Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Back-Story: 'A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS'


A SAUCERFUL OF 
(MORE) SECRETS: 
THE WRITING OF… 

by 
 ANDREW DARLINGTON 

 ‘A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS’ – 
‘Fourteen Stories Of Fantasy, Warped Sci-Fi & Perverse Horror’ 
 (Parallel Universe Publications, March 2016 
208pp, £8.99 ISBN 9-780993-574207) 


It starts like this. Simon Clark mentions in passing that he’s been contracted to compile an anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories. I’ve never actually written fiction according to specific guidelines. When I write, it’s according to whim or nudge. But this is different. Conan Doyle’s Holmes is up there on fiction’s pantheon of great myth-figures, alongside Tarzan, James Bond and Superman, screened from Basil Rathbone and Peter Cushing all the way to Benedict Cumberbatch. We all know him. But every one of Simon’s contributors will be doing the familiar tropes, so why not approach it from the tangential angle of other mythos elements? A present-day spin on the lycanthrope suggestions behind the Baskerville Beast, entangled with the real-life guilt-torment of a missing child? From that point the story wrote itself. And Simon liked it. Only problem was the publisher remit specified the inclusion of Holmes himself, on a foreign escapade. So I sit down and write “The Strange Death Of Sherlock Holmes”, predicated on the idea that as Doyle’s original Holmes cases were appearing in issues of ‘The Strand’, HG Wells was publishing chapters of his ‘The Time Machine’ in ‘The New Review’. The story duly appears in Simon’s ‘The Mammoth Book Of Sherlock Holmes Abroad’ (Robinson, 2015), while “The Beast Of The Baskervilles” debuts in the online ‘Tigershark’ magazine, then here in my ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’.

There were other projected anthologies. Maxim Jakubowski was compiling two, one on Holmes’ devious adversary Moriarty, the other centred around the ‘Jack The Ripper’ legends. So I set about writing “My Name Is Jack” – with a protagonist named Jack Harlan as a deliberate reference to Harlan Ellison’s “The Prowler In The City At The Edge Of The World”, a ‘Dangerous Vision’ that projects the Ripper into the future, spliced to the idea of implanted humans drawn together by an outside agency vaguely remembered from John Mantley’s 1956 novel ‘The Twenty-Seventh Day’. That story is now in ‘The Mammoth Book Of Jack The Ripper Stories’ (Robinson, 2015). The other, an extravagant steam-Punk romp with Moriarty reanimated after his death at the Reichenbach Falls, is first published here. Its final paragraph attempts to replicate the unsettling shock at the close of Robert Silverberg’s 1969 temporal-travel novel ‘Up The Line’, where time is rewritten and the narrator ceases to exist.

Once primed, those stories began a chain-reaction of tales jostling for my attention, resulting in more anthology and magazine appearances, online and in print. Leading up to ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’, not my first book, but my first short story collection. Yes, the title is taken from Pink Floyd’s second album, their last to fully include the mercurial Syd Barrett – who I may, or may not have briefly encountered beside Drypool Bridge in Hull (see the poem in my ‘The Poet’s Deliberation On The State Of The Nation’, 2016!). But, in the same friendly tribute way, a number of my stories and poems borrow their titles from songs. Most of the stories in this collection are new, all – hopefully, contemporary, but informed by my degree of longevity. “Refuge” is a sympathetic take on the so-called migrant crisis, while “The Non-Expanding Universe” deals directly with my own memories of domestic violence. Stan Barstow – the kitchen-sink author of ‘A Kind Of Loving’ once confided to me that today’s ‘committed’ writers should be setting their work within the immigrant-community. So this is also my nod to his advice.

It’s odd, my first-ever short story sale was to the New English Library anthology ‘Stopwatch’ in 1975. All the writer primers tell how to lay-out a manuscript and research your market. I did nothing of the sort. I was working at a print factory. The guillotine operator would slice huge sheets of paper down to the required size, shunting off-cuts into the waste cart, which – as an impecunious poet, I would then salvage for my own use. So my “When The Music’s Over” was typed up on pale green sheets measuring 12”x6”, and sent off to SF activist George Hay who was editing the academic-Lit magazine ‘Foundation’ at the time. The magazine didn’t even use fiction, but it fortuitously happened he liked the story and was compiling an anthology at the time. Would I mind if he used it there? This seems too easy. Another story – “Matrix”, was accepted by ‘Science Fiction Monthly’, who paid me £22 upfront, but the magazine went extinct before they could publish it. Nevertheless, other stories appeared, in the American ‘Space And Time’, David A Sutton’s excellent ‘Fantasy Tales’, and a series of German paperback anthologies. But the natural story-by-story progression was disrupted by lucrative seductive Music Journalism, which lured with opportunities of hanging out with Rock stars, plus well-paid non-SF stories in glossy magazines, live poetry-readings up and down the country, and other delightful distractions.


Yet things eventually came together. ‘Derek Edge’ is a series-character I’ve used in a number of tales, an awkward adolescent misfit Frankensteined together as part me-as-was, gene-fused with part of a chubby misfit-loser teen-friend. My “Derek Edge And The Sun-Spots” appeared in the fine ‘Kitchen Sink Gothic’ (2015) anthology from Parallel Universe. So it’s only appropriate that when the full story-collection was conjectured from the same publisher that he should be here too. The title story – “Derek Edge And The Saucerful Of Secrets” bears a dedication to Frank S Pepper, the prolific comic-strip scripter who wrote ‘Tiger’s Jet-Ace Logan picture-frames from which I lift the image of the Caretaker’s three-clawed hand, and Sydney Jordan who created ‘Jeff Hawke’ from which I vaguely derive the Temporal Guardians (‘Pastmaster’).

