music changed and his record sales crashed he wrote for other people – The Captain & Tennille, Andy Williams and Tony Christie, until fashion switched back and he had new hits of his own. Songs are the vital component of a career, to keep that commodity in-house is just about the most valuable asset you can have.

Gene Pitney was a writer too. At the famed Brill Building he wrote “Rubber Ball”, an irritatingly catchy hit for both Bobby Vee and Marty Wilde (although he adopted his mother’s maiden name ‘Orlowki’ for the credit). He wrote “Hello Mary Lou”, one of Ricky Nelson’s most enduringly memorable hits, plus “Today’s Teardrops” recorded by Roy Orbison (as ‘B’-side to “Blue Angel”), and “Blue Heartaches” for crooner Tommy Edwards. But best of all, he wrote “He’s A Rebel” for the Crystals. One of the most era-shaping Phil Spector wall-of-sound productions, it’s a career-defining song. At a time when the post-Rock music scene had largely blanded out, dominated by inoffensive songs sung by conformist pretty boys, it defiantly champions the outsider. The guy in Pitney’s lyric is ‘not just one of the crowd,’ he has the inner strength to stand out against mainstream convention, he’s ‘always the one to try the things they’ve never done.’ And Darlene Love, vocalist on the single, is standing by his side, two against the world, ‘just because he doesn’t do what everybody else does, that’s no reason why I can’t give him all my love.’

On the record-sleeve the ‘Rebel’ is a leather-clad biker, a ‘Leader Of The Pack’ direct from Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One’ (1953), and looking forward to the counter-culture outlaws of ‘Easy Rider’ (1969), even if it must also lay the ground-rules for the devolved Biker chic of ‘Grease’ (1978). If Gene Pitney had done nothing else, this one song would guarantee him a respected place in Rock history. Oddly enough, with the Crystals at the American no.1, Gene’s own concurrent single as an artist – with Bacharach-David’s “Only Love Can Break A Heart” remained one chart position beneath it, sitting it out at the American no.2.

Gene Francis Alan Pitney, destined to be one of the biggest vocal heartthrobs of the sixties, was born 17 February 1941 in Hartford, Connecticut, one of five children – two brothers and two sisters, in a middle-class family. Under the influence of Doo-Wop, the smooth R&B of Clyde McPhatter and the maudlin Country-Blues of Moon Mullican he formed his first group – Gene & the Genials, as a pupil at Rockville High School, and edged into recording as one half of the Jamie & Jane duo, cutting two singles with Ginny Arnell aka Mazarro (“Classical Rock And Roll” and “Snuggle Up, Baby”). His debut solo single was “Cradle Of My Arms”, by-lined on the Blaze record label as ‘Billy Bryan’.

 But his route into mainstream Pop came through his writing, his first credit going to the Kalin Twins who cut his “Loneliness” in March 1960. Encouraged by other writer-sales to the likes of June Valli (“Looking At The World (Thru A Teardrop)”), Billy Bland (“Harmony”), and Steve Lawrence (“Tears From Heaven”), he visited a small Seventh Avenue four-track studio where – for just $30, he demo’d his own song “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away”, impressively playing and overdubbing every instrument, while multi-tracking his voice seven times to achieve the depth of harmonies. He’d dropped out of studying electronics at the University of Connecticut, but this demonstrates a high degree of dexterity over every aspect of the recording process. When it was issued on Aaron Schroeder’s Musicor, he was rewarded with his debut hit single. It reached an American no.39 in 1961, and became his only UK single issued on the London-American label.

But he became best known working through other people’s songs and arrangements. His single “Every Breath I Take” was written by the superlative Goffin-King team, and was a lavish early production at Bell Sound for Phil Spector. Then came movie-theme “Town Without Pity”, which he was astute enough to also record in German and Italian for the foreign market. The 1961 Kirk Douglas film concerns the gang-rape of a German girl by American GI’s, their subsequent trial and her suicide. The song takes the lines – ‘it isn’t very pretty what a town without pity can do’, but softens its adult theme into the regular two misunderstood young lovers, ‘ours is not an easy age, we’re like tigers in a cage’. 

As it climbed to no.13 on the ‘Billboard’ chart, radio play brought his strong interpretive vocal talents to the attention of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who wrote “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” for his next single. Although based more closely on another movie plotline – a John Ford Western starring John Wayne and James Stewart, it was not included in the 1962 film itself. Yet session drummer Gary Chester even hits two distinctive drum-strikes to represent the bullets that take down the outlaw, played in the film by Lee Marvin. And while the single becomes his biggest to date, all the way no.4, it also emphasises Gene’s ability to act out strong narrative lyrics. Bacharach-David also wrote “Only Love Can Break A Heart” for him, which was even bigger.

Although Bacharach-David were considered the songwriting gold-standard, with each new tastefully faux-sophisticated song fiercely competed for, and even though their finely calibrated melodies, incessant key changes and melancholy top-notes were picked up and re-celebrated by a later generation of musicians including Noel Gallagher, they essentially came out of the classic Broadway Great American Songbook tradition. They were old-fashioned pre-Rock ‘n’ Roll writers who started out with the twee cutesy fifties Pop of “Magic Moments” and “The Story Of My Life”. Rock ‘n’ Roll is all about taking Daddy’s car and cruising to the hamburger stand. It is taking your high-school Baby to Lookout Hill hoping for a fumbling make-out in the back seat. “Twenty-Four Hours To Tulsa” – opening with its famous two-trumpet phase, is not like that, it is full mature adultery. Written in the form of an apologetic goodbye letter to his wife, the narrator is a comfortably middle-class married businessman heading home for the suburbs from a trade weekend when he’s seduced away by the charms of the girl in the small hotel. ‘She took me to the café, I asked her if she would stay, she said ‘Okay’’ taking them into a whirl of orchestration. This is not teen-kid’s stuff. This is a grown-up Harold Robbins storyline. It was a novel, a movie, at least a Soap-opera plotline. That it was soon to be reconfigured into a drugs-fable by the Eagles torturous “Hotel California” merely adds another dimension. And it was this song that spanned the Atlantic and made Gene Pitney an international contender.




Meanwhile, in another universe, check out the liner-notes of the Rolling Stones debut LP, side one track five reads “Now I’ve Got A Witness (Like Uncle Phil And Uncle Gene)”. Pitney was in London with Phil Spector, hot after their collaboration on “He’s A Rebel”. Andrew Loog Oldham modeled himself on Spector’s cool, and was an arch-opportunist. He spirited the duo down to the Regent Sound Studio where the Stones were recording, sufficient to justify adding the star-endorsement credit, and got them to contribute piano and maracas to “Little By Little” (also the ‘B’-side of “Not Fade Away”). But there was more. Oldham was keen to move his disreputable group away from their diet of R&B covers – which every other club group in Britain was doing anyway, and to get them into writing their own stuff. Like John and Paul. In response they wrote “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday” in the anguished Pitney style.

It’s difficult to imagine Jagger singing it, his limited range seems hardly equal to its vocal contortions, yet a lack-lustre November 1963 songwriter demo – called “My Only Girl” (with a fade-out chorus ‘the girl belongs to yesterday’) has emerged, preserved on the bootleg ‘Unsurpassed Masters Volume 7 (Odds And Ends)’. From this it’s possible to gauge to what extent Gene tweaked and remodeled it, by accentuating and emphasising its modest contours. Re-titled, and with a dramatic Charles Blackwell arrangement, the Pitney single opens with a crashing Spector-style crescendo with descending piano phrase, Gene’s three-octave voice climbing into near-falsetto as its moody drawn-out structure peaks into climax. Until this unlikely link yields a mutually-beneficial top ten hit. The Stones got a respectable writer credit (it also provides their first-ever composition on the US Hot Hundred), while Pitney was oddly ushered into the Swinging London swirl.

 He was on ‘Ready Steady Go’, drooled over by Cathy McGowan, his photo in the ‘Rave’ Mod magazine. There was even gossip about romantic as-close-as-this moments with Dusty Springfield, obviously concocted by the record label publicity department. Pitney’s forays into the London Rock subculture includes a further unlikely collusion. “Lips Are Redder On You” is a fairly inconsequential song written by cult producer Joe Meek for his protégés the Colorados, which caught his attention. With Gene producing to Charles Blackwell’s arrangement – using original guitarist Mick Tracey, it became ‘B’-side to his 1964 single “I’m Gonna Find Myself A Girl”.

At a time when the American Pop-hegemony was collapsing, with established hit-makers as big as Bobby Vee, Ricky Nelson and even Elvis dropping chart-places or tumbling out of the Top Twenty altogether, Gene Pitney began hitting a kind of commercial career peak. Maybe because he hadn’t previously been as big as the others had, or maybe the Stones’ endorsement granted him insider status? If he was sharply-dressed, he was certainly no Mod. Although earlier shots show him with pompadour quiff, by the time of his high-profile post-‘Tulsa’ hits his hair is combed forward into a fringe. But clean, scrupulously tidy. “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (UK no.2) might have been written by top-team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, but it’s uniquely personalised by Gene’s overwrought peak-falsetto in its final moments, rising to express the pain he’s unable to verbalise. It’s followed into the UK Top Three by another of the duo’s songs “Looking Through The Eyes Of Love” (UK no.3), another story-in-song about the anonymous city loser redeemed by the devotion of his lover.

But he was sharp enough to champion new writers. According to Gene’s own account he took demos by struggling newcomer Randy Newman and restructured them into the hits “Nobody Needs Your Love” (UK no.13), and “Just One Smile” (UK no.8), demonstrating again his interpretative ability to arrange and customise songs by other writers. ‘They were awful, as far as being Pop songs’ he told journalist Roger Dopson, ‘you literally had to dissect them! You had to pull them apart and take all the best things out of them, as he’d often just noodle on the piano. You had to think really hard, to extract the right things... sometimes, it was like a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing’ (sleeve notes to ‘Gene Pitney: The Collection’, Demon 2005). So, while not writing the songs, he was focusing his songwriterly instincts to restructure other’s songs. Maybe Randy Newman learned from his revisions? While “I Must Be Seeing Things” (UK no.6) was lifted from a demo by Al Kooper, who would later form Blood Sweat & Tears (although Gene wrote the ‘B’-side “Save Your Love”).




