Thursday 18 December 2008

at ‘Heineken Music Festival’, Leeds - 23rd July 1995

I’ve seen odd, and I’ve seen odder. This is the oddest. Shane announces Kirsty MacColl, and kisses her hand as she comes on. They go into “Fairytale Of New York”. But when they get to the mid-point mutual abuse bit Shane crashes the lyrics. Skilfully Kirsty grabs bits of the splintering song and redirects them back to the chorus so they can try it a second time. He muffs this re-entry too, and again Kirsty takes it back chorus-wards. They don’t risk a third take, waltzing slowly around the stage instead as the Popes churn on determinedly to the bitter end. There were riots down the road in Bradford’s Manningham Lane. There were riots round the corner in Leeds’ Hyde Park. The only riots tonight come in slightly boozy but crazy dance-steps. And it starts with compere Tom Robinson – in ludicrous black shorts, introducing Goats Don’t Shave, and them swirling into a Dylanesque “Love Will Find A Way”. The girl in front of me wears a T-shirt saying ‘FOLK YOU’, and they do, infusing electric Donegal energies with shafts of reggae and even a sly pinch from the Outhere Brothers. Everybody say ‘Wayo’, indeed! Betweentimes they do “Accidents” – a social realist text on domestic violence, and “Walls” – ‘these walls must fall…’, with an angle on the Northern Ireland Peace Process. The Goats close with “When You’re Dead, You’re Great”, only to get an approving name-check soon after when Shane lurches unsteadily up to the mike. He does a roaring “Nancy Whiskey”, then slurs ‘this is an old Neil Diamond number’ and Ivan Ooze’s through “Crackling Rose”. Of course Rosé is a store-bought woman who comes in a bottle from a place where streams of whiskey are flowing, but each time he gets to the build towards the title he loses a line, and substitutes it by doing the next line twice. Then there’s the ‘slightly jazzy version’ of “Fairytale Of New York”, and… “Hippy Hippy Shake”! He obviously enjoys this so much he does it again in the encore, twisting grotesquely with a demonic grin through a dental Stonehenge. It’s somewhere around here that Shane leans across to guitarist Paul McGuinness and stage-whispers ‘what’s next?’ The Popes are tight. Tighter and harder than the Pogues ever were. They construct the rigid framework within which Shane wanders. And it works gloriously. The drums they go a-rat-a-tat-tat, ‘Jimmy Riddle on the fiddle’ soars, and they rampage through the back-catalogue, stopping off at “If I Should Fall From Grace” and “Irish Rover”, before powering up with a metallic “Baby Please Don’t Go” – ‘an old Van Morrison number’. Four songs into the encore, around the time of “Bottle Of Smoke”, Shane aerobically whirls the mike-stand around his head, as if to demonstrate his surviving skills of co-ordination. It might be great when you’re straight, it’s even greater when you’re Shane. ‘Than-yew’ he says in his speech-impediment slur.



When the ice-barrier broke, the barbarian hordes would
pour through, and everything he knew would be engulfed
in flame and destroyed. So why was he bothering
to rescue the alien stranger…?

The ice was melting across the narrow strait of Hell’s Mouth. Much as had been anticipated, only the rapidity of the thaw exceeded expectations. That was alarming. It was too soon. Too soon. Va’seer reigned his beast-mount and vaulted down from the Kaddish’s high saddle, he enjoyed the rough sensuality of worn beaten leather, but was glad of the opportunity to leave it. The ground beneath his feet was spongy with moisture. Only hoar frost and light snow remained in patterns, lapping at formations of moss and fern. The Kaddish’s sour breath condensed in silver eruptions before dissolving into the brittle windless air. Va’seer paused to gaze across the inland sea. At its hidden inlets and rocky fjords blurring into smudges of mist. At the steady phalanx of huge mushroom-trees erupting from the occasional ruins of forgotten cities stretching down and into the lower slopes of its shores. Finally, at its periphery of treacherous ice prohibiting navigation for a further month – would that be long enough? Fear told him no, it wouldn’t.

From his vantage point on the rocky outcrop Va’seer could watch for long uninterrupted moments. Far above and ahead of him towered the broken vertical face of the unassailable mountain Range Of Dreadful Hands, and higher even than them the ragged shabby sky-islands, buoyed up on their helium bladders, admitting sharply angled shafts of aquarium-green light like columns to support the entire wildness of sky. It would be temptingly easy to forget this was a military assignment. That, as soon as it became navigable, the narrow neck of Hell’s Mouth connecting the inland sea to the great ocean beyond, would provide the access-point for barbarian longships carrying savage hordes who would just as surely smash the civilisation that had despatched him on this surveillance mission. And everything he knew and cared for would be engulfed in flame and destroyed. The long winter had provided a wall of ice against further hostile encroachment, but had not lasted long enough. And all the while the enemy waited, impatiently. Vessalia was crowded out with refugees in a ring of shanty-town encampments, it was still neither adequately fortified nor militarily prepared to withstand the imminent waves of invaders. It would take months yet, at least. Months it did not have. Surely Vessalia must fall, as had the cities that fell the previous year. Then the entire northern crescent of cities, of which only Vessalia remained, would be lost in violent and bloody extinction. This premature ice-breaking makes it unavoidable.

Va’seer was reluctant to undertake the return journey. He’d taken the readings. Done the calculations. Now he delayed, for as long as he dared. He sat still, overlooking the sparkling expanse of water as his beast cropped restlessly at tundra, and the crystal sphere absorbed light on the nearby cairn of shingle, grumbling to itself – ‘the sky is melting, the sea is breaking, I am water, eroding time’. Despite its confused commentary, he enjoyed the stillness and solitude. Enjoyed the short-lived sense of freedom and adventure. It was his first real assignment away from Vessalia, the farthest he’d ever ventured alone beyond the ramparts of the city of his birth, although as a child he’d once sailed the inland sea with his father in merchant trading vessels with full tattooed sails of rich maroon. The sea-lanes had still been open then, with free cities and welcoming harbours beyond the straits. Those days were no more. Those cities were gone.

It was only as he rose from such introspection that he became aware of the sound of struggle. At first he took it for voices from the crystal. He tasted the sound critically, attempting to extract as much meaning from it as possible. He was lightly armoured, a crossbow and quiver slung across his back, a set of jewelled blades of varying widths and lengths suspended from his belt. His visor was carved into baroque animal-shapes with intricate encrustations. The rituals of drill and briefing were well-instilled. His was a survey mission – nothing more, journey to the Hell’s Mouth strait, determine the stage reached in the disintegration of the ice barrier, and transmit reports. Do not exceed those orders. Don’t get involved. But the harsh jagged sound of struggle was tantalising.

Va’seer was methodical. He moved towards the cairn. As he did so a sky-island shifted by gradual meandering degrees to eclipse the diffused light of the suns – three bright small suns, two dull red giants, nudging the whole scene closer to the green end of the spectrum. The crystal sphere, as he reached it, was a murky vortex of hues of white. When first deposited there barely hours ago, taken from the depths of his beast’s panniers, it had been blacker than darkest ebon. Since then it had gradually absorbed every detail of the panorama, feeding it back to the Sleepers of Vessalia, who in turn would translate the visual information into detailed military topography. The sphere had deepened and complexified in proportion to the light it drank until, sated, it became uniform white. With exaggerated care, Va’seer picked it up, covered it, even as it grumbled protest ‘the ice is freezing, the light is thawing, I am blind, without taste’, and returned it to the safety of his baggage.

Only then did he leave the huge shambling beast, to leap down a narrow scree of glacial detrition in the direction of the conflict. The air was freezing, unmoving, carrying each sound perfectly. He used outcrops of rock, eroded curiously by ice and pitted by weather, and the inevitable ruins of ancient masonry – true-form or Elder, as cover, hoping to sneak a glimpse of the struggle without the necessity of getting involved in it. Nevertheless, he drew a wide curved blade and balanced it loosely before him. A barbarian foraging party already? Raiders in advance of the main horde? Unlikely, but not impossible. Below the slope was a narrow, richly overgrown cleft, running the length of a water-course that would eventually empty into the bay. The fast stream swollen with melting snow from the peaks. He used the foliage and undergrowth to his advantage, circling the point from which the sound emanated, carefully avoiding shoals of multi-coloured air-fish weaving languidly in and out of the denser tangles of plants, and around the thick rubbery trunks of many-layered fungoid trees where a myriad luminous jewel-green spider-eyes twinkled in the deeper shadows. The scores of air-fish were harmless, but if startled their sudden activity would betray his presence to the as-yet unseen combatants.

Eventually Va’seer skirted a low wall of crumbling sandstone to where he could peer down the defile. The stream twisted hurriedly to form an enclose dell, Va’seer’s eyes rapidly adapting to the deep green shadows until he could discern the odd shapes of the protagonists. The first he recognised as a Crawlker, a slow-moving land-octopus. Although a massive formidable assailant it was scarcely difficult to avoid or out-distance once its habits were known. Its victim then, must be a stranger to the area, and indeed Va’seer found it difficult to identify the struggling animal. Unlike Va’seer it had only four limbs, and was covered in some form of shell of silvery armour. The Vessalian scout watched the struggle absently, his interest already waning. The climax was predetermined, four-limbs was as good as dead, its bulky body entwined inescapably in tentacles, all but one of its limbs encircled and captive.
No concern of his. Yet Va’seer watched. Until the complexity of the victim’s shell snagged his attention. It seemed artificial. Didn’t its oddness indicate evidence of sentience? Without any clearly defined reason for doing so he unsheathed his crossbow, notched a quarrel into its breach, and levelled the weapon. Before his first bolt impaled the Crawlker’s eye a second was on its way, and a third. The octopoid recoiled, its tentacles thrashing the air impotently. The attack was precise and economical, the third missile killing the monster. His aim was true. As he knew it would be. Va’seer waited full minutes as the air-fish settles, as the giant tentacles ceased their muscular spasms, and he was sure of death. Only then did he move warily into the dell to retrieve his quarrels, cutting them free from the monstrous corpse with a blade selected from his belt.