Although, gratifyingly, most of the stories are new, the oldest – “And The Earth Has No End”, goes back some way, but despite various rewrites it never quite found its proper form, until now. Based on Hegel, the idea that perception is ‘learned’, blended by the contortions of sub-atomic physics in which the observer influences what is observed, it questions the truth of reality itself. The sequence by the pool is a deliberate Salvador Dali painting, but should the penis-into-anus bit be censored or modified? It went through a number of contortions until this final version. Which prompted a sequel – or prequel, “The World Holds Space Enough”, explaining how this pliable alternate cosmos came into being. Strung across such a long period of evolving time it was necessary to introduce continuity, hence the recurring characters. A third part of this cycle – the poem “Beautiful Pagan”, ‘the melding of new, and ancient geographies, from meson and grimoire, opened this passage south, through ice-fields to the unexpected continent, beneath this cold dark moon’ is in my ‘Euroshima Mon Amour’ (2001) Sci-fi poetry collection.

“Gender-Shock” also started out as a years-back exercise, handwritten in ballpoint, returned to periodically, but uncompleted. Sex is not a duality, but a spectrum – we now know this, but how to construct a society based around that understanding? So the concept of normality becomes something up for renegotiation. The protagonists are gender deviants. How is a lawyer to defend them? The difficulty in portraying a totally pansexual society is that gender so pervades language it’s problematic to eradicate it. This tale is constructed by dispensing with every use of ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ with every character purposefully gender non-specific – except for the single case of the transgressor, who is on trial specifically for that unforgivable deviation. To complete the story, with revisions, I added a maybe opt-out resolution with the fallback solution of a convenient enclave. Nevertheless, I feel it works.

But every story tells a story. I wrote the far-future “Eternal Assassin” about a sentient parasitic organism which flits through hosts across immense spans of time. When Philip Harbottle published its first version in his ‘Fantasy Adventures no.1’ (2002) he insisted on censoring certain playfully-explicit passages. When the full unexpurgated version was revived as a hardback with beautiful James Cawthorn artwork as ‘Andrew Darlington’s Eternal Assassin’ (Spectre Press, 2012), publisher Jon Harvey told me there’d been enquiries asking if there were other stories featuring ‘Adsiduo Sicarius’. So I wrote, “Terminator Zero And The Dream Demon”, although vastly different in tone, to suggest the origins of this character in deep prehistory. Some of it is real. Peter Care is a real filmmaker. I worked in Sheffield with Adi (Newton) who is the thinking head of Clock DVA who recorded the ‘Thirst’ album (Fetish, 1981). A third story in what is now a cycle, is now included in the relaunched ‘Weirdbook no.32’.

It’s been pointed out that a cat called ‘Jingle’ appears in two stories. That’s because he was also real. And “Thuesday To Fryday” not only records the contours of a real-life relationship without closure, but recounts his death, if not exactly as here recounted.

I knew of, and admired the style and quality of the books published by Parallel Universe, my inclusion in their ‘Kitchen Sink Gothic’ anthology prompting negotiations towards this short-story collection, for which Vincent Chong has created the remarkably-effective cover-art. I love what they’ve done. And Simon Clark… who’d been a catalyst, adds a blurb.



Amazon review:
This Saucerful is a plateful of tasty tidbits
By Michael Yates on 5 April 2016.
Format: Paperback
Science fiction isn’t really science, otherwise it would be imprisoned in textbooks. Andrew Darlington is healthily aware that he’s in the business of writing fantastic fiction, so his “warped sci-fi” is resplendent in literary conceits. A drunken Branwell meets a giant bee and discovers there might be a universe in which he becomes the most famous Bronte; Conan Doyle’s Prof Moriarty is “reanimated” by futuristic biologists but technology betrays him in the end. And Mr Darlington knows his real subject matter is narrow human society – like the one in which sexual identity is a major crime – though his characters may patrol the whole universe. It’s a sprawling and inventive set of stories and I enjoyed it.
THE ZONE online review at: www.zone-sf.com/wordworks/sauceros.html

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Poem: ALABASTER WHITE VISIONS OF OCEAN


ALABASTER WHITE 
VISIONS OF OCEAN: 
INTO MYTH 


A girl stands outside a phone-booth
on a street corner,
against the back-projection traffic
of cars/buses/pedestrians/cycles.
Gradually she assumes the Horus-head of a hawk,
the eyes of Medusa and
the breasts of a Minoan snake-goddess.
She reaches out to passers-by,
loosens a tie,
unfastens a shirt-button,
ruffles the hair of a traffic warden,
severs the jugular vein of a
passing wages clerk
until he falls, to
lie in the gutter gurgling and hissing,
and she removes his clothes and
copulates efficiently while devouring the
flesh of the head and shoulders,
until death comes with the ultimate orgasm.
What remains lies red and gleaming
between discarded cigarette packs
and beer cans.
She stands up, adjusts her clothes
a little self-consciously.
Stands outside a phone-booth
on a street corner,
against the back-projection traffic…


 Published in:
‘AMBIT no.79’ (UK – August 1979)
‘ENTROPION no.3’ (UK – May 1986)
‘IMPETUS no.19’ (USA – May 1991)
‘ELDRITCH TALES no.25’ (USA – November 1991)
‘TABULA RASA vol.2 no.3’ (Canada – February 1992)
On cassette:
‘SLITS IN AEROSOL GREEN’ (January 1981)
‘IRUIDO EXTRANO/ AZTEC RECORDINGS’
(UK C60 or C90 – June 1981)
‘S4: SUPER COMPILATION’ (UK – C60 – July 1981)
‘LANDED: SYC NETWORK’ C60 LIVE’ (UK – August 1982)


Friday, 29 April 2016

Interview: GRAHAM NASH talks about THE HOLLIES



THE HOLLIES: 
FOR CERTAIN BECAUSE’ 
IN CONVERSATION WITH 
 GRAHAM NASH 

 According to Graham Nash the Hollies were 
‘a great little band’. He tells their story to Andrew Darlington 


 ‘FOR CERTAIN BECAUSE…’ 

Graham Nash was here in Manchester to launch a 2004 exhibition of his photographs. He’d been away a long time, but you can still hear traces of Salford beneath the LA veneer in his accent. For Graham, this visit is part of a promotional jaunt for his book, but it’s also a strangely personal occasion. Although born in Blackpool (2 February 1942) he spent much of his childhood within 1 Skinner Street, Salford, a now-demolished back-to-back ‘Coronation Street’ terrace house with outside lav. So what memories were provoked by returning to his home-town now? ‘Well, you know, I have so many great memories of growing up in Salford. And first being turned on to the magic of music in Salford. I didn’t leave Salford until I was eighteen. So I have lots of great memories of the struggles and the joys and the heartaches of doing something that was different from anything any of your family had done. Nobody in my family had been in a band before. Ever.’

