Friday, 29 June 2018

Poem: 'I AM A CATHEDRAL'





I AM A CATHEDRAL 
(Peter Sarstedt, United Artists UP 2228) 



I look up from my book
and think, I am a cathedral,
I first heard those lines in 1968
been hung up by them ever since,
there’s a poem in there
if only I can tease it out…
now I’m here in ‘All Saints’
which smells faintly of mould
and decay, in Nafferton, e yorks
for Ava Rose’s family christening
and the lines drift back…
Peter Sarstedt, a swirl of Tijuana horns
as Arthur Lee on ‘Alone Again Or’,
never a hit, mostly forgotten, yet
still I’m chewing over those lines,
at base it’s ‘my body is a temple’
but no, it’s more than that,
turn it around, I am a mosque
I’m a synagogue, and it doesn’t work,
and what’s the book he’s reading?
has he already filched the lines
as I’m now taking them back?
sunlight streams in, irradiating
stained glass metaphors
for salvation, igniting the soul,
a body riddled with light, porous,
something close to spirituality,
which even non-believers can take
and atheist poets can steal…
this is not a cathedral
just a 13th-century lost village church
built on peasant sweat and muscle
striving beyond ancient wood beams
towards heaven beyond the sky,
a drone of sermon, Ava stirs,
I look up from my book,
yes, I am a cathedral…


Thursday, 28 June 2018

Three Brothers: Eden Kane, Peter & Robin Sarstedt



THREE BROTHERS: 
 EDEN KANE, PETER 
& ROBIN SARSTEDT 

 Unique in British Top Forty history, the three Sarstedt brothers 
 had three separate careers across three distinct and different 
 eras of Pop. Andrew Darlington traces the stories of 
Eden Kane, Peter Sarstedt and Robin Sarstedt



In the statistics of British Pop history, studied and analysed by chart academics, the Sarstedt clan are unique in one distinct aspect, they’re the only sibling trio to rack up separate solo hits independent of each other. There have been dynasties, Frank and Nancy Sinatra. John and Julian Lennon. While the Osmonds and the Jacksons – two brothers and a sister each with solo hits, come close to the Sarstedt achievement, as do the Gibbs – of whom Andy and Robin have hit as soloists while Barry has charted in partnership with Barbra Streisand. But no family has yet quite matched the Sarstedt record of three separate career arcs across different periods of Pop history.

It starts with Eden Kane, possibly the last of the sultry Pop teen-mag pin-ups to slip in under the wire, before the Beat Group Wave changed all the rules. He began life on 29 March 1942 as Richard Graham Sarstedt. Like Cliff Richard and Engelbert Humperdinck, he was born in India, where parents Albert and Coral were New Delhi civil servants. When Richard was a child, the family – including younger brothers Peter and Clive, plus their three sisters (Lorraine, Pam and June) – move to Kurseong, to run a Darjeeling tea plantation on the Himalayan foothills. He attends a boarding school until, with his father's death in March 1954, the family return to Britain. They settle in Norbury, Croydon, where young Richard attends Heath Clark Grammar School. Distracted from homework by the Bill Haley backbeat on the radio, like a thousand others, he learned guitar and formed the Fabulous Five, a skiffle-group with his brothers.

He supposedly appeared in a low-budget and now-lost film called ‘Drinks All Round’ (1960) – although I can find no trace of it, but fortuitously won a talent contest held at the Chelsea ‘Classic Cinema’ on the Kings Road, which resulted in him being signed by the contest adjudicators and management duo of Michael Barclay and Philip Waddilove – Simon Cowell-style. The product of careful planning, it’s said he adopted his stage-name from Orson Welles’ ‘Citizen Kane’, well, perhaps, but there are obvious Biblical overtones intended to resonate too, after all – thrown out of Eden, Caine becomes the world’s first murderer.


The other contest prize was the opportunity to record a first record. Under the guise ‘Ricky Sears’ he wrote “Hot Chocolate Crazy” as a jingle – ‘man, she’s got it bad’, used to advertise a proprietary brand of Cadbury’s drinking chocolate, where it was heard on Radio Luxembourg almost as high-rotation as Horace Batchelor’s football pools commercial. But at a time when the BBC ruthlessly expunged all trace of advertising, long before product-placement became a vital part of funding, no brand-name could be seen or heard, excluded even from scenes in TV Soaps. As late as the Kinks “Lola” they had to rerecord the track – changing ‘Coca-Cola’ to ‘Cherry-Cola’, before Radio One would play it. During the less-innocent 1970s both the New Seekers and Bobby Goldsboro chart with cunningly re-drafted Cola adverts, while David Dundas hit no.3 in 1976 with a thinly-disguised Brutus “Jeans On” TV-ad. But meanwhile, denied air-time, even under the subterfuge as the ‘B’-side of August 1960 single “You Make Love So Well” (Pye Records), Eden Kane was pre-doomed not to chart. Yet it creates an awareness of his presence, sufficient to interest rival label, Decca.


Johnny Worth (alias Les Vandyke) had written “What Do You Want?” and “Poor Me” for Adam Faith almost two years earlier. Now, he came up with his third and final chart-topping song for another newcomer with a name taken from Genesis Chapter One! Produced by Bunny Lewis with a dancing-strings Johnny Keating arrangement, Eden’s Decca release “Well I Ask You” entered the ‘Record Retailer’ chart at no.33 (8 June 1961). For ‘New Musical Express’ it climbed to no.18 from no.27 (10 June). The listings published by rival papers rarely coincide, and frequently conflict. It climbed through 16, 15, 11, 5 and 2 before dethroning the Everly Brothers “Temptation” from the top slot for the single week of 3 August in ‘Record Mirror’ – two weeks for ‘NME’, before being replaced by Helen Shapiro’s “You Don’t Know”. It was propelled by what Phil Hardy and Dave Laing term ‘the hully-gully vein’, a combination of heavy beat and growl (‘The Encyclopedia Of Rock: Volume 1’, Panther, 1976). In the lyric his faithless lover wants to return, having learned her lesson, but ‘don’t think you’re getting away with it, you’re gonna pay me somehow’ he sneers, because ‘you cruelly wrecked my life’, now ‘get down on your knees and try, I won’t break till I see you cry.’ A tough-guy stance, contrasting the regular saccharine sweetness of contemporary Pop.

Never a hard Rocker, Eden’s swarthy photogenics and slicked-back quiff, with just a hint of Bad-Boy made him the ideal Teen Idol for the fan-mags and ‘Love-Story-In-Pictures’ romance-zines that regularly feature strip-tales ‘inspired’ by current hits. In that cosy contained very-English Pop world, Eden Kane was a gift for them, alongside Billy Fury and Cliff Richard who he’s now sharing tour-bills with… alongside Helen Shapiro. Larry Parne’s ‘The Big Star Show Of 1962’ saw Eden Kane in an immaculate white suit taking equal billing with John Leyton, Billy Fury and Karl Denver, with ‘Moody Guy’ Shane Fenton (he recorded Eden’s song “Fool’s Paradise” long before he became Alvin Stardust) and Joe Brown footing the bill – all for just 8s/6d, 6s/6d or cheap seats at 4s/4d.


The next single, “Get Lost”, follows that growl-soft template, all the way into the chart to a high of no.8 (‘NME’ 30 September). ‘We had a wining formula and we stuck with it’ Eden confides to Spencer Leigh (‘Record Collector’ 1988). The snarling go-away ‘Get Lost’ is the closest you could risk to ‘F**k Off’, although it gets immediately countered by the acceptable ‘but get lost in my arms’. ‘Do I gotta get a shotgun to make you name the day’ adds a further touch a soft menace. And he’s all over the radio and the TV Pop shows, from ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ to ‘Crackerjack’. A third Vandyke song “Forget Me Not” – ‘love’s a fire when the kisses go hot’, takes him through into 1962, and back up to no.3. Until “I Don’t Know Why” – with a talking verse, makes it a suite of hits, by reaching no.7. Unlike the ones that precede it, this is on oldie from 1931, which had been a big-seller for Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Perhaps Eden’s revival was prompted by a 1961 US no.12 version by Linda Scott? ‘The only time you hold me, is when we’re dancing’ makes for an odd line in the wake of the Twist fad which for the first time liberates dancers from actually touching! Whatever, it ends the Eden Kane chart run.

It could be argued that he was ill-served by his record labels. The debut album, ‘Eden Kane’ (Ace Of Clubs ACL 1133) issued on Decca’s mid-price subsidiary, is largely a hits-so-far compilation, with ‘B’-sides such as Vandyke’s “Music For Strings” (and its c/w “I Don’t Know Why”), “Kiss Me Quick”, “I Told You’ and “A New Kind of Lovin’” under Kane’s ‘Ricky Sears’ aka, with “My Girl Sue” and “I’m Telling You” – written under the guise of his first names ‘R Graham’. 