At intervals he stole a glance at the armoured creature whose life he’d saved. It sprawled among the long dew-damp grass. It, in turn, was regarding him. It seemed either damaged, or in shock. There were no signs of respiration, and no sound. Though Va’seer was unsure how much of that was due to the muffling effect of its seamless shell. With the bolts safely returned to his quiver and the crossbow slung over his back Va’seer hesitated. Already land-crabs were scuttling about the immense corpse, in minutes the entire dell would be crawling with carrion. Va’seer had saved a life, he owed it nothing more.

He turned to go, then the creature spoke. Its words were slurred, strangely enunciated, and in some foreign tongue, but it was definitely talking. Va’seer shrugged to indicate his non-comprehension. The stranger was following him. Va’seer turned irritably, its movements were gracelessly ungainly. Beyond its shoulder he could see the dead Crawlker infested with scurrying flesh-tearing carrion, shoals of air-fish weaving and bobbing about them curiously. The figure tried another tongue, one Va’seer recognised as the gutteral speech of the barbarian. Suspiciously he groped for his duelling blade. The stranger didn’t resemble any invader he’d ever heard of, but the horde was made up of numberless tribes. It was even rumoured there were mercenaries of the Elder clans from beyond the Rim, bearing terror-weapons from ancient days. Then the figure began to speak haltingly in the Vessalian dialect, ‘thank you, you saved my life’. Va’seer listened. The phrasing and pronunciation was odd, much of the meaning was garbled and lost, until bits of coherency began to emerge.

They reached the crest of the scree overlooking the inland sea and the Hell’s Mouth strait, the Kaddish-beast still cropping contentedly at ferns. Overhead the drifting sky-islands shafted the scene with velvet-green pillars of fading dusk-light, basking manta-rays gliding on the ebb and flow of thermals as the bright suns were gradually eclipsed by the red giants. Va’seer detached the crystal sphere from the panniers and set it on the cairn. For a moment he watched the regurgitation of dreams within its confined horizon as it absorbed and sifted the miasma of the Vessalian Sleepers. Clouds of vermilion moths swarmed and clustered across the fish-eye perspective, splintering and separating out into spectral patterns at either end of its curvature. All the while he was aware of the stranger watching him. Watching the sphere. It would take a while for the crystal to absorb the creature’s appearance, for the Sleepers to sift and order the visual information and to return coherent instructions for Va’seer to follow. In the meantime he sat back, relaxed, and watched the stranger beyond the gathering dusk.

‘My name is Lester Gomez, I’m from the Second Terran Federation, and I guess I owe you thanks for my life’ it was saying. ‘I’m part of the re-exploration programme from what you’d probably call the dark worlds of space. Our station’s been orbiting here for about three years, recording the ebb and flow of proto-civilisations, observing through the sky-islands and insect belts, but so far we’ve avoided direct contact. I guess that’s all over now. I suppose that phase ended the moment you fired that weapon and rescued me from the monster.’

Va’seer half-enjoyed the fantasies. He knew nothing of the stars, or the worlds of space the alien spoke of. He knew the legacy of vague myths from the world’s earlier ages. But oldsters always talk. And who listens to oldster tales? He was always more concerned with creating his own epic stories, riding out to Hell’s Mouth and beyond. Now, all that must end. All that’s left is war, and defeat. ‘The oldsters talk of such worlds of darkness’ he argued back. ‘All I know is that if you go down into the deepest caves you find darkness. But how can there be worlds of darkness when all is filled with so much light? It contradicts reason.’ Va’seer traded information warily. He spoke in a deliberately guarded fashion about his mission, still not entirely sure what it was safe to confide, speaking in vague terms about the peril about to engulf Vessalia, the massing barbarian hordes soon to spew through the ice-fringed waters of Hell’s Mouth.

Gomez stood up, strode back and forth in the clumsy dwarfish manner Va’seer found so amusing. ‘Yes, we’ve monitored the re-emergence of culture here. Don’t think for a moment we’ve not noted the crescent of cities. And we’ve watched the barbarian encroachment with some dismay. Only Vessalia remains? We would have helped you but always felt it more important to remain uninvolved. So that you don’t discover the secret of our return to your system. But I’m in your debt, my strange friend. You saved my life, and so our futures must be interrelated from now on.’ He hunched down before the crystal, in a squat ugly way. ‘We are now involved in the destiny of your city. I’ve got to return to the station, Va’seer, but watch as I leave. Watch me Va’seer.’

The Vessalian scout watched with half-interest as the lumbering strangeling disappeared into the twilight. The vortexing crystal washed the stone bank and its surrounds with pure white light casting clear-cut shadows of beast and Vessalian. Highlighting the overlap of each chitinous scale on Va’seer’s near-spherical body and limning the moist sheen of exhalation droplets on each of his ten triple-jointed limbs spaced evenly around his circumference. The crystal was grumbling, amplifying information from the Sleepers, the collective memory banks, seers, and biological computers of the threatened city. Beyond, across the twilight that was the closest the world ever came to night, there were more lights. Then the hum of generators.
‘Kill the stranger, kill him’ came the voice of the crystal. ‘Better we die at a barbarian’s hand than theirs. For a thousand years we were wealthy, lavish with cities from pole to pole.’ He listened, its thoughts had condensed, it was rational now. ‘This is not myth nor legend, but memories from the archives. The human companies came, the plague from beyond the sky-islands. They came from beyond the atmospheric insect-belts in the guise of trade, benevolence, and the gift of superior technology. We extended hospitality, welcomed their rival corporations on our continents, until they’d insinuated themselves into our entire economic structure, and we became addicted to their ‘benevolence’. They exploited our people, our resources, and our culture, for a century…’

Across the inland sea, a pattern of vivid lights were mounting the sky, hovering and hissing at the gathering gloom. The thought occurred dully to Va’seer that Gomez, the sentient being he’d saved from the Crawlker – the human, was caught in the act of climbing into the sky. But was hesitating.

‘For a century our people were virtually enslaved, dependent on their gifts. Then, in their rival rapaciousness, the human corporations broke into squabbling and warring factions. The war became – according to their diseased terminology, galactic, and before it ended everything was ruined. They destroyed each other, and in turn, they abandoned us and fled, retracting back to their own accursed home-world.’

Va’seer watched the lights hovering over the still vastness of the inland sea. It was fixed there, unmoving, in its transfixing brilliance. He turned the stranger’s parting words over in his head. Watch. And we watched the beam of blue-white light from the craft extend like a jagged finger, poking and probing across the fjords and inlets until it located the narrow strait of Hell’s Mouth through which the barbarian longships must pass to plunder and sack Vessalia. The sound was strangely high-pitched as, in the light of the alien energy-beam, he watched the broken mountain faces of the Range Of Dreadful Hands shudder, saw the vertical cliff-faces tremble and implode, saw rocks and debris collapse into the boiling sea, sealing off the waterway. Gomez had created landslides on both sides of the channel, making it permanently unnavigable. Sealing the horde forever beyond. Its task accomplished the finger of energy retracted, and winked out. The formation of lights barely trembled, before ascending into the eternally starless sky. Vaseer watched until he could watch no more. It was gone.
The crystal blurred and fell silent. Va’seer could feel nothing. In his numbness he realised Vessalia was safe from the barbarians. He had done that. It was his epic story. He’d unwittingly been instrumental in saving the city. But in doing so, what of the plague from beyond the sky-islands? He’d also re-introduced that to the world. What use were crossbows against weaponry that could move mountains? The strange equilibrium between euphoric joy, and terrible dread was too difficult to resolve.

Va’seer folded his limbs beneath him, hooded his thousand eyes, and slept.


Published in its original short form as
‘In The Time Of Melting Ice: Sometimes Like Isadora Duncan’ in:
‘CROM no.6’ (UK – October 1977)
and in a later form in 'IMAGINE no.11' (UK - February 1984)

Sunday 14 December 2008


wrapping myself
round the toilet
going to sleep

while I sleep
sandstorms on Venus
gouge holes in
the surface
of sound

to find
the rim of
your eyes,
in flame
end to end

dreams coming
like radio tunings
in a speeding car
threading a web
of underpasses
in a city
of flame

waking from
Martian cities,
opal obelisks,
sea defences breaching,
& a voice
in my head
‘paint fire
as though
you’ve become
fire itself’

I listen
to your skin pop,
now we’re part
of a filmic process
that’s lost
in a
CGi animé,
these are frames
without horizon,
this is a
new agenda
for neo-spatial
annihilating angel
is igniting
your eyes

we burn,
I make
your body burn
as though
we’re fire itself,
until the
your eyes

Published in collections:
‘POWER LINES’ Unibird Publications (UK – October 1988)
‘NARCOPOLIS AND OTHER POEMS’ Hell’s Kitchen Prod. Anthology: edit Peggy Nadramia (USA – November 1989)

Album Review of:
(Crested Vulture Disks CVD-001 - £6.50 –
Hilltop Press, 4 Nowell Place, Almondbury, Huddersfield HD5 8PB)