Already there were ‘Greatest Hits’ albums – ‘Gene Pitney’s Big Sixteen’ made the UK LP charts as early as February 1965. Even as the hits continued. Unlike others of his ilk, Gene recorded albums of some integrity. He was never tempted into, or suckered by the psychedelic experiment that derailed some, although it could be argued that his use of ‘world music’ instrumentation as early as “Mecca” (US no.12 in May 1963) prefigures the Beatles forays into orientalism. Probably not, more likely Gene was using them as effects in the same way that Elvis did in the appalling ‘Harem Holiday’ (1965). Instead, Gene reverted to the Country roots that had been an early influence, duo sessions in Nashville resulted in a well-received album with George Jones – ‘For The First Time! Two Great Stars: George Jones And Gene Pitney’ (June 1965) which usefully extended his audience. It was followed by a second Jones collaboration, then an album with Melba Montgomery (‘Being Together’, 1966). Although there were no hit singles from these albums, they proved an astute foray into broadening Gene’s fan-base. Singles remained the most vital Pop currency, but these projects were early examples of what would later be termed country-rock concept albums.

So, with so many positives, why and when the downturn? “Backstage” was another major hit, a song immaculately tailored to his image-requirements. Almost a personal story built around his persona, ‘out on that stage I play the star, I’m famous now I’ve come so far.’ Yes, he emotes the lines with thespian-skill, with perfectly enunciated clarity, an authenticity underlined by the TV-cameras spooling it all in. Yet ‘every night a different room, every night a different club… when I sign my autograph, when I hold an interview’ he’s lost in a lonely isolation that only that special girl can cure. With the implication that maybe – just maybe, that fan watching the screen, could be that special girl. It’s there, in the degree of calculated deliberation that the flaws begin to show.

His uneven chart profile was increasingly tilted towards Europe, where jobbing songwriting teams began offering him custom-crafted material specifically designed around his perceived requirements. Producer Ron Richards acted as go-between for Roger’s Cook & Greenaway – already famous as the David & Jonathan duo, to induce Pitney to record their “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” which required no tweaking whatsoever. It fit effortlessly. He went on to record their lesser-effective “A Street Called Hope”. Anthony ‘Tony’ Hazzard performed the same service with “Maria Elena” – a UK no.25 hit (in March 1969), arranged by slick professional Keith Mansfield. But in some ways it proves a serious miscalculation. The narrative of a young man off to war doing his patriotic chore was at odds with trendy anti-Vietnam sentiment, and distanced him from whatever credibility he retained. 

Another British team, Les Reed and Barry Mason – responsible for Pop-fluff by Edison Lighthouse, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, provided the slight “Twenty-Four Sycamore”, which had earlier failed as a single for Wayne Fontana, but yields a no.34 for Gene. A mildly tuneful if fairly routine song, swathed in weeping strings, it barely provides Pitney’s voice with any challenge, with the lazy ‘whoa-whoa-whoa’ fillers inserted as if in lieu of lyric inspiration. Gene had never done ‘whoa-whoa-whoa’s. His repertoire was always more literate than that. By January 1970 his single “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)” was adapted from a Silvikrin shampoo TV-ad! In fairness, others were doing it too. With one commercial TV-channel, an ad on ITV guaranteed massive awareness, and Honeybus, Bobby Goldsboro and the New Seekers were using it to score hits. But from the man who wrote “He’s A Rebel” and “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away” it’s a disappointing career-development.

Falling back on the Musicor team of staff producer George Tobin writing with Johnny ‘Mr Bass Man’ Cymbal, Gene recorded “Somewhere In The Country” (UK no.19, April 1968), about the social disgrace of illegitimacy, the ‘quiet girl’ spirited off to Aunt Nora’s house to avoid the ‘morning paper social page’ scandal. It was constructed in what ‘Mojo’ called the ‘classic Pitney mould: grand melodrama with a murky backstory.’ Gene performs the role of unreliable narrator, posing the question, is he the errant father? But at the dawn of supposed Free Love and Permissive liberalisation its sensitive sympathy seems quaintly out of time. Now was when Gene Pitney most needed to revert to his own songwriting abilities, to extricate himself from the image he’d been swallowed up by. But it was now that it failed him. There were no new songs. The angry burn that had provoked “He’s A Rebel” had long since ossified. And the material he was being offered was second-rate facsimiles of what he’d already done. “She’s A Heartbreaker” – his final American chart hit (no.16 in April 1968), is a shot at sock-it-to-me R&B underwritten by the writer-producer team of Jerry ‘Swamp Dogg’ Williams and Charlie (brother of Inez) Foxx. It’s outta-sight funky Stax-style horns work. It could have been a direction worth exploring. But it proved to be a one-off.

Not that it was over. Far from it. The hits compilations continued. After all, there were plenty of hits to rummage through. Despite a health scare in 1974 he toured regularly, cutting his on-the-road schedule to six months of each year, but always to good response. And he continued recording. There was even a final hit – his first and only no.1, when Marc Almond invites his participation in his revamp of “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” in January 1989, reigniting a new wave of interest. In much the same way that the Pet Shop Boys revived Dusty Springfield’s career, Take That took Lulu onboard, or the Smiths recorded with Sandie Shaw. The video, filmed in Las Vegas shows Pitney in red cummerbund, looking a little worse for wear, but his voice still packs considerable power.

With the first reports of Gene Pitney’s death, 5 April 2006 in his Cardiff room at the Hilton Hotel, it was difficult not to recall his lines ‘every night a different room, every night a different club’. He died alone, during a British tour. He’d sung “Backstage” at the ‘Frontier’ in Batley the night I saw him. He’d probably sung it more times than even he could remember. But he still sang it with a degree of conviction.



GENE PITNEY: HIT BY HIT… 

27 February 1961 – “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away” (Musicor 10020) reaches US no.39

23 March 1961 – “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away” (Gene Pitney) c/w “I Laughed So Hard I Cried” (London HL 9270) reaches UK no.26

October 1961 – “Every Breath I Take” (Goffin-King) c/w “Mr Moon, Mr Cupid And I” (HMV POP 933) reaches US no.42



18 December 1961 – “Town Without Pity” (Musicor 1009) reaches US no.13. Song revived by Thin White Rope on their late-1988 ‘Red Sun’ EP

8 March 1962 – “Town Without Pity” (Ned Washington-Dmitri Tiomkin) c/w “Air Mail Special Delivery” (HMV POP 952) reaches UK no.32. This was the last song Gene ever sang on stage, as an encore at the St David’s Hall, Cardiff

19 May 1962 – “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” (Bacharach-David) c/w “Take It Like a Man” (Musicor 1020) reaches US no.4. UK HMV POP 1018)

29 September 1962 – “Only Love Can Break A Heart” (Bacharach-David) (Musicor 1022) reaches US no.2. The ‘B’-side, “If I Didn’t Have A Dime (To Play The Jukebox)” (Bert Russell-Phil Medley) charted in its own right, reaching US no.58. UK United Artists UP 1005



5 May 1963 – “Half Heaven, Half Heartache” (Wally Gold-Aaron Schroeder-George Goehring) c/w “Tower Tall” (Mandel-Sachs) (Musicor 1026) reaches US no.12. UK United Artists UP 1012. Gene rerecorded the song as a duet with Jane Olivor on her 2000 album ‘Love Decides’

13 April 1963 – “Mecca” (Johnny Gluck-Neval Nader) c/w “Teardrop By Teardrop” (Halley) (Musicor 1028) reaches US no.12. UK United Artists UP 1021

3 August 1963 – “True Love Never Runs Smooth” (Bacharach-David) c/w “Donna Means Heartbreak” (David-Hampton) (Musicor 1032) reaches US no.21. UK United Artists UP 1030

16 November 1963 – “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa” (Musicor 1034) reaches US no.17

5 December 1963 – “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa” (Bacharach-David) c/w “Lonely Night Dreams (Of Faraway Arms)” (United Artists UP 1035) reaches UK no.5. Arranged and conducted by Burt Bacharach

5 March 1964 – “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday” (Jagger-Richards) c/w “Who Needs It” (Conrad-Beadle) (United Artists UP 1045) reaches UK no.7, reaches US no.49

April 1964 – “Yesterday’s Hero” (A Cleveland-W Gold-C Spencer-A Schroeder) c/w “Cornflower Blue” (Musicor) reaches US no.64

11 April 1964 – ‘BLUE GENE’ (United Artists ULP 1061) reaches UK LP chart no.7

May 1964 – ‘GENE PITNEY MEETS THE FAIR YOUNG LADIES OF FOLKLAND’ (United Artists ULP 1063)

June 1964 – “I’m Gonna Find Myself A Girl” (Adams, Adams and Avon – the Avons of ‘Seven Little Girls’ 45rpm fame) c/w “Lips Are Redder On You” (Joe Meek) (United Artists UP 1055)

29 August 1964 – “It Hurts To Be In Love’ (Musicor 1040) reaches US no.7. Written by Howard Greenfield and Helen Miller it was intended for Neil Sedaka who was unable to record it for contractual reasons, so Gene Pitney’s voice is dubbed over Sedaka’s backing track

15 October 1964 – “It Hurts To Be In Love” (H Greenfield-H Miller) c/w “Hawaii” (United Artists UP 1063) reaches UK no.36

7 November 1964 – “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (Musicor 1045) reaches US no.9. Originally recorded by Frankie Laine in 1963

12 November 1964 – “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil) c/w “Aladdin’s Lamp” (Gene Pitney) (Stateside SS 358) reaches UK no.2

6 February 1965 – ‘GENE PITNEY’S BIG 16’ (Stateside SL 10118) reaches UK LP chart no.12. When vinyl albums usually ran to twelve tracks, sometimes ten, occasionally fourteen, sixteen constituted good value!