His second long-player – ‘It’s Eden’ (Fontana TL5211), boasts Les Reed arrangements, but is an unwieldy mix of standards – “Gonna Send You Back To Georgia” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” with current hit covers “On Broadway” and “I (Who Have Nothing)” plus a touch of Motown with “Shoppin’ Around”. There were also a couple of EP Extended Play packages, ‘Well I Ask You’ (Decca DFE 6696) which is the hit plus its ‘B’-side “Before I Lose My Mind”, alongside “Get Lost” and its flip “I’m Telling You”. A second EP – ‘Hits’ (Decca DFE 8503), with Tony Barrow liner notes, simply gathers the four chart hits. But such treatment was largely the format imposed on Pop Stars by label managements who neither understood or greatly valued their ‘artists’.

Inexplicably Les Vandyke’s “House To Let” – ‘houseful of misery, houseful of pain’, replete with all his characteristic touches, and “Sounds Funny To Me” fail to register, leading to financial problems, and a change of label. “Like I Love You” became his debut single for Fontana in 1963 – accompanied by Earl Preston And The TTs, by which time seismic changes have taken place. The Merseybeat deluge had shaken Pop to its core. Yet Johnny Kidd & The Pirates had made a major chart-return under the Beat Group flag of convenience, Adam Faith acquired the Roulettes and a new run of hits, Billy Fury fronted the guitar figure on “Do You Really Love Me Too (Fool’s Errand)”, while even Cliff Richard concedes in a half-spoof way ‘you can dance, Twist and Shout’ on his “On The Beach”.


  The guitar spine of “Boys Cry” brings it into line with the Mersey boom, and as it brought him back into the charts for a one-off return – entering at no.26 (‘NME’ 15 February 1964), and climbing to no.8 (14 March). By now he was sharing a chart with the Rolling Stones, the Hollies and the Dave Clark Five. A brief renewed visibility that leads to new TV slots, and a major tour with Roy Orbison, Del Shannon and the Searchers that takes him as far as Australia. Then, with no more hits here, he continues to be popular in Australia – where “Boys Cry” was no.1, and then relocates to work in the California music industry. He married Charlene, sister of movie star Stefanie ‘Hart To Hart’ Powers.

Music changes. And seven-and-a-half years later – in 1969 younger brother Peter (Eardley Sarstedt, born 10 December 1941) is making new waves in the singer-songwriter genre. He’d played back-up bass on Eden Kane shows, and briefly masqueraded as Peter Lincoln for a Major-Minor single “In The Day Of My Youth” c/w “My Monkey Is A Junkie” in 1967. But it was his debut single for United Artists that made me first take note.

“I Am A Cathedral” is a strongly enigmatic song, vaguely in the Donovan vein. But “Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?” is the song of a lifetime, where all the elements come most perfectly together. With its French café-flavoured sway and catchy vocal hook it’s a movie or a Harold Robbins blockbuster novel about a poor little rich girl with a secret history all the way from the ‘back streets of Naples’. As with Bobby Gentry’s haunting “Ode To Billie Joe” there’s internal dialogue and hanging questions that hint at a wealth of more. There are product brand-names used as social-status signifiers in a way that was ahead of its time – even her name, Marie-Claire, is a glossy fashion-magazine, and there’s what passes for the risqué nudge-nudge humour of her ‘cleverly-designed topless swimsuit’ that gives ‘an even suntan, on your back and on your legs’. Clear through to the poignant closing verse where the two kids who have ‘shaken off their lowly-born tags’ recognize each other, and part for the last time.


The single entered the ‘New Musical Express’ chart at no.20 (8 February 1969), and climbed through no.9, and no.2 to occupy the top slot for four weeks from 1 March, before being nudged aside by Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. “Where Do You Go To My Lovely” remains high-profile on nostalgia radio and a staple of those Fabulous 1960s CD hits compilations.

It was followed by “Frozen Orange Juice”, a playful summer record, at a time when ‘the sunny hills of Madrid’ were still considered as romantically exotic as Marrakesh would be. In the same way that Eden Kane was never a Rocker, Peter Sarstedt was never a bona fide hippie, his penchant for wide ties contrasts his luxurious Zapata moustache. Yet the record caught the mood of the time to perfection. Then there was “Take Off Your Clothes”. Where Radio One could just about live with a ‘cleverly-designed topless swimsuit’ they threw up their hands in horror at his lascivious tongue-in-cheek ‘my daddy is a priest, you know, and I am not a beast, you know’, such an invitation to immodesty – ‘stand as naked as nature intended’, deemed as sinful as advertising ‘Hot Chocolate’ on its pristine airways. Dooming a delightful single to chart failure. For Peter, there was to be no second bite of the Pop cherry, although his three albums from the period have considerable singer-songwriter merit.


In the seventies, Eden Kane re-emerged with brothers, Clive and Peter, as the Sarstedt Brothers, recreating the line-up of their skiffle group, the Fabulous Five, featuring tea-chest bass-player Peter’s “All Together Now” recalling those early days! For the album ‘Worlds Apart Together’ (1972) Bowie-producer Tony Visconti assembled a constellation of star session players, including his wife modestly appearing as Mary ‘Opkins. ‘We were singing about our lives and our beginnings in the business’ Eden explained, while the brothers promote the album with a joint concert at the Croydon Fairfield Halls.

For Eden Kane there were still occasional Golden Oldie and ‘Solid Gold Rock ‘n’ Roll’ tours with Marty Wilde, Mark Wynter, John Leyton and others. And even more bizarrely he resumed his acting career, with appearances in the ‘Star Trek’ franchise series ‘The Next Generation’, ‘Deep Space Nine’ (as a Cardassian) and ‘Voyager’, as well as uncredited roles in four movies ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’ (1991) as a Romulan, ‘Generations’ (1994), ‘First Contact’ (1996) and ‘Insurrection’ (1998).


While again, music changes. In one era, and out the other. 1976 is a shallow period at the end of Glam, dominated by Disco, and the lounge lizard posturing that had already become Bryan Ferry’s arch pose, with revivals of 1930s Jazz standard “You Go To My Head”. In October 1974 Australian Gary Shearston took Cole Porter’s “I Get A Kick Out Of You” – complete with its ‘some get a kick from cocaine, I’m sure that if I took just one more sniff, that would bore me terrifically too,’ up to no.7. Surely there was no greater stylist than Hoagy Carmichael? So the third Sarstedt brother Clive – who’d once recorded for Joe Meek as ‘Wes Sands’, adopted his middle name Robin Sarstedt for recording purposes. And his smooth rendition of Carmichael’s “My Resistance Is Low” enters the ‘NME’ chart at no.21 (15 May 1976), climbing to no.11, then a high of no.3 (29 May) – where it stays for three weeks. He performs it on ‘Top Of The Pops’ as Pan’s People flounce in flimsy gowns. There were to be no further hits, but this achievement enabled the Sarstedt clan to become the only trio of brothers in British chart history to rack up separate solo hits.

EDEN KANE 

1960 – ‘You Make Love So Well’ c/w ‘Hot Chocolate Crazy’ (Pye 7N 15284)

1 June 1961 – ‘Well I Ask You’ c/w ‘Before I Lose My Mind’ (Decca F 11353) no.1 for the single week of 3 August, 21 weeks on chart

14 September 1961 – ‘Get Lost’ c/w ‘I’m Telling You’ (Decca F 11381) no.10, 11 weeks

1961 – ‘Well I Ask You’ EP (Decca DFE 6696) with ‘Get Lost’, ‘I’m Telling You’, ‘Well I Ask You’, ‘Before I Lose My Mind’

18 January 1962 – ‘Forget Me Not’ c/w ‘A New Kind Of Lovin’’ (Decca F 11418) no.3, 14 weeks

10 May 1962 – ‘I Don’t Know Why’ c/w ‘Music For Strings’ (Decca F 11460) no.7, 13 weeks

1962 – ‘Eden Kane: Hits’ EP (Decca DFE 8503) with ‘Well I Ask You’, ‘Get Lost’, ‘Forget Me Not’, ‘I Don’t Know Why’

1962 – ‘House To Let’ c/w ‘I Told You’ (Decca F 11504)

1962 – ‘Eden Kane’ LP (Ace Of Clubs ACL 1133) with ‘House To Let’, ‘Kiss Me Quick’, ‘Well I Ask You’, ‘Before I Lose My Mind’, ‘I’m Telling You’, ‘Music For Strings’, ‘Forget Me Not’, ‘My Little Sue’, ‘Get Lost’, ‘I Told You’, ‘A New Kind Of Lovin’’, ‘I Don’t Know Why’

1963 – ‘Sounds Funny To Me’ c/w ‘Someone Wants To Know’ (Decca F 11568)