Unexpectedly, Allan Clarke turns up at the gallery for an emotional reunion. ‘He’s my oldest friend. Yes, absolutely. My oldest friend in the world,’ gushes Graham. ‘The great lead singer of our first pro group. The Hollies were a great band. A great band. They’ve never been the same without us two, I don’t think.’

And Rock History tells it all, how – born within two months of each other (Allan, 15 April 1942), they started at Ordsall Primary School, friends at six, buying their first guitars inspired by the Skiffle fad, hanging out together as fourteen-year-olds. When his parents rewarded him with a record-player for passing his eleven-plus exam, Graham’s first record-purchase was Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula” on a big old 78rpm. Then ‘I was working six days a week and getting £1-19s-11d, then going out at weekends and getting five quid for four songs’ recalls Clarke amiably. The two served their music apprenticeship together on the cabaret circuit as The Two Teens doing Lonnie Donegan and early-Cliff covers, then they were Ricky & Dane Young, The Guytones, half of the Fourtones, then the Deltas (with bassist Eric Haydock, born 3 February 1943).

They waited outside the Midland Hotel at 2:30am to catch a glimpse of their idols, the Everly Brothers, on a 1960 tour. ‘They came out of a Night Club, slightly inebriated, and instead of patting us on the head and signing an autograph, they talked to me and Allan for twenty-eight minutes… it changed my life.’ Sure it did, six years later Don & Phil came calling, and the two Manchester graduates wound up writing eight of the twelve tracks for the Ev’s May 1966 album ‘Two Yanks In London’. A vital influence, there’s an argument that Everly harmonies also template those of Simon & Garfunkel, Status Quo and many others. Phil Everly was also the first artist to record Albert Hammond’s “The Air That I Breathe”, which the Hollies lifted for their own no.2 hit in 1974.

While in Manchester in 2004, Graham visits a venue with memories. ‘I went down to the Apollo Theatre… a place where I’d first been to see movies and stuff when I was a kid, and I’d first played there myself in 1959. It was a thrill for me.’ It was on that same stage that he’d originally competed in a 1959 pre-‘X-Factor’ talent contest, in competition with Liverpool’s Johnny & The Moondogs. ‘Johnny’ – Lennon also went on to greater things. Later, from the ‘Manchester Evening News’ stage, Graham Nash announces ‘we’re 100-yards from the Oasis club where the Hollies started out. It’s been a long strange trip, remind me to tell you some time…’ Telling that tale, it was for a December 1962 gig at the ‘Oasis’ that the Deltas rebranded themselves as the Hollies, in recognition of another formative influence – ‘Buddy Holly didn’t swivel his hips or grease his hair, he wore glasses, he was one of us.’ 


‘IN THE HOLLIES STYLE…’ 

Graham Nash’s career not only spans four decades, but two distinct life-times. The one-time assistant manager in a gent’s outfitter who once confided to an early fan magazine that he ‘liked smart suits’, was the guy who quit for warmer Californian climes. Leaving the Hollies to watch as he reinvented himself as Spokesperson for a Generation.

Yet the Hollies started out as very much part of Beat Boom’s first wave, first entering the charts the week “From Me To You” was no.1. Talent-spotted at the ‘Cavern’ in January 1963 by Parlophone’s head-hunting staff producer Ron Richards, guitarist Tony Hicks (born 16 December 1943) joined the line-up in time for their EMI Studio test recordings. But before they broke into chart-dom they must have been up there in Manchester, reading the Music Press – just as I was, and imagining themselves on its pages? ‘That’s what you did. You imagined yourself on those pages. Every time you’d get ‘Disc’ or ‘New Musical Express’ – yeah, you could picture that’s what you could do. And you dreamed and you’d pull yourself towards that dream, and it happened with me. I was fortunate to have it all come true…’

And from the start they were writing their own B-sides. “Hey, What’s Wrong With Me” for their debut 45rpm – the flip of the nursery-rhyme game “Just Like Me” (no.25 in May 1963), “Whole World Over” with Everly harmonies and guitar changes for the second (all recorded at their first sessions 4 April 1963), and “Now’s The Time” to flip “Stay” – by which time ex-Fentone drummer Bobby Elliott (born 8 December 1942) completed the first classic Hollies line-up. He’d started out with Tony Hick’s former-group the Dolphins. As a kid I used to watch the Hollies on TV, doing their early R&B-covers of Leiber & Stoller’s “Searchin’” (no.12 in August 1963), then accelerating and tightening the Doo-Wop harmonies of Maurice William’s “Stay” (no.8 in November 1963). Jackson Browne later took the same song and slowed it down into an audience sing-along that made the American Top 20 in 1978, but the Hollies version retains the definite edge.

The significant breakthrough was with their breezily sleek take on “Just One Look” (no.2 in February 1964). Listen to Doris Troy’s original, which is looser and warmer, the Hollies take it harder, tighter, faster, with Graham’s near-falsetto middle-eight ‘I thought I was dreamin’, but I was wrong, yeh yeh yeah...’ Although Graham and Allan were there singing back-up for new boys The Rolling Stones on “Not Fade Away” (just as Graham with David Crosby would later add harmonies to Jefferson Starship’s extravagant ‘Blows Against The Empire’ album), the Hollies were never dangerous or confrontational. No-one begrudged them their hits, when a smartly-suited Tony Hicks mouths ‘Hello Mum’ as the ‘Top Of The Pops’ cameras pan past him, normally-disapproving parents were charmed. Even boy’s action-comic the ‘Eagle’ carried an enthusiastic Hollies feature in their 7 August 1965 issue.

