Sunday 4 May 2008



DVD review of:- 

Starring Gene Barry (as Dr Clayton Forrester), Ann Robinson
(as Sylvia Van Buren), Lewis Martin (as Pastor Matthew Collins),
Les Tremayne, Robert Cornthwaite, Vittorio Cramer (the narrator).
Produced by George Pal, Directed by Bryon Haskin,
Music by Leith Stephens, Special effects by Gordon Jennings,
Screenplay by Barre Lyndon, based on the novel by HG Wells
(1952 – 85 minutes – DVD 4 July 2005
Paramount PHE 8028 + Theatrical Trailer)

“…and now, fought with the terrible weapons of super-science,
menacing all mankind and every creature on the Earth,
comes the War Of The Worlds…”
(opening voice-over by Paul Frees)

There’s an interesting exchange in the letter column of ‘Book & Magazine Collector no.258’ (August 2005). John Clute, well-respected authority on all matters science fictional has ‘a few problems’ with equally prestigious Chris Griffiths’ description of HG Wells as a writer of Sci-Fi. He points out that when Wells was writing the genre was actually known as ‘Scientific Romance’. The term Science Fiction did not come into general usage until much later, ‘from around 1931’. While Sci-Fi is generally accepted as a term for SF spin-offery, TV, movies, comic-strips and beyond, what Clute dismissively junks as ‘SF as product’. Of course he’s entirely correct in just about every detail. And yet, and yet. Think about it. Wells was writing way before Sci-Fi even existed. But he’s sure as hell made up lost ground since. In fact, in strictly Sci-Fi terms, he’s got to be one of the most prolific product originators of all time. Gene Roddenberry eat your heart out! 

When Steven Spielberg remade George Pal’s 1952 version of ‘War Of The Worlds’ with Tom Cruise as the dishevelled action hero, he was also drawing on Orson Welles’ October 1938 radio-play version of the same text. While, apart from the ‘Classics Illustrated’ comic-book adaptations of the novel, hard-core viewers will no doubt hold an affection for the 43 episodes of the ‘War Of The Worlds’ TV series based on the premise that the 1952 invasion had actually happened, but had been hushed up (US TV premiere October 1988). There are also two movie versions of ‘The Time Machine’ (the first, and hugely superior one also directed by George Pal, in 1960), complicated by any number of variations on the time-travel conundrum all the way to the ‘Back To The Future’ trilogy. There are at least three filmic takes on ‘The Island Of Doctor Moreau’ (from the 1932 ‘The Island Of Lost Souls’, through a 1996 Marlon Brando, and on), and ‘The First Men In The Moon’ (from Nigel Kneale’s weakly amusing romp in 1964). And that’s before we even start on movies and TV series based on ‘The Invisible Man’ (from James Whale’s Universal film of 1933, and its many sequels). See what I mean? 

In Clute’s words, ‘the question of what term it is best to use can lead one into a fractal swamp.’ Before we move on, there’s also a media sub-genre in which HG Wells actually appears as an on-screen character, from a Michael Moorcock novel walk-on part, to amiably guesting in ‘The New Adventures Of Superman’, to even taking the star role of hunting Jack The Ripper through the engaging ‘Time After Time’ movie (in 1979, by Nicholas Meyer from Karl Alexander’s highly readable novel). And lest we forget, HG himself actively collaborated with the great pioneer Alexander Korda on one of the very first SF-based movies, the wonderful ‘Things To Come’ (1936), with its stunning vision of eternal world war resulting in regression to a new feudalism, and the aerial fleets of giant propeller-driven aircraft flying over the devastation of 1960’s England. 

I first saw this original big-screen ‘War Of The Worlds’ at the after-school film club, and yes, it was a revelation, so gripping I got a bollocking for arriving late for my paper-round afterwards. It was well-worth it. Of course I’d read the novel, I knew they’d taken outrageous liberties with the plot. But the opening sequence alone, voiced-over (like Jeff Wayne’s horrendous musical) by Wells’ own words about ‘intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic’ regarding our Earth with envious eyes, and ‘slowly and surely drawing their plans against us’, recited over artfully replicated Martian landscapes drawn directly from the fantastically beautiful imaginings of Chesley Bonestell, justified the price of admission alone. But absolute veracity to the book has seldom been an issue. Spielberg merely shifted the action from America’s west coast to east, while Hungarian-born director George Pal took it all the way across the Atlantic from Wells’ late-Victorian London to California. Spielberg reverted to something almost like Wells’ original towering tripod war-machines, while here they are sinister swan-necked manta-rays levitating on magnetic-flux, with pulsing lights, thrumming electronic drones, and projecting lethal heat-rays that crisp you to a pile of glowing ash. HG would have his work cut out even recognising them. 

But the movie build-up is very effectively handled, with escalating menace as the meteoric projectiles impact, gradually cooling as cornball locals enjoy a square-dance hoedown, with just three hicks there to observe the hatch unscrewing slowly – ‘wait a minute, bombs don’t unscrew!’, and they watch… whatever is to emerge. Then, despite their mocked-up flag of truce - ‘everbody understands when you wave the white flag you want to be friends’, they’re atomised. These relentlessly predatory invaders come from Mars too, not just vaguely out there ‘someplace else’ as Tom Cruise’s Ray Farrier eloquently phrases it - and his slacker son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) adds ‘what, you mean… Europe?’ While – unlike Spielberg’s relentless zap-bang-pow cataclysm and exploding hazards, there’s a broader scope, a variety of sub-themes and tone here to expand the scope. Hero Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) is unfeasibly strong-jawed and clean-cut, and he has the ever-smiling red-sweatered red-headed Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) as a suitably terrified scream-queen there to make the coffee and be rescued. Which is what women mainly did in fifties action-movies. While, because this is the Cold War 1950’s the USAF use nuclear weapons in a last desperate attempt to halt the mechanised invaders, with bunkered troops watching the results – just like at the White Sands trials, only to see the dread machines emerge intact from the swirling nuclear holocaust. Global devastation follows, spliced in with World War 2 stock-footage, riots and end-of-the-world looting. Six days to extinction. 