Blues from the Calder Delta. Legendary word-of-mouth underground performance-art duo Icarus Landing, long-thought unrecorded and forever lost, finally resurface. With a flood-damaged seventies tape, cleaned-up, digitised, and completely amazing. An audio artefact of smoke-hazed Folk Clubs and moist beer-mats, where sweat drips from the ceiling as if in some time-capsule monochrome photograph. Dave Jaggar, he of Spider Lee Brown and the Champion Jack Dupree Band, plays dextrous guitar and – on “Trowell, Midnight”, harmonica, with Blues improvisations providing space for Steve Sneyd’s flights of poetic wonder, delivered in a thick monotone the colour of Pennine Bitter pointed up by slurs of betraying Yorkshire inflections. Together, they pick up the rambling cadences of half-glimpsed and never-quite-concluded back-street pub people-stuff conversations and ignite them with surreal absurdist sense-of-wonder, from skew-wiff mythologies of visiting Martians, to the scrap-dealer clearing the Rhodes Colossus from where it blocks the harbour-mouth, the girl who half-inches cutlery from Motorway Service Stations yet only gets randy ‘for men with ideals’, the man on his ninth pint waiting for the girl who never turns up, then the puddled walk home uphill singing ‘Careless Love’ off-key. Like the line ‘crooked, as a ring around the moon’ – a ring, of course, is not crooked, but what they’re about is reconciling contradictions. These performances are unforgettable, like scars.
Book Review of:
Edited by TONY LEE
(Pigasus Press - £5.95 – ISSN 0968-6185)

From the ‘Post Flesh’ cyber-art cover to the ‘Subterranean Gallery’ of dark slipstream texts within, this unsettling compilation of ‘Science Fiction, Horror Stories & Genre Poetry’ provides vivid vindication of the enduring power of print. David McGillveray’s “Revisions” is essentially a traditional SF tale of human colonists on an alien world, and the dreadful secret that lies within the remains of the Heechee-like extinct civilisation around them. Edinburgh-born McGillveray takes the familiar back-story ingredients of the AI-enhanced colony-ship with its crew in suspended animation seeking habitable planets, but renews it with Ornithological Archaeologists transcribing the sounds of enchanting chatterbirds who parrot the conversations of the Mileshlu dead, in attempts at piecing together the history of the world’s original inhabitants, and the secret of their demise. Well-drawn characters match pacey narrative to make the eventual truth - as the chatterbirds re-scream the alien’s final moments, both entirely logical, and strangely moving, posing the issue of a society surviving the legacy of genocide as relevant as the American extermination of its own native tribes-people. Fred Walker’s “Tentacles” extends its fictional roots yet further back to artfully craft a ‘Weird Tales’ replicant complete with carnivorous grandfather clock. While William Jackson’s darkly satirical “Mould & Mildew” charts the relationship arc from mediaspeak seduction to the Motel of Absolute Denial. Jim Steel’s “Jaw Jaw” postulates a ‘Neuspeak’ digital language, corrupted by the machine-logic scheming of its cuckolded protagonist. Sue Lange’s “Jump” is another more downbeat New Wavey Tank Girl take on a suicide-outbreak in a cityscape of urban disintegration. There’s more fiction too, buttressed by images of vast poetic eternity from Steve Sneyd, Cardinal Cox, JC Hartley and others. The one-off fiction anthology, and its speculative sub-genre, are currently in a weird place. Stalled between online attractions and big-name book-promotions. Here, the spread of themes spiralling a common nucleus, is a reminder just how virile and valuable a format it can be.

Tuesday 11 November 2008


Concerning the significance of
a dream which is misunderstood, and a new 
journey which is undertaken to decipher it

Nine low Biome buildings embedded like fossils by the shore of the ‘lake’, their bio-organic material catching and retaining the light. And anchored a little way off, the galleon they’d been chasing. The ‘Tellurian’. The triskele sigil of the Domain - a triple-winged planet, inlaid across the upper lobe of its swelling, aerodynamically tapering canvas. Its drive rigging and aileron sails retracted into the underslung housing that connects and co-ordinates the two slave bladders. Its double-jointed hydraulic landing skids are arched insect legs. The sky-ramp is down.
A-Hylca halts abruptly, the ligature checking their descent. He watches figures move between the geodesics - natives, tall and dark-skinned, wearing loose-fitting smocks in a variety of bright colours, healthy and intimidatingly well-muscled. Then the aeronauts, tall and sinister, Drhazilsk-armoured, but seemingly slighted by the stronger strengths of their hosts. Two of them patrol the guy ropes anchoring the Skyship.
Ivaksho shoves him brutally.
A-Hylca and the dumbly unresisting Taad move on, targeting for the village, soon passing through the dwarfing shadow of the dreadnought. It rides an imperceptible wind that has it straining at hawsers, its rigging and moonraker canvases rustling, and above its harpoon and phlogiston portals pennants are streaming and curling. They pace the beaten earth separating glistening Biomes, children laughing and playing, pointing out the interlopers as they pass. Light pearls along the building seams in a rippling motion, but the material also holds its own luminance, a fact that becomes more apparent as they enter. The organic domes are identical with no indication of rank or status, and the habitat into which they are ushered differs in no way to others of its kind.
“You must be hungry” says their host. A woman offers them trays of food. Her loose smock gathered in bands of neutral greens, her body almost too flawlessly perfect, her delicacy of movement natural and unaffected. The interior is surprisingly spacious, peach-warm walls and ceiling giving an impression of infinite distance and volume, everything else deluged in rich-wove carpets and tapestries of pastel and largely abstract design. Every surface covered in repetitive patterns of interlocking triangles and geometrical complexes. The only furniture large enough to assume some form of physical tangibility through the rippling textiles is of polished hand-crafted wood.
Chao and his retinue stand just inside the threshold, Ivaksho radiating an air of sullen hostility as Taad and A-Hylca drop down into tasselled cushions before a low table and begin picking at the elegantly spiced concoctions of fruit and vegetable.
“Do you have to eat like that, Taad?”
“Eat like what? Anyway, I don’t have to answer to you, I’m not your servant.”
“No. You’re my problem, my encumbrance. These are sophisticated people. But you eat like the most deprived Penal Colony scum. Too messily and far too fast.”
“That’s because I’m ravenous. I’m sorry if my honest appetite offends your cultural sensitivities. But I eat as I always eat. And when I’m ravenous I tend to eat fast, alright?” grumbles Taad. Then, in a more conciliatory tone “I can’t even guess at the origins of this meal. In fact I’ve been constantly bewildered by the abundance of growing things I’ve seen since entering these marshes. Me, who spent my life tilling and nurturing plants. Who had confidence in my knowledge of their biota and classification. That confidence is now... totally shredded.” He drinks deep from a glass of smooth warming wine, shrugging mentally. If all this is illusion - how can it taste anyway...?
“There you go Taad, thinking again. That’s going to be your downfall.”
“Before this thing began I’d never moved outside Nonocastria, let alone the planet. I suppose, in a vague way, I associated home’s nine domes with the worlds making up the Cluster, each different, but connected. And the ‘Cluster’ itself was just a word to me, something suggesting an adherence of stones. A coronet of seeding heads on the stem of a plant. Even now I find it difficult to visualise beyond that point, and to be honest, I fear to do so. I know that you’ll say I’m clinging to constants assailed from all sides, clinging to the parts of a life-style I understand and in which I have a clearly defined role. Those men, those Drhazilsks, are my enemies. They destroyed my life. They murdered Solleen. I should burn with hatred. I should hurl this table away and attack them in blind fury. Yet I sit here meekly trying to identify fruit. I don’t understand, A-Hylca. I don’t understand.”
“It’s me he beat over the head” touching flakes of dry blood on his temple. “I’ve got grudges to settle too. But I’m listening, watching. We might yet gain that understanding.”
Chao dismisses his troops and crosses to sit opposite them. He faces the villager. “We can’t remain in this Temporal Quadrant for long, as you know. I have little time to waste, so you want we should talk now?”
The alien smiles affable. “I have plenty of time for whatever purpose you choose. So, talk, if that is your wish.”
He glances suspiciously at Taad and A-Hylca, then begins hesitantly. “These Marshes mess up elements of past ages, mixing them in with the present. Normally the area is shunned by the Domain, yet the Omphalos ordered me here. Ordered me here, to this exact location. Its motive is not clear. But we have no choice but to go as directed.”
The villager squats down on his haunches. “You can speak freely here. Go on.”
“There are powerful precise indications that our civilisation is entering a period of catastrophic instability, what’s been long predicted as the Final Chaos, the Coming Darkness. I believe we were sent here to search out specific tremors. Indicators must exist here. Strands must stand out that we can decipher. But so far what we’ve discovered is far from clear.”
The stranger shrugs. “Time is simple. We sit here. I glance at you. You glance at me. Time has already passed. Your food is a little cooler. Your heart a few beats older. Your mind a little richer - if only because it now contains a recollection of how things were before we glanced at each other. Time is the predator stalking us all. But look around. Why do you imagine we should know more than you? What makes you think our society is any more or less advanced than yours?”
“You’ve evolved beyond leadership, militarism, hierarchy,” from A-Hylca. “That comes only with a level of maturity we’ve yet to reach.”
Chao snorts. “Yet there’s no technology, no machines. This is a scientifically primitive culture...”
“As you see, such equations are not necessarily easy to decipher” suggests the Time Marsh-dweller playfully. “Perhaps the Domain considers that the behaviour of time is not incontrovertibly fixed? That there are key events when it can be made to diverge, and with fore-knowledge, undesirable futures can be avoided? You think, maybe, that there are certain critical occasions when time splits off onto different paths, one leading to survival, the other to extinction? That it is possible to choose the tomorrow and the tomorrow’s to come that are most to your liking? That with the correct information, with immense will and struggle, that the Great Instability can be endured?”
A-Hylca stops eating, listening with rapt attention. Chao, more critically, awaits concise information he can use.
“Let’s imagine a world with a history that parallels our own, but is significantly different in just one major aspect. A world, a time-track, a history that diverges before - and therefore escapes what you call the Supernatural Wars...”
“You’re saying the Supernatural Wars were real?” says A-Hylca querulously. “Actual historical events?”
“There’s never been any doubt of their reality,” from Chao. “It’s as certain as the turning of worlds.”
The alien ignores the bickering interchange. “Such a world would have no Blind Waterlords. And it would have no Nine Dormant Gods. Hence it wouldn’t be threatened by the implications of what you so euphemistically call ‘instability’. It wouldn’t be threatened by the ‘Coming Darkness’ of the prophecy you fear, because the seeds of that Darkness would not exist in its conjectural history. So consider this, perhaps the crisis that afflict the Spirit Domain - what you call the Last Empire, is unique precisely because it is the result of the Supernatural Wars. What you are now, is determined by what occurred then. Hence it’s already decided. The unavoidable fact is that your problems are terminal. There’s no escape, and the inevitable result will be your total extinction.”