This was the group line-up credited on their debut LP – ‘Stay With The Hollies’ (January 1964) which peaked at no.2, though original drummer Don Rathbone plays on the three earliest titles, including hit “Searchin’” which, although ragged when compared to what’s to come, effectively plays off Graham’s voice against Allan’s lead – his gum-shoe drawl ‘well, Sherlock Holmes and ole’ Sam Spade got nothin’, child, on me’ rising into ‘gonna walk right down that street, like Bulldog Drummond’ adding half-recited humour above the piano-led backing. Don plays on the album’s only original song too – Clarke/ Nash’s raw ‘c’mon c’mon’ typically Merseybeat “Little Lover”.


The rest, with Bobby Elliott drumming, are regulation beat-group covers of Chuck Berry (“Talkin ‘Bout You” and “Memphis”), and Ray Charles (“What Kind Of Girl Are You”). A straight transcript of the way they’d been doing this material live – recorded across two sessions 29 October and 11 December, they grab nothing of available studio potential. Their take on the Contour’s “Do You Love Me” lacks the pounding gravity of the Dave Clark Five, or the twinkling silliness of Brian Poole’s no.1 (their “Candy Man” also precedes his hit cover). Their jog-through of Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” lacks the dramatic depth of the Rolling Stones simultaneously issued EP version. They reach back into Rock ‘n’ Roll history to Little Richard’s “Lucille”, to Conway Twitty’s country-Pop “It’s Only Make Believe”, and anticipate the Beatles cover of “Mr Moonlight” by eleven months! Although Lennon’s vocal-lead, and song arrangement serves only to emphasise the distance the Hollies have yet to make up.

While the Beatles were working with George Martin for the same label, the Clark-Nash-Hicks axis of the Hollies went on with increasing confidence to record seven LP’s, building a close relationship with producer Ron Richards across a punishing schedule of two albums a year, plus a run of hits only rivalled by the Beatles themselves. Yet only compilations ‘Hollies Greatest Hits’ in August 1968 (no.1) and ‘Twenty Golden Greats’ in July 1978 (no.2) equalled the twenty-five week chart success of that first album.

Although ‘In The Hollies Style’ – their second album of 1964 (November), doesn’t chart, it tips the writer-balance with seven of twelve group-originals, all clean pleasant close-harmony songs with inconsequential boy-girl themes, always likeable, seldom essential. “I Though Of You Last Night” has the Folk-soft sensitivity of Simon & Garkunkel, whereas the sweet driving “To You My Love” hints at the group’s power still to come. Yet the stand-outs, performed on radio promo-slots are Big Dee Irwin’s “What Kind Of Boy” and Betty Everett’s “Its In Her Kiss” – much later Cher’s no.1 “The Shoop Shop Song”. Meanwhile, “Here I Go Again” from the trans-Atlantic Mort Shuman-Clive Westlake writing team consolidated their presence (no.4 in May 1964), until the group’s first self-penned A-side hit soon followed… “We’re Through” (no.7 in September 1964), with its distinctive descending guitar-runs.


 ‘STAY WITH THE HOLLIES…’ 

Confession time. I never got to see the Hollies during those 1960’s years. Not for want of trying. They were appearing at the Bridlington Spa, on the seafront, where I’d already seen the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and the Animals. And I was due to go for the Hollies. But my girlfriend at the time decided no, she couldn’t risk spoiling her new bouffant by compressing it beneath the crash-helmet that would make the trip possible. So we went to the local Palais instead. I sulked most of the evening. A night that effectively ended our relationship.

At the time they were well into their second wind – a first no.1 with Clint Ballard Jrn’s “I’m Alive” (May 1965), followed a couple of records later by the complex harmonies of Chip Taylor’s even better “I Can’t Let Go” (no.2, February 1966). Opening with a nagging bass-figure the voices blend in with a sharp multi-layered precision worthy of Brian Wilson, harmonies and counter-harmonies unfurl, rising against each other through a strafing guitar-break into a dramatic ‘Hey!’, after which it drops back to the bass-run, and begins again. Ironically, Eric Haydock was the first to leave this Hollies’ line-up, Nash telling the press at the time ‘after all, the bass player does the least work in the group’! He was replaced by another ex-Dolphin, Bernie Calvert.

With an unbroken string of stand-out 45-rpm’s, the Hollies had become masters of the singles medium, hits that have become as comfortable as old friends. Without the heavy subversive darknesses of the Stones or the Who, they were either writing, or remodelling other’s material with a killer instinct for melody and rhythm, using idiosyncratic alchemy to turn confectionary-cute Pop into carefully constructed vignettes of endearing charm and energy. “Bus Stop” (no.5, June 1966), which gave them their first American chart-visibility and which Nash still cites as his personal favourite, might be a Graham Gouldman song (their second, following “Look Through Any Window”, no.4 in September 1965), but – with promotional photographs of the group in city-bowlers beneath umbrellas posed at the bus-stop, they make it very much their own. Even their slight missteps, their collaboration with Peter Sellers on the “After The Fox” movie-theme (with Jack Bruce on bass) which didn’t chart, or their cover of the ‘Rubber Soul’ track “If I Needed Someone” which grumpy-writer George Harrison claimed to dislike – which peaked no higher than no.19 (December 1965), were validated by their slick upbeat quality.

By now, others of that first Beat-Boom wave – Billy J Kramer, Gerry & The Pacemakers, and Freddie & The Dreamers, were falling by the wayside, while after their long slow-burn ascent the Hollies were now effortlessly competing creatively and commercially with the next wave, Manfred Mann, the Kinks and the Small Faces.