As some kind of reference trade-off Tom Cruise’s encounter with the snakey triple-lensed probe in the derelict farmhouse building is lifted directly from a sequence in this 1952 movie. The creepiest part of either, or both films, in which you get your only tantalising glimpse of the Martians themselves. Until that red prehensile three-suckered foot becomes visible through the opening hatch of the expiring war-machine in the film’s end-phase. Certainly the atheistic Wells would have cringed at the final reverently pious voice-over, and the war-machine symbolically zapping through stained glass into the Los Angeles church where the worshippers hymn for salvation. His viral defeat of the invasion is purely down to separate evolutionary chance not divine intervention, but we can discretely pass over that. Billed as ‘The Original Invasion’ you can snigger at its now-dated SFX, its stilted seriousness, its caricatured acting, but – SF, Sci-Fi, or ‘Scientific Romance’, you can’t deny its relentless power. And you wonder, how HG Wells would react if he could have foreseen that one day his extravagant fictions would shimmer into life from shiny laser-ignited discs…?

“…it was the beginning of the rout of civilisation,
the massacre of humanity…”
(voice-over by Sir Cedric Hardwicke)

If you’re interested, further films derived from HG Wells’ non-SF work include...

The Invisible Thief’ (1909) a silent version of ‘The Invisible Man’ by French Pathé

The First Men In The Moon’ (1919) a silent Gaumont Film Company production by JVL Leigh

The Island Of Lost Souls’ (1932) Paramount, featuring Charles Laughton & Bela Lugosi based in ‘The Island Of Dr Moreau’

The Invible Man’ (1932) Universal, directed by James Whale

The Man Who Could Work Miracles’ (1935) a Korda production , Wells’ script was published in the UK the same year

Things To Come’ (1936) Alexander Korda production, directed by William Cameron Menzies, with Raymond Massey & Ralph Richardson

Kipps’ (1941), Carol Reed’s production with Michael Redgrave, the HG Wells novel was adapted into a theatrical music comedy as ‘Half A Sixpence’ in 1963, then 1965, which was filmed in 1967 starring Tommy Steele from the stage presentation. More recently it was staged in 2008

The History Of Mr Polly’ (1949) directed by Anthony Pelissier. An engaging social comedy based on the Wells’ novel, with John Mills as Mr Polly, the shop assistant who breaks free from his humdrum existence to go on a series of romantic adventures. This is charming stuff, about a dreamer who dares to make his dreams reality, although it can’t match the book’s naughtiness and slapstick spirit. A good cast includes Sally ann Howes, Megs Jenkins and Finlay Currie.

The Passionate Friends’ (1949) HG Wells’ 1913 novel adapted by Eric Ambler into David Lean’s film with Claude Rains, Trevor Howard and Lean’s then-wife Ann Todd

The War Of The Worlds’ (1952) a Paramount updating of the novel set in California

The Door In The Wall’ (1953) an experimental Associated British and Pathé production

Rear Window’ (1954) Alfred Hitchcock’s film starring James Stewart & Grace Kelly is – according to Philip French, ‘clearly derived from HG Wells’ tale “Through A Window”.

The Time Machine’ (1960) an MGM production directed by George Pal

The First Men In The Moon’ (1964) Nigel Kneale introduces ‘Katherine Callender’ (actress Martha Hyer) as love-interest, and genius stop-motion effects-animator Ray Harryhausen to visualise Moon Cows and Prime Lunar, with actor Lionel Jeffries as ‘Professor Joseph Cavor’. Remade by Mark Gatiss as a TV-movie (2010) with Professor Cavor (Mark Gatiss) and excitable businessman Mr Bedford (played by Rory Kinnear)

The Island Of Doctor Moreau’ (1977) Burt Lancaster became Moreau for this version under Wells’ title, with Richard Basehart. Remade in 1996 with Marlon Brando as Moreau, and Val Kilmer, with airplane crash upgrades and DNA injections replacing crude vivisection. 

  Published in: 
‘THIS WAY UP no.16’ (UK – February 2006)
‘THE SUPPLEMENT issue 39’ (UK – March 2008) 
on website: 
‘THE ZONE / SCREEN SCENE’ (UK – June 2006)



Now he's done the LED ZEPPELIN re-union one-off at the O2 arena,
and he's getting all the critical kudos for his Alison Krauss collaboration
album 'RAISING SAND' - but when I did this interview with ROBERT PLANT
he was on a promotion schedule for a solo album called 'MANIC NIRVANA'... and I still have the promo vinyl copy...!

“Hey there Mama, said the way you move
gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove ...”
(from “Black Dog” on ‘LED ZEPPELIN 4’, and
“Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night” on ‘MANIC NIRVANA’)

In through the out door. It has to be...
London splurged with the blizzard-white light of early spring greenhoused into heatwave. And from its slow dazzle I go into the huge silent gloom of a Hotel silted with dignified ritual and polite establishment observances as calm and grandiloquent as psalms. But I go in through the out door, in ritual observance of some other cultural tradition.
Then a sound, distant at first, but growing startlingly fast. Like the planet Saturn coughing out moons of phlegm, until it roars and resonates and shakes the foundations atremble like an amplified Krakatoa at maximum throttle. And K-E-R-R-A-N-G, splattering ferns and exploding potted plants into shrapnel the jet black ‘n’ chrome-gleaming machine comes hurtling, jouncing and growling through the plush-piled corridors, down the richly carpeted stairs, and banshee-screeching into the foyer. Juddering and throbbing to a halt that rips Axminster fibre, revving down, comes the huge 10,000cc Harley Davison with quad exhausts. A Romano-Celtic Warlord sits astride its power-glide metallic sheen. He wears a python around his throat and a naked woman draped across the pillion. Her long dark hair is threaded with chrysanthemums, and there’s a daisy woven into her pubic bush. Strutted up against the shocked Reception Desk, unleaded gas-fumes dancing in contrails of dry-ice, he dismounts shaking sweat-matted ringlets of golden hair from his piercing blue eyes, brocade jacket open over glistening bare chest.
He grins, bounds up to me and pumps my hand. “Hi Andy, I’m Robert Plant…”
Except it doesn’t happen quite like that.
“Hi, Robert Plant here” says the voice flooding through the ‘phone. “I’m speaking from a little office by the side of the rehearsal place that we’re working in right now. Yeah, Devon, that’s correct.” Interviews courtesy of British Telecom are NOT ideal. “No, they’re not. Where are you? Where are ya. You’re in Wakefield…!”
Led Zeppelin - still over the hills and far away.