1963 – ‘Tomorrow Night’ (Geoff Stephens, Les Reed) c/w ‘I Won’t Believe Them’ (R Graham) (Fontana TF 398)

1963 – ‘Like I Love You’ (R Graham) c/w ‘Come Back’ (Fontana TF 413) with Earl Preston And The TTs

10 May 1964 – ‘Boys Cry’ c/w ‘Don’t Come Crying To Me’ (Fontana TF 438) no.8, 14 weeks

1964 – ‘Rain Rain Go Away’ (Les Reed, Tommy Scott) c/w ‘Guess Who It Is’ (Fontana TF 462)

1964 – ‘It’s Eden’ LP (Fontana TL 5211) with ‘Gonna Send You Back To Georgia’, ‘I Know A Man’, ‘Sticks And Stones’, ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’, ‘Shoppin’ Around’, ‘Rain Rain Go Away’, ‘I (Who Have Nothing)’, ‘On Broadway’, ‘I Should Care’, ‘Charade’, ‘Guess Who It Is’, ‘The Last Leaf’

1964 – ‘Hangin’ Around’ c/w ‘Gonna Do Something About You’ (Fontana TF 508)

1965 – ‘If You Want This Love’ c/w ‘Have I Done Something Wrong?’ (Fontana TF 582)

1966 – ‘Magic Town’ c/w ‘The Whole World Was Crying’ (Decca F 12342)


PETER SARSTEDT 

1967 – ‘In The Day Of My Youth’ c/w ‘My Monkey Is A Junkie’ (Major-Minor) as by ‘Peter Lincoln’

January 1968 – ‘I Must Go On’ c/w ‘Mary Jane’ (Island WIP 6028)

September 1968 – ‘I Am A Cathedral’ c/w ‘Blagged’ (United Artists UP 2228) arranger Ian Green, producer Ray Singer

5 February 1969 – ‘Where Do You Go To, My Lovely’ c/w ‘Morning Mountain’ (United Artists UP 2262) no.1 for four weeks from 26 February, 16 weeks on chart

1969 – ‘Peter Sarstedt’ LP (United Artists SULP 1219) with ‘I Am A Cathedral’, ‘Sons Of Cain Are Abel’, ‘No More Lollipops’, ‘Stay Within Myself’, ‘You Are My Life’, ‘Sayonara’, ‘Where Do You Go To, My Lovely’, ‘Blagged’, ‘My Daddy Is A Millionaire’, ‘Once Upon An Everyday’, ‘Mary Jane’, ‘Time Was Leading Us Home’, ‘Many Coloured Semi-Precious Easter Eggs’, ‘Time Love Hope Life’

4 June 1969 – ‘Frozen Orange Juice’ c/w ‘Aretusa Loser’ (United Artists UP 35021) no.10, 9 weeks

1969 – ‘As Though It Were A Movie’ c/w ‘Take Off Your Clothes’ (United Artists UP 35041)

1969 – ‘As Though It Were A Movie’ LP (United Artists UAS 29037) with ‘Overture’, ‘As Though It Were A Movie’, ‘Open A Tin’, ‘Step Into The Candlelight’, ‘Take Off Your Clothes’, ‘Letter To A Friend And Intermission’, ‘Overture’, ‘Boulevard’, ‘The Sunshine Is Expensive’, ‘The Artist’, ‘The Friendship Song (Hey Nena)’, ‘Juan’, ‘I’m A Good Boy’, ‘The National Anthem X Doors Close At 10:45pm’

1970 – ‘Without Darkness (There’s No Light)’ c/w ‘Step Into The Candlelight’ (United Artists UP 35075)

1971 – ‘Every Word You Say Is Written Down’ LP (United Artists UAS 29247) with ‘Every Word You Say’, ‘Down On The Flesh’, ‘You’re A Lady’, ‘Lay Down My Alibi’, ‘Let The Music Flow’, ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Nexus’, ‘Mind Of Man’, ‘What Makes One Man Feel’, ‘Slow’, ‘Stand Outside Ourselves’, ‘Politics Is Showbusiness’, ‘Rain’, musicians include BJ Cole (steel guitar), Clive Sarstedt (slide guitar), Max Middleton (piano), Cozy Powell (drums)

May 1972 – ‘Every Word You Say’ c/w ‘What Makes One Man Feel’ (United Artists UP 35369) produced by Vic Smith, Clive and Peter Sarstedt

Peter Sarstedt died 8 January 2017 

SARSTEDT BROTHERS 

1973 – ‘Worlds Apart Together’ LP (Regal Zonophone SRZA 8516) with ‘A Way Leading Out’, ‘Kurseong’, ‘Mohammedan Girl’, ‘Here We Are In London Town’, ‘All Together Now’, ‘The Genuine Romanoff’, ‘You’re Just An Image’, ‘Searching For The Truth – Love Love Love’, ‘Sea Wall’, ‘Glory Glory’, ‘Catch The Next Train’, ‘World Apart Together’ with Eden Kane, Peter and Clive Sarstedt, produced by Tony Visconti with Dave Mattacks (drums), Roy Babbington (bass), Danny Thompson (double bass), Ray Cooper (percussion), Blue Weaver (piano), Mary ‘Opkins



ROBIN SARSTEDT 

1963 – ‘There’s Lots More Where This Came From’ (Hal David, P Hampton) c/w ‘Three Cups’ (Meek) (Columbia DB 4996) As ‘Wes Sands’, produced by Joe Meek

1969 – ‘Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero (The More I Love You)’ c/w ‘Picture On The Wall’ (SNB/ CBS 3965) as ‘Clive Sands’

March 1969 – ‘Hooked On A Feeling’ c/w ‘Marie’ (Clive Sands) (SNB 55-4058) as ‘Clive Sands’

July 1969 – ‘Witchi Tai To’ c/w ‘In A Dream’ (C Sarstedt) (SNB 55-4431) as ‘Clive Sands’

December 1969 – ‘A Very Lonely Man’ c/w ‘You Made Me What I Am’ (Clive Sands) (CBS 4672) as ‘Clive Sands’

8 May 1976 – ‘My Resistance Is Low’ c/w ‘Love While The Music Plays’ (Decca F 13624) no.3, 9 weeks. Arranger Ian Green, producer Ray Singer

1976 – ‘Let’s Fall In Love’ c/w ‘So Long Lonely Nights’ (Decca F 13662)

November 1976 –‘Sitting In Limbo’ c/w ‘Love Is All I Need’ (Decca F 13677)

1977 – ‘Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello’ c/w ‘All Said And Done’ (Decca F 13705)

1978 – ‘Something For The Weekend’ LP (Decca TXS 130) with ‘My Resistance Is Low’, ‘Something’s Goin’ On’, ‘Written On The Wind’, ‘Down The Disco’, ‘Manhattan’, ‘Slip Away’, ‘Keepin’ My Head Above Water’, ‘French Waltz’, ‘Sitting In Limbo’, ‘Blackjack’, ‘Jewellery Store’, ‘Let’s Fall In Love’

PETER AND CLIVE SARSTEDT 

1997 – ‘Asia Minor’ LP (Disky BX 880242) with ‘Dream Pilot’, ‘Teradactyl Walk’, ‘Glider’, ‘India’, ‘The River’, ‘Corigador’, ‘Vaguely Connected’


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Book Review: 'PHILIP K DICK: REMEMBERING FIREBRIGHT' by Tessa B Dick



REMEMBERING FIREBRIGHT: 
 LIVING WITH PHILIP K DICK 

 Book Review of: 
‘PHILIP K DICK: 
REMEMBERING FIREBRIGHT’ 
by TESSA B DICK 
(2010, ISBN 9-781442-110274, 223pp)



‘Australia does not exist, until we actually get there.’

When Charles Platt visited Philip K Dick in his plain, modest apartment in Santa Ana in May 1979, he was anticipating a straight interview on the practicalities of the craft of Science Fiction, similar to the profiles he’d done with EC Tubb or Brian Aldiss. But instead found himself subjected to a strangely unsettling inquisition questioning the very nature of existential reality.

An earlier Science Fiction writer, L Ron Hubbard, briefly died in order to experience spiritual enlightenment that prompted him to set up Dianetics and the Church of Scientology. Dick’s insights were too personal and individual to ever be codified in that way. Yet, if certain writers tend to embody the spirit of the age, as Arthur C Clarke did for the optimism of the Apollo programme or JG Ballard did for the rusting factories of post-industrialism, them Dick most perfectly inhabits our era of Fake News. Where nothing is real, and everything is open to relativistic interpretation. If news can not only be contrived, but invented, then it calls into question the bias shaping our every preconceived certainty. For each of the major stories defining our age, from 9/11 to JFK to the Moon Landings, there are counterfactual views offering various covert alternatives. What is real becomes porous all the way from the behaviour of sub-atomic particles to the extravagances of theoretical cosmology.