The Hollies’ ‘L. Ransford’ writer-alias was lifted from Nash’s grandfather, and used by the Nash/Clarke/Tony Hicks triumvirate. Their first all-original album in December 1966 (‘For Certain Because’), includes Graham’s jangling ‘serious artist behind the mask’ “Clown” – with his smile painted on upside-down and its circus-effects, plus his reflective “Crusader” which fades out to the sampled sound of marching Beefeaters. The album was also responsible for the tempo-inventive “Pay You Back With Interest” – covered by the Corsairs, and the bossa-nova “Tell It To My Face” – a US hit for ‘98.6’ star Keith. But while the Beatles were an environment open to change, the Hollies resist it.

Talking to ‘NME’ about the album Tony Hicks attacks ‘so-called ‘Freak Out’ music and progressive pop’ as way above the heads of fans, ‘how can you understand the LSD scene unless you take it? It’s no use doing a Yardbirds lyric – those things just spin your mind.’ Easy to interpret that as an attack on Graham’s emerging tendency. Never innovative in that Yardbirds sense, the Hollies nevertheless use novel ideas, such as the six-string banjo riff on “Stop Stop Stop” (no.2 in November 1966) or the steel-band on “Carrie Anne” (no.3 in June 1967).


The record quoted as being the pivotal reason for Graham leaving the Hollies is “King Midas In Reverse”, with its Greek-mythology metaphor and sweeping baroque string-arrangement. Allan Clarke says ‘I remember sitting down with Graham to work on it, but not to the extent that he did. It was his idea with my ideas inside it. Graham was the one who said, let’s have an orchestra, and get Johnny Scott in to do the score.’ Regarded a chart-failure at the time (it only reached no.18 during September 1967), it must be with some sense of vindication that it is now rightly considered the Hollies’ artistic zenith, and a British psychedelic classic. ‘Yes, I always loved that track, y’know’ Graham tells me. ‘And yes, it was an interesting point because so far, we had all moved our energies towards that point, and we saw that that record was an important record – not to over-blow things. We knew that it was something different for us. And I think it’s remained a favourite – certainly, of mine, since the day we cut it.’

There were two wonderfully diverse albums in 1967 – ‘Evolution’ in June, with its lavish sleeve-art designed by the Fool, and ‘Butterfly’ in November. The first has attractively-catchy straight-Pop “When The Light’s Turned On” and a fuzz-guitar addition to “Have You Ever Loved Somebody?” – lifted as a hit for both the Searchers and Paul & Barry Ryan. There’s the sharp three-way harmonies of “You Need Love” and the slyly lascivious “The Games We Play”. But both sets are also caught up in the surging lysergic post-‘Sgt Pepper’ Summer of Love euphoria. There are twee moments, the harpsichord nostalgia of “Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe” on the former, and the ‘Steptoe & Son’ pathos of “Charlie And Fred” on the latter, rampant phasing on ‘Evolution’s fairy-tale “Lullaby To Tim” and sitar-tabla drones on ‘Butterfly’s preposterously overblown “Maker” (‘days of yellow saffron lightning purple skies, melting in the sunbeams from my maker’s eyes’). There’s a lemonade lake with candyfloss snow and classical twiddly-strings on “Butterfly” plus backward-tapes and chiming bells on the stately “Would You Believe”.

Although the group – other than Graham, had a somewhat ambivalent attitude to Britpsych, it’s Allan who contributes the giddy ‘I’m so high’ astral projection mind excursion that is “Elevated Observations”, and Tony Hicks is the motivating force behind “Pegasus”. And when all the elements come together, they can be breathtaking, with Graham’s wonderfully strange “Dear Eloise” spun-off ‘Butterfly’ to become a US singles hit. In ‘Record Collector’ magazine’s ‘100 Greatest Psychedelic Records’ (Diamond Publ, 2005), David Wells says it ‘remains by far their most adventurous studio album, described by one pundit as ‘a Northern England counterpart to ‘Odyssey And Oracle’.’ And for the Hollies it was a career-peak, and a breakpoint.

Graham and Allan might have co-written “Jennifer Eccles” – ‘with its cute guitar-string wolf-whistles’, to return the Hollies to the Top Ten (no.7 in March 1968), but the high-flying artist versus prosaic Beat-group dichotomy was already clearly defined. ‘The reason I left the Hollies was simply that I was smoking a lot of dope, and they weren’t. It was as simple as that,’ he jokes. But the ill-advised album of – what Graham considered, jauntily trivialised Dylan songs, ‘Hollies Sing Dylan’ (no.3 in June 1969), was the final decider. Ironically it features “All I Really Want To Do”, strongly associated with David Crosby-period Byrds!, while – unissued at the time, Graham’s contribution “Blowin In The Wind” was only added as a bonus track to the CD reissue. It, alongside another early Graham song, “Relax” from 1968 but unissued until the Hollies’ ‘Rarities’ album, provide more clues. Retrospectively, Bobby Elliot writes on the re-issue CD insert that ‘our pushing ahead with the (Dylan) project helped Graham to make his decision to split.’ ‘Now you know why I had to leave’ Nash comments later, ‘I was writing all these tunes that, for me, were self-expression things, and I was happy with them. But the Hollies didn’t want to know.’ You don’t do covers. You express yourself through your own songs.

Graham was smoothly replaced by Terry Sylvester, formerly of the Escorts and the Swinging Blue Jeans, and the Hollies continue as durable consummate professionals… with an enduring mastery of tuneful harmony-Rock and even bigger career-defining successes, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (no.3 in October 1969, then no.1 in September 1988!), “I Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top” (no.7 in April 1970), “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” (American no.2 in July 1972) and “The Air That I Breathe” (no.2 in February 1974). Even Allan Clarke’s brief replacement by Michael Rickfors does little to dent their enduring status.