But this is March 1990. And Robert Plant has no time for 1970’s Heavy Metal Dinosaurs any more, he has no musical corpses or Rock Behemoths to drag around either. Heavy Plant is crossing over into the new decade, and that’s his main preoccupation now. The current band. The current album ‘MANIC NIRVANA’ (- “fast bliss”). “WE’VE GOT A BAND. A BIG POSITIVE WORKFORCE. And people have got the ticket now. The reviews have been very positive, very up. They’ve really kinda given great credence to the job we’re trying to do. They understand what’s going on. FINALLY, now, I’m allowed to get on with my own career. AND THIS MUSIC IS THAT STRONG. It’s undeniably another phase of my life. Which means I don’t have to keep on dipping back into the past all the time. And REFERENCES to the past are becoming less and less necessary…” Despite the quote from “Black Dog” on side two track two? “Yes, this band is a very positive work environment. We’d just come back from an American tour after playing to slightly under a million people, and we came back wanting to make our next statement together. It was a case of ‘let’s make this record’, and my young chums were pushing and encouraging me and saying ‘YEAH, LET’S GO, LET’S GO, C’MON’. I would have it no other way than that.”
Fact is ‘MANIC NIRVANA’ IS an album worth gloating about. It’s ten years since Plant sloughed off the stale Zep skin. And it’s been a decade of false starts and half-realised projects. His retro revivalist Honeydrippers group, a belated Top Twenty single with “Big Log” (Plant’s first ever UK chart hit - no.11 in July 1983), and a series of flawed and only occasionally impressive LP’s - ‘PICTURES AT ELEVEN’ (July 1982), ‘THE PRINCIPLE OF MOMENTS’ (July 1983) which features “Big Log” and “Messin’ With The Mekon”, ‘SHAKEN ‘N’ STIRRED’ (May 1985) featuring guest harmonies from Kirsty MacColl, and ‘NOW AND ZEN’ (February 1988). ‘MANIC NIRVANA’ easily bests them all, fusing the finest aspects of his heritage with what the ‘New Musical Express’ calls “an eagle eye fixed on the nineties”. “Yes” he concedes, “and it’s a lot of fun as well!”
Here and now, in this rehearsal suite, he introduces me around the band. Doug Boyle is his best, flashiest and most incendiary guitarist since - it has to be said, since Jimmy Page. Chris Blackwell his best, solidest, and most inventive drummer since, yeah, John Bonham. “Chris also plays guitar on the “Tie-Dye On The Highway” track. He plays drums, and he plays keyboards, he thinks he writes songs, he smiles, he plays straight. He’s a musician. An all-round musician. He’s not just a drummer, and yet he’s a great drummer. But that’s only one string to his bow.” He neglects to add that this is a band that also works together as smoothly as a finely-tuned 10,000cc Harley at maximum throttle - Plant, Boyle, Blackwell, Phil Johnstone (keyboards) and Charlie Jones (bass). A solid unit formed for ‘NOW AND ZEN’, honed in by touring, and now kicked well into its stride, making their ‘MANIC NIRVANA’ an oddly disconcerting mix of the expected and the destabilising. Like rambling through a strange, unfamiliar and fantastically haunted forest, but glancing up through the tree-tops to glimpse the same reassuringly familiar old constellations in the same starry firmament.
“Doug Boyle? How did I meet Doug Boyle? Through Chris Blackwell. Track record? He hasn’t got one really, yet. He’s played in pubs, playing jazz basically. In fact that’s what he’s doing over there now, the bastard - while I’m over here doing this. You can hear him warbling on like... I dunno, like Steve Reich’s Dad. And yes - if I sound a bit dopey at this time it’s because somebody else is here trying to recreate the Sixties about ten feet away from me...” He delivers this line to general laughter.
But the album doesn’t try to recreate the Sixties - it samples it direct from the ‘WOODSTOCK’ soundtrack (on “Tie-Dye On The Highway”, a track ‘that’s just saluting the glorious days of my adolescence’). For continuity and innovation don’t necessarily conflict. Here they co-exist. The song might remain the same, but at least this is very much today’s remix. He quotes “Black Dog”, samples from ‘WOODSTOCK’, and goes even further back - on the set’s only non-band composition. ‘The surface noise is unavoidable’ says the sleeve-notes. “Oh yeah, you mean the drum-track on “Your Ma Said You Cried”? The rhythm track is a bass-drum sampled from the original record. It was a great song done first by Kenny Dino. Doug Sheldon had the English version, on Decca (F 11416 - fact fans!). But the one we sampled from was the American version. I read in one review that it got to no.34. I thought it did a little better than that.” (He’s right - of course. Kenny Dino charted 12 April 1961 and reached no.24 on US ‘Billboard’. Doug Sheldon entered 4 January 1961 and hit no.29 in the UK ‘Record Retailer’ chart - trivia buffs!)
Are there other antique Rock ‘n’ Roll / R&B tracks you intend covering in the future? “No. Not really. I tend to write ‘em. I mean - that’s what I was saying about ‘MANIC NIRVANA’, it’s panoramic Rockabilly. That’s what IT IS. It’s just contemporised a little bit. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than that. It’s basically extended Rockabilly. It is - yeah.” There’s an obvious continuity with the Honeydrippers project. “Well, I think that with things like the tracks “Nirvana” and “Hurting Kind” you’ve got a continuation of the Honeydrippers there. I see “Nirvana” having little smacks of things I was trying to do on the ‘SHAKEN ‘N’ STIRRED’ album, where you try to make a piece of music into almost a Detective theme from the Sixties. You know? A kind of ‘The Unwritten Detective Movie’. And you start getting that kind of wacky sinister edge to things. So yeah - I think “Nirvana” and “Hurting Kind” are really where the Honeydrippers should have gone...”
Conversation rambles on in this disjointed manner, until “OK Andy, I’m getting the nod. I’ve got about another two minutes, ‘cos the whole rehearsal has ground to a halt.” So - let’s dip back into the past just a little. How about some quick ‘Hammer Of The Gods’ salacious tour stories before I have to go, Robert? “I’ve got no ‘Hammer Of The Gods’ salacious tour stories.” Curt, sharp, and with obvious irritation. “And I can’t BELIEVE that anybody wants that shit. TELL THEM TO FUCK OFF...!!! ”