Philip K Dick with Tessa B Dick
Tessa B Dick is Phil’s fourth or fifth wife, depending on whether you include his first marriage to Jeanette Marlin, which lasted a few teenage months (May to November 1948) and which he didn’t count. Which makes Kleo Apostolides (from June 1950 to 1959) his first – or second wife. Second, or maybe third wife Anne Williams Rubinstein – from April 1959 to October 1965, had him confined to a mental institution and wanted him to quit writing altogether, although ‘he needed to write the same way that he needed to breathe.’ Next wife Nancy Hackett (July 1966 to 1972), left him for a neighbour who happened to be a Black Panther militant. Leslie Tessa Busby, as she then was, met Phil – he didn’t like being called ‘Philip’, at a Santa Ana beach party at a date which was probably 3 July 1972 – she was eighteen, he was forty-two. Married in April 1973 they lived in a kind of hand-to-mouth romantic bohemian poverty. He always wrote on a manual typewriter – anything faster ‘would make it too easy to write a lot of garbage instead of taking the time to write something short and good.’ Yet he wrote, a lot. 

Among the loops, repetitions and recurring themes to her book is the afternoon of 17 November 1971 when Dick’s San Rafael apartment was ‘hit’ and burglarised. At the time, it was being used as a kind of crash-pad party-house by all manner of drop-outs and ‘insect-eyed’ weirdo’s, ‘people would come and visit, drink and take drugs, eat Phil’s food and fall asleep on the couch and the floor. Some of those people he knew, and others he did not’ (says Tessa), useful source material from where he lifted ideas about the ongoing War on Drugs. The incident was later modified into ‘A Scanner Darkly’ (1977), a novel for which she was with him ‘throughout the process of writing editing and proofreading,’ but not for the break-in itself. 


Philip Kindred Dick was working in a record store when Anthony ‘Tony’ Boucher originally accepted his story “Roog” – told from a dog’s point of view, which became Phil’s first professional sale, but the second to be published (‘The Magazine Of Fantasy And SF’, February 1953). His second story to be sold, but the first to be published was “Beyond Lies The Wub” in ‘Planet Stories’ (July 1952), which asks whether the crew should talk to, or eat the pig-like Martian creature. They end up doing both! As early as 1960, Kingsley Amis was commending his “The Defenders” (‘Galaxy SF’, January 1953) – in ‘New Maps Of Hell’, which neatly pre-inverts the ‘Matrix’ future as wise robotic systems supposedly fighting a war of attrition have called off hostilities, leaving their human creators safely sealed up in their subterranean fall-out bunkers. In “The Impossible Planet” (‘Imagination’, October 1953) starship Captain Andrews assumes he’s conning ancient Irma Vincent Gordon and her robant (loyal robot servant) by taking her to a ruined world he assures her is mythical lost Earth, only to discover a US dollar coin embedded in its salt ash surface, indicating that yes, this is the forgotten racial home-world after all. 

Immediately noted as a versatile and prolific new talent, the ‘awareness of reality’ theme soon emerged as a distinctive trait. Brian Aldiss notes that ‘the many novels of Philip K Dick have sometimes been seen as one long novel, because he is haunted by the same theme, the tenuous and debatable nature of ‘reality’’ (in notes to ‘Space Odysseys’, 1974). Debut ‘Solar Lottery’ – where future politics is run along game-show lines, was published as one half of a 1955 Ace Double, bound in with Leigh Brackett’s ‘The Big Jump’. ‘The Man Who Japed’ (with EC Tubb’s ‘The Space-Born’, 1956) followed, with its puritanical Moral Reclamation regime, and then the Fedgov post-apocalypse dystopia of ‘The World Jones Made’ (with Margaret St Clair’s ‘Agent Of The Unknown’, 1956), with the pre-cog Jones who can see one year ahead of time. Serialised across three issues of ‘New Worlds’, the protagonist of ‘Time Out Of Joint’ (1959), Ragle Gumm, gradually realises he’s living in a fabricated 1950s Wyoming within an Earth-Luna 1998 war.

Brian Lewis artwork for 'New Worlds' February 1960

With ‘The Man In The High Castle’ (1962) he was breaking on through into award-winning classic status, and ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep’ (1968) took Dick beyond cult into legend with its ‘Blade Runner’ movie adaptations. Although, as Tessa points out, he never survived to see the success of the movies based on his stories, even Ridley Scott’s iconic ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) proved a slow-burner, gradually accumulating momentum through the VHS-video and DVD long-tail, a technology from which he contractually received no royalties. 

Yet almost by default he found himself absorbed into the extended SF community. Tessa provides neat pen-sketches of Harlan Ellison ranting at his audience, Harry Harrison – ‘an ordinary man with a touch of genius,’ Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon and others who she knew only as Phil’s friends. Ray Bradbury reads a very long, very bad poem instead of his banquet speech, ‘but he was such a nice man and distinguished author that everybody listened to it.’ While Phil was so in awe of Robert A Heinlein that he feigns illness to avoid meeting him at a Nebula Awards ceremony, afraid of repercussions from some off-the-cuff criticism he’d made about Heinlein’s radical right-wing politics on KPFK-FM radio. After Phil’s death Tessa got to visit the Heinlein’s fortified octagonal Half Moon Bay bunker-house, which more-or-less confirms the rumours Phil was repeating. Although Heinlein himself was also a benefactor, to the extent of loaning $2000 when Dick fell into problems paying his income tax. 


Harlan Ellison bragged that Dick’s ‘Dangerous Visions’ (1967) story “Faith Of Our Fathers” was written on LSD – which is typical Ellisonian attention-grabbing hyberbole, and untrue. ‘The fact of the matter is that I took it (LSD) two times, and the second time, it was so weak a dose, it may not even have been acid’ he explains to Charles Platt in the excellent ‘Who Writes Science Fiction?’ (Savoy, 1980). ‘The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch’ (1965) is Dick’s ‘classic acid-head novel’ even though ‘all I had to go on when I wrote it was an article by Aldous Huxley about LSD.’ Dick did speak to LSD-guru Timothy Leary, who advocated lysergic acid as a chemical tool way of expanding the conscious mind. Following Leary’s demonization by the authorities, Dick suspected he was targeted by surveillance as a result of their brief connection. 

The systematic derangement of the senses has long been seen as a valid strategy for liberating the subconscious, jolting free conventional thought-paths into new configurations. For example, there’s a common misconception that a blind person gains additional awareness through other senses. Yet it’s more that, as we grow, we accumulate certain learned techniques that have successfully seen the species through a million years of growth. But deprived of certain sensory inputs there’s a potential to rediscover over perceptual avenues. Brain-scrambling narcotics can help open those temporarily by-passed options. But the LSD experience is intensely personal, and the visions it vouchsafes can have no objective verification. While the one occasion Dick smoked dope at home, he conceals it from his wife by hiding in the john. 


Both Tessa and Phil harboured unresolved issues from dysfunctional childhoods. He already had suspicions that nothing is quite as it seems, although – as she asserts, ‘his tendency to experience wide mood swing had nothing to do with drugs,’ and that ‘I believe he had always experienced our solid world as plastic and illusory.’ He studied Manichaeism, Gnosticism, the I Ching, Zoroastrianism and Mithraism, as well as the Bible in a quest for occult and arcane explanations. But 22 March 1974 is the date of his first genuine flip-out vision. A month earlier he had an anticipatory hallucinogenic ‘anamnesis’ vision via Percodan – a synthetic codeine substitute, given as a sedative following oral surgery for an abscessed wisdom tooth. But it’s in March that ‘Firebright’ descends and enters his skull – ‘not so much a sentient entity as a conduit’ to other levels of awareness beyond what he terms life’s ‘Black Iron Prison’. As Ragle Gumm articulates, ‘I think we’re living in some other world than what we se, and I think for a while I knew exactly what that other world is… I almost got over the edge and saw things the way they are. Not the way they’ve been arranged to look, for our benefit.’ 

To Dick, a Schubert symphony communicates a hidden code. The couple’s dead cat ‘Pinky’ visits in the guise of Kellogg’s cartoon ‘Tony The Tiger’. There’s electronic spy-scan equipment in the next-door apartment monitoring and interfering with his mind. He hallucinates ancient Rome behind the architecture of LA. ‘Phil held two beliefs at the same time. First, human agents had brainwashed him. Second, demons had attacked him. They were not mutually exclusive.’ Tessa strives to understand, but is unable to see the things that he sees. She clinically and dutifully recalls details of his visions, so meticulously that there’s little trace of personal warmth about their actual relationship, or a sense of their day-to-day domesticity. When it came to 1950s gender roles, Dick conforms strictly to stereotype, she does the housework and cooking, while he never even changes a diaper for their infant son, Christopher. He snorts ‘Dean Swift Snuff’ which – because he mentions it in a couple of novels, they send him discount.