Some names are still touring and living well off a brief space of Sixties celebrity. Indeed, Eric Haydock could be seen as part of a Sixties Nostalgia Package, on a bill with a version of the Animals. While a line-up of the Hollies itself, with Bobby Elliot sitting in the drum-chair, can still be occasionally glimpsed. Yet for Graham, that Beat-Boom celebrity first career-phase with the Hollies was to be used as just an Atlantic Crossing springboard to an even more high-profile second-phase career alongside Byrd David Crosby and errant mavericks Stephen Stills and Neil Young – with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. ‘Indeed, yeah, I’m a very lucky man that way. To a lot of people, it may have appeared to be a foolish move to leave the band, to leave the Hollies, and leave all of that kind of hit-band environment that we had created there, and yet I’d heard that different sound, and I’d been moved enough by that sound to bring an end to the Hollies, and to me coming to America to follow that sound. You’ve got to keep moving forward. You’re dead if you stay the same…’


 ‘WOULD YOU BELIEVE…’ 

There have been two important partnerships in Graham’s two careers. The Hollies period writing and performing with Allan Clarke (“Allan and I are the same person in a lot of ways, but he’s the me that didn’t leave for the States, and I’m the me that did”). Then the second with David Crosby.

The Byrds briefly reformed for their ‘Full Circle’ album. Then the original Hollies reformed in September 1981 to appear together on ‘Top Of The Pops’ for a “HollieDaze” compilation-single, followed by ‘What Goes Around’ – an album for WEA that reworks their original hit “Just One Look”, and features Graham’s distinctively high harmonies on their cover of “Stop In The Name Of Love”. Another major dose of nostalgia followed in the form of a 2003 six-CD-set ‘The Hollies Long Box’ featuring rare B-sides, foreign-language versions, and previously unissued outtakes.

‘The Hollies were a great band’ says Graham Nash, ‘a great band.’




CDs: SCREAMIN' JAY HAWKINS



SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS:  
HE STILLS PUTS HIS SPELL ON YOU… 

 Album Reviews of: 
‘BLACK MUSIC FOR WHITE PEOPLE’ 
(1991, Bizarre-Straight Records/ Demon Fiend CD211) 
 ‘STONE CRAZY’ 
 (1993, Bizarre-Straight Records/ Demon Fiend CD728) 
 ‘FRENZY’ (1982, CBS, 1989, Edsel ED 104) 
 by SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS 


‘I really HATE that kind of music’ says Bela, stabbing the cassette off in Jim Jarmusch’s 1984 debut movie ‘Stranger Than Paradise’.

‘It’s Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and he’s a wild man, so bog off’ retaliates the Beat Girl in this black-and-white celluloid kitchen sleazorama filmed in original Spellavision.

Shock-Rock for Gore-Hounds. Wild man Screamin’ Jay laid down the ground-rules that Lord Sutch, Crazy Arthur Brown, Alice Cooper, the Cramps, the Damned and ‘The Addams Family’ would pick up on in their own separate timeframes. A grinning skull. A Juju hand. The onstage coffin you saw in ‘American Hot Wax’ (1978)… and a cannibal bone-through-the-nose goofiness. Screamin Jay is the original Rocky Horror-show.

For Jalacy Hawkins (18 July 1929 – 12 February 2000), born in Cleveland, Ohio, his commercial success was brief – it began and ended in 1956, but his notoriety for macabre theatrics haunted him on down the long decades since. In some ways it served to put a voodoo hex on his very real ability as a R&B blues shouter of some considerable power. Perhaps he realised that? But he continued to replay the role as if stuck in a Hammer Horror freeze-frame.

There was a brief window of opportunity for re-assessment when his ‘Levi’s’ ad-aided cover of Tom Waits’ “Heart-Attack And Vine” lifted him all the way to no.42 on the UK chart in April 1993. The ‘B’-side was a Dance-edit of his signature hit “I Put A Spell On You”, coming around again after Bryan Ferry’s lack-lustre crawl through the song, as well as following earlier chart reruns by Nina Simone and the Alan Price Set. This supernatural clash of skulls was lifted from his reactivated and hastily re-promoted 1991 CD ‘Black Music For White People’.

But unfortunately this was part of a sudden opportunistic gridlock of CDs, and this worthy abundance of back-catalogue material tended to blunt the sales mobility of his then-current proper set – which was ‘Stone Crazy’. Yet certain elements are interchangeable. He still overtrades the basket-case quotient into a whammy of a Mau-Mau feast full of well-wired weirdness. And the basic humour-line still runs like the result of a Mad Scientist’s experimental studio gene-splice vivisection of John Lee Hooker and Bernard Manning. For every stone-gone gem like his reading of Tom Waits’ “Ice Cream Man” or the Smiley Lewis classic “I Hear You Knocking” on ‘Black Music For White People’, there’s a hammy “Ol’ Man River”. Just as his “Sherilyn Fenn” (‘the whole time the movie played, I was thinking how good it would be to get laid’) is marred by the ‘Late Night Hawkins’ of “On The Job” and “Call The Plumber” on ‘Stone Crazy’. Where they need some grit and soul, both albums are given inappropriately clean production sheens by occasional co-writer Robert Duffey. And both also come from the critically well-credible Demon stable via a fortuitous link-up with Frank Zappa’s Bizarre label, which first had the good grace to rescue the Voodoo-Guru from a ten-year studio silence.


Yet the third CD in this triad – the earlier compilation ‘Frenzy’, despite further blunting the sales mobility of his brief TV-advertised window of opportunity, is the original stuff. A fourteen-track set drawn from his Okeh recordings from the 1950s, sparked by the primal “I Put A Spell On You”, including an “Alligator Wine” dripping with surreal spookiness, and “There’s Something Wrong With You”. But there’s some campy fillers here too. By mismatching the insanity of “Frenzy” with the attempted legit croonery of “I Love Paris” he provides some evidence of a genuine, if misguided vocal dexterity and a desire to expand out of Pop-Rock’s Novelty Room. An imbalance that never quite achieves career equilibrium.