“Carry me back, carry me back, carry me back
Baby, to where I came from ...” 
(from “Rock ‘n’ Roll” on ‘LED ZEPPELIN 4’)

Even in an industry based on hyperbole the Led Zeppelin statistics are stunning. Between 1969 and 1982 they shift enough vinyl product to plug the hole in the ozone layer. Make enough money to bail out the Russian economy. Travel more tour-miles than the Voyager-2 space probe. And play to more people in a month than the Pope (even with U2 in the support slot) could manage in a year. They played at punishing volume, and with as much adrenaline as a riot.
In one of his final interviews John Lennon said ‘I am still a Beatles fan’. So is Robert Plant still a Led Zeppelin fan? Is he happy with his legacy? “Yes. I am. I’m very much a Led Zeppelin fan. I wouldn’t be a fan of Led Zeppelin now. But I’m a fan of what they did - ‘what they did’? ...” he corrects himself, “what we did then. It was reasonably honest. And it was certainly very inspired at times.”
Robert Anthony Plant was born 20th August 1948 in West Bromwich, Staffordshire. Is Kenny Dino the kind of music the pubescent ‘Percy’ used to listen to? “...when I was a kid? Yes, in a sense. But my taste was a bit, I don’t know... left of centre I guess. I used to listen to anything that was enticing, alluring. I liked material that made me shudder, and that kind of Wild American Pop used to really seduce me. I’ve always tried to put some of that sound into what I do. To make my music seductive, without being stupid, you know? I really used to enjoy Gene Vincent. Yeah - his early stuff. In fact I’ve always enjoyed his voice. Even up until his death he was singing beautifully, even if the material was sometimes a bit questionable. And at the moment I’m trying to collect Joe Meek stuff if I can. And er... yes, there’s other stuff, like rare Ral Donner’s material...” Perhaps Donner’s Presley sound-alike ‘You Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Until You Lose It)’ I suggest. “Well, that was his big hit. But I had to wait three years to get an even rarer Ral Donner track on the Red Bird label!”
The early ‘60’s saw Plant sucked into the burgeoning Birmingham Blues Scene, “…er, it was the Black Country, actually. Not just Birmingham.” As later, Zeppelin would draw exhaustively on roots music too, most obviously the Blues. It is the Blues that validates and gives organic inputs to what they created together. The Blues roots that make Zep more REAL. They double-headed a bill with John Lee Hooker at the ‘Roundhouse’ in 1969. And perhaps sometimes they were even too Blues rooted! After all, didn’t Willie Dixon have grounds for serving writs over his “You Need Love” (written for Muddy Waters), which forms the basis for “Whole Lotta Love”? (a situation rectified by the CD reissue of ‘LED ZEPPELIN 2’ which adds Dixon’s name to the composer-credits). But nevertheless, Blues gave Zep music some kind of solid foundation. Whereas subsequent more contemporary bands - like Guns ‘n’ Roses, Bush or Therapy, draw only on secondary sources. On sources like Led Zeppelin themselves. “Exactly. It’s lost its plop really. It’s a little neutered. It’s just a bit of a drag.”
Yet Robert Plant’s own first 45rpm single was recorded with a band called Listen. “Oh yeah... ‘You Better Run’.” His vinyl debut coming in the form of a 1966 cover of an American Young Rascals hit. “That’s right. I put it out the same week as a version by a band called the Inbetweens. And of course, later those same Inbetweens turned into Slade. We were all from the same part of the Black Country, so it was quite funny really. We probably only sold about 800 copies each.” Two solo singles followed - “Our Song” c/w “Laughing, Crying, Laughing” and “Long Time Coming” c/w “I’ve Got A Secret”, both for CBS. Both now extremely rare and collectible, people are prepared to pay incredible amounts for such obscure early sides. Are you aware of the collector’s value of your first single? “About £80 in’it? Yeah, well - I pay money for records if I really want to get something, y’know? So I can understand that.”
He left the Midlands with just his rail fare in his jeans, following up an invitation to join ‘The New Yardbirds’ for a Scandinavian tour... the band’s contractual final tour before its name-switch to Led Zeppelin. Then Zeppelin vamped the media on a learning curve. It was already a band made up of entire fanzines full of muso trivia, a 21st Century Bible of ‘60’s vinyl even before they’d played their first collective gig at Surrey University, 15th October 1968. Jimmy Page’s session pedigree is breathtaking. It’s his note-bending guitar you hear on Dave Berry’s “The Crying Game”. He plays on the Rolling Stones’ ‘THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST’. He plays on the Jet Harris & Tony Meehan no.1 “Diamonds”, the Who’s ‘MY GENERATION’ album, Kinks, Pretty Things, Them, Paul Anka, and Cliff Richard records. He first evolved his notorious violin-bowing guitar technique (used to such devastating effect in the Madison Square Gardens film during Zep’s “Dazed And Confused” sequence) while helping out on the ‘PAINTER MAN’ LP recorded by flamboyant Pop-Art band Creation. Then, as a Yardbird, he appears alongside Jeff Beck’s petulant amp-trashing sequence in Antonioni’s quintessential ‘BLOW UP’ movie. And on and on.
As more-or-less simultaneously the young John Paul Jones was acting as a Mickie Most staff producer, and sessioneer for the likes of Herman’s Hermits, Lulu, Cat Stevens, Donovan’s ‘SUNSHINE SUPERMAN’ album, the controversial Downliner Sect, and on and on...
And - coming full circle, ‘MANIC NIRVANA’ was recorded at Olympia studios, where ‘LED ZEPPELIN 1’ was cut, in thirty-six hours. “Yes, that’s true. Was the ghost still there? Yeah, the ghost was still there. The ghost was there alive and well - and laughing at me. I managed to get my best vocal performance for such a long time. I think that was partly to do with the ghost of all that wildness.”
From the start Led Zeppelin cultivated class via mystique. A ruthlessly protected exclusivity. Peter Grant, their carnivorous manager, determined their policy of no British singles and no TV shots, ensuring their status as cult gods. There were no sugar-coated bullets of radio-friendly noise from the Zeps, only rhythms broad-brushed with an awesome power, guitar-breaks machined to within one-thousandth of an inch, and there - beneath the sonic machinery, the wet velvet rub of soft human sex. But image is more than just logo, and Zeppelin had the power to flesh out the myth. Album by album their music edged forward along the rim of a precipice. Their sound developing like a shiny spring uncoiling in gut-tightening curves, flashing shoot-to-kill riffs at audio health-hazard volume.
On a day-trip to Calais I once smuggled home a secret stash of a French single coupling “Communication Breakdown” c/w “Good Times, Bad Times” for massively marked-up resale to other fourth-formers, and impeccably cool personal credibility (in fact I wound up keeping it, and still have it). More recently I lurched in (through the out door) of a local HMV shop where they were playing “Good Times, Bad Times” cranked up really loud. For a millisecond it doesn’t really connect who it is, the synapses don’t close, registering only the hard sharp fast guitar grenade-fragmentation. It sounds remarkable contemporary. Until it clicked that I was listening to a record made over twenty years earlier! Plant laughs as I retell the anecdote, “I know. Makes you think dun’it? What next?”