18 February 1965 – “I Must Be Seeing Things” (Bob Brass-Al Kooper-Irwin Levine) c/w “Save Your Love” (Stateside SS 390) reaches UK no.6

20 March 1965 – ‘I’M GONNA BE STRONG’ (Stateside SL 10120) reaches UK LP chart no.15

20 March 1965 – “I Must Be Seeing Things” (Musicor 1070) reaches US no.31

22 May 1965 – “Last Chance To Turn Around” (Vic Millrose-Tony Bruno-Bob Elgin) (Musicor 1093) reaches US no.13

10 June 1965 – “Looking Thru The Eyes Of Love” (Mann-Weil) c/w “Last Chance To Turn Around” (Stateside SS 420) reaches UK no.3

August 1965 – ‘Geno Italiano’ (Stateside SE 1032), EP of hits sung in Italian

21 August 1965 – “Looking Thru The Eyes Of Love” (Musicor 1103) reaches US no.28

November 1965 – ‘GEORGE JONES AND GENE PITNEY’ (Stateside SL 10147) followed by April 1966 ‘IT’S COUNTRY TIME AGAIN’ (Stateside SL 10173) also with George Jones

4 November 1965 – “Princess In Rags” (Helen Miller-Roger Atkins) c/w “Amore Mio” (Stateside SS 471) reaches UK no.9

20 November 1965 – ‘LOOKIN’ THRU THE EYES OF LOVE’ (Stateside SL 10148) reaches UK LP chart no.15

18 December 1965 – “Princess In Rags” (Musicor 1130) reaches US no.37

17 February 1966 – “Backstage” (Fred Anisfield-W Denson) c/w “In Love Again” (Stateside SS 490) reaches UK no.4. Arranged by Gary Sherman. Produced by Pitney-Kahan

14 May 1966 – “Backstage’ (Musicor 1171) reaches US no.25

9 June 1966 – “Nobody Needs Your Love” (Randy Newman) c/w “Dream World” (Stateside SS 518) reaches UK no.2

17 September 1965 – ‘NOBODY NEEDS YOUR LOVE’ (Stateside SL 10183) reaches UK LP chart no.13, arrangements by Garry Sherman, ‘Record Mirror’ says ‘the little chap with the big voice is not everybody’s idea of a class singer, but you can’t deny his emotional impact and his enormous range’

September 1966 – ‘BEING TOGETHER: GENE PITNEY AND MELBA MONTGOMERY’ (Stateside SL10181), ‘Record Mirror’ says ‘much more country-slanted than most Pitney sides, but there’s still enough pop flavour not to offend Pitney fans’

10 November 1966 – “Just One Smile” (Randy Newman) c/w “The Boss’s Daughter” (Stateside SS 558) reaches UK no.8, reaches US no.64

February 1967 – ‘There’s No Living Without Your Loving’ EP (Stateside SE 1045) ‘NME’ says ‘one of the most distinctive voices around is at its peak on one here, ‘The Rising Tide Of Love’. If you dig Pitney, dig this.’ Three hitherto unissued tracks, plus ‘The Boss’s Daughter’

23 February 1967 – “(In The) Cold Light Of Day” (L Weiss-S English) c/w “Flower Girl” (Stateside SS 597) reaches UK no.38. Arranged by Artie Butler, Produced by Gene Pitney and Stanley Kahn. Coincides with UK tour opening Friday 17 February at Finsbury Park Astoria, as ‘America’s International Singing Star’ with the Troggs, David Garrick, Sounds Inc. Last date Sunday March 19 at Coventry

March 1967 – “Animal Crackers (In Cellophane Boxes)” (Musicor) US only

4 March 1967 – ‘YOUNG WARM AND WONDERFUL’ (Stateside SSL 10194) reaches UK LP chart no.39, ‘NME’ says ‘Pitney cools the atmospherics and presents an album of warm, romantic songs to fit in with his new image of wedded bliss’… he married Lynn Gayton in Italy while appearing at the San Remo Festival

22 April 1967 – ‘GENE PITNEY’S BIG SIXTEEN Vol.3’ (Stateside SSL 10199) reaches UK LP chart no.40. ‘NME’ says ‘he has to class backing throughout and varies the pace from the up-tempo ‘Rags To Riches’ to the slow low-key ‘Born To Lose’’. ‘Record Mirror’ awards it four-stars

October 1967 – ‘JUST ONE SMILE’ (Stateside SL 10212) ‘NME’ says ‘another well-produced album by this talented American hit singer, who varies the intensity and pace but never the quality of his performance’ ‘Record Mirror’ adds ‘the arrangements are superb, and Gene’s vocalistics are really up to standard’

15 November 1967 – “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” (Greenaway-Cook) c/w “Where Did The Magic Go?” (Stateside SS 2060) reaches UK no.5. UK promotion includes (Nov 4) ATV’s ‘Golden Shot’, and Radio 1’s ‘Pete’s People’, ‘Juke Box Jury’ (8), ‘Top Of The Pops’ (9), ‘Dee Time (Nov 11), plus daily on ‘David Symonds Show’




3 April 1968 – “Somewhere In The Country” (J Cymbal-G Tobin) c/w “Lonely Drifter” (Stateside SS 2103) reaches UK no.19. Coincides with UK tour opens April 5 at Lewisham Odeon, with Paul Jones, Simon Dupree Big Sound, Don Partridge

15 June 1968 – “She’s A Heartbreaker” (Foxx-Jerry Williams) (Musicor 1306) reaches US no.16

June 1968 – “Love Grows” c/w “Conquistador” (Stateside SS 2118)

October 1968 – “Billy, You’re My Friend” (E Goldman) (Musicor) reaches US no.92

27 November 1968 – “Yours Until Tomorrow” (Goffin-King) c/w “She’s A Heartbreaker” (Stateside SS 2131) reaches UK no.34

5 March 1969 – “Maria Elena” (Tony Hazzard) c/w “The French Horn” (Stateside SS 2142) reaches UK no.25. Arranged by Keith Mansfield. Produced by Gerry Bron

20 September 1969 – ‘BEST OF GENE PITNEY’ (Stateside SSL 10286) reaches UK LP chart no.8. ‘NME’ says ‘Gene has a way of giving a song an injection which makes it way above average’ while ‘Record Mirror adds ‘sixteen big ballads from the fastest vibrator in the west’

November 1969 – “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)” (P Vance-L Carr) c/w “I Remember” (Stateside SS 2157) reaches US no.89

14 March 1970 – “A Street Called Hope” (Greenaway-Cook) c/w “Think Of Us” (Tony Hazzard) (Stateside SS 2164) reaches UK no.37. Coincides with UK tour with Badfinger, Clodagh Rodgers, Mike Cotton Sound from 20 March at Finsbury Park Astoria

3 October 1970 – “Shady Lady” (Gentry-Lordi) c/w “Billy, You’re My Friend” (Stateside SS 2177) reaches UK no.29

April 1971 – “Stand By The One Who Loves Me” c/w “Pretty Annabelle” (Pye Int 7N 25549), ‘Record Mirror’ says ‘in this attempt at an up-dating of his style (it’s a rumbling slow Country-tinged chugger), Gene is co-prod/penned by Robert John. There can be no disguising that noisily plaintive voice though’

August 1971 – ‘GENE PITNEY SINGS BACHARAC, DAVID AND OTHERS’ (Pye Special PKL 4404) ‘NME’s Richard Williams says ‘ his voice was strangulated, and therein lay his appeal: though motionless, he seemed to be tearing himself apart inwardly’

August 1971 – “Run Run Roadrunner” c/w “Rainmaker Girl” (Pye Int 7N 25564), ‘NME’ says ‘come the verse his voice moves into the stratosphere and from then on it’s all down to an oxygen tent. Strangely, it’s quite an attractive sound and could become a hit’

November 1971 “It’s Not That I Don’t Love You” (John Carter) c/w “I Just Can’t Help Myself” (Pye Int 7N 25573), produced in UK by Barry Murray. ‘NME’ says it ‘may well re-establish Gene on the chart scene’

April 1972 – “I Just Can’t Help Myself” (Barry Murray and Mike McNaught) c/w “Beautiful Sounds” (Pye 25579), coincides with ‘GOLDEN HOUR OF GENE PITNEY’S GREATEST HITS’ (Golden Hour GH805) includes this with ‘Town Without Pity, ‘Liberty Valence’, ‘I’m Gonna Be Strong’ etc

July 1972 – “Summertime Dreaming” c/w “It Aint The Same” (Pye Int 7N 25585)

October 1972 – “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa” c/w “Maria Elena” (Pye Int 7N 25596)

March 1973 – ‘GOLDEN HOUR OF GENE PITNEY Vol.2’ (Golden Hour GH818) ‘NME’ says ‘he possessed a distinctive style like a cultured Neil Sedaka. All good clean American fun from a good clean son of Uncle Sam. His heart was always breaking; but it broke ‘tastefully’ and without mess’

28 April 1973 – “Twenty-Four Sycamore” (Les Reed-Barry Mason) c/w “Billy, You’re My Friend” (Pye International 7N 25606) reaches UK no.34. Europe release only

October 1973 – “Love Grows” c/w “Hate” (Pye Int 7N 25624)

2 November 1974 – “Blue Angel” c/w “Song Without A Friend” (Bronze BRO 11) reaches UK no.49, re-enters to no.39. Produced by Roger Cook for Europe and Australia release only

March 1975 – “Trans Canada Highway” c/w “Take Me Tonight” (Schroeder-Gold-Alfred) (Bronze BRO 14) ‘NME’ says ‘Ol’ Gene’s mellowed a little. He no longer screams like his Big 16 was trapped in a car door.’ Europe and Australia release only

October 1975 – “Train Of Thought” (Alan O’Day) c/w “I’d Still Be In Love With You” (Bronze BRO 19) revival of old Cher hit. ‘NME’ says ‘Pitney double-tracked in octaves, gently lurching sax solo, orchestra in late in the track, and just right’