Philip K Dick TV-adaptation from 1962
 There’s no description of what drew her to this man in the first place, this ‘dignified, thoughtful, slightly portly figure, with black hair, greying beard, and an informal but distinguished presence’ (Platt), other than – maybe, two damaged souls finding mutual solace in each other? Was she muse to his creativity – she’s the model for the character Beth in ‘VALIS’ (1981) – which ‘insults me’, and the mother of Emmanuel in his final novel ‘The Transmigration Of Timothy Archer’ (1982) –which ‘flatters me’? Was he tutor for her own writing, or surrogate father? Was there interdependence, humour and loving tenderness as well as trauma? If so, she instead documents her recollections in as matter-of-fact a way as is possible, given the disruptive nature of their time together. There was a subsequent misunderstanding and separation, but they remained connected. He talked of two further planned novels to be titled ‘The Owl In Daylight’ and ‘Firebright’, which never happened, due to his death from stroke complications 2 March 1982, in Santa Ana. Tessa subsequently wrote her own ‘The Owl In Daylight’ (January 2009) partially based on his notes. 

Phil had ‘a diagnosis for every occasion, but none of them actually fit him.’ He himself ‘wrote thousands of pages about it, but he never found a satisfying solution to the puzzle of his visionary experiences of 1974 (part-published in 2011 as ‘The Exegesis Of Philip K Dick’ by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).’ Yet this troubled spirit created some of the most startlingly prescient fiction the genre has ever produced. His ideas resonate through the culture of the twenty-first century that he never got to see. 

When Dick tells a bemused Charles Platt that ‘Australia does not exist, until we actually get there’ he’s probably making playful use of Kantian spectacles, the idea that humans mediate ‘the thing itself’ – ‘Ding an sich’, by overlaying it with what we know. We create what we see, by the very act of perception. Or maybe not. 

This is the third, revised and expanded edition of ‘Firebright’. For Tessa, ‘after about (more) than thirty-five years, I’ve finally put together some of the pieces of a puzzle that I once thought insoluble.’ Yet, ‘in the final analysis, Philip K Dick was unique and indefinable...’


Monday, 25 June 2018

Book Review: 'TALES FROM THE SHADOW BOOTH Vol.2'



NEW, AND NEWER SHADOWS 

 Book Review of: 
‘TALES FROM THE 
SHADOW BOOTH Vol.2’ 
edited by DAN COXON 
(June 2018, ISSN 2515-7590, 202pp) 


The iconic ‘Pan Book Of Horror’ paperback series launched modestly in 1959 curated by Herbert Van Thal, it offered a fiendish cauldron of classic tales stirred in with tyro untried writers. Accused of down-market bad taste and vilified as garishly nasty, it nevertheless nurtured and fed the gory thrill-hungry appetites of a misfit generation. It survived for thirty editions, before finally winding down in 1989. Yet it’s legacy lingers on like a noxious aroma, suggesting further possibilities of otherness.

Until now – as Dan Coxon explains, there’s ‘The Shadow Booth’, ‘a bi-annual journal of weird and eerie fiction I’m editing, published as a mass market paperback with a nod to the old ‘Pan Books Of Horror’.’ The concept of this beautifully-produced pocketbook is that the ‘Shadow Booth’ itself offers an outré portal into a Twilight Zone located just around the dogleg of your subconscious, a step off the path into a parallel realm of weirdness. ‘Enter the Shadow Booth, and you will never be the same again.’ The first volume included fiction by Paul Tremblay, Malcolm Devlin, Sarah Read, Timothy Jarvis and others. And already its momentum accelerates…!


The voyage into unfamiliar strangeness is one of the earliest human story-telling devices, all the way back to Homer. Gareth E Rees innovatively utilizes climate-change oddness to infiltrate renewed dimensions of the unknown in “We Are The Disease”, as his Research Vessel ‘Salvo’ investigates mutant spores and microbial biochanges released by the melting icecap of ‘a planet in awful transformation.’ And elsewhere, subaquatics form a meme that deep-ripples through other tales. ‘The water wants to drown us’ protests George Sandison in “Keel”, ‘it’s all it knows.’ Caught in the lure of past times, haunting yesterdays that submerge beneath the former festival site lakeside. While the mismatched duo in Dan Grace’s “Waves” are also camping, on Jura this time, to encounter a creature that’s not quite a bird. ‘Life and art feed off each other’ in postmodern awareness, ‘we’re copying the movies, but then they’re copying us copying them,’ into a place where memory becomes ‘the Tardis of my skull.’ Then Chikodili Emelumadu details the problems and etiquette of interspecies relationships with aquatic life-forms.

Already the mainstream contemporary edge and character depth goes places those dusty old Pan writers never suspected. Into the unsettling trauma of never-born children, the Halloween anniversary of a stillborn son, from Mark Morris in “Buddy”, as children slip by like a shoal of fish, and assume the Mer-horror costume-guise of ‘sharp teeth and mean faces and hair like octopus legs.’ Or the terrible memories of an absent father blurred by merciful amnesia, in Giovanna Repetto’s “My Father’s Face”, translated by Amanda Blee. There’s also a surreal continuum about Kirsty Logan’s “Good Good Good, Nice Nice Nice”, a step sideways from anything as unsubtle as visceral shock, where post-war mutant shark-children are hatched from net-cage pods, with all the tenderness of a maternal lullaby. And the deceptive normality of Aliya Whiteley’s “Ear To Ear” about the butcher’s daughter persuaded to wear floral hats in order to disguise the hole that runs through her head, temple to temple. Then the elegant poised prose of two slipstream tales from Anna Vaught, a haunted old house in the sleepy French village that is ‘a living breathing organism’ thronged with a company of ghosts (“Feasting; Fasting”), and the mesmerizing sorcery of the strange cold street in the beguiling “Cave Venus Et Stellas”.

Ralph Robert Moore’s “Monkeys On The Beach” documents the most disaster-prone of Caribbean family-bonding holidays, while Johnny Mains’ stunning “The Joanne” returns to the voyage into unfamiliar strangeness theme beneath a double-sun, nudging Samuel Taylor Coleridge through a space-time anomaly, combining elements of the surreal with epic nautical adventure and downright eldritch ‘Weird Tales’ fantasia. Interestingly enough, there’s another continuity loop at work here, for Johnny wrote an introduction to a ‘Pan Book Of Horror’ relaunch edition published in 2010. But on this evidence, let’s just ensure that ‘The Shadow Booth’ continues as long as its illustrious predecessor.


Friday, 8 June 2018

Book Review: 'NIGHT LIGHT' edited by Trevor Denyer



A SPECTRUM OF DARKNESS 

Book Review of: 
‘NIGHT LIGHT: MIDNIGHT 
STREET ANTHOLOGY 3’ 
edited by TREVOR DENYER 
(Midnight Street Press, May 2018, ISBN-9781980699651, 264pp) 

Darkness has a spectrum of colours. Since, say – Stephen King took the horror genre overground, it has diversified into all manner of unexpected contortions. This is a book in point. There’s horror here, and each page is dripping in darkness. But it’s more than just that. Stephen Laws opening story “The Greek Widow” is a pursuit thriller with a shock dénouement, totally unexpected despite all of the clues and hints artfully strewn in advance. Tracking down the six Pygmet brothers, a dwarf acrobat team who once appeared on ‘The Billy Cotton Band Show’, ‘The Good Old Days’ and the ‘London Palladium Royal Command Performance’… lurking just around the corner of our collective memory. Tony Richards “Shadow Town” comes in from another angle entirely, seemingly by taking the pre-existing ‘Underworld’ movie mythology of an eternal war between vampires and were-beasts, but giving it new Nazi twists in a downbeat atmospheric cleverly-contrived post-war setting – Rita Hayworth divorcing Orson Welles is in the news, to where a new supernatural alliance is set to reshape the future in ways we almost recognise from today’s telecasts.

Just as David Turnbull’s “Scaffold With Green Tarpaulin” uses kitchen-sink 1950s settings and tele-jingles to suggest the origins of today’s rampant consumerism. Until Rhys Hughes “The Ostracons Of Inclusion” takes it off the scale entirely, into a series of magical realist vignettes of immaculate strangeness. Not even generic Horror any more, but taking skewed literary structures into new definitions, word games that juggle off the edge of space-time into spacey timelessness. Allen Ashley’s “Under” constructs another parallel troglodyte mythology that fundamentally shifts concepts of reality.