The Beatles in pieces. The Rolling Stones quality-control plummeting. Led Zeppelin the world’s uncontested no.1 band. Metal at its densest, its heaviest, its most speed-crazed and inventive. But never just metal. The electronic techno is always there too - from the swirling theramin vortex running (vinyl) rings around the chaos in the mid-section of “Whole Lotta Love”, to “In The Light” which fades in with an insect’s hollow drone, shifts into a vivid crimson whooosh, leads into an arc of purple curves through red surrounds going scarlet with animation. Slash its veins - it bleeds ice and lava. Just as their range is wide enough to encompass traditional songs, from as early as “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” on ‘LED ZEPPELIN 1’, through “Gallows Pole” and on to the 11:08 minute “In My Time Of Dying” on ‘PHYSICAL GRAFFITI’, as well as absorbing Folk elements from the likes of Sandy Denny and Roy Harper.
Is it fair to assume that the electronic side of Zeppelin was down to Jimmy Page - coming on like a sound-sculpting audio developer from Sirius. While the acoustic whimsy is due to Plant’s influence? “No. The electronic side would be from whatever was going on at the time. And whoever you could see at the time who would encourage you into doing things in certain directions. But the acoustic side, no, I think that was everybody too. Y’know? - I mean, the more extreme of the extremes came from Pagey - sonically. Then John Paul was also there with his early use of synthesisers on things like “Celebration”. He was always one step ahead of everyone else. He had the first Yamaha G1 - even before Stevie Wonder got his ! Which Bonzo just lifted off the ground once when he was a bit drunk, it was so heavy he dropped it about three inches - and totally wrecked the thing.” Plant dissolves into tides of laughter, before resuming, “of course, he was only doing it for a bit of a joke...”
Ten albums, plus batches of after-the-event digitally remastered compilations. ‘LED ZEPPELIN’ and ‘LED ZEPPELIN 2’ (both in 1969, March and October), ‘LED ZEPPELIN 3’ (in October 1970), ‘FOUR SYMBOLS’ (November 1971) featuring “Stairway To Heaven” and guest Folkie Sandy Denny, ‘HOUSES OF THE HOLY’ (April 1973), the ‘PHYSICAL GRAFFITI’ double set (March 1975) featuring “Kashmir”, ‘PRESENCE’ (April 1976) and the ‘THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME’ soundtrack double-set (October 1976), ‘IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR’ (August 1979) - and the posthumous ‘CODA’ (November 1982). Plus six American Top 40 singles, from “Whole Lotta Love” (no.4 in 1969) to “Fool In The Rain” (no.8 in 1980). Yet unlike the evolution of comparable-status bands like the Rolling Stones or Queen, which are almost excessively documented by film-clips and promo video compilations, pretty much the only visual legacy left by Led Zeppelin is their 127-minute self-indulgent performance + fantasy sequence movie ‘THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME’ (Warner Video).
Does Robert regret the decision not to do TV or to make singles for the British market? “Naw. Not at all. I think, in a way, it’s better that the records speak for themselves. You haven’t got to see the sort of aping and glamour too much. It’s just fine the way it is. Any more of it and it would have become an industry.” In the movie there’s Peter Grant doing his Gangster chic, John Bonham drag-racing, Jimmy Page on a mystic quest to self-realisation - and Robert Plant doing the otherworldly rural Hippie idyll, riding horseback, children frisking in the stream, the full Pre-Raphaelite deal. Is that really the way the members of the band saw themselves at that point in their lives? “Well, I don’t think I saw myself as a Romano-Celtic Warlord, not really! But I do still see that the countryside was beautiful. And I did like the evocative imagery of the place in which I was living. I was there on the Welsh border surrounded by all that incredible past, all the history of conflict between the Saxons and Celts. That sort of thing. And sure, it was wishy-washy. A bit sloppy. Romantic. A pre-Mary Whitehouse ramble. But yeah, I’d do it again.”
Filmed live from a camera positioned in the second row of Madison Square Gardens the movie captures “Black Dog”, “Stairway To Heaven”, and a manic “Dazed And Confused” - with Plant roaring in his full sex-god persona, projecting the erotic stage and lyrical satyr doppleganger that’s continually attracted attacks for sexist offensiveness and shallow phallocentric posturing. Yet Feminist par excellence Germaine Greer provides as escape clause by describing him as ‘the sexiest man in the world’ (in her notorious ‘Playboy’ interview). “Good Lord...”, he’s momentarily thrown off balance. “Yes, but if I’m being levelled as sexist because of the lyrics on these records then, the thing is, none of it is developed around male dominance, or around the use of the female as being some kind of subservient being. Occasionally it can actually be fun to have people who are attractive to one’s desires. Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rockabilly was built on that. I’m no ‘Brain of Britain’ but I like to think that I’m aware of different aspects of what I like. And these things are particularly funny.”