---- 2 ----

Once the meal is over the villager indicates the ligature connecting Taad and A-Hylca, offering to remove it. Taad glances down. In places the pseudo-flesh is ruptured. Through the wound he can see the flexible metal spine along its centre, its terminals embedded in each ankle. His own, and A-Hylca’s. Surgically implanted on arrival at the Penal Colony he knows it has an elaborate network of nerves and blood vessels interconnecting their bodies. Severance will be as profound as the amputation of a limb.
“Will it hurt?”
“Do it” from A-Hylca evenly, glancing skewed at the implacable Chao. “Just do it.”
An act performed by the simple expedient of applying a slim silver rod to each ankle. A stab of pain, and the ligature falls away, flexing and writhing obscenely. A blind snake thrashing furiously, as if in the spasms of death. Then more slowly, its skin corrupts and flakes, breaking up into maggoty wriggling segments that dissolve away into the ground.
The four men straggle from the low table to emerge into the village. But before stepping outside Taad feels compelled to look fearfully over his shoulder at where he’d been separated from the column of dead half-flesh. Nothing now remains to show it ever existed. Apart from the odd sensation of unaccustomed freedom of movement. Then, looking ahead, smoking ochre clouds hang low between the mountains. And he can’t help but suspiciously search out long shadows on the steep slopes for evidence of last night’s bizarre pursuers. He finds none. The group stand by the shore. The lake is impenetrably dark, the cloud-colour turning it to reflected blood. It has no bottom, as though its depths extend down to infinity. Its surface moves in a peculiar way, reminding Taad of the breathing of a huge mindless creature heaving in its sleep. Wavelets that are thickly viscous lick and tongue overhung loam, tracing the outline of a clear white cairn of stones extending out into the body of ‘water’ like a withered finger.
A-Hylca breaks the brooding silence. “I thought the Ashirian Omphalos could see the future anyway?”
Chao pauses. What is it Mareeh had said? How does she phrase it? ‘The Omphalos accesses information from every point clear across the Domain. It processes and digests every pixel of knowledge, percolates and cross-references it through its thousand-cortex mass so it sees the total picture. And the greater the human numbers involved, the more accurately predictable behaviour contours become. When those figures are compiled from the populations of entire cities and worlds, so individual vagaries get subsumed into the mass demographic, and inflexible patterns become apparent. From such a base it can intuit probabilities with faultless accuracy. Everything, that is, except when unique human variables intervene, what it terms ‘unstable radicals’, the actions of which are dangerously unpredictable.’ A situation like this one. “Of course,” he said. “It can see the future.”
“So tell us, what is the nature of this imminent instability, this ‘Coming Darkness’? Hurry, I’m breathless with anticipation.” His tone suggests polite disbelief.
The villager sits back on the mound of stones, plucks a tall grass stem and plays it across the lake’s surface. The scratches made by its passage not only remain visible, but open out like a network of expanding slits.
Chao coughs nervously. “So let me tell you what you already know. The deductive powers of the Omphalos, guided and interpreted by the Wyzeird, govern all aspects of the Domain. The worlds of the Cluster follow as they direct. If they announce a course of action it will be in the sure and certain knowledge that it is logical and necessary. That they have considered every possibility, and further - that they will arrange matters so that failure is not an option. That the collective powers of all agencies human and inhuman will be brought to bear to achieve those ends. And through the permanence that results - with the Wyzeird as its focal point, the Domain has known thousands of years of stability...”
“Thousands of years of tyranny and oppression.”
“...but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t know. The present Wyzeird - Chlorel Et-Snaar, is dying. We fear the disruption to the morphogenetic field caused by the anarchy and power struggles that will follow his death. His life span has been artificially extended, and still is, but even that has limits.”
A-Hylca regards him incredulously. “I welcome his death. Welcome the tearing down of the whole poxy Domain and its senescent Presidium. The anarchy you fear will free the human worlds to be diverse, egalitarian, without centre or government, torture or terror.”
The substance of the lake is now indigo. The lips of each ripple spattered with what at first seem to be reflections, shimmers glistening off its surface swarming with incidents eclipsed and extinguished as the huge beast breathes, and new planes and angles catch fire. But the reflections, or memories, are of cities alive with storm, ramparts of ice, jungles of threshing viridian tentacles, a plain of seamless glass ignited by moonlight from horizon to horizon, a metal hive of mechanical insects, a flooded city, crowds of masked people...
“But Wyzeirds have died in the past. A great many of them. How can the death of this one man be the precursor of the racial extinction you speak of?” cuts in Taad bluntly.
“You are the protagonists,” says the tall stranger dismissively. “You, and one other you’ve yet to meet. These are your worlds. We can offer you the opportunity of glimpsing what will come. Oceans may boil. Lands may burn. Cities rise in smoke and flame towards the sky. But we cannot be held to blame if you have neither the vision nor the will to act on what we offer. For it is you who must determine what outcomes are still possible.”
“And what of the Sentinels? I swear I saw the Sentinels of Wolvorta-Hgadin out there. Are they part of this grand scheme?”
“Perhaps they wait to extract the price of your failure? The triumph of ‘The Beast Of The Coming Darkness’. It’s not for us to say. We only observe.”
Taad turns away violently and watches shapes slither within the body of the lake. “Why should we believe anything you say? I want no part of this.”
“You have no choice,” says the alien softly.
But A-Hylca catches his gaze and holds it. “Now it’s time for you to level with us. I know exactly where we are, and who you are. This is no illusion of the past conjured up by necromantic powers, and you are not part of some phantasmagoria created by the Waterlords to confound and confuse us. Acknowledge my correctness.”
Along the rim of wavelets Taad can see armies of screaming gargoyles writhing beneath the lake’s darkly organic skin. They seem to him lost in an eternity of horror and pain. Illuminated ripples narrowing each image down, icing it all to absolute clarity.
“We’ll talk more tomorrow. Night falls. We must sleep.”
They meander back towards the Biomes, Taad hesitating, watching the sentient lake. He’s seen the images thrown up by its disturbed sleep before. A monument at water’s edge. A white column. An ivory obelisque beside a flooded city. As he watches, the image of the tower divides and multiplies, spreading out into a raft of small towers eventually covering the entire surface. Suddenly it panics him. He tears himself away to join A-Hylca bringing up the party’s rear.
Events have left him weary, heavy and leaden with doubts. But A-Hylca is vibrantly alive. “At last” he gloats. “The Wyzeird is dying. Resistance forces all over the Cluster uniting in the final conflict to eradicate the Domain for ever. Look at this village Taad, it has no leaders, no military, no social hierarchy or repression. It is tangible proof that everything I ever dreamed and fought for is possible and can be achieved.”
“But first we sleep” grunts Taad pragmatically.