But what the hell – when he’s good, he’s spine-chillingly good. Check out that TV jeans-ad again on ‘YouTube’ – ‘liar liar, with your drawers on fire’, and give thanks to the Satanic gods of Juju for that. Even the ‘Observer’s movie-drone Philip French was moved to praise Hawkins’ ‘massive impassive presence in Jim Jarmusch’s later more acclaimed ‘Mystery Train’ (1989).

He’s STILL a wild man, so bog off…!


‘FRENZY’ compilation made up of original Okeh material, ‘I Put A Spell On You’ c/w ‘Little Demon’ (1956, Okeh 7072), ‘Frenzy’ c/w ‘Person To Person’ (1957, Okeh 7087), ‘Alligator Wine’ (Leiber-Stoller) c/w ‘There’s Something Wrong With You’ (1958, Okeh 7101), plus ‘I Love Paris’ (Cole Porter), ‘Hong Kong’, ‘Orange Coloured Sky’, ‘Temptation’, ‘Yellow Coat’, ‘If You Are But A Dream’, ‘You Made Me Love You’, ‘Deep Purple’


Thursday, 28 April 2016

BRIAN AUGER: CD & DVD



Album Review of: 
‘LOOKING IN THE EYE OF THE WORLD’ 
‘LIVE AT THE BAKED POTATO’ (2-CD) &; 
‘LIVE AT THE BAKED POTATO’ (DVD) 
by  BRIAN AUGER’S 
OBLIVION EXPRESS 
(SPV 306052, SPV 306062, & SPV 306067-DVD)


The Baked Potato is a select diner in ‘the heart of Hollywood’ where the walls are overlaid with music-posters, where slim waitresses with burger ‘n’ fries slip between tables, and there’s a Jack Daniels Old Time logo over the door. The big guy in the red shirt behind rippling banks of keyboards is Brian Auger, giant of the Hammond organ sub-genre that began with Jimmy Smith. Live, they do Eddie Harris’ aptly frisky “Freedom Jazz Dance”, its three title-elements a perfect description of what they do. A mix of new and remade Auger, with tinkling electric piano on sophisticated “Homeward”, an acid-jazz “Ghost Town” evolving, rolling and flowing with biological logic, and a punching solo and unison horn-section standing in for an absent Freddie Hubbard on “Freddie’s Flight”.


On CD-only the cool Buddhist vibe of Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly” gets Auger lyrics. In all three formats they do a sinuous reading of Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch”, first done with Julie Driscoll on ‘Open’ (1967), now infused with John Coltrane quotes and interpreted through daughter Savannah Grace’s jazz-literate voice and supple-dancing. She gives Marvin Gaye’s “Troubleman” a Sade treatment, then a smoothly flowing lounge-core “Light My Fire” – restyled from 1969’s ‘Street Noise’. The family connection is backed up by drummer Karma Auger, with only the ‘flashing fingers’ of bassist Derek Frank sharing different genes, muscular or funk-supple as required. To paraphrase their once-hit, ‘this band’s on fire’. For completists the CD comes helpfully numbered ‘18’ in the on-going Brian Auger reissue programme. Collect them all

BRIAN AUGER
Brian played harpsichord on the
Yardbirds hit “For Your Love”

Published in:
‘ROCK ‘N’ REEL’ Vol.2 No.14
(Mar/Apr) (UK – March 2009)


Cult Science Fiction: Barrington J Bayley



BARRINGTON J BAYLEY: 
 TWO NOVELS BY… 

as originally reviewed by 
 ANDREW DARLINGTON 

 ‘THE GRAND WHEEL’ 
 by BARRINGTON J BAYLEY 
(DAW Books, USA August 1977 
Fontana UK 1979, 80p, ISBN 0-00-6148638, 160pp) 

 Barrington J. Bayley (9 April 1937 – 14 October 2008)



Through every dribble of Abstract Expressionist paint and every unplanned sound-combination set up by a Cage or a Stockhausen the West has gradually, grudgingly, come to terms with the basic assumptions of Arbitrary Selection. Has come to accept that – from the initial biological lottery of one-in-120 million possible sperm connections – randomness, to a far greater degree than rational minds like to admit, is a factor in determining lives and cultures.

Barrington J Bayley once wrote a short story called “The Ship That Sailed The Ocean Of Space” (‘Science Fiction Adventures’ no.26, May 1962). The title, quite literally, describing a ‘ship’ existing in some other unexplained dimension – only its keel extending down into the unfathomable abyss of what we understand as our universe. Randomness, argues Bayley’s novel, works in a similar way. That which is known, understandable and predictable sailing like a wafer-thin ship on the vastness of non-causation and irrationality – ‘the gulf of pure randomness that underlies all of existence.’ It may be possible to harness arbitrary factors through the ‘I-Ching’, the Tarot, Kabala, or the roulette table, but it’s another matter entirely to understand or give meaning to its essential vagaries.

This typically intriguing hypothesis is used to underpin ‘The Grand Wheel’, a slim novel in which Bayley’s ideas are conveyed rapidly through a compulsive plot-mix of action. Cheyne Scarne is a gambler down on his luck, washed up on Io, moon of Jupiter. He becomes an agent, addicted to a personalised narcotic to ensure his loyalty, and finds himself caught up in three major areas of conflict. There’s a split dividing the human-colonised worlds between the inflexible ‘Legitimacy’ and the Mafioso ‘Grand Wheel’, the Legitimacy’s war against the conquering alien Hadranics, and the Grand Wheel’s attempts to enter a Galactic gaming syndicate by gambling off half the human race. Developments – and outcomes, are unpredictable.

Some of the outlined plot elements may sound familiar – Philip K Dick’s ‘The Game-Players Of Titan’ (1963) previously used the cosmic gamble angle, but such superficial similarities seldom survive Bayley’s rigorous exploration of his themes, taking the logistics of galactic wagers into areas that Dick’s protagonists would hardly recognise. A mathematical formula defining luck, for example, is limited by laws of conservation! (as in Bayley’s ‘PF Woods’ story “Reactionary”, in ‘New Worlds’ no.149, April 1965).