Do you get pissed off with people making these accusations? “No. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. It is what it is. Ultimately all the waffling in the world doesn’t make it any different. I like it. And it sounds good. It makes sense. It’s non-offensive. It’s only offensive to people who are looking for things to be offended by.”
The Led Zeppelin entry in the Phil Hardy / Dave Laing ‘Encyclopaedia of Rock’ (Panther) identifies the humour and spoof elements of Plant’s performance. They find him ‘a golden ringleted Adonis marvellously parodying the sexual superstar while singing in a voice of limitless power’. “Exactly” he concurs. “How serious can you be? The songs are OK. The records are made of steel, you know? And they’re made by men who are, if you like, craftsmen. And anything else that goes off is just downright repetition. To play a role every night is a bit of a joke - however, it’s much better that watching television. And I really like to do it. I like to sing. So yes, parody does come into it. And when it comes down to basics, ask anyone about anything - it’s all repetition. There’s not many times in your life when you can go ‘GOD, THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NEW, THIS NEW GESTURE OF MINE...’”.
Led Zeppelin made perhaps more original gestures than most. Their tour performances repeating those moments more often, and to more people than most. Their tours remain legendary in their scale, their cash-generating potential, their excess... but first, I’ve got to ask this...
“Why have you GOT to ask?”
Because I’m interested. He laughs indulgently. “So ask.” Plant’s long-time infatuation with Elvis Presley is evidenced by Zeppelin soundchecks and encores of “A Mess Of Blues” or “Don’t Be Cruel”. The Honeydrippers continue the obsession by revamping Presley’s retread of Ray Charles’ “I Gotta Woman”. While even now he’s contributing to the charity compilation ‘THE LAST TEMPTATION OF ELVIS’.
So is it true you met and played for Elvis at the Los Angeles ‘Forum’? “We didn’t exactly play for him. But we met him, yes” he concedes. “The circumstances were that we were both represented by the same agent. He wanted to meet us, and we met him. We were all in a circle in the middle of the room, which was full of people who’d come to fawn over him. And yes, it was a very nice experience. We talked for about an hour and a half about... EVERY SINGLE THING you could imagine. It was remarkable. He was definitely loose, and he was very lucid as well. It was great fun. We were inseparable, the five of us. He wasn’t particularly aware of whatever was that contemporary at the time, unless he was exposed to it by accident. He didn’t even know who Elton John was, which was quite funny - ‘cos neither do we ! Jimmy told Elvis that all I ever did was sing his songs at soundchecks. So that later, on the way out of the room he asked me which was my favourite song, and I said “Anyway You Want Me”, - oh no, it was “Love Me”, which is a big ballad that goes ‘te-reat me like a fool / treat me mean and cruel, / but lu-u-ove me...’. And as I left and we were walking down the corridor going ‘WHAT A NICE GUY’, he stuck his head round the door and said ‘Robert’, and he started going ‘te-reat me like a fooool’ - and so I sang back to him ‘treat me mean and cru-u-ole’. And we became the buddies that we always were. Two rampant sexists!”
Yet when Presley met the Beatles a few years previous it seems to have been a tensely formal and awkward situation. “Yeah,” dismissively. “I guess you’ve just gotta catch people right, y’know.”
So what about some more SALACIOUS tour stories now Robert? The sex ‘n’ sleaze stuff served up by Stephen Davis in his fuck ‘n’ tell book ‘HAMMER OF THE GODS’? “I’ve got no salacious tour stories. The salacious stories of the past are not what I deal in right now. Tell them to read the book if they REALLY want to!”
Then just tell me about one incident. Tell me about the 1973 John Bonham Birthday Party where you drove motorcycles down the corridors of the ‘Sunset Strip’ Hotel, and threw George Harrison into the Swimming Pool. “Well... yeah... but that’s, that wasn’t Bonzo’s Birthday Party. That was another OUTRAGEOUS time! But yes, we used to rent small motorbikes, but they were only circus bikes. And I couldn’t ride mine very well anyway because I had a python round my neck, and a naked woman on my face, and so on... and so on...”
In a decade when the critical rotweilers snarled but seldom savaged, when most bands could be bought (and judging by their subsequent product can’t have come too expensive), Led Zeppelin stood aside in their own immaculate game. No full metal jack-offs they...
But we are not here to praise the myth. We are here to build new ones...