--- 3 ---

A brutal kick drives Taad awake like an animal. Instantly alert. There’s a blade at his throat in a confusion of receding nightmares. It’s difficult to orientate, dark creatures skitter in blackness. Monstrous Waterlords evaporate like mist through sepulchral silences leaving splintering holes of light.
He’s in a zone of dead cars, but the perspective is not as it should be. There are serpentine corridors leading off, but the walls don’t even seem to meet at right angles. At the end of a long corridor there are buildings, some organic, others skeletal or phantasmal. Time has stopped. He is moving through long timeless moments of utter silence. He looks up. This is Nonocastria, stupid of him not to recognise it sooner, but tides of blood ripple across the curved ceiling in scintillations of colour. He sees two figures at the corridor’s farthest point. Perhaps they know what’s going on? He must reach them. Suddenly nothing is more vitally importance than that. He begins to run. But as he runs the air presses itself in against him, suffocating him. The man ahead is a Drhazilsk. Each segment of his armour burnished to a mirror surface until he becomes a figure of glass supernaturally animated. He holds a woman by her hair. The woman is Solleen. The ceiling is in flames, showering them with a thin mist of moist particles. Beyond them is a lake of something other than water.
“Read death in my eyes Taad.” He can’t see the face. The voice merely glittering splinters of glass set within the helmet.
Taad reaches out to stop the unfolding horror, but the air thickens and he can’t fight his way through. Solleen is screaming. The Drhazilsk grips her hair tighter, and swings her grotesquely. Smashes her head with slow deliberation into the curved wall. Taad opens his mouth to yell and he drowns in thick choking tides of air. Her head is exploding in a welter of blood as the flames roar...
When he blinks back the tears of helpless rage, the figures are gone. Instead he’s watching the surface of the strange lake. He knows now with absolute certainty that this is the very heart of the Time Marshes. This is the source of its every zonal mirage and memory, the germ of every fantasy it generates into flesh. And its sub-mind is infinite. Yet as he watches, the single image of the ivory tower refirms and divides to cover every part of its surface. Then each obelisque becomes an eye. Solleen’s eyes. Watching him in that helpless and accusing rage that haunts and torments. He lunges out wildly to reach her, howling her name, and at the same moment the shimmering liquid erupts. A giant claw, half insect half crustacean, bursts up through the indigo scum of the fathomless lake. Huge and terrifying. Solleen’s baleful gem eyes beading it, bright with malevolence and unnatural threat.
Suddenly he’s home, waking before dawn, anticipating work in the Warren. Then in catacombs of entombed dirt-encrusted circuitry. Then his eyes pick out the quicksilver quiver of light moving along a peach-bruised interface in the Biome above his head. And the shape of Ivaksho holding a blade sharp and painfully tight against his skin. “On your feet” hisses the Trooper brutally. “We’re leaving.”
Taad has no choice but to obey. Movement in the shadows tells him A-Hylca is also being hauled up. He lurches to his feet, heavy and bearlike, walking as if on broken glass to the sphincter and out into the night. A caustic wind has grown, the swish of foliage a continual undertow of sound. Clouds race across the face of a vast maroon Mars. But he has little time for speculation, the squad of Skyfarers has assembled and, at War Chao’s direction, they move off towards their craft. The ‘Tellurian’ now pulsates with light, its varicoloured beacons fore and aft, and its two forward bug-eye blisters, the quarters and galleries beneath, all lit up.
The rest of the village sleeps. Taad could cry out, but he’d be dead before the villagers could intervene. Even if they would. Anyway, they are unarmed. They possess a technology of some sophistication, but not one adapted to combat Prayerblades and handbows. The party moves stealthily, dark with menace, through the cluster of Biomes into the outer perimeter of sheltering orchards.
He can hear the thrumming of generators, the steady throb of propellers on standby. The forest alive with wind, some emanating from the galleon’s airscrews. The lizard-helmed Troopers a hard knot of steel around him.
‘They’re going to kill us. Here. In the woods. They’re going to ditch our bodies where they’ll never be found. And then they’re going to leave in their ‘ship.’ He chances a glance across to where A-Hylca is similarly encircled. The older man catches his eye. His expression transparent. No alternatives are on offer. There’s no refuge anywhere in the Time Marshes, only death. Only insanity.
Taad is propelled roughly forward. ‘This is it. Oh shit, no NO.’ But instead they’re prompting him beneath the towering hydraulic legs and straining hawsers towards the elaborately engraved skyramp, feeling it vibrate beneath his fingers as he mounts, hearing the hiss of the three stabilising-bags inflating. A symmetrical slab of light above, Ivaksho with levelled handbow, and he’s ushered into the craft. A-Hylca a step behind him. There are stage-whispers from the night outside as the electro-magnetic charges reach a dissonant whine, the generators thrashing the air. Cables retract into the bulkhead. With War Chao and the last of the retinue now aboard, the ramp gullwings back into place, sealing them from all externals.
In the grove beyond, a villager with luminous tattoo’s shifting and squirming beneath the skin of his arms and chest, stands in the shadows of foliage. He parts small star-blooms and pear-shaped fruit so he can see the fantastic craft to greater advantage. An expression of amusement on his face, a mix of emotion in the pit of his stomach.
An urge to mock the whole ludicrous joke of unwieldy mechanics and military posturing. A half-envious desire to be a part of it.
He watches the last hawser part. The beating now almost unbearable as the heterodyning plates are activated and the Skyship turns into the wind, its sails fanning and streaming as it torturously ascends. For a while it oscillates, like a pendulum, to and fro, then it firms, gliding at a perilous angle into a roaring torment of distortion as its repellers fight course corrections.
He allows the parted foliage to fall back into place. He can eclipse the galleon now with the palm of his hand. Begins the leisurely walk back to the subtly changing village, its lines slowly becoming fluid and insubstantial.

A dialogue concerning the
nature of the Nine Blind Waterlords,
and the collision with a ghost that
curtails their escape from the Time Marshes 

The double-blister of the Skyship Bridge is plush with symbols of wealth and power. It describes two bulging crescents around the galleon’s blunt snout. Together, the protuberances of gridded lucite give full panoramic views of the world beneath. Instrument panels glow read-outs of wind speed and altitude-climb, sextants, the circular face of the radaric screen, velocometers, Aneroid pressure gauges and rheostats the size of a man’s palm, while externalmonitors tick and twitch. They are meticulously engraved, insetted with screens and systems of control levers and toggles, all limned with frescoes of gold and crimson that catch at the smoky globelight.
War Chao sits at the command plinth upholstered in deep maroon, from where he can survey the activity, issue commands and curse the crewmen poring over the gaggles of instruments, and through communication tubes to those on other decks. A steersman in goggles is webbed into a harness. An angle-poise optic mounted before him, a triangular helm moving towards and away from him, as well as laterally. To his left hunches the ship’s emaciated Trancer, wired by electrodes to the navigational system, providing instant-response reactions and computations on course problems. The eyes and ears of the ‘Tellurian’, she is the sentient adjunct to canvas, steel, and Cavorite, spaced in a sensory fantasia of swirling air tides, spiralling thermals and magnetic drifts.
Taad and A-Hylca stand beneath a cupola to the rear, ignored but for the hostile attentions of Ivaksho, glowering with a down-angled handbow. Beyond the lucite grid they can see the village dissolve beside the now-ebon lake. The Skyship climbs through a violent slipstream over its ‘waters’ towards the mountains, lanced blue-white in reflected light, patterned by shifting cloud shadow. Visibility holds sharp and ice clear, the slopes of the cliffs rush at them, pitted with dark quarries, a waterfall surging silver over a precipice hung with black trees, shrubs and glacial moraines.
Then they slide between peaks. The wind lessens. There are towering banks of mist the colour of steel. The helmsman takes it higher. The first tenuous strands move around the nose, turning to bronze. The lake shimmers in mirror-image, until surface and cloudbase are dawn-flamed, and they burst free aiming the sky. Behind them lake, village, and mountains are gone, replaced by oceans of luminous mist boiling and heaving in vaporous storm.
The trimaran levels off, crewmen exchanging course correction vectors. Chao slumps back, relinquishing command, turning back to his prisoners as though suddenly remembering their presence on the bridge.
“We’ll be leaving the Time Marshes in a matter of hours. But first, A-Hylca, I’m intrigued by the way you spoke to our ‘host’ in the village back there. I’m curious about what exactly you meant when you claimed to know ‘who they are’. Do you feel inclined to let me in on the secret you so obviously share with them?”
“You mean you don’t know? You didn’t guess?,” he cocks his head in a rapid bird-like movement, smirking provocatively. “But first, just how, exactly, do you propose to extricate us from the Marshes?”
Chao indicates the small sphere of milky crystal, brought from the Leviathan, now inset in its waist-high column on his plinth array. “With this.”
A-Hylca had seen such devices before, used in Domain territories to monitor and communicate over long distances. Trancers feed the Ashirian Omphalos shadow-pictures of figures and movement through such spheres. Exchanging images that fuel the organic data-bank and surveillance network of the Last Empire, enabling it to co-ordinate strikes against rebellion in any sector of Chlorel Et-Snaar’s vast realm.
“With altitude we can ride out the temporal dislocations. Get navigational fixes fed from Ashiri, and from our destination.”
“Only a feeble-wit would assume it’s that simple. The Waterlord’s mischief puts obstacles in every path.” His voice drops to an almost confessional whisper. “If even the application of my intellect failed to interpret it, then your toys stand no chance. Here, all logics get twisted out of shape. And the people in the village were the Waterlords, don’t you realise? They are playing some kind of Satanic game with us. Presumably they’re still playing that same game.”
Chao pauses for a moment, as though turning the information over in his head. Tasting its various implications. “No. I don’t think so. The Waterlords are the result of a fierce miscegenation between men and gods. More vile, gigantic and eternal than we can imagine. Why should they choose to concern themselves with us? And why assume so elaborate a charade for our benefit?”
“The Omphalos knows why. That’s why it willed you to that exact location. Perhaps I could have discovered more if you’d allowed us to stay there and question them further.”
Ivaksho strikes A-Hylca viciously over the head. “You speak with respect, Mine-Rat.”
“Keep this Turd-for-Brains on a leash will you, Chao. This is becoming tedious.”
Taad ignores the action. “Where are you taking us when we leave the Marshes? Back to Ashiri? Or the Penal Colony...?”
“First we blind you. It’s quite easy. Just a matter of tuning an oscillator to the correct frequency and beaming it to the optic nerve” the Trooper sneers.
“Hold, Ivaksho,” from Chao. “There are reasons why the Omphalos directed us to those co-ordinates. That’s why I brought you out of the Marshes instead of executing you there, as my enthusiastic friend Ivaksho would so dearly love to do.”
“Don’t disappoint him further on my account,” A-Hylca in mock acquiescence. “Take my life. You’ve taken everything else. You took Mareeh, used her to decimate our Movement. You took my freedom. Take my life too...”
Chao ignores him. Stands up. Crosses to the foredeck. Clouds are breaking and reforming. Taad glimpses land beneath, hastily obscured slivers of grassed plains with light snow falling on huge skeletons, rib-cages as vast as cathedrals. Then coiling mangrove forests of impossibly tall tripod trees clawing moisture from dripping mats of moss and diseased fungi, dark shapes like anthropoid bats gliding between untidy artificial structures high in the foliage. And once he sees a clear formation of sapphire pyramids dwarfing an interconnecting web of metal highways that glint silver like snail-trails, and again... the hideous land contorts into skull faces with double sets of eyes dressed in uncanny shadows that swarm like beetles. But the tantalising vistas are transitory, washed by forlorn mist so persistent it covers and neutralises all colour.
“Almost beautiful, don’t you think?” he breathes softly.
“I don’t like open spaces, open skies,” from Taad.
“You don’t like ANYTHING!,” from A-Hylca, heavy with sarcasm.
Then, “strange crises demand unpredictable alliances” says Chao, almost to himself. “Mareeh chose to ally herself with the Domain. With me. You see that as betrayal. But events demand their own logics. Maybe time is fixed and inflexible, as your friend in the Marshes suggests. But he also said ‘you are the protagonists. It’s you who must determine what outcomes are still possible’.”
“I see. That’s why we’re here. Because the Waterlords see us as the ‘Protagonists’ of what is to come?”
“That’s typical of your own inflated self-regard A-Hylca. No, he means ‘you’ as a race, as a civilisation. Not ‘you’ as an individual.”
“No. He meant me, you, Taad, and another we’ve yet to meet.”
Chao stands framed against the tortured canopy of cloud. Arms folded. Thinking uncomfortably of what Mareeh had said about the significance of unpredictable ‘Unstable Radicals’. “I prefer to think that tomorrow is waiting to be fleshed out by our actions. That it belongs to those strong enough to seize and shape it. You’ve heard of the Deadland city of Baal-Shadaam?”
A-Hylca nods. “I traded Saffron there.”
“One of its leaders, Naws Tenrab - who styles himself Elector of Mars, is aiding us in our attempts at further extending Chlorel Et-Snaar’s life. He performs this valuable function in exchange for military and technological aid for his local war. But he uses necromancy and perverted sciences to do it. To me, dealing with Deadlanders in this way, is also a form of betrayal. I find such transactions distasteful, but we have no alternative. Our ship follows the guidance of his Trancer, a natural Trancer born into the Deadland. We continue our flight as that guidance from Baal-Shadaam indicates. But enough...” he laughs at the bitter irony, then gestures in irritable dismissal.
A Trooper prods the prisoners down cross-level ramps towards the rear of the galleon, the officer returning his attention to the sky. Mist is thinning, they are nearing the outer limits of the Marshes, they’ve defeated the accursed land and are escaping with their lives.
“Chao.” One of the crew point.
He follows the direction. A mote of crimson stands on the horizon. “What is it?”
The Trancer begins a low babble beneath the threshold of audibility, a tirade of figures and equations providing a panicky soundtrack to the jittery activity on the bridge.
“A Skyship. Bearing our altitude and course,” the helmsman announces.
His eyes strain to pick out details as the interloper expands, his flesh crawling uncontrollably. They are above the time distortions, yet still within the influence of Pacantic, the evil of the Elder Gods hangs tangibly in the air. Deities who can twist ages, control illusions of reality, treat human lives like savage toys...
Yet the new craft is Domain crimson. As it closes he can make out its triple-bladder formation, can identify its squadron, artillery, even its year of commission.
The Trancer’s murmuration rises a clear octave, speeding like an overwound recording. She spasms against her crown of wires.
“Take evasive action” he instructs. “It’s on collision course.” The helm swings. Ballast bleeds from the stabilisers and the galleon veers to starboard in streamers of billowing wings. Vanes and drive rigging vibrate with low shrieks of wind resistance conducted up through the superstructure.
It’s only now he recognises the Domain triskele emblazoned across the central helium bag, his throat constricting with horror. The other craft also turns, describing a graceful arc exactly mirroring their own. He can see verniers, banks of racing air-screws, phlogiston and harpoon portals, the latticed crescent of the Bridge, can even see himself standing there, arms folded. An illusion. A bizarre jest thrown up by the Waterlords. Unless it’s temporal displacement, and they are meeting themselves on the inward journey? Chao watches in mesmerised fear as the identical skycraft race towards each other.
The Trancer is talking backwards.
The roar if impact is deafening.