Although it sometimes seems that the principles of arbitrary selection govern book-buying habits, the positive reception given to Bayley’s ‘Soul Of The Robot’ (1974) and ‘The Garments Of Caean’ (1976) would seem to indicate the favourable exercise of conscious choice. Readers who enjoyed those novels will know that Barrington J Bayley is probably the most stimulating writer currently working in the Science Fiction genre. Luck doesn’t figure in that particular equation.




 ‘THE FALL OF CHRONOPOLIS’ 
 by BARRINGTON J BAYLEY 
 (DAW Books, USA June 1974 Allison and Busby, 
UK 1979, £4.95, ISBN 0-85031-2353, 175pp) 


Both Isaac Asimov’s ‘The End Of Eternity’ (1955) and Poul Anderson’s ‘The Corridors Of Time’ (1966) feature rival factions of time-tripping antagonists redrawing past and future history in mutual attempts at grand-slamming each other. All good knockabout entertainment guaranteed to last a train journey without intruding too much into the reader’s thought-processes. With this novel, Bayley’s second foray into the mires of temporal conundrum, he kicks the ideas-quotient into metaphysical overdrive. Unlike Anderson or Asimov who skim or politely ignore the paradoxes inherent in time-travel, Bayley delights in its potential complexity, piling concept on concept into a staggering theoretical pyramid which views time, like recording tape, regularly overdubbed, looped, spliced, phased, edited, or wiped clean.

There is, for example, a man who abducts a future self for a homosexual relationship, dreading the moment when inevitably the incident must be repeated, and a ‘third self’ will re-enact the capture – with unique inferences of jealousy or troilism! While the old chestnut of a man travelling back in time to shoot a former self in a bizarrely convoluted suicide, is complicated by the motive of nullifying the invention of time-travel itself. These are concepts shot full of contradictions, as symmetrically absurd as the Zen Koan. The nearest parallel that comes to mind is Alfred Bester’s “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” (‘The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction’, October 1958) in which the protagonist backtracks in time to massacre the major figures of history, and yet finds history unchanged, posing the residual question of whether individuals shape events or events produce individuals.

For Bayley, neither answer is sufficient. Real-time events occur in random sequence, snaring and discarding individuals without rational motive or reason. And there’s no escape from its illogic, for consciousness is constantly recycled through the same life-time, an idea Bayley first propounded in a short story in my own ‘Ludd’s Mill’ arts magazine.


So, to specifics, although it’s difficult to know where – or when, to start. ‘Time is composed of a wave structure’ writes Bayley, ‘the nodes of the wave travel at intervals of approximately one-hundred-and-seventy years.’ The empire of Chronopolis spans seven such nodes which form ‘the seven continents or provinces of the empire, while the intervening periods comprise a series of hinterlands.’ The nodes are connected by regular commercial time-liners and by mercantile exchange. Prior to the empire lies the ‘stop barrier’ predating the evolution of technology, which futurewards lies the enemy Hegemonics who raid the empire, disrupting its history. Vast timeships of both empires patrol the Strat – the temporal substratum of potential unrealised time, like warring spaceships in some garish Space Opera. Bayley not only formulating the principles of the time-drives powering such craft – accelerating pi-mesons faster than light, but also outlining the effects of ‘speed’ through time in the physical altering of proportions.

Captain Mond Aton of the Time Fleet is trapped into a rapid burst of events, falsely convicted of cowardice, propelled into the far future on a retaliatory raid against the Hegemonics, then into the past to the very invention of time-travel itself, and finally unprotected into the insane vortex of the Strat. While there’s a web of secondary characters and subplots going on around him – the difficulties encountered by a Detective Agency searching for the stolen body of a princess, with the shifting contrails of time ensuring that clues are consistently occluded or rendered non-existent, the Byzantine complexity of the incestuously time-interbred Ixian royal family – rulers of the Chronotic Empire, the religion based around San Hevatar – the alleged discoverer of time-travel, and a Cthulhu lookalike called Hulmu – a six-dimensional multi-tentacled nasty sunk in the depths of the Strat, attempting the destabilise reality through a subculture of sadistic disciples.

Barrington J Bayley treats Science Fiction as a conceptual game. To the reader who merely wants good knockabout entertainment it may appear that Bayley occasionally gets bored with the tedious necessity of plot continuity, and therefore hurries passages – to more speedily reach the next unfolding section of ideas – although this trait is perhaps less apparent here than in some of his earlier, transitional tales. And if the Nietzschean climax of personal energy-play seems something of a cop-out, it could just be that expectations were accelerated unnaturally high by the mind-stretching proportions of the novel’s mid-section.

A previous ‘Vector’ review – by Brian Stableford, proclaimed the appearance of Bayley’s work through Allison and Busby ‘a publishing event of major importance.’ I’m not about to disagree.









See also…
‘BARRINGTON J BAYLEY: 
KNIGHT WITHOUT LIMITS’ 
by Andrew Darlington, originally in ‘Arena no.10’ (1980)
now: http://oivas.com/bjb/bjb-es3.html


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Poem: A PROBABILITY MODEL FOR RARE EVENTS



A PROBABILITY MODEL 
FOR RARE EVENTS/ 
ATTEMPTED CANNIBALISM 


tasting 
the dry flake 
of deadness chafed 
from your nipple, 
your cells on my tongue 

lapping 
the sweat 
pearling your armpit 

licking 
saliva from 
your tongue 
other moistures 

eating 
particles of 
skin pared from 
your cuticles 

digesting 
you inside me 

teeth 
bruise you, 
indent patterns, 
aching 
to draw blood 

I WANT MORE… 


Artwork: Treated by Pris Campbell

Published in:
‘STINK no.2’ (UK – July 1984)
‘TEMPUS FUGIT no.8’ (Belgium – December 1988)