November 1975 – ‘PITNEY ‘75’ (Bronze ILPS 9314) with ‘Train Of Thought’, plus songs by Albert Hammond, Paul Williams and Elton John

April 1976 – “You Are” c/w “Oceans Away” (Bronze BRO 25)

2 October 1976 – ‘HIS 20 GREATEST HITS’ (Arcade ADEP 22) reaches UK LP chart no.6

October 1976 – “Hold On” c/w “Running Away For Love” (Bronze BRO 32)

February 1977 – “Sandman” c/w “We Wrote The Show” (Epic EPC 4491)

November 1977 – “We got Love On Our Hands” c/w “Walkin’ In The Sun” (Epic EPC 5783)

December 1977 – “It’s Over, It’s Over” c/w “Walkin’ In The Sun” (Epic EPC 5897) revival of old Roy Orbison hit, a twelve-inch edition includes ‘Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa’

October 1978 – “Train Of Thought” c/w “I’d Still Be In Love With You” (Bronze Bro 63)

August 1982 – “I’m Gonna Be Strong” c/w “Backstage” (Dakota BAK 14)

April 1983 – “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa” c/w “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (Old Gold OG9287), both tracks on September 1977 ‘Soda Pop Vol.2’ compilation (DJM) with ‘NME’ ‘Pitney with the stiff upper lip of ‘I’m Gonna Be Strong’ and the luxurious agony of ‘Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa’, a jukebox rumba of illicit love and flashing motel neon’

14 January 1989 – “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” with Marc Almond (Parlophone R 6201) reaches UK no.1


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Jazz Memoir: CHET BAKER 'As Though I Had Wings'



Book Review of: 
‘AS THOUGH I HAD WINGS: 
THE LOST MEMOIR’ 
by CHET BAKER 
(Indigo Books £6.99 ISBN 0-575-401826) 


With Chet Baker, music and Doomed Youth myth become inseparable. He’s the ‘Young Man With A Horn’ who breathes in air and breathes out light. He had Kerouac’s brooding clean-cut good looks, a fragile introverted tone of poignant lyricism, and a drug habit that eventually destroyed him. Coolsters know him for his silver filigrees of 1950’s West Coast jazz. Elvis Costello fans might recall he guests on “Shipbuilding”. ‘This is his story’, adds widow Carol’s intro. And it’s a sparsely sketched 118 pages, cut with stats from scrawled manuscripts found after he fell – or leapt, from that Amsterdam hotel window 13th May 1988. And it’s a mix of Beat, Bop, narcotics busts and failed rehab in frantic improvisational prose snatched at random from a chaotic life.

There’s no precise set lists, personnel or neatly dated narrative sequence. Instead, he starts out as a Bix-flavoured horn player aged thirteen, until the 298th Army Band takes him into the surreal ruins of a post-war Berlin so cold his lips freeze to the mouthpiece. Back in LA, sitting in with Dexter Gordon, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Shelly Manne, and ‘the outest cats imaginable’ he begins dabbling. The kid who’d once siphoned gas from cars and got stoned sniffing it, now turns onto ‘lids, joints, or anything really’, and ‘loved it, I continued to smoke grass for the next eight years, until I began chipping and finally got strung out on stuff. I enjoyed heroin very much, and used it almost continually, in one form or another, for the next twenty years…’




Soon, there are extended blowing sessions with Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, legendary for his gargantuan appetites for sex, insurrectionary BeBop jazz, food (a dozen take-away tacitos with green sauce during set breaks), and drugs (‘snorting up spoons of stuff while drinking fifths of Hennessy’). Then fame hits big-time with Gerry Mulligan’s melodic and mellow piano-less quartet, Chet’s skating horn providing an infectious foil for Mulligan’s burly baritone, less technique than tone, but unforgettably plaintive, trading lines with each other, weaving counterpoints over fluid rhythms, devising a blueprint for what became known as West Coast Cool as their “My Funny Valentine” became a massive seller. But Chet was unfazed, ‘most people are impressed with just three things, how fast you can play, how high you can play, and how loud you can play. I find this exasperating... probably less than two-percent of the public can really hear’.




From that point on it’s a long corroding white line down from the restrained understated horn playing that won him 1953’s ‘Metronome’ magazine jazz poll. From finding the band’s 24-year old pianist Dick Twardzik OD’d during dates in Paris, to Skid Row rehab at Rikers Island, chasing deals in Harlem (‘woke up with cockroaches crawling all over me’), to a residency in Rome where ‘my veins were collapsing and disappearing’, pursued by headlines – ‘CHET BAKER FOUND IN GAS STATION TOILET’, and hitting on an aristocratic Lady dealer in London’s Wimpole Street, then shooting up in nearby urinals where ‘between midnight and one o’clock you could smell the strong odour of sulphur in the toilet as people cooked up in the semi-privacy of the stalls’. Inevitably he’s dumped naked in a padded cell, and spends fifteen days in Pentonville before he’s deported. This is a book you can either read, or inject direct. It closes December 1963, with a new start in Barcelona. But soon, he’s made a connection. The final words are ‘it all began once again...’ As with Bird, Hendrix – or Cobain, do the sleaze highs destroy, or make the genius possible? Or are they indistinguishably fused? Perhaps the sad sweetness of his jazz always had a chalk outline around its soul. Listen.




Published in: ‘G.C. ROCKS no.8’ (UK - March 2000)
‘THE KEROUAC RAG Issue no.2: Spring 2001’ (UK - Jan 2001)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Books: LIN CARTER at World's End



LIN CARTER: 
 ANOTHER WARRIOR 
OF WORLD’S END

When does the fan move on and become the originator? 
 Sometimes it never happens. Sometimes there’s a partial evolution 
 that hints at a promise of more. Based on such Sword & Sorcery 
 epics as ‘Jandar Of Callisto’, LIN CARTER’s reputation is 
considered by many to be too derivative of earlier role models. 
 Andrew Darlington asks whether 
 ‘THE WARRIOR AT WORLD’S END’ (Daw Books, 1974) – the first 
instalment of his ‘Gondwane Silvermane’ cycle, is different? 


‘The world is filled with strange things 
 here in the Last Days, in the Twilight Of Time’ 


Lin Carter is a curious writer. And one that I’ve only sporadically enjoyed. He’s a fan. Rather than innovate he replicates the fantasy-buzz that first fired his youthful imagination. All writers start out that way. Most evolve from imitation to invent themselves into their own creation. It’s arguable that Lin Carter never did. He remained a fan throughout his life. His extensive body of fiction is Lin Carter, but it is also an adjunct, an extension, a spin-off from those who’d come before.

Even while he lived, Edgar Rice Burroughs had imitators. Otis Adelbert Kline was one of many who invented their own lesser ‘John Carter on Barsoom’-variants. Then John Norman amplified its sublimated sexual content for his ‘Gor’ porn-world cycle. Both Leigh Brackett and Michael Moorcock used the template Burroughs provided, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes richly and powerfully imaginatively took it to places way beyond Burroughs own limited vision and writing skills.

Lin Carter’s ‘Jandar Of Callisto’ novel-series inhabits the Burroughs continuum completely, with all its enjoyably escapist, if predictably repetitive ingredients re-mixed. Imitating the Burroughs framing-sequence in which he claims not to write the Barsoom novels – merely edits John Carter’s tales, so Lin Carter claims not to write, but merely edit the saga of Jonathan Dark who falls through a well in the ancient Cambodian city of Arangkhôr to emerge in the jungles of Jupiter’s moon. ‘In The Land Of A Thousand Foes’ he’s captured and escapes from the insectoid Yathoon, rescues the beautiful Princess Darloona who is exiled from her exotic city of Shondakar by the evil Black Legion, and leads a rebellion against the ‘Sky Pirates’ of Zanadar. In other words, for those who enjoy Burroughs, and simply want more of the same, they’ll not be disappointed. But the eight novels seldom if ever rise above or beyond his model. Lin Carter remains a fan.

Yet his ‘Gondwane’ epic is different, by degrees. In ‘The Warrior Of World’s End’ (Daw, 1974) Carter still colonises worlds conjured into being by other writers. But this time he’s side-stepped into the realms of Clark Ashton Smith’s ‘Zothique’ mythos and Jack Vance’s ‘Dying Earth’ series. There are also echoes of John Brunner’s “Earth Is But A Star” 1959 novelette (expanded into his ‘Catch A Falling Star’ novel, 1968), and Michael Moorcock’s exotic ‘Dancers At The End Of Time’ trilogy (from 1972 to 1981). Set in the ‘untold ages of dim futurity’ when the ageing Sun is dimming, there’s all the eccentric richness of Ashton Smith’s poetic fantasies. These are the ‘Last Days’, when the ‘Moon is falling, falling’, a harbinger of a time when ‘the Earth shall be man’s habitation no more’ and the ‘great night that shall enfold all, and naught but the cold stars reign.’




There’s a crudely-sketched map of Gondwane, Earth’s last supercontinent in this ‘Twilight Of Time’, which – like primeval Pangaea, is the planet’s single landmass. It’s a mythical world of strange True Men and unhuman tribes, divided up into ‘kingdoms, empires, city-states, federations, theocracies, tyrannies, conglomerates, unions, principates and various degenerate savage barbarian or nonhuman hordes.’ The timescapes beyond the ‘Eon Of The Falling Moon’ are vast, across 700,000,000-years with empires and civilisations lost to history receding into legend, leaving dead cities, ruins and relics of past cultures to litter the world. And it’s not so much that there is magic or wizards, more that people look back on a time ‘when there was such a thing as science.’ For the laws of physics themselves have become peculiar and inconsistent, ‘but remember’ as Carter’s footnote cautions ‘in seven hundred million years the Laws of Nature have undergone change and alteration,’ in which all constants have ‘been passing through a state of flux, reversal and alteration.’