Simon Clark never writes the same tale twice. He knows his way around the destabilising concepts that unsettle the genre. This time round he mines his love of Rock music and recording technology to activate “240 Volts Past Midnight”, as scratchy as big spools of turning demo-tape. Mat Joiner adds “Other Voices”, a viral earworm tune that was ‘all the bedtime songs your mother had never crooned to you, the fairy tales you’d wanted to hear but never had,’ mixing it with the phonoghasts who feed on music. Andrew Hook’s “Shipwrecked In The Heart Of The City” is as beautifully tragic as a stillborn child. Terry Grimwood’s “He Didn’t Want To Go Home That Night” takes minutely observed ordinariness into a purely psychotic nightmare, while Ralph Robert Moore ignites a ‘Hunger Games’ variant into original terrain with “How I Beat The System”.

It’s impossible to comment on every story here, and it would be unethical to mention my own alien-monster First World War Sci-Fi grotesquery… so I won’t. But instead there’s the heart-shredding poignancy of Jiya, Susan York’s first-ever published tale, about the abused exploited “Little Lighter Girl” of Mumbai, Maria VA Johnson and Yvonne Chamberlain’s quicksilver poems, Robert D Richards triggering school-shooting aftermath trauma, Alexander Zelenyj’s psycho-brother versus demon-possessed Julie in “Sister-Biter”, Stephen Faulkner’s dazzling phantom phase-shifting “The Thinned Veil” ‘in random patterns of wonder and perplexity’, Gary Couzens, Ian Steadman’s taxidermy, and much more. 

The Midnight Street Press, energetically curated by Trevor Denyer through various but always valuable incarnations, is the premier Indie publisher taking darkness through new spectrums of colour.


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Poems From 'Tweak Vision': "FORGET"



FORGET 


maybe it’s time for the great forgetting
no more remembrance
no more commemoration
no more victory parades and poppy days
no more heroic war movies
no more cenotaphs and memorials
no more dignified patriotic speeches
no more histories of empire and genocide
forget those wars to end wars
which only ensured more wars
forget liberal interventionism
and cultural imperialism
forget kings, forget war lords
holy wars, jihad and papal crusades
aint going to study war no more
let’s blitz the world in peace bombs
hurt can only bring more hurt
no more stirring anthems that
legitimize centuries of blood feuds
no more medals for PTSD amputees
at the going down of the sun and
in the morning, let us forget them
it’s time for forgetting
it’s time to start all over again…




From my book...
TWEAK VISION: THE WORD-PLAY 
SOLUTION TO MODERN-ANGST CONFUSION 

 What is Tweak Vision? Snatch visions from the starry dynamo of the cosmos. Words are supernatural. In times of gathering modern-angst confusion, words defy temporal gravity, rearrange space-time, choreograph new constellations. Word-play is all I have to take your heart away. Now tweak them this way and that, shake them out into new configurations to your device of choice. This is Tweak Vision!
www.amazon.co.uk/Tweak-Vision-Word-Play-Modern-Angst-Confusion/dp/1986415260/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527781884&sr=8-1&keywords=Tweak+Vision

From the deepest inner psyche, to the farthest Hubble-glimpsed proto-galaxy.
ENJOY THIS TRIP! BECAUSE IT IS A TRIP! IT IS A TRIP!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Interview: Dave Davies, The Man Who Would Be Kink



DAVE DAVIES: 
THE MAN WHO 
WOULD BE KINK 

 Kinks guitarist Dave Davies has forgotten he ever played the 
Bridlington Spa Theatre. But he DOES remember the smell 
of his first ever vinyl. He doesn’t like CDs, Dire Straits, or 
repressive drug legislation, but he DOES approve of the 
Breeders, Jarvis Cocker and the coming 1990s revolution! 
And does he have any advice for the Oasis brothers…? 
Andrew Darlington finds out 



In Rock ‘n’ Roll chronology they’re slotted in midway between Everly Brothers Don and Phil, and Oasis brothers Liam and Noel.

Ray and Dave Davies that is. The brothers Kink, the longest running double-act in Rock ‘n’ Roll history. On ‘Phobia’ (1993) they sing ‘hatred, the only thing that keeps us together.’ That’s as maybe, but something has not only kept the Kinks intact, but remarkably creative too over thirty-plus years. ‘While other songwriters were metaphorically tearing up the ‘old’ in favour of the ‘new’’ writes Dave, ‘the Kinks were trying to point a way to a future where the good from the past could be interwoven with the new and radical.’

Perhaps that’s it?

The first hit – “You Really Got Me”, entered the chart at no.34, 13 August 1964. Dave heard it on the radio and ‘I was momentarily stunned with excitement and awe… as if its earthiness could cut through walls.’ Me too. It was the day the last UK executions took place. Peter Anthony Allen and John Robson Welby were hung by the neck until dead – at Walton and Strangeways, for the murder of a van driver. Simultaneously ‘The Mods Monthly’ featured interviews with Cathy McGowan and Vicki Wickham, BBC2 launched ‘Match Of The Day’ – Liverpool beating Arsenal 3-2, and Manfred Mann were no.1 with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”. And I was sixteen. Watching the Kinks on ‘Top Of The Pops’ as they took a mere four weeks climb to reach no.1.

A different world. But now, three decades, twenty-three hits and three chart-toppers later, I’m sat in the boardroom of Boxtree Books opposite Dave Davies. We’re here to promo his book ‘Kink: An Autobiography’* which opens with a poem summing it all up. ‘Brandy, cocaine, beer and laughter, curly-haired Groupies with big tits, angels and whores, the innocent and lost, the users, the used…’ We talk about all that, and more.


But to begin, let’s get personal…

ANDREW DARLINGTON: I first saw the Kinks in 1966, a misty Yorkshire night when you played the Bridlington Spa Theatre. So we go back quite a way together, if at a slight distance.

DAVE DAVIES: No, really? I can hardly remember. Bridlington Spa?

AD: Do you still get a buzz from playing live?

DD: Yeh. I do. But sometimes you just don’t feel so good. Erm, I’m trying to think where else we went on that tour!

AD: Other than forgetting Bridlington Spa you exhibit a total recall of details in ‘Kink’, despite the obvious chaos that must have surrounded the band throughout that period.

DD: Actually, it’s strange that in’ it? ‘Cos… when they first asked me to write it, I sat down and thought ‘I can’t handle this.’ Apart from thinking that I couldn’t remember stuff, I was scared of stirring up all the emotions that it takes to do something like that. But as I started I found I was quite enjoying it. And it was… (long pause), a cleansing experience too. Getting rid of a lot of the emotional garbage that you carry around with you. It’s kinda good to get it off your chest. I was also spurred on by the fact that there hasn’t really been a very good Kinks book out. There’s been biographies (an official one by Jon Savage, an unofficial one by Johnny Rogan, and a cut-and-paste ‘Kinks: Well Respected Men’ by Neville Marten and Jeffrey Hudson, Castle 1996), but they’ve sort-of only just skimmed around it. In and out, you know? Hearsay. Here and there. A few interviews with Ray, and a few with myself. So that was my reason why I wanted to do it in the style that I did. Conversational, and yet factual – trying to get the facts across. Not only that, but I think Ray’s book (‘X-Ray’, Viking, 1994) was… er, interesting, but it didn’t really cover a lot of areas that I thought he could have. It was written in the third person…

AD: Ray’s book is a little more devious and convoluted.

DD: It was sort-of like, in a maze. So it was important for me to get my book out the way I did. And I enjoyed writing it. Y’know, ‘cos once I’d got a third of the way through I was really starting to get into it. It was a very enjoyable experience.

AD: Throughout the years you write about I was buying your records, watching you on ‘Top Of The Pops’, following the progress of each single as it climbed the chart. I wondered how conscious you were of the same process, caught up in it as it happened.


DD: I was very aware. Obviously it was just a whole part of the total momentum of the time. But I found what helped me remember things was actually the music. Although I had a sketched-out kind-of diary that I’d kept. It was really the music itself which is sort-of redolent of memory, isn’t it? Of certain things that happened. But that first two or three years (1964-1967) was, like, unbelievable, it was a roller-coaster ride. The amount of work that we did! And the recordings. The record companies expected us to churn out singles every other week, virtually. Which we did, y’know. It was… I don’t think times will ever come like that again (laughs), I mean, it was an AMAZING time. You can understand why there’s so much romanticism about that period now, can’t you. When we’re talking about bands like Oasis, Blur, and people like that. They’re obviously inspired by a lot of sixties music, our music, and a lot of the other music that was going on then, the Beatles and stuff. ‘Cos it was a very energising time. It was great. It was spontaneity as well. At the time, wasn’t it? Which was quite incredible. I mean, they’re trying to do it now. Oasis recorded their first album in three weeks. Which is good. That’s hard going in this day and age.

AD: The Kinks recorded albums in a fortnight during the sixties.

DD: The first album we had less than a week to record it.

AD: Whereas the Stone Roses took five years to create their ‘Second Coming’ (1994) album!