Detailing the vile perversity of War Chao, 
and what Mareeh discovers in the 
dream-space between planets

A high-pitched keening.
A continual wind passes around and through the vibrating towers of Chao’s Demesne in unseen rivers. She knows these sounds. These are the sounds that haunt Ashiri’s minarets and the towering ranges of what, in other civilisations, might have been called Skysweepers. The arcs and rectangles that tilt and intersect, the death-defying and audacious quartz and jet surfaces where whites melt into whites, and yellows tower pale and bleeding into air...
But Ashiri is a city that is running down, like the dying Cluster, into blackness. Time itself is ebbing away. And no escape is possible, because all energies are equally distributed, and all are equally caught up in this twilight of worlds.
But no, this keening is wrong.
And the smell. The stench of an animal’s wet fur.
The cool metal floor tilts. Her feet on the metal are bare. She’s naked. This must be a projection, of course. She’s riding the system of whispers and visions that span the Cluster on webs of light. Images that move at the speed of nerve impulses, with the entire Last Empire as its body. In this way, and this way alone, can Mareeh escape the imprisoning barrier of the Nonogon Fortress. The addiction she’s programmed with is a unique personal synthesis that can’t be replicated anywhere else. She can survive for a day at most, until the need for a jolt forces her back.
She concentrates hard until she is clothed in a long white gown. And then she moves down the corridor without exerting any physical effort. The corridor ends at an egress. A lank and bristling giant of a Drhazilsk stands idly by its threshold. He fails to notice her presence despite his genetic enhancement, his neural and synaptic implants...
‘I wonder, do they hurt, those fibrous modifiers? When they’re surgically introduced as children, are they painful? When they lie awake at night are they conscious of them...?’
The keening she can hear is the wind that moves in a Skyship’s vanes, the sound now muted with the pullulation of machine drives. And through the peculiar acoustics of the deck she can feel the clangour of its plates as they throb. She’s entered the observation gallery, looking out on a thick wedge of Marsian surface. Sky-Island clouds envelop both extremes like closing curtains.
This is Leviathan, War Chao’s massive Battle Platform. Eighteen decks. A permanent complement of one-thousand two-hundred and something. A galleon so huge it can never make planetfall, but remains forever in the space between worlds. An aerial fortress from which he co-ordinates his never-ending campaign against insurgents. Chao should be here, his movements as controlled and decisive as those of the ‘ship itself.
Through a drizzling Marsian light she can see a line of Skyships. Rebel craft. This is Chao’s own campaign. He should be pacing this floor. But he’s absent. Perhaps he’s in Prayerblade ritual? She recalls the horror and revulsion the first time she’d witnessed his Dawn Observance. Chao is a web of scars stretched over a frame of discipline. The Prayerblade ritual is part of that discipline. Ashiri is an evil place. Others of its upper echelons use powerful narcotics, debauched sexual or sadistic excess to intensify the experience. Torture and madness are commonplace.
But Chao hangs in a darkened room. Suspended naked from the ceiling on a network of wires, hooks painfully embedded in the flesh of his chest and abdomen. A slow but persistent drip drip drip of blood slurring the grooved floor under him. Grooved exactly for that purpose of drainage. The leaking blood is crimson. Domain crimson. She’d only been Chao’s ‘guest’ for a week. Not knowing what to expect. Her horror and revulsion at what she witnesses in this ritual chamber tempered by relief. If masochism is his chosen route to heightened states of awareness, she’s safe from the infliction of... other methods.
There’s a deep vibrant hum of coils. The Empire ship stands at libration, a gravitational null-point of equilibrium between worlds. But already generators and vacuum tubes, interconnected by slender but enormously powerful filaments, are flickering with life. Degravitation is being achieved by energising the plates of Cavorite with high-tension currents of electro-magnetic charges, taking them from suspension between, into a controlled reversal of gravity.
A line of rebel craft drift down from the filamentine tentacles and pedicles of the Sky-Islands. One by one. In tight formation. Their harpoon vents, set into scarred fuselages, resemble the gill-slits of deep ocean predators. Their phlogiston portals already winking open like rows of small mouths. Arrow-Engines ready.
An aerial conflict is about to commence.
What - to War Chao, can possibly be of greater importance than this?

Monday 10 November 2008

Book Review of:
(Sceptre / Hodder Headline
Audio ISBN 0-340-71566-9 £10)

It’s said that Nick Hornby’s ‘High Fidelity’ first legitimised male trivia-obsessiveness. And post-modernism says it’s cool to intellectualise subjects of no consequence. So defining your key life-moments via scratched B-sides and ‘NME’ back-issues is valid. Then there’s the cachet of slight DJ celebrity... Radcliffe’s highly entertaining semi-lit Radio Two ‘Evening Show’ used to programme mid-rated poets like Simon Armitage, Ian McMillan or Jools Denby, then invite Pop Stars to read excerpts from their favourite ‘Cult Books’ (Sarah Cracknell chose ‘Heart Of Darkness’). His current 8-10pm shot with Stuart Maconie continues the tradition, and is just about the most literate fun you can get for your license fee. So Radcliffe’s ‘My Life In Music’ in joined-up writing, should be worth your attention. Or perhaps not. Radcliffe, a self-confessed ‘pain-in-the-arse hyperactive gobshite’ is also a drummer with ‘delusions of adequacy’. He began with such ‘kick-botty’ bands as Berlin Airlift who were tail-end Glam-wannabes so in awe of Ziggy Bowie that they raided half their Mum’s make-up, and shoplifted the other half from Boots. Their meteoric rise ‘too long and fictitious to print here’ took him all the way from his bedroom to the bottom of Chorley New Road. The Punk revelation took him further ‘along the rocky road to anonymity’, by spewing Ridiculous & Jones, plus a group called She Cracked which also included a genuine ex-Buzzcock, and the Ska-tological Bob Sleigh & The Crestas who almost mastered the finer points of ‘starting and finishing together’. Such Rockist ambitions continued through student life where fellow academics strive to perfect the art of acute constipation ‘to save themselves the effort of wiping their arses’ and intellectual distractions include ‘who farted in the chicken & mushroom pie’. A trip with Skrewdriver to play a bill under Generation X at the Groningen Festival in Holland with ‘a Bill Sykes’ manager ‘as trustworthy as the childcatcher in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang’’ is about the high-point (‘we’d have been out of our depth in a birdbath’ he admits) - until the Shirehorses play Glastonbury! Finally, with receding hairline to match receding Rock Dreams, there’s radio. Along the way he divulges the secret of Andy (XTC) Partridge’s arrowed strides, and offers theories pertaining to the post-gig sweat saturation state of Thom Yorke’s insoles. For those unwilling to pit braincells against such profound print-matter the audio-book edition comes backed up with soundbites from the aforesaid Shirehorses plus emphasis from occasional on-air soul-mate Mark ‘Lard’ Riley - sometime Fall guitarist and cartoonist for the late lamented ‘Oink’. And throughout, Radcliffe opts to replicate his amiably loutish radio persona, each phrase punchlined with gags and smart-ass sniping (‘when your Dad likes your record collection it’s time to move on. Even it means Marilyn Manson’). It’s shallow, mindlessly entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, in a single-dimensional way. Sure, it could be better, but perhaps he’s saving the best bits for book two?