Ganelon Silvermane is first discovered wandering naked in the blue rain, by Phlesco, an itinerant Godmaker periaptist, and Iminix, his psuedowoman wife as they journey towards the Realm of the Nine Hegemons, north of the Crystal Mountains. They ride ornithohippus bird-horses as ‘evolution had continued its subtle, invisible surgery amid the gene-pool of Terrene life-forms, and many new races of beasts as well as sentient humanoids had arisen.’ These other forms include halfmen, Deathdwarfs, Stone Heads and Green Wraiths. Initially assumed to be a lumbering mindless lout, the kindly couple take the giant to the city of Zermish to cater to his needs. The city, dating back only thirty-two thousand years, was considered rather youngish, according to the expectations of the time. It is here that Magister Narelon the Illusionist – alerted by the haruspex Slunth, first suspects Ganelon’s true identity. That he is both two-hundred million years old, and yet was barely seven hours alive at the time of his discovery.

Born 9 June 1930, in St Petersburg, Florida, Linwood Vrooman Carter became an early, regular and enthusiastic contributor to the letters-page of ‘Startling Stories’ (first in the Winter 1943-4 edition) and ‘Thrilling Wonder Stories’ (from December 1946). He was active in fan magazines with poems, book reviews and fiction – his first story, “The Castle Beyond The World” was in the Winter 1950 ‘The Fanscient no.10’, and the Lovecraftian “Slitherer From The Slime” in ‘Inside SF’ (September 1958). Later, his ‘Worlds Of If’ column – from April 1966 was descriptively headed ‘Our Man In Fandom’. He graduated into the pro field by completing a number of Robert E Howard unfinished drafts to produce new ‘Conan’ stories, starting with “The Thing In The Crypt” and “The City Of Skulls” in collaboration with L Sprague de Camp, which were included in the ‘Conan’ (1967, Lancer Books) anthology. As an essentially imitative writer in thrall to the genre, he was ideal for such a project. And there are echoes of ‘Conan’ in Ganelon when he’s described as being ‘like some savage giant from Time’s Dawn’, with reference to his ‘gigantic thews’.

His less convincing forays into straight Space Opera include ‘The Great Imperium’ trilogy commencing with ‘The Man Without A Planet’ (1966), although he’s more at home with Sword and Sorcery fantasies such as his ‘Thongor’ series, beginning with ‘The Wizard Of Lemuria’ (Ace, 1965). In a ‘New Worlds’ review of ‘Thongor Of Lemuria’ James Cawthorn is predictably scathing, calling it ‘ill-written and overly derivative’ (no.165, August 1965). Later, he also adopted the ‘Doc Savage’ style for his ‘Zarkon’ novels ‘Invisible Death’ (1975) and ‘The Nemesis Of Evil’ (1975). While he was contributing actively within the genre by compiling the ‘Flashing Swords’ anthologies (five volumes 1973 to 1981) and editing for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. But when does the fan move on and become the originator? Sometimes it never happens. Sometimes there’s a partial evolution that hints at a promise of more. On this basis, his Gondwane mythos might just be his most original creation.

There’s a thread of playful humour about his Ganelon tale, one entirely in character with the whimsical and fin de siècle capriciousness of the age he’s conjectured. ‘Each of the Hegemons who ruled Zermish were virtually the same personage, for the sperm plasm of the First Zermetic Hegemon – Argelibichus the Perpetual, was still preserved in an Eternity Tank, and from this original ancestral sampling the wife of each regnant Hegemon in turn was ritually impregnated with a ceremonial catheter of stain-resisting platinum.’ The latest Hegemon is tactfully absent when a migrating herd of brutish Indigons attack and threaten to inundate the city, ‘the palace issued a statement to the effect that the gods had seen fit to visit him with a sick headache. Nonetheless, he conveyed his heartiest wishes for the successful battle to (Warchieftain) Urukush and his subchieftains, and promised them state funerals.’ Urukush proves equally cowardly. But ‘there was no use crying over spilled blood, until it was actually spilled.’ It’s during the ensuing battle that Ganelon’s warrior skills first become apparent.



Ganelon, it seems, is a ‘Construct’. In a plot-device not dissimilar to Isaac Asimov’s Hari Seldon Psychohistory future-projections, a long-extinct race called the Time Gods had predicted a series of crises that would menace the world, and had created the Ardelix Time Vault of heroes preserved in a state of suspended animation to be awakened in order to resolve each crisis as it occurs. Ganelon has been accidentally wakened by earth-tremors, but what is the nature of the crisis he was designed and constructed to resolve? Meanwhile, word of his triumph over the Indigons attracts the manipulative attentions of the ‘voluptuous and virginal’ Queen Of Red Magic who is a being entirely of red – ‘she had red hair, skin, eyes and even teeth.’ She ‘loathed the bluish colouring of the Indigons, it did so clash with her hair.’ To avoid her predatory attentions, Narelon the Illusionist spirits Ganelon away to his fortress in the Crystal Mountains, in a steel-strong glass bubble called a nembalim, his foster-mother Iminix ludicrously bidding him farewell with ‘remember to dress warm and wear your galoshes when it rains’!

And there are some wonderfully idiosyncratic adventures to come. Activating a quaint bronze Bazonga bird constructed by a dead alchemist, there’s a tetchy exchange with its awakening sentience over what its name is to be. ‘Do you think I intend going through life being referred to as ‘Hey you!’ or ‘Birdie’?’ it protests. Then another nervous automaton complains of ‘rust in my knee-joint’ to avoid a test-flight in the unwieldy flying contraption, which is impregnated with anti-gravity yxium particles. The ensuing voyage takes Ganelon and Narelon into an alliance with the Sirix Xarda of Jemmerdy – her topless semi-nudity a matter of no great consequence, into slavery in the Air Mines (a frozen comet-head impacted deep beneath the surface), and a struggle against the Airmasters of the Sky Island who control the vacuum-bubble Death Zone weapon. When Xarda discovers ‘her lovely longsword, dirk, poniard, and small ax were missing. A pity, she thought, for they had been a perfectly matched set, and a bargain at that.’ Absurdly inventive, the novel climaxes in a mighty battle on the land suspended miles high in the air, beneath the vast orb of the falling Moon.

Expanded from a single original novel – ‘Giant Of World’s End’ (1969), which Carter developed into a series, the books that follow are of variable quality. But they’re all relatively short and effortlessly readable. Lin Carter is a curious writer, one I’ve only sporadically enjoyed. He’s a fan. And arguably never evolved far beyond that status. But ‘The Warrior At World’s End’ is among his very best.


‘What did it matter, after all, how life would end? 
It would end in one way or another; all things which 
had beginnings also had endings. And, whether 
Old Earth froze or melted, an ending was an ending 
and one way was as good as another. He would 
 not be here to learn how the story of man ended…’


 LIN CARTER: 
THE GONDWANE EPIC 

‘GIANT OF WORLD’S END’ (Belmont Swords & Sorcery, February 1969) 144pp, Jeff Jones cover-art. Intended as a stand-alone novel, it’s not strictly part of the cycle. Ganelon Silvermane and Zolobion the Magician journey from the land of the great Stone Face on a series of adventures. ‘Could the combined powers of the wizard and the warrior halt the Doom that filled the skies?’

‘THE WARRIOR AT WORLD’S END’ (DAW Books, November 1974) 160pp, Vincent DiFate cover-art, includes map by Lin Carter, and ‘Glossary Of Unfamiliar Names And Terms’. First of the series-proper, expanded from the original idea

‘THE ENCHANTRESS OF WORLD’S END’ (DAW Books, May 1975) 192pp, Michael Whelan cover-art, includes ‘Gondwane’ map by Lin Carter. Ganelon and the Scarlet Enchantress

‘THE IMMORTAL OF WORLD’S END’ (DAW Books, September1976) 160pp, Michael Whelan cover-art. Includes ‘Glossary Of Places Mentioned In The Text’. A decaying island-city slipping into the water, but projecting an illusion of its former glory

‘THE BARBARIAN OF WORLD’S END’ (DAW Books, May 1977) 188pp, John Bierley cover-art. Ganelon offers himself as hostage to the barbarian Ximchak Horde, and rises to become its leader, taking them beyond the glass-walled Triple City to the Marvellous Mountains carved into gigantic friezes

‘THE PIRATES OF WORLD’S END’ (DAW Books, October1978) 173pp, Richard Hescox cover-art

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Poem: 'In Praise Of False Madonna's'




IN PRAISE OF 
FALSE MADONNA’S 



Dear Claire Rayner
am I normal?

I find myself in a constant
state of involuntary erection,
it causes acute embarrassment and
spoils the lines of my Designer Jeans

things that trigger this arousal include
girls who don’t wear bra’s
and girls who do,
girls who leave lipstick rings
around the base of cigarettes…

I’m affected by the
shape of tall buildings,
and by the throb and tremble
of Toyota exhausts,
I love the way sodium streetlights
turn the world to pale flesh

Dear Claire, am I normal?

I stand on the ripples on concrete to
watch Maestro’s and Fiat’s slide
smoothly into the Leeds Urban Underpass
I get horny for
in-store promotional videos
for tights and shower fittings,
I’m 50, wretched and desperate,
I’m looking for Poetry Groupies,
Woman is an alien species

help me Claire, am I normal?

I’m aroused by Thatcher’s speeches
when her lips almost brush
the tip of the microphone,
I love Reader’s Wives,
the TV QUICK Problem Page,
the smell of burning rubber,
inoculations with shiny needles,
computer schematics of pistons in motion,
The Spice Girls, exploding Mill chimneys,
Medical Journals, Nuns,
missile launches and Mo Mowlam

Lily Savage makes me impotent

Am I normal?