DD: Yeah. But we were under so much pressure then. Because we were on a roll. You get on a roll, don’t you? And it was just coming out. New music was pouring out of us. Almost as if it was on automatic. There was no real kind-of structure or method to it. It just happened. It was only later, when it got to round about 1968, 1969, when we WEREN’T achieving the same levels of success, and we were having problems in America (the Kinks were banned from performing in the USA 1965-1969), that we kinda started to realise what we were actually doing. Well, I did. I started to realise that we were actually doing this for a living. That it was an occupation. Or a vocation, or whatever you call it. Other than just being one long party.

AD: The Kinks have been active over a period of remarkable technological advances in studio techniques and hardware.

DD: Yeah, I mean, that was a big problem in the years that followed. In the seventies particularly. That barren period at the beginning of the 1970s. People were really getting into those things then. When you think of the stories you’d head about Mick Fleetwood taking five days to just record a tom-tom beat. People were really getting into all that stuff.

AD: Do you enjoy taking full advantage of that studio technology now?

DD: I think what’s happening is that it’s kind-of evening out a bit. There was digital stuff. And people who liked digital recording weren’t particularly… erm, I’m not a great fan of CD technology at all. I don’t think it gives us all the information. I know everybody tells us that it does, and unfortunately I don’t know enough about it technically to offer a strong argument against that. But from what I can gather, and from what my senses tell me, I don’t think a sixteen-bit technology is advanced enough. There’s all kinds of things that happen in music. But CD is cold. It’s not a warm sound. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the harmonic distortion, or something else that happens.

AD: In a ‘Mondo 2000’ interview Neil Young describes the vinyl/CD difference as ‘analogue is a mist spraying your face, digital is tiny ice-cubes all the same size.’ Whereas in ‘Kink’ you argue that you can SMELL vinyl, but you can’t smell CD!


DD: (Laughs) Yeah well, you see, that was the big thing with me as a kid. When I was growing up. The first record I ever bought I paid 4s9d for it (25p). It was “Ballad Of A Teenage Queen” by Johnny Cash. And the first thing I did was smell it. It’s weird. And the same with Buddy Holly records. I loved that smell of vinyl. It was great. But Johnny Cash had such a cool track on the ‘B’-side of that first record too. It was called “Big River”, and it was SO cool – ding-ding-da-ding-ding ding-ding-da-ding-ding. It’s a GREAT riff. ‘Cos it’s always riffs with me. I was looking out for riffs all the time.

AD: You’ve frequently been accused of adapting the Rock ‘ n’ Roll riff – on records like “You Really Got Me” (‘G, F, Bb’), in ways that inspired the entire Heavy Metal genre which grew out of it.

DD: Yeh-he-he-he. I suppose so. In a way. There wasn’t a guitar sound like that before us. I remember the Who – when they were still called the High Numbers. They played with us early on. And their sound wasn’t THAT heavy. It was a ‘chingier’ guitar sound. But I noticed that when they started to get in the studio – and Shel (Talmy, Kinks producer) got involved with them as their producer as well, then their guitar sound started to get heavier. So obviously that was Shel borrowing a bit from me and then passing it on to them. They obviously drew a lot of ideas from us. But then it gave them their own identity. (Pete) Townshend found his own way of doing stuff, and they became their own force. We all have to borrow things from other people don’t we? To find our own sort-of way.

AD: There are lots of myths and stories that have built up around the Kinks over the years. For example, there’s a persistent rumour that Jimmy Page was a session musician on those early Kinks records. Is that true?

DD: UUURGH! This thing about Jimmy Page playing on “You Really Got Me”, it drives me INSANE! I can’t imagine why he said that. But you see, at the time, he was – like, the in-house session guy. A lot of people used him on different sessions. And he was always there, in the background. I don’t know whether it was the record company who were nervous that we couldn’t make a record properly. But we wanted to make it ourselves, virtually. And in the end that’s just what we did. There’s NO way that Jimmy Page played on “You Really Got Me”. I mean – that solo!, that crazy kid playing guitar! It doesn’t make sense at all. I think it’s more likely that in the early seventies when Zeppelin were going over big and they were doing a lot of drugs and everything, that he probably thought he’d INVENTED the guitar!

AD: Jimmy did play that eerie ‘bent’ guitar sound on Dave Berry’s single version of “This Strange Effect” – which is a Kinks song (no.37 on 22 July 1965, Decca F 12188).

DD: I think so, yes. It’s a lovely record that. Evidently it was one of the biggest-selling records of all time in Holland. Beautiful song. Dave Berry had an interesting voice, didn’t he? A haunting kind-of dry and clinical voice.



AD: Around the same time there was a single version of Ray’s song “I Go To Sleep” recorded by the Applejacks (1965, Decca F 12216).

DD: Did the Applejacks do it? Do you know, I don’t remember that version. Gawd!

AD: It says in ‘The Encyclopedia Of Rock’ by Phil Hardy and Dave Laing (Panther Books) that the Applejacks bassist, Megan Davies, was your sister.

DD: No. Never ‘eard of ‘er. Peggy Lee did record “I Go To Sleep” though, didn’t she? She did a great version of it. It was released on one of her albums, wasn’t it? (it’s on her 1965 LP ‘Then Was Then – Now Is Now!’, Capitol T2388). A great record that. ‘Cos Ray and I grew up with Peggy Lee as well. There were so many different influences and oh, so much music in our house. Like Anita O’Day, she was a big influence. She sounded so cool then. So in control. Perry Como too, everything. Each sister had their own favourite (Ray and Dave had six older sisters). My sister Dolly liked Fats Domino. She was a big fan of Fats Domino and all that sort-of shuffley kind-of Blues. But there were sentimental things as well, like that “Indian Love Call” by Slim Whitman. I always used to find that a little bit creepy when I was a kid, but she always used to have tears in her eyes listening to it. It’d make her cry. So there’s so many different elements that you absorb, and it comes out in some other form when you regurgitate it.

AD: I can see Fats Domino and Buddy Holly, but I can’t see Slim Whitman and Anita O’Day in the music of the Kinks.


DD: No, but I mean, it goes into the kinda computer, don’t it? Where it gets all sorta meshed around. You can see Peggy Lee coming out in something like “I Go To Sleep”. It’s perfect. In the same way that there’s a lot of things about Cole Porter too, amazing melodies, amazing chord shifts and stuff. Although it’s now incredible to think that you or anyone could write a song even vaguely on a par with any of the work he did. I don’t know where he got his art from. The gods probably. I don’t know.

AD: Talking of Kinks myths, I was interviewing Kim Deal of the Breeders. She told me she’d seen the Kinks on tour in the USA, and during the show a fist-fight broke out between you and Ray. She was really excited to witness what she thought was Rock ‘n’ Roll history in the making. But she went to a further show on the same tour, and at exactly the same point in the set, exactly the same fight broke out!

DD: And she thought it was a set-up (laughs). When was this? Mid-eighties? That’s funny that is. It’s quite possible. We used to play around a lot. We used to play around for our audiences a lot. I remember we did… erm, we were doing a lot of tours in the early seventies when we were sorta getting back into America, and we used to get bored playing some nights. So sometimes Ray and I might deliberately wind each other up just to get a bit of energy happening. You know what I mean? I remember one night which was really fun. We started the show with “Victoria”, and we actually played it BACKWARDS!, you know – going Shee-ooo-ooo She-ooo-ooo slurp slurp nya nya. We were all, like, walking round and playing backwards. And the stunned audience were just sitting there going… (blank expression). They must have thought we were… (he dissolves in laughter). It’s all a bit daft. But sometimes you have to do things like that to keep the spirits up. Y’know. It can be quite miserable sitting in a shitty Hotel when everybody really just wants to go home. You’re depressed and you’re looking at cold pizza from last night, with only a bottle of Heineken for company. Then you think that all the things that surround you come together when you get on that stage. But you know, when things are great it’s worth the effort.

AD: The Breeders line-up features two sisters (Kim and Kelly Deal).

DD: I like that record they made. What was that hit they had last year – ‘Last Splash’ (1993)? I loved that record. Yes. I wonder how they get on.

AD: And Oasis are going through the same problems. Do you have any advice for the Gallagher brothers?

DD: I don’t know to what degree… how do THEY get on? What’s the general thing with them?

AD: Similar to you and Ray. A loving contradiction. A loyal rivalry.