“It’s a New World rising,
from the ashes of the old,
if we can just join hands
... that’s all it takes”
(“The Rover” on ‘PHYSICAL GRAFFITI’)

Despite all this alleged excess and posturing, Robert Plant’s demeanour in this rehearsal studio webbed with cables and instrument leads, is remarkable unaffected. He comes across relaxed, totally without pretensions, no artistic affectations, hang-ups or side. He’s matey. He’s ‘I’d love to spend more time with you because I can tell that you’re quite a historian’. He’s ‘oh, well, have a good life’. Perhaps part of that is due to the uninhibitting effects of the ‘somebody trying to recreate the Sixties about ten feet away’ from us. I can smell the sweet heady aroma from here, where I’m sat. But no, it’s there in the grooves too. His music says ‘stop patronising the public’. It says ‘no wonder rock is sinking into apathy’. It says ‘let the heads, the good times and the cameras roll’. Apathy is still a crime. Can anyone seriously justify anything other than full-on attack in 1990?
Listen to “Watching You”. Classic spiky Rock spraying World Music across the mix. It samples the Arabic chant of Siddi Makain Mushkin in much the same way that the Rolling Stones “Continental Drift” (on their ‘STEEL WHEELS’ album) incorporates the Moroccan Master Musicians of Jajouka. “I suppose the whole writing of that track took about eight minutes. Until recently I was living near Monmouth, and I had a house with a room where we had a little mixing desk, and we could set everything up and play around the desk. And it happened like that. It was Chris (Blackwell) and Phil (Johnstone) together. It was just a case of guitar, keyboards, and a drum-loop that Chris had already developed. So, I just wanted to get some kind of vocalising that swirled right across the top of everything, rather than keeping with the strict metre of the track. And - um, it’s a bit pompous you know. It’s a bit overly grand. But I was listening to the Mission for about half-an-hour that morning. Giggling at “Tower Of Strength” (their attempt at replicating Led Zep’s “Kashmir”) and hearing that sort of mock-grandeur. So the melodic input began from that angle. And then became more focused later on. “Watching you” - yeah, it’s great, because it’s like there’s a lot of torment in the song. And I’m not a stranger to that.”
Torment. Yes. It’s not always been so UP. It must have been difficult following the demise of Led Zeppelin. The sudden crash from whizz-kids to was-kids. The going back to square one and reconstructing a career from the ground up. “Yeah, well. Basically I hate careers. I hate the idea of it being a career. I just wanna SING. It’s what goes with it to be able to do that reasonably successfully that makes it problematical. But it’s been an ‘interesting’ struggle. I’ve learned how short-tempered I am. And how impatient.”
Following the final implosion made irrevocable by John Bonham’s death (on 25th September 1980), Zeppelin fragments spun off into sometimes improbable orbits. Perhaps most bizarre of all being John Paul Jones exploits in production knob-twiddling for metal upstarts the Mission. And in particular their afore-mentioned “Tower Of Strength” - which, as already observed, blatantly reconstructs and rewrites “Kashmir” (long before Puff Daddy would sample Zep’s sublime epic original for his inclusion on the ‘GODZILLA’ movie soundtrack). “Yes. I know. Crazy in’it? I’ve said a coupla daft things when people have asked me about it. Somebody in an interview said ‘what about John Paul Jones?’. And I said ‘I think he’s a double-glazing salesman now’. Because basically YOU CAN SEE RIGHT THE WAY THROUGH THAT PIECE OF MUSIC. You have to be really a fool to buy it. Or at least a fool to buy it EMOTIONALLY. It surprised me. It’s as if I were producing sessions for a band like... um, Kingdom Come. But for what it was it wasn’t bad. It’s just that it’s a bit negative to have to take that into account. When I see it I want to like it. I really want to embrace it. And I want it to be more than just a hollow gesture. Mission played with us for quite a while in America. They supported us on the Non-Stop-Go tour in 1988. And they were good. But I was waiting for the skies to open... and they didn’t...”
Following the final Zeppelin product - ‘CODA’, a compilation of previously unissued studio out-takes from earlier albums, Jimmy Page hooked up with Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers for dodgy supergroup The Firm. And found time to score the soundtrack album for Michael Winner’s ever dodgier ‘DEATHWISH TWO’ movie. But connections remain. Page, Plant, and Jones reformed (with Phil Collins on drums) for their forgettable Philadelphia ‘Live Aid’ slot. They re-reformed (with Jason Bonham drumming) for a one-off bash celebrating Atlantic Records Fortieth Anniversary. Then Plant guests on Jimmy Page’s surprisingly lacklustre ‘OUTRIDER’ solo LP, while Page contributes to Plant’s ‘NOW AND ZEN’.
So there’s a continuing Plant / Page association? “Well, it hasn’t continued now! I don’t know about later. Then it was just the right time to develop and keep the friendship going, y’know? But this time, for this album, I was concentrating so much on the music I was doing that it just seemed inappropriate to ring him up and say ‘hey, come on, come on over and have a play’. Jimmy’s presence on this album would have created a talking point. But it probably wouldn’t have been the best way of cementing the future of the band in people’s imagination...”
Whereas the remaining Led Zeppelin connection - the drum chair vacated by John Bonham, whose relationship with Plant extends clear back to their pre-Zep Birmingham group Band of Joy, was more difficult to fill. Plant’s first solo venture - ‘PICTURES AT ELEVEN’, ran through a battery of drummers, Phil Collins, Cozy Powell, and ex-Jethro Tull Barriemore Barlow. “Yeah, drummers are usually a cranky breed. Cozy didn’t really want to get involved too much with the technology of drumming, or the technology of creating rhythm tracks. It was more like ‘I’m the drummer, and I play drums’. When really, when you’re going out to try to create moods and textures, there’s a lot more to it than just that. Particularly now, when there’s so much technology there to expand on ideas. Tracks like “Watching You” could never have even come to life at all if that was the attitude of the crew on board ! Phil Collins was as busy as ever. He’s great fun and a hellishly eager guy. Very very positive, a great encourager. But obviously he has his own career, so there could be nothing full-time about that. Barriemore Barlow - his contribution was “Reckless Love” and “Stranger Here And Over There”, which are tremendous. I think they’re two of the best solo tracks I’ve ever done. Especially “Reckless Love”. Then I also worked with Ritchie Hayward of Little Feat, he was technically excellent, but at that time everything seemed to happen at once. So when Chris Blackwell came along...”
Led Zeppelin was a democracy. Now it’s Plant’s band. He’s the leader. “Yes. That’s true. But democracy is gaining. We now have free elections here. I’m not so much the leader, as just the petulant lunatic vocalist. And from time to time - like now, I have to sit over here in the corner while somebody else takes over. But that’s good. I would have it no other way.”
And the future? “There’s a track coming out on some CD thing, called “Oompah”-brackets-“Watery Bint”, which is about a relationship with a woman. A relationship which is always very questionable because her hands are so cold, and her skin’s always wet. And basically - what it is, the guy is trying to figure out what it’s all about. And why he’s so quizzical about it. Until he realises that she - in fact, lives underwater. That she might even be descended from ‘The Lady Of The Lake’. This ridiculous song burbles along, and then suddenly - at the end, it goes into something that sounds like a cross between Cozy Cole’s ‘Big Noise From Winnetkah’ meets... goodness knows what! And it’s that sort of wacky unwritten theme music again. It’s funny. It’s a funny track - ‘oh porous love, what can I do / but drift forever in a sea of you’. That’s how it goes...”
Then, “OK, I’m getting the nod. I gotta go.” An audible hesitation hangs in the air between us, and then “...tell them to forget about ‘HAMMER OF THE GODS’. The - erm, salacious stories of the past are not what I deal in right now. Or make it up. Just put anything you like. MAKE IT UP. That’s what usually happens anyway...!!!!”


So, OK Robert.
In through the out door. It has to be...
London splurged with the blizzard-white light of early spring greenhoused into heatwave. And from its slow dazzle I go into the huge silent gloom of a Hotel silted with dignified ritual and polite establishment observances as calm and grandiloquent as psalms. But I go in through the out door, in ritual observance of some other cultural tradition.
Then a sound, distant at first...