Published in:-
‘GIG CENTRAL Vol.6 No.5: Feb’ (UK - Feb 1999)
‘ROCK ‘N’ REEL no.32: Spring 1999’ (UK - April 1999)


During the years before he learns how to sing ‘Urban Hymns’ and
‘Bitter-Sweet Symphonies’, Verve (no ‘The’) were a cult Indie band
followed by an obsessive coterie of fans...

at the ‘Duchess Of York’, Leeds

Pop Frontmen: Charisma and Projection - Discuss, compare and contrast.
‘Mad’ Richard Ashcroft hangs nailed on splinters of light mouthing ‘to me, you’re like the setting sun’, as film crawls and melts over and around him. The bastard miscegenation of bits of Jaggerism and Loony-Tune Julian Cope, leaping, preening, posing in lithe angles and mystic contortions, he’s mesmerising, cutting lurid fluorescent swathes where a sense of spaced absurdity hangs thicker than the dry-ice.
Rollerskate Skinny, by contrast, are stormtroopers of noise, corroding in a black hole between ‘Psycho-Candy’ and “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”. There’s sheet-metal feedback and taped distortions of riveting sound with both programmed and organic drums alternating. But the frontman hunches anonymous inside his denim jacket and ordinary hair, only occasionally howling with conviction and presence. When the lights go up he’s lost in Roadies and indistinguishable. What he needs, at least, is dreadlocks and a ripped (and preferably bloodied) vest.
But what Skinny lack in charisma and visuals - that’s where Verve doodle-do what they doodle-do best. There’s a long atmospheric build-up. Slides flash across the backdrop - the clock face reading 7:40 from the singles sleeve, the surface of Mars, whale slaughter in the blood-red Pacific, the lyric-sheet from “Blue”, a calendar page dated 25th Thursday, Earthrise. Then all that momentum of anticipation gets knocked askew, just as the band begin taking up positions, by Richard’s malfunctioning mike. But you still watch, daren’t look away while he’s prowling petulantly and inaudibly and guitarist Nick McCabe improvises shimmering ripples of Fender over the cracks.
“Where did you get your top, Marks & Spencer’s?” asks the audience fashion-notes correspondent. Eyes rolling, Richard tugs on the Blue-and-Red Art Nouveau 1920’s print with a ‘what? this old thing ?’ gesture, missing the main chance - Oxfam, or C&A Clockhouse, to come back limply “can’t remember, I’ll tell you later.” Then, in a moment of inspiration adds, “but the jeans are nicked.” At least, I think that’s what he said.
Verve have been around too long to be new. But this time it’s a war of total assault. “She’s A Superstar” and “Slide” seem to be not altogether subject to gravity at all, but instead radiate light. This is sound that walks on water. “Gravity Grave” still works on digital timing, while the current Indie-charting single “Blue” is the shortest sharpest powerpop shock tonight. Elsewhere - particularly the album title track “There’s A Storm In Heaven”, there are layers of levels and peaks where glimpses of tortured mock-visionary lyrics submerge and drown, “you walk by like some kind of angel,/ yeah, I guess that explains it...”
Verve was the elite 1960’s record label that brought us Tim Hardin. Verve is a dictionary word that means ‘enthusiasm, energy, vigour, in artistic or literary work’. I guess that explains it.

Classic Soul: Garnet Mimms




Career-retrospective of neglected Soul ‘Great Unknown’
GARNET MIMMS through the lens of a CD overview of his
reissue (Stateside/ BGO CD 268)

Before it blanded out into complacent Jeffrey Osborne / Alexander O’Neil late-night cliché, Soul was the street-hard buzzword for ‘real’. And although seldom remembered now, Garnet Mimms’ sharp suits and sharper hooks once rivalled Otis ‘Blue’ Redding, the wicked-wicked Wilson Pickett, and Solomon ‘King Of Rock ‘n’ Soul’ Burke as part of Mod Clubland’s pantheon of Scooter-R&B cultdom. Garnet – originally spelled ‘Garrett’ had sung in church choirs and smalltime gospel groups all the way from his native West Virginia to Philadelphia. After a military stint he formed the Enchanters in 1961, aged 27. All members had previous solo careers. Samuel Bell, who was also a song-writer of some small repute, was from Philadelphia and had toured the east-coast with gospel units. He’d also been a part of a Doo-Wop group called the Gainors with Garnet (and another future star, Howard Tate) before becoming an Enchanter at age 29. Charles Boyer – born in North Carolina, also had extensive background experience with vocal groups including five years with the Ambassadors. While Philadelphia-born Zola Pearnell at 25, had sung with the Paul Roberts Choir, played Europe, and worked with Philadelphia orchestras.

But, after heading for New York, it was to be Mimms’ collaboration with Jewish Soul-Boy Jerry Ragavoy and writer/producer Bert Berns – who was later to rescue a similarly career-stalled Van Morrison, that gave Garnet a run of smooth Deep-Soul hits that lasted from 1963-’66, both as front-name with the Enchanters and – after 1964, as a star in his own right. The slow-burning first US million-seller – “Cry Baby” (US R&B no.1 and Pop no.4 in September 1963), benefits from session back-up vocals from Dionne Warwick and Cissie Houston, its impassioned pleading built on Mimms’ gospel authenticity. It was later revived – although not bettered by Janis Joplin. A tenor of full-on warmth and power, sweetened by Jackie Wilson strings, few could heartbreak like Garnet.

Both sides of their follow-up single – a cover of Jerry Butler’s “For Your Precious Love” (no.26) and “Baby Don’t You Weep” (no.30 in December 1963) charted, and “It Was Easier To Hurt Her” (limply covered in the UK by Wayne Fontana!) mine the same cross-over Pop-Soul seam, until the second album – and his biggest solo chart hit “I’ll Take Good Care Of You” (US no.30 in May 1966) becomes harder and starker on a near Motown/Stax pulse. As his star waned in the States Brian Epstein promoted him with a showcase Soul Review at the Saville Theatre (with Edwin Starr) in 1967, followed by a fortuitous UK tour with Jimi Hendrix which helped build a solid reputation with soul-boys here, who ensured his flame still burned on.

All of their carefully hoarded 45rpm vinyl highlights are salvaged onto this valuable two-albums-for-one CD package. Taken from the original vinyl reissues of 1984 the sixteen track CD arrived in 2002, expanded to twenty-six cuts on a further 2005 edition. Here, scattered among Mimms’ own R&B hits “One Girl”, “Look Away” and “It Won’t Hurt (Half As Much)”, are personalised versions of the Drifters “There Goes My Baby”, Solomon Burke’s “Cry To Me” (covered in the UK by the Pretty Things) and “A Little Bit Of Soap” (later revived into the chart by Showaddywaddy), each one drawn into Mimms’ own distinctive styling. And although seldom frantic, his easy-paced vocals always exude that tortured emotive quality that once made Soul the street-hard buzzword for ‘real’.

There was to be a brief Seventies Disco come-back, but this is Garnet Mimms at his finest. Once an Enchanter, always an enchanter…



when I was ten
I asked a gang
of construction workers
what they were building

they told me
the launchpad for
a spaceship project

everytime I pass
this auto-showroom
I see giant spacecraft
straining against the
undertow of

like the power
of dream and myth
straining against
this drabness

Published in:-
‘MENTOR no.69’ (Australia - May 1991)
‘PLEIADE (Edizioni Universum, via Giovanni Pedrotti
2 38100, Trento, Italy) (Italy - October 1993)
‘MAELSTROM no.6’ (UK - December 1993)
‘RUSTIC RUB no.2’ (UK - July 1994)
‘TARGET no.4’ (UK - April 1997)
and in anthology:-
POETS READ AT OXFORD (Edit: Steve Sneyd)’ (March 2004 – UK)
and in personal collections:-
‘EUROSHIMA MON AMOUR’ Hilltop Press (UK-Oct 2000)
‘JINGLES FOR DISCORD’ (Bound-into ‘MINOTAUR no.42 vol.9 no.3’)
(USA – September 2004)
Published on the website:-
‘NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL’ (June 2003) quoted in full as part of the

Saturday 18 October 2008


SF-Poet Steve Sneyd reports that free access to the poem-section of has been blocked by
Kirklees Library Net due to its alleged ‘offensive language’ content.

This accusation refers to the poem “They Fuck You Up, Your Mum” – the title of which, bizarrely, appears unscathed on the mini-index clearly visible on the homepage. In a further absurd contradiction, the title – of course, is lifted from Philip Larkin’s “This Be The Verse”, and Larkin’s original poem from which the quote is taken remains freely available throughout the Library system in multiple formats.

In what is already shaping up to constitute for the 21st Century what the “Lady Chatterley” trial, the “Skoolkids Oz”, “Last Exit To Brooklyn” and the Sex Pistols “Never Mind The Bollocks” was for time’s past, the debate remains ongoing... 