DD: That’s really strange (wonderingly). I mean… the thing is, over those first three or four years with the Kinks, Ray and I didn’t really have any problems. Personally, I think things started to go wrong with me and Ray after his first marriage ended. When he sort-of felt the world had caved in on him, and he felt the world had let him down, kind-of. In a way (Ray’s marriage to Rasa effectively ended 21 June 1973), I think he realised then how much he’d actually relied on Rasa for emotional support. Which you do. You do. When you’re in a highly charged creative environment with creative people there’s a lot of interchange that goes on. And you need somebody there, particularly. When you’ve got somebody like that – then all of a sudden that support is taken away it’s kind-of like ‘What the fuckin’ ‘ell? What am I doing here?’ I think that was a much bigger hole in the Kinks career than people realise. I felt it was. This, really is also what my idea of a perfect record producer is, somebody who is a rock of help, nurturing, providing encouragement and emotional support. I also think (cough) Ray changed a lot when he felt we were being ripped off by Music Publishers. Which we were. But Ray probably felt it more because he wrote most of the songs. And it makes you a bit bitter. I understood. But I think that I was always a little bit too optimistic for me own good. I used to think that if it’s done, it’s done. What can you do? But it really made Ray more thoughtful. Less trusting. More paranoid. A bit bitter da-da-da-da-da. But maybe that helped his writing as well? So you just don’t know. You can’t… it’s like, I was talking to someone the other day and they were commenting on this thing that I say in the book about Ray, about how… how he abused me. But it’s a relationship BUILT on abuse! Really. Maybe it’s because of it that the work that we’ve done is so good. Y’know – if it had been all sort-of Lovey-Dovey and darn the pub together, then the music would have been different. Not as good. Maybe.


AD: They said the same thing about the Who. It was the creative tension within the group that gave it it’s edge.

DD: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, when Keith Moon died, old Pete Townshend didn’t know what to do. I bet you that’s where he used to get his – whatever it is, you have to get that energy from somewhere. Even if it’s ugly. You know what I mean? It’s like, I can understand that totally. I was talking to someone else the other day on the radio, about the Knopfler brothers, about the way they first started. The stories that I heard about David Knopfler, and why he left Dire Straits (he quit in July 1980 after disagreements with brother Mark). I’ve met David Knopfler. We talked. And like, he’d really gone downhill in their relationship. I felt like I was trying to pull him back.

AD: You’re not very complimentary about Dire Straits in your book (‘someone invited me to a Dire Straits concert at Wembley. I put on a brave face, but when we drove into the car park I just couldn’t go through with it. When I saw all those BMW’s and Golf GTi’s it was more than I could bear. I made my excuses…’).

DD: I guess it’s all related to the same thing we were talking about earlier (he’d applauded Jarvis Cocker’s stage invasion during Michael Jackson’s performance at the Brit Awards). It’s so over-glamourised. It’s totally unnecessary. I don’t mind the Kinks being called a Garage Band. Because when we started that’s probably all we were anyway. It’s probably like that even now, if we set up in here, that’s probably what we’d sound like today. The whole thing about Dire Straits is, he’s a good guitar player with a good sound. But it’s the kind of band you’d expect to see in a Pub. Notice the connection? – the mention of ‘Pub’ was deliberate! But all this kind of amazing glamour, and the glamour situations that we put around ‘Stars’, what they do doesn’t warrant it. I don’t know if that sounds a little bitter? Do you know what I’m saying? Am I making any sense?

AD: It makes perfect sense to me. You write openly about drug use too, in ‘Kink’. From necking Mod pills (‘heroin was considered very old-fashioned, the drug of choice for an older generation – Bums and Jazzers who had serious drug problems’) through to your traumatic use of LSD. Psychedelic writer Timothy Leary claimed that acid should be taken as a sacrament, as a tool to achieve the kind of spiritual insight you claim to have later experienced. Whereas in practise, as your book implies, it became just another I-can-do-more-acid-than-you thing.


DD: Just a fad, or fashion, or one-upmanship. Yes. But the thing is… we are living in the 1990s. And we’ve got so much at our fingertips to actually help create real change in the world. We have everything from metaphysics, to yoga, to religion, to technology – in particular. And yes – drugs, if you like. We’ve got so many tools that we can use to actually create real change in the world. But there are people in control who don’t want to LOSE control. It’s really boring if you’re not interested in it. But I find it really significant. And I’ll try and be as brief as possible. Astrologically, what happened last year was that the outer planets were moving, and Saturn has moved into the sign of Sagittarius. What that means, to cut a long story short, is that it’s influencing people to do things. It’s like, people are going to HAVE to change some way or the other. We all change differently, ‘cos we’re all at different states or stages of emotional, mental, spiritual da-de-da-de-da growth and everything – that’s probably why I’m communicating it to you so badly! But, to bore you further, we’ve somehow got to try and communicate with each other quite quickly. Because something is gonna happen. And I think that all the ideas about revolution in the sixties that everyone was talking about, all those things are actually going to happen in the nineties. Because it makes more sense now. There are still people around that were a part of that culture, like you and I. There’s people in corporations that were taking acid when they were sixteen and seventeen. And now they work in Big Business Corporations. So it’s all there. There’s certain elements that are out there that need to be pulled together now. The whole element of competition becomes anti-productive in the end. It’s like Margaret Thatcher thinking ‘I’ll make everyone a millionaire and everyone will be happy.’ That’s the way a child would think.


AD: In later sections of your book you talk about your new-found Gaia-consciousness, your contact with alien ‘intelligences’, and people’s scepticism about these insights (‘the media thought I was crazy. Perfect. I was dumbfounded. Every time I talked to anyone about, you know, um, things… well… ah, I felt like a fucking Klingon, and I was SO angry that I probably looked like one as well’).

DD: I think we have to take a big step into the unknown now, before the door is closed on us completely. So experimenting with knowledge, even with drugs, has its place. You were talking about Timothy Leary, OK, so it’s not the be-all and end-all, but it does have its place. What I found really encouraging was a programme on TV the other night, about a group of young people who had gone through the beginnings of the ‘E’-culture, subculture, or whatever. And through the experiences they’d gained from using those things they’d decided to set up their own little group in which they were trying to manifest the feelings of love that they had transmitted between each other, but this time through just working at relationships. Now, in that sense, a positive good had come about by the use of drugs. And I applaud that. Because that’s learning something from experience, then trying to utilise it in everyday situations. There are things around us that offer us tools to get out of this prison, and the confines of theology. I think that’s much more productive than going and saying three ‘Hail Mary’s’ because you beat your Missus up when you came home drunk on Friday night. It’s much more constructive. Yet kids are getting arrested for it. You hear some horrendous stories from America about this whole area of drugs and the way that the Police are involved. There was that poor kid who got arrested for selling a tab of acid. He was on tour with the Grateful Dead – he was a Deadhead. And he sold a tab of acid to another kid so that he could pay to stay in a Hotel room. They arrested him, and the guy got put away for twenty years! I mean, it’s FEAR that does that. I mean, why are Governments in such a terrible confusion about it? Why can’t they just see what that guy was doing? But no, they have this terrible fear of drugs. A fear of losing control of people. All this ‘I’ve got control, and I don’t want to lose it.’ I don’t know if I’m expressing myself very clearly. But it’s a major area of frustration for me. I have some friends who are part of UFO groups, and people say ‘Oh yeah, but they sound like a cult to me.’ I mean – the Roman Catholic Church is a cult. Just because there’s more of them than there are of me. I’m a country of one. I’m a universe of one. How many millions of Catholics are there around the world? Let’s say there’s ten-million… is that about right? OK – so there’s ten-million of them and only one of me, does that make me wrong? Y’know, might isn’t always right. An individual’s point of view is just as important. Particularly nowadays when there’s so much misery, suffering and shit happening. But they can’t see it. It’s because of all this misinformation. Not giving people enough information. It keeps people ignorant. And if you’re ignorant you can’t get out of bad situations. If you don’t have the information or the tools to get out of that situation, you’re trapped by it. Do you know what I’m saying…?

AD: To conclude, I saw the Kinks in 1966 when – according to the Rock history books, you were at your peak. Then I saw you again more recently at the Leeds ‘Town And Country’ (1994), when your set was not only tighter and stronger, but you even seemed to be enjoying it more too.

DD: Oh, that’s good. That’s nice to hear. That’s encouraging in me old age, ha-ha-ha. It WAS quite a good little tour, that tour. I remember, that’s the night we’d played the ‘Empire’ the night before. No, we’d come across from Ireland. That’s right. A good little tour. It was fun. But I hope I’ve learned… no, I hope WE’VE learned a bit since then. Since 1966. So – do you live in Leeds…?

* ‘KINK: AUTOBIOGRAPHY’ 
 by DAVE DAVIES 
Boxtree Books Ltd ISBN 0-7522-1695-3
 £16.99 Pan Paperback, 1997

My other Kinks features:
http://andrewdarlington.blogspot.com/2017/07/music-interview-kink-dave-davies.html
http://andrewdarlington.blogspot.com/2017/07/live-kinks-in-leeds.html
http://andrewdarlington.blogspot.com/2017/07/dvd-review-kinks.html
http://andrewdarlington.blogspot.com/2017/07/cd-review-dave-davies-rippin-up-time.html