                            - Dandy Arlington (Mr)



Published in:
‘YOUR FRIENDLY FASCIST no.24’ (Australia - Sept 1985)
‘A DOCTOR’S DILEMMA no.2’ (UK - March 1987)
‘CHARNEL HOUSE No.2: HALLOWEEN SPECIAL’ (UK - Nov 1998)
and on:
‘NINETY-NINETY: NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL: C60 Compilation’
(UK Cassette - May 1990)

Friday, 25 July 2014

Music Interview: DEEP PURPLE: Jon Lord 1993



DEEP PURPLE: 
THE BATTLE RAGES 
ON … AND ON… AND ON… 


The Fathers of Heavy Metal? – 
‘THAT CHILD IS NOT MINE!’ roars Jon Lord
 who played keyboard through twenty-five years of 
Deep Purple splits, reformations, recriminations and tears. 
Now he’s got a new album and tour re-uniting the classic 
‘Deep Purple In Rock’ formation to talk up, with 
side-swipes at Metallica, the David Coverdale/Jimmy Page 
album, and just why Coverdale’s sexually explicit 
lyrics made Lord ‘a tad embarrassed’. A 1993 interview




‘This will be my last time in a band…’ 
           (Jon Lord in ‘Melody Maker’ 5 May 1979)


‘Did I say that? The awful thing about being in bands is that guys like you can throw back at me things that I said ten years ago… or fourteen years ago in this case!’

Deep Purple are back on the road, with new product to promote – a CD called ‘The Battle Rages On’ (July 1993), their fourteenth studio album, and one that’s marketed through the unique selling point of a ‘Twenty-Fifth Anniversary’ logo. ‘Yes, it’s funny really’ muses Jon Lord (then aged 52). ‘It’s just sneaked up on us. It seems like three minutes ago that we were playing the City Hall, Sheffield in 1975. It’s rather frightening. Yes… twenty-five years…’

He reels off potential venues, ‘two or three in London, two nights at the Manchester Apollo, Birmingham NEC, I don’t think the tour’s absolutely written in stone yet, but you know, the usual places.’ To Jon Lord this is usual. Deep Purple play the Birmingham NEC like you or I go down the Lounge Bar in the City Centre. Jon Lord was in Deep Purple before ITV’s first colour transmissions, before Neil Armstrong took his first small step onto the surface of the Moon, and while the original ‘Star Trek’ episodes were being screened for the first time. Deep Purple’s debut gig – in Taastrup, Denmark (20 April 1968), took place just sixteen days after Martin Luther King’s assassination. The Beatles were still a band, Jack Kerouac and Jim Morrison were still alive, and I was still trying to lose my virginity. Probably you weren’t even born yet!

In a Pop Soap Opera world of fleeting ‘Eldorado’s, Deep Purple are Rock ‘n’ Roll’s never-ending ‘Coronation Street’. Jokes about trading in their psychedelics, debauchery and volume in favour of Phyllosan (which ‘fortifies the over-Forties’), Grecian 2000 and tinnitus are as predictably regurgitated as a vindaloo after too many lagers, but they’re still capable of inflicting a killer set. Jon Lord is a founder member of these pioneers of the dubious art of recycled riffology, he’s the guy on the Hammond organ, the guy – in all those yellowing 1970’s press-cutting photos, with the long dark hair and droopy moustache.

And yes, after all the turbulence, splits, personnel changes and reformations, this time Deep Purple is back to its twenty-four carat classic 1970 Purple Mark: 2 ‘…In Rock’ formation – Ian Gillan (vocals), Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Jon Lord (organ), Roger Glover (bass) and Ian Paice (drums). And Blackmore’s guitar range remains as impressive as ever, from the arrogant swagger of “One Man’s Meat” to a fleet-fingered flamenco intro that kicks off the epic 6:31-minute “Anya”, written five-handed. Elsewhere, “A Twist in the Tale” hits the same kind of intensity as vintage “Highway Star” – with Lord’s standout Hammond C3 organ solo.

‘“The Battle Rages On” is the album’s (hard-driving) title track, and some would say, the way our band has been running, it’s a well-chosen title.’ Lord jokes defensively, in a matey practiced interview technique. ‘Basically, this is the band that it should always be. It’s easy to look back with hindsight and say you shouldn’t have done this and you shouldn’t have done that. But I just wish that this line-up had never drifted apart and that we’d stuck together. Life would have been so much easier. But still, life wasn’t meant to be that easy. When we get together there’s no problems. That’s not the problem. The problem is when we’re apart. Once we’re together and working, it’s pretty good. There’s too many good times stored up between the five of us to let it just drift apart in acrimony. That would be wrong. I’m really glad to see it back together again.’

But surely, looking back across twenty-five years of Deep Purple history, is it possible to still get a buzz from playing? ‘From recording – yes. A qualified ‘yes’. But on stage – an unqualified yes. That’s the way it happens for me. That two hours on stage. That’s still without peer in my life. That’s the brilliant moment. Playing is the highlight. I find the studio a little more tiresome, always have. I’ve never been a great studio musician. I don’t mind if it can be done as quickly as possible, that’s OK. But to go over and over and over something, constantly searching for some kind of meaningless perfection, that drives me to distraction. We recorded the new album’s backing tracks last summer. Then halfway through the recording we decided it had to be Ian Gillan on vocals again. He should never have left. But you know what we’re like. So he came back in the autumn and we spent the remainder of that year and the first part of this year writing lyrics. The vocals were recorded in February in Florida (in Greg Rike Studios, Orlando) and that’s it – the baby is christened, and ready to bring joy into the world!’




But what about the other Purple graduates scattered across the subsequent years, those not included in the reunion? David Coverdale – for example, and his current album collaboration with Jimmy Page, ‘Coverdale*Page’ (Geffen Records, March 1993)? Has Jon heard it? ‘Yes I have. I’ve always made it a practise to try not to criticise other musicians too strongly, you know. Nobody tries to make a bad album. But I must say that I was disappointed with the Coverdale-Page album. I played it, and I’m going ‘COME ON! GRAB ME!! GET ME!!!’ And it never quite did. I mean, there’s some wonderful moments. Jimmy is a great guitarist. But I didn’t feel that it really caught fire. The guy who was going to mix our album was doing the engineering and producing for them (Mike ‘Fraze’ Fraser). So little bits and pieces filtered back to me. That it was taking longer than expected, and so on and so on. And as I say, I was a little disappointed with the end result. There are a couple of moments when my hair stood on end, the goose-bumps moments, you know? But David sounds like his voice needs a rest on some of the tracks. He sounds very very hoarse. Maybe he should take some of the money he earned on that huge ‘Whitesnake’ (1987) album, and just lay back for a while…’




--- 0 --- 
‘We’re as valid as anything by Beethoven…’ 
 (Jon Lord in ‘New Musical Express’ March 1973) 

To me, Deep Purple were never a class act. In Olympic terms, as a Rock band, they always seemed one steroid short of the Gold Medal. But they are the Mount Rushmore of Heavy Rock.

If you were at school in 1972 and Captain Beefheart or Led Zeppelin are too difficult or just too plain weird, then a Deep Purple album looks good with your tie-dye ‘T’-shirt and loon-pants. They have the added Pop bonus of solid metal charts hits, ideal for miming air-guitar to – “Black Night” (no.2 in August 1970), “Strange Kind Of Woman” (no.8 in February 1971) and “Fireball” (no.15 in November 1971), so you got to see them on ‘Top Of The Pops’ too. You know those hits, they’re lodged in your subconscious. Vic Reeves mined the vogue for tacky 1970’s revamps by covering “Black Night” on his ‘I Will Cure You’ (Island, 1991) album. Human League’s Phil Oakey was an accessory – producing the track in a passable tribute to the Purple template. If you had long permed hair and were in a ‘Progressive’ Rock band in 1974 but couldn’t play the tricky bits like Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page, you could always bash out a passable “Smoke On The Water”. Hell, everyone did it. Some people still are.

‘Deep Purple In Rock’ (Harvest, June 1970) is still – for many, the classic benchmark statement. ‘It’s one of those benchmark albums isn’t it, for that time’ Jon agrees. ‘That – along with ‘Led Zeppelin II’ I suppose, and perhaps a couple of others, they sort of define the early Seventies, don’t they? I’m very proud of that album. I mean, it was white-hot. There were no harsh problems with that album at all, it just fell out of the band. Like “Highway Star” was written in five minutes on a bus, in the back of a bus going down to Plymouth. It was really a wonderful, lyrical, marvellous time.’ “Highway Star” is on ‘Machine Head’ (Purple Records, March 1972), and not ‘…In Rock’ – but with the same line-up. Yet there was more to Deep Purple than just turgid riffs. Lord prefers the term Rock ‘n’ Roll to describe what they do, as distinct from ‘Heavy Metal’ anyway. Although he’d probably settle for Hard Rock.

And they have track records extending back into the Sixties, that even now – to neatly coincide with the quarter-century merchandising hoopla, are being reissued on CD’s with enticing group names like The Outlaws ‘Ride Again: The Singles A’s And B’s’ (See For Miles 1990, featuring Ritchie Blackmore), Episode Six ‘The Complete Episode Six: The Roots Of Deep Purple’ (Sequel Records, 1991, featuring Ian Gillan and Roger Glover), and the Artwoods ‘100 Oxford Street’ (Edsel, 1983, featuring Jon Lord). ‘Yes, I understand these things are coming out. Good Lord, the things they do to the poor unsuspecting public. It’s really strange to have your professional life come out again for scrutiny on CD in this way.’

John Douglas ‘Jon’ Lord even played back-up with cabaret instant-Hippies the Flowerpot Men. ‘I try to keep that out of my CV’ he laughs. ‘“Let’s Go To San Francisco” (no.4 in August 1967) was never one of my favourite songs.’ It was soon after this – March 1968, that he linked with Ian Paice and Ritchie Blackmore – with Rod Evans and Nick Simper, to co-found the first Deep Purple line-up. ‘I got a very strong grounding in Rock ‘n’ Roll when I started to play with Ritchie. So I was very lucky, because I have quite a few influences to play with.’