Monday 13 October 2008

Book Review of:
(Leisure Book/ Dorchester Publishing Co. –
November 2007 - $7.99 – ISBN 0-8439-5494-9)

‘This seems like a dollop of muddle because life’s like that – a muddle of events, of intimacy, fear, anticipation, blood, bacon-wraps eaten too fast because you’re late for the bus, answering e-mails, washing clothes, bedtimes, broken nails, the dog whizzing on the rug – all that stuff you deal with…’ The problem with Simon Clark, if problem it is, concerns innovation. With his fiction, there’s no story-arc of inter-related mythos that readers can latch onto as recognisably Simon-world. Each novel forms its own mythos. And uniqueness can be a problem too. When he writes vampyrric, it’s no vampire Buffy would ever recognise, but something deep into his own definition. His reanimated corpses have nothing to do with George A Romero either, and people tend to like what they know. If they ever get around to doing the movie of a Simon Clark novel – and they should, it would not be dumbed-down multiplex splatter-core, but more a considered scary creep of human off-the-wall dimensions. The kind that genre franchises don’t do. And whenever you feel he’s written his best, and he’ll never equal the ambition or reach of what he’s already done with, say, ‘The Fall’ or ‘King Blood’, he throws a ‘London Under Midnight’ at you… or a ‘This Rage Of Echoes’. With this novel he returns to his familiar north of England haunting-ground, in the guise of the town of Tanshelf. And this time, it’s Echomen. Not exactly a pod-people ‘Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers’ – but something pretty damn close that turns people into exact replicas of you, who then try to kill you. For the victims, ‘they’re hunted by versions of themselves. Their physical echoes’. Identity theft at its most extreme. ‘I’m the photocopied man’ protests main-protagonist Mason Konrad, ‘I’ve been pirated’. It’s a phenomenon described as ‘a biological eruption. Dormant genes have just gone KERRUMP!’ But if the premise is science fictional – as the cosmic dénouement has the intensity of Olaf Stapledon spliced with subatomic particle theory, the text evidence is genre horror. Even the reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Telltale Heart” acknowledges its lineage. And there’s a nastiness in its tortured detail. Each entrail-bloody atrocity is teased out to painful flesh-ripping detail. It’s unwise to develop too much affection for characters – such as the chocolate-loving Gollum-alike Eddie, because Simon kills them off without warning. As if signalling that all are expendable. So what about Mason’s trusting half-Echo companion Madeline? Will she survive, will she prove to be a spy for the Echo-people, or will she turn on him and attack him when he – and the reader least expect it? The narrative momentum never lets up. Personally, I can’t do convincing Horror. I’m too rational. Fear is real enough. Genuinely supernatural fear is an irrational thing you have to believe in to write convincingly. Not necessarily believe believe, but at least find deep-down disturbing. To Simon Clark, ‘bathrooms are other worlds’ and ‘tuna smell like dead people’. He knows all about the ‘muddle of events… all that stuff you deal with’, and the spaces between that swallow up the unwary. This novel is further evidence, as if further evidence were needed, of his absolute mastery of Horror fiction.

Publishers website is
The official Simon Clark website is “Nailed by the Heart”


Jet Harris & Tony Meehan were the unlikely duo who split away
from The Shadows, and then briefly dominated the charts with
two monster singles – “Diamonds” and “Scarlet O’Hara”.
During the long hot Summer of 1963 they also played the
Bridlington Spa Theatre… the first Rock gig I ever witnessed…

Holidaying at Auntie Dorothy’s in Bridlington, and not quite sixteen. Jet Harris & Tony Meehan topping the bill at the Spa Theatre, and I’m determined to be there. The theatre overlooks the promenade and, a little further away, the curve of the harbour where the fishing boats offload their catch. The posters announce a strange ‘Sunday Variety’ bill. Exact details now beyond recall, choreographed dancers, a comedian, and a Big Band swing-style girl vocalist to endure, linked by a wise-cracking comedian, before the bill-toppers. I’m hunched in the circle, looking down on tiers of stall-seats towards a stage framed by lavish velvet crimson curtains. Expectations way-high. 1963 is remembered as the year of the Merseybeat explosion, with first no.1’s from the Beatles, Searchers and Gerry & The Pacemakers. With Billy J Kramer with the Dakotas “Bad To Me” playing on every Games Arcade juke-box along the seafront. But there are other factors still at play. As an integral axis of the original Shadows – both on-stage with or without Cliff Richard, Terence ‘Jet’ Harris & David Joseph Anthony Meehan formed a vital element of the most powerful force in early British Rock ‘n’ Roll, one that dominated the years they shared. Jet’s surly good looks made him a clear visual focal point. The second Shadows single in their own name, in 1959, was “Jet Black”, carrying his name and his deep Duane Eddy bass-lines. Their records were everywhere studied and copied, chord-by-chord, by serious bedroom guitar-obsessives. But, with Hank Marvin’s spec’s appeal and tremolo lead guitar defining the sound, he’d reached the limits of what he could be. Jet was born 6th July 1939 in Kingsbury, Middlesex, Tony in Hampstead on 2nd March 1943. They’d both served apprenticeships with various line-ups during 1958 – Jet with Tony Crombie and the Vipers Skiffle Group, when Cliff recruited them on bass and into the drum-chair respectively for his backing group the Drifters, who drifted into The Shadows, then racked up five huge Top Ten hits in their own right before Tony quit in October 1961. Jet hung in through until March 1962 before he left to attempt a solo career. He had a couple of minor hits – “Besame Mucho” and the ‘main title theme’ from Frank Sinatra’s drug-movie “The Man With The Golden Arm”, before he re-teamed with Tony – who’d been caught up in production-work for Decca. “Diamonds” c/w “Footstomp”, produced by Tony with Dick Rowe, emerged the tail-end of 1962. Written by singer/tunesmith Jerry Lordan, already responsible for Shadows’ no.1’s “Apache” and “Wonderful Land”, it was dominated by Jet’s six-string Fender Precision bass, with his cleanly structured muscular guitar building into brief precise drum-break solos, balancing together into an immaculate showcase for their duopoly. According to legend, Jimmy Page plays acoustic rhythm guitar on the sessions. And as “Diamonds” hit no.1 – ironically deposing the Shadows’ “Dance On”, both John ‘Mahavishnu’ McLoughlin and John Paul Jones were part of the Jet Harris & Tony Meehan stage-band. Maybe they were playing this night? As part of the summer tour they’d played the Margate Winter Gardens 2nd June. Now “Diamonds” opens their too-brief bill-topping set in Bridlington. Blonde Jet personifies the moody sharply-suited proto-guitar hero before they’d even defined the term. Tony, dark-haired, distracting attention during their shared vocals on “Doin’ The Hully-Gully”, the neat dance-fad ‘B’-side of “Scarlet O’Hara” – their second duo single. It was no.2 23rd May, one rung below the Beatles “From Me To You”. Jet switches to amplified acoustic to announce their forthcoming next single, “Applejack”, kicking the flex irritably aside with his highly-polished black patent leather shoe, holding his guitar high for fingering. Some time after the event, after my holiday, it would go on to hit no.4, 26th September (beneath “She Loves You”), but by then more than just the summer would be all over. They’d shared the cover story of ‘New Musical Express’ (17th May 1963) to regale interviewer Derek Johnson with their plans to tackle such new musical territory – plans doomed never to materialise. Speaking about each other Jet claimed ‘as a musician, Tony is one of the best, I have learned musical terms and ways that I never knew existed. He’s a wizard and impresses me a great deal’. Tony responds ‘I have learned a great deal from Jet about stage-work, self-confidence and how to present myself!’ On Saturday 31st August I watch them head the bill on ABC-TV’s ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ ‘Summer Spin’ special, with Pete Murray opening the show at 6:05, building though Ronnie Hilton and Jimmy Justice, impatiently waiting until Jet & Tony mime “Applejack into the close towards 6:45. Chris Williams reviewed the single in ‘New Musical Express’ dated 6th September… then, at the end of that same month, Jet’s car horrendously autowrecks into a double-decker bus, mutilating him and girlfriend passenger Billie Davis. His career never recovered. According to legend he managed a final duo appearance on ‘Ready Steady Go’ three weeks later, went home and smashed all his guitars. As Jet drifted obliquely into long dark mythology as Brit-Rock’s first great martyred casualty, Tony slipped more modestly back into studio work. I reluctantly went back to school.

‘Besame Mucho’ c/w ‘Chills And Fever’ (Decca F11466) reaches no.22, 7 June 1962
‘Jet Harris’ EP with ‘Besame Mucho’, ‘Rave’, ‘Some People’, ‘Real Wild Child’ (Decca DF 8502)
‘(Main Title Theme From) The Man With The Golden Arm’ c/w ‘Some People’ (Decca F11488) reaches no.12, 13 September 1962

‘Diamonds’ c/w ‘Footstomp’ (Decca F11563) reaches no.1, 31 January 1963
‘Scarlet O’Hara’ c/w ‘Doin’ The Hully Gully’ (Decca F11644) reaches no.2, 23 May 1963
‘Applejack’ c/w ‘The Tall Texan’ (Decca F11710) reaches no.4, 26 September 1963
‘The Best Of Jet Harris & Tony Meehan’ (CD, 2000) with Jet & Tony: ‘Diamonds’, ‘Footstomp’ (from soundtrack of the film ‘Just For Fun’), ‘Scarlet O’Hara’, ‘Doin’ The Hully Gully’, ‘Applejack’, ‘The Tall Texan’ – Tony solo: ‘Song Of Mexico’, ‘Kings Go Fifth’ – Jet solo: ‘Besame Mucho’, ‘Chills & Fever’, ‘Lonesome Part Of Town’, ‘Again’, ‘Man From Nowhere’, ‘Rave’, ‘Big Bad Bass’, ‘Rifka’, ‘Some People’, ‘(Main Title Theme From) The Man With The Golden Arm’
‘Diamonds & Other Gems: The Complete Decca Singles’ (CD, 2008) track-listing as ‘The Best Of...’ + ‘Wild Child (Real Wild Child)’, ‘Clap Your Hands (Once Again)’ and ‘Rifka (alternate version)’

‘Song Of Mexico’ c/w ‘Kings Go Fifth’ (Decca F11801) reaches no.39, 23 January 1964