‘Deep Purple In Rock’ remains Jon’s favourite, ‘either that – or maybe ‘Made In Japan’ (1972), because that’s the band playing absolutely on the top of its form. I don’t think I’ve ever played as well as I did on those nights in Japan. I listen back and I think ‘christ, is that me?’ Excuse me immodesty, but it’s tough to choose a favourite album ‘cos I love ‘em all. They’re all great. There’s bits on every single one of them that encapsulates a certain time of my life for me. I’m very proud of the things we’ve done. I’ve had a great career. I’ve been very lucky.’




The Deep Purple split came in July 1976, and until the first reformation in November 1984 Jon Lord played as part of David Coverdale’s Whitesnake. ‘A great fun band. We were playing in the middle of a time when everyone was out buying Punk, and what were they called… the New Romantics or something? All those kinds of early Midge Ure kind of bands. And right there in the grip of the teeth of that, we were the top-selling concert-ticket band in Europe. And we were playing a sort of modern R&B!’

The second Whitesnake album – ‘Lovehunter’ (UA, October 1979), came packaged in Chris Achilleos’ lurid sleeve-art portraying a naked woman straddling a hugely phallic serpent, the kind of Neolithic sexual imagery suddenly shoved into even sharper caricature by the prevailing anti-sexist mood of the New Wave. Imagery matched by its explicit lyrics. ‘David’s lyrics? Yes – he liked to write that way, didn’t he? I must admit the rest of the band used to be a little worried about David’s lyrics’ he chortles. ‘We felt like saying ‘can’t you… you know’? Occasionally he wrote some wonderful glorious Rock ‘n’ Roll poetry, which he got into some of his songs. Not great poetry – you understand, but great Rock ‘n’ Roll poetry. I mean, the opening lines of “Here I Go Again”, they are great – ‘I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been’, that’s a classic opening line. So I have a lot of time for his ability as a writer, except when he used to get into that “Slide It In” double-entendre sex bit (title-track of Whitesnake’s sixth studio album, ‘Slide It In’, 1984). David’s double-entendres were more like SINGLE entendres!’

But Heavy Metal itself can be seen as a ham-fisted clichéd stylised style populated by more living dinosaurian relics than Jurassic Park, yet even here – over Purple’s quarter-century lifespan, there’s been radical evolutions in various directions, Death-Metal, Speed-Metal, Thrash, Pop-Metal. What does Metal-veteran Jon make of Deep Purple’s contemporary opposition? ‘I hear some good things. I hear some things that make me cringe. But that’s the same with any music isn’t it? I can’t possibly make a sweeping statement and say ‘I like that kind of music’ without any reservations. I went to see Metallica last year, they’re supposed to be one of the credible bands. And they’re brilliant… at what they do. I met the guys and they were very pleasant. They played a superb show and they did a couple of Purple numbers as a tribute to us, which was very nice. Superb stuff. But it’s not… it’s not… it’s not what I would choose to go and listen to. If you want high-power stadium Heavy Metal they’re very exciting. But at the same time, I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool fan.’

So what’s it like to be described as the inventor of all this global metal mayhem? ‘Someone once said to me ‘your band are the Fathers of Heavy Metal’’ he relates with evident amusement. ‘And I said ‘THAT CHILD IS NOT MINE!!!’’

--- 0 ---

In keeping with Deep Purple’s turbulent history, and with the title of the reunion album ‘The Battle Rages On’, after the ‘Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Tour’ had played the Manchester Ardwick Apollo, the Brixton Academy, and Birmingham’s NEC, Ritchie Blackmore quit the group during the 17 November 1993 show at the Helsinki Jäähalli Icehall, never to return. He was replaced for the rest of the tour by Joe Satriani. Jon Lord himself eventually retired from Deep Purple in 2002. He died 16 July 2012.



Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Bram Stoker: 'THE LURE OF THE WHITE WORM'


BRAM STOKER: 
 LURE OF THE WHITE WORM

Ken Russell’s 1988 movie explodes Bram Stoker’s 
‘THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM’ into gore, splatter, 
nudity, sensationalism, and massive phallic allusions. 
Dublin-born Stoker also created one of the twentieth-century’s 
most persistent mythologies in his earlier novel ‘DRACULA’
In this exploration Andrew Darlington suggests that both 
works were born out of Stoker’s perverse and repressed 
sexual problems – and that this time Ken Russell’s 
visual overkill has perhaps got it more to rights!




 ‘…an affair of ghastly mystery which has no bottom and no end – 
 with forces of the most unnerving kind, which had their origins 
 in an age when the world was different from the world which 
 we know. We are going back to the origin of superstition – 
 to an age when dragons tore each other in their slime. 
We must fear nothing – no conclusion, however 
 improbable, almost impossible it may be…’ 
 (Bram Stoker, ‘The Lair Of The White Worm’, 1911) 


Ken Russell’s ‘The Lair Of The White Worm’ (1988) is a movie, DVD, download. It is gore, splatter, nudity, sensationalism, and massive phallic allusion. All the things Russell is most reviled for camping into absurdity. Yet perhaps this time he’s got it more to rights. The screenplay is drawn from Bram Stoker’s last novel of the weird, written the year before his death, and fourteen years after he’d published his most enduring fantasy – ‘Dracula’ (1897). And it’s these two novels in particular that Stoker’s biographer (and great-nephew) Daniel Farson singles out as evidence of a twisted sexual symbolism wriggling through his work, fetishisms of which Stoker himself was unaware.

The writer’s wife – Florence, was frigid. And he died of Locomotor Ataxia, one of the tertiary stages of syphilis. To Farson, these facts suggest a haunting guilt complex derived from pathologically suppressed desires, an attraction/repulsion duality in Stoker’s attitudes to his own natural, but frustrated libidinous urges. A disturbing inner conflict charged with perverted erotic potential, all wrapped up in a swirling cloak of suffocating Victorian morality…

Draw your own conclusions.

The theory is reinforced by the disclosure that Stoker was an ardent advocate of press censorship, externalising his own struggle to screw down those instincts within himself he found ‘both thrilling and repulsive’. He wrote revealingly (in ‘The Nineteenth Century’ magazine, 1908) that ‘the only emotions which in the long run harm, are those arising from sex impulses.’ Therefore, it could be argued that the porn-lite content that Ken Russell explodes into visually garish flash-frames is merely a libidinous content which Stoker himself circles warily, but is nevertheless there, investing the prose with its intense subliminal lure, its forbiddingly dark undercurrents. But if the worm of the title is a huge white rippling amputated penis of primal power, and if vampirism in an exercise in S/M sado-erotic power-play, then the writing itself seldom admits to more than veiled suggestions.




Lady Arabella of Diana’s Grove, asquat the bottomless shaft of the worm is ‘clad in some kind of soft white stuff, which clung close to her form, showing to the full every movement of her sinuous figure.’ Hardly torrid stuff. Yet shrieking for its expression. So that when Lady Arabella – who is herself the shape-changing worm, muses ‘she must lure him to the White Worm’s hole’ there’s perhaps more than just an unconscious Freudian double entendre there? Even Freud himself concurs, opining that a ‘morbid dream always signifies repressed desire.’

The duality is more vividly displayed in ‘Dracula’ when Stoker’s protagonist, Jonathan Harker, is assailed by three female vampires, and he experiences ‘some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips… there was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive.’ Compare that passage to one from ‘The Lair Of The White Worm’ in which Arabella ‘tore off her clothes with feverish fingers and in full enjoyment of her natural freedom, stretching her slim figure in animal delight. Then she lay down on the sofa – to await her victim.’ In both cases the male target of female sexuality is not lover – but victim! The image of woman is as a strange and terrible predator, and to submit to the desires they enflame is to invite destruction. Sex is deadlier than AIDS.

Just as he drew on earlier sources for Dracula, Stoker was also using an already familiar theme when he created ‘The Lair Of The White Worm’. In the novel he charts its derivation, ‘in the dawn of the language, the word ‘worm’ had a somewhat different meaning from that in use today. It was an adaptation of the Anglo-Saxon ‘Wyrm’ meaning a dragon or snake; or from the Gothic ‘Waurms’, a serpent; or the Icelandic ‘Ormur’, or the German ‘wurm’…’ He goes on to quote Indian legend. While other references can be traced back through Oroubus, the Lambton worm, the Spindleston Hough and Whitby worms, and forward to Robert E Howard’s powerful antediluvian fantasy “The Valley Of The Worm” (in ‘Weird Tales’, February 1934). Hence Stoker worked within, and contributed to, myth-symbols of the universal shared unconscious. And if his sexual hang-ups give these Jungian archetypes their power, then the success of those images must relate to the kinks in us all…


Bram Stoker

Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker was born on 8 November 1847 in Clontarf, north of Dublin Bay, the third of a brood of seven children sired by a low-paid government clerk. He was a sickly kid who conquered his early weakness to become a flamboyant red-bearded giant of a man, a fine all-round athlete who poet Walt Whitman was moved to describe as ‘a breath of good healthy breezy sea air.’ He graduated from Dublin University and drifted, for want of a clear alternative, into his father’s lifestyle. He rose to the post of Registrar of Petty Sessions in the Chief Secretary’s Office in the Dublin Castle civil service, where he was restless and bored, expending his voracious energies into spare-time projects. He became unpaid theatre critic, and edited a new Dublin newspaper. He also served a literary apprenticeship by churning out a series of pulp ‘cliff-hangers’. His release from frustrating government service didn’t come until 1878. In that year he married Florence Balcombe – whose previous admirers had included Oscar Wilde, and simultaneously he quit job, pension – and the dreary Dublin of George Bernard Shaw and Wilde for the wider horizons of London.

He joined tragedian Henry Irving – the Larry Olivier of his day, as the actor-manager’s deputy, business and touring manager. Their unique association lasted until the actor’s death in 1905, a period retrospected by Stoker’s worms-eye view ‘Reminiscences Of Henry Irving’ (1906). Despite the birth of one son (Noel), sexual relations with Florence didn’t survive far into a marriage that rapidly devolved into a mere formal domestic arrangement. Stoker’s passions were instead entirely devoted to promoting a client he saw through the eyes of near hero-worship. He even confessed to becoming hysterically overcome by the intensity of Irving’s rendition of Thomas Hood’s tragic poem “The Dream Of Eugene Aram”, and he jealously guarded the exclusivity of their relationship. Yet through the Pop star period of Irving’s peak years (with the legendary Ellen Terry) at the Lyceum Theatre, the genial Stoker – who managed productions and international tours, also found time to produce eleven novels! His themes spread across a wide spectrum, from children’s stories and highly sentimental romances to the archetypal Gothic horror classics he’s remembered for – if only through Late Night TV Horror reruns.



‘Dracula’ appeared in 1897, Irving disloyally trashing the novel as simply ‘dreadful’. Stoker claimed he wrote it after an indigestion overdose from eating a surfeit of crab. Others have interpreted it as a novel about the fear of syphilis. Once bitten – forever smitten! It’s also about sexual dominance and submission. ‘A summary of the book’ declared ‘The Bookman’ ‘would shock and disgust.’ ‘It is horrid and creepy to the last degree’ agreed ‘The Pall Mall Gazette’. Whatever – it hit a vein in the dark side of the collective psyche that’s been transfused into the mainstream of twentieth-century mythology.

Stoker would have been familiar with pre-existing vampire lore, perhaps even connecting it to the Irish blood-sucking demon known in Gaelic as ‘Dearg-dul’ or ‘Dragdul’. And he’d have read vampirism’s literary antecedents, in particular “The Vampyre” (1819), a short story concerning the menacing Lord Ruthven. Originally the tale was attributed to Lord Byron, a view later revised. It’s now thought to be based on Byron’s foppishly enigmatic persona, but written by his friend and ‘personal physician’ Dr John Polidori. Polidori hatched the idea at the famous ghost-story session of 1816 at Villa Diodati, on the shores of Lake Geneva. An event later to be filmed in full gore, splatter, nudity and sensationalism by Ken Russell as ‘Gothic’ (1986), with a cast of Percy Bysshe Shelley (played by Julian Sands), Mary ‘Shelley’ Wollstencraft (Natasha Richardson, writing her ‘Frankenstein’), Byron (Gabriel Byrne), Polidori (Timothy Spall) and Claire Clairmont (Myriam Cyr).

Yet there are other literary bloodlines. Stoker probably leeched from an 1847 book ‘Varney The Vampyre’ by Thomas Presket Prest, and Sheridan Le Fanu’s sensual female vampire tale “Carmilla” included in the 1872 collection ‘In A Glass Darkly’. The earlier historical roots of the vampire myth to Prince Vlad Tepes ‘the Impaler’, have been widely documented to death – or undeath, elsewhere, and don’t need re-animation here. What Stoker adds to all this is the compulsive power of obsession, the dark lure of psychosexual fetishism.

After Irving’s death Stoker fought against illness brought on by years of overwork in the theatre, complicated by worries generated by the actor’s financial decline. He didn’t live to see ‘Dracula’s block-busting worldwide book sales in its later years, nor its spectacular progress as a stage play – touring to full houses through the 1920’s with a fanged Hamilton Deane in the title role, or its phenomenal impact as a movie series. And ‘The Lair Of The White Worm’ from 1911, unlike its hypnotic and tightly-plotted predecessor, is a stilted, disjointed, poorly-constructed long drag of prose which arch-fantasist HP Lovecraft dismissed as ‘so bad that many have mistaken it for a burlesque.’



The plot turns on ludicrously wild conclusions drawn from slender to non-existent evidence. And even the crude characterisation is marred by class and vilely offensive racial overtones. The camp titillation of Dracula’s aristo mystique is devolved to the malevolent brooding of the ‘cruel, selfish, saturnine’ Edgar Caswell (who becomes Hugh Grant as Lord James D’Ampton in the film), while his African man-servant Oolanga is vilified as an ‘unreformed unsoftened savage,’ a ‘lost devil-ridden child of the forest and the swamp.’ The relentlessly bleak setting is Castra Regis in Mercia. ‘The history of the Castle has no beginning so far as we know. The furthest records or surmises or inferences simply accept it as existing.’ A location not too dissimilar to his more atmospheric description of Dracula’s lair, ‘a vast ruined castle from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the moonlit sky.’

The novel plot meanders aimlessly through bird-scaring kites, a snake-killing mongoose, another mongoose (in this way I avoid the necessity of finding the plural for mongoose!), psychic battles of will, a bound chest that once belonged to proto-hypnotist Mesmer… and, of course, the monstrous worm – a unique synthesis of the irrepressible power of the rampant male organ, and a woman of terrifyingly destructive sexuality contained in one single nightmare image. Russell’s screenplay tightens the narrative. Peter Capaldi is Angus Flint, an archaeologist who first excavates the skull of a monstrous worm. Amanda Donohoe becomes Lady Sylvia Marsh of the stately Temple House, sited above caverns in which the supposedly-extinct worm still lurks. And Catherine Oxenberg who is the lovely Eve Trent, kidnapped to be its sacrificial victim.

The marked decline in prose style has been mischievously attributed to Stoker’s use of unacknowledged ghost-writers, to publisher tampering, or just to his collapsing health. He died in London, aged 64 – in 1912. His death certificate tactfully cites the cause as ‘exhaustion’. He never visited the Romanian province of Transylvania, and as far as can be ascertained he remains dead, yet his best work largely stays in print, and his short stories continued to be run in horror pulps – his “The Secret Of Growing Gold” appearing in ‘Famous Fantastic Mysteries’ magazine as late as 1946. His literary powers were limited and remain unrecognised beyond footnotes on the Gothic sub-genre. His genius – if genius in was, lies in his ability to project single images of obsessive compulsion that translate ideally into more visual media.


Bram Stoker in 'Famous Fantastic Mysteries' August 1946

The first Dracula movie came just ten years after Stoker’s death. FW Murnau’s 1922 expressionist gem was retitled ‘Nosferatu’ to sidestep copyright – unsuccessfully, as the widowed Florence Stoker sued, and won! A decade after that, Bela Lugosi took the role to Hollywood – ‘Dracula’ was released by Universal on St Valentine’s Day 1931. Christopher Lee came onto the mist-shrouded cloak-flapping set as late as 1958, cast against Peter Cushing’s ‘Van Helsing’) for Hammer. There are now over two-hundred Dracula films from at least ten countries, and related commercial spin-offs that include comic-spoof send-ups, Porn versions, tourist package trips to the Carpathians… and designer ice-pops.

Vampirism itself has been given a scientific justification in the SF setting of Richard Matheson’s exquisitely chilling ‘I Am Legend’ (1954), filmed three times – first as ‘The Last Man On Earth’ (1964) with Vincent Price, then as ‘The Omega Man’ (1971) with Charlton Heston, and finally as ‘I Am Legend’ (2007) with Will Smith. The ‘Science Of Draculogy’ has been further updated through a series of revisionist vampire fiction from Stephen King (‘Salem’s Lot’, 1975), Ann Rice (‘Interview With A Vampire’, 1976), Chelsea Quinn Yarbo (the ‘Count Saint-Germain’ novel-cycle, from 1978), George RR Martin (‘Fevre Dream’, 1982), Brian Stableford (his alternate history vampire world ‘Empire Of Fear’, 1988), and the teen-franchise ignited by Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ novel-series, from 2005).

But there have been other Stoker movie-isations preceding Ken Russell’s splatter ‘n’ gore foray. ‘The Awakening’ (1980) by Robert Solo again stars Charlton Heston in an involved plot featuring Egyptologist Matthew Corbeck who tinkers with the Mummy of the evil incestuous Queen Kara (played by Susannah York), who is subsequently reincarnated as Corbeck’s daughter. It’s based on Stoker’s 1902 ‘The Jewel Of The Seven Stars’

Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ notwithstanding, only the works of equally quirky and equally sexually screwed-up Edgar Allen Poe can have generated such a vast movie legacy. Bram Stoker was never a ‘respectable’ author, always an ‘outsider’ excluded from the literary establishment, but the subsequent video and DVD release of Ken Russell’s brash and flawed movie carries his perverse imaginings over into the 1990’s and beyond. Something few of his more ‘respectable’ literary contemporaries can claim.


‘…let me tell you, he is known everywhere that men have been. 
 In old Greece, in old Rome; he flourish in Germany all over, 
 in France, in India, even in the Chersonese; and in China, 
 so far from us in all ways, there even is he, 
and the peoples fear him at this day…’ 
(‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker)




BRAM STOKER: BIBLIOGRAPHY 
NOVELS 

‘THE PRIMROSE PATH’ (1875)
‘THE SNAKE’S PASS’ (1890)
‘THE WATTER’S MOU’ (1894)
‘THE SHOULDER OF SHASTA’ (1895)
‘DRACULA’ (1897)
‘MISS BETTY’ (1898)
‘THE MYSTERY OF THE SEA’ (1902)
‘THE JEWEL OF THE SEVEN STARS’ (1903)
‘THE GATES OF LIFE’ (aka ‘The Man’) (1905)
‘LADY ATHLYNE’ (1908)
‘THE LADY OF THE SHROUD’ (1909)
‘THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM’ (1911)




SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS 

‘UNDER THE SUNSET’ (1881), eight fairy-tales for children
‘SNOWBOUND: THE RECORD OF A THEATRICAL TOURING PARTY’ (1908) ‘DRACULA’S GUEST AND OTHER WEIRD STORIES’ (1914)
‘THE BRAM STOKER BEDSIDE COMPANION’ (Taplinger Pub Co, 1973) ten stories including “Dracula’s Guest”, extracted from an unpublished chapter from the ‘Dracula’ novel

BIOGRAPHICAL WORKS 

‘THE MAN WHO WROTE DRACULA: A BIOGRAPHY OF BRAM STOKER’ by Daniel Farson (Michael Joseph, 1975)
‘THE ESSENTIAL DRACULA’ fully illustrated and annotated edition by Raymond T McNally and Radu Florescu (Mayflower, 1980 USA)