Original version published in:-
Published in a slightly revised form in:-
(Headpress / Critical Vision - UK - December 2001)




“... poetry from a twisted mind ...” (‘NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS’)
“ ... an incisive direct style that owes more to a Stanley Knife than to a pen ...” (‘SEPIA’)
“... step inside and sample the delights of a new dimension in entertainment ...” (‘KNAVE’)
“... one of the brightest underground UK Bardic stars ...” (‘GLOBAL TAPESTRY’)

32 poems brought together for the first time - including “Beautiful Pagan”, “Beyond The Contraverse Intersection”, “Mars Is A District Of Sheffield”, “M. Charles Baudelaire’s Quantum Singularity”, “The Wave-Particle Paradox”, and “Hannibal Deathridge: His Journeys In Strange Subterranean Lands, To The Pendant World & Beyond”. ‘EUROSHIMA MON AMOUR’ is a truly extraordinary work by a visionary poet with the ability to see two worlds at once - today’s turbulent existence in the cities of his native Yorkshire, and worlds of soaring wonders beyond the future seen in dark explorations of jewelled catastrophes. Flavoured by a fascination for mix ‘n’ match culture, here is poetry that achieves (to quote K.V. Bailey’s foreword) ‘immaculate structuring ... accomplished musicality’ and above all, the energy and sense of wonder that brings back startling revelations from the intersection of two planes of outstanding vision (STEVE SNEYD)

Available NOW from HILLTOP PRESS 
4 Nowell Place, Almondbury, Huddersfield, W. Yorks HD5 8PB, ENGLAND
ISBN 0-905262-27-1 £3.99 / $8.00

Coming Shortly from the same author
‘BEAST OF THE COMING DARKNESS’ a dark Far-Future Science Fantasy novel of visionary scope, in the tradition of Jack Vance’s ‘DYING EARTH’, Leigh Brackett’s Martian fantasies, Robert Silverberg’s ‘MAJIPOOR CHRONICLES’, and Moorcock’s ELRIC sagas

Still Available from the same author
‘I WAS ELVIS PRESLEY’S BASTARD LOVE-CHILD’ anthology of 20 years of Music journalism, featuring interviews with The Kinks, The Byrds, Fleetwood Mac, Kraftwerk, Grace Slick, Stone Roses, Can, Cabaret Voltaire, Siouxsie, Led Zeppelin and many others


First there’s the problem with the wife, the ex-girlfriend, 
and the potential girlfriend. But even more pressing is the 
predicament of finding yourself a prisoner in your own chest, 
now that’s when things really start getting strange…

I raise the upper bleary eyelid. Then I open the lower… then the third eyelid.
A second eye forms. This one nictates at the feeler’s most flexible end. It raises and lowers experimentally. The silence is the silence of midnight in the deepest Atlantic. So still I hear the air crackle where ancient baleful horrors crawl and slither.
I’m lodged within a purple room. Within my own chest. I’m a vaguely glutinous sphere with the texture and consistency of snot. No-one deserves this. I’m a mean motor-scooter and a bad go-getter, but I DON’T DESERVE THIS. Even Sadie – my wife, wouldn’t wish this on me, surely?
Such bizarreness shoves time backwards in awkward lunges to where it began. To right and left there are sheer ramparts of crumple-edged metal. Sleeping beasts compressed in upon each other. Rows of piled-up imploded cars with eyes that watch, following my every move. Compelling me to slouch self-consciously and walk an after-midnight gauntlet that goes the length of this junk-yard aisle under the reach of night. Feet crunch on windscreen diamonds, embedding them into grit. Nothing organic grows, only tall spindles of the kind of white nettle that must grow in the deepest Luna craters of the moon’s night-side. And even it threads up through seat-springs and fly-specked radiator grilles in limp unhealthy tendrils that have no roots or points of origin in real soil, but seem to have fibres of steel wire that grow from batteries or headlights, shock absorbers or carburettors, pistons or brake drums.
The empty body-shells are ghosted by the sibilant whisper of corrosion. While the legless ribcages of mammoths with bare cylinder-heads for skulls are eerily animated first by the moon, then by the ripple of sudden light-bursts sushing along from the over-hung slip-road embankment. Spokes of light slipping over car husk and car husk and car husk, illuminating each in turn, from the speed-shifting strobe of sped-past cars going with long-drawn-out hisses of sorrow. It’s as if they all know what’s going to happen to me. I can’t see their movement, but can sense it. Can feel ball-joints swivel, rack and pinions realigning, tyreless front wheels inching round to follow each pace of progress as I walk towards my Den. They wait. They know and anticipate that dread inevitability with silent glee. Already things begin to take on the tingle of strangeness. Strange – even for me, whose very life is outré.
Soon there’ll be a roar of light so bright it’s been polished. Reality trembling, hovering between positive and negative, a sensation like a splash of acid to the retina… and I’m here. In… something, inside my own chest. There should be the huge tidal wheezing of industrial-strength ventilation systems, the clamorous pulse of heartbeat through a dinosaurian rib-cage, a leisure-park marina of blood-surge and squishy flesh-ooze noises slurping and sucking through a metropolis of sewer-size infrastructural conduits and capillaries. But there’s nothing. Nothing beyond the sweetest electro-power hum so low it’s nearly subliminal ultrasound.
In the outside world – in the autowrecker yard?, I must be walking, breathing, eating, belching, scratching, excreting. But simultaneously I’m here in this thing that’s smooth and spherical, in my chest. And I’m smooth and almost spherical too, except when I form things – eyes, ganglia, genitals. There are other spheres here with me, but they’re not the same. My transparency reveals organs throbbing beneath the ‘skin’, organs that resemble weeping pustules, cat-food scrawls of entrails where odd moistures blink up and down tubes. Different colours flicker along networks of neural filaments. Sometimes there are tiny internal explosions of light too, popping like miniature shopping precincts of faulty striplights. The other globes hung in this spherical empurpled room, this satelloid, this interspacial dimension ship, they aren’t like that. Some are transparent. Others cloudy with dripping grey fog. One or two are opaque. They float in mid-air constellations.
Naturally – in this form, I have no mouth. I don’t deserve this.
In my Den the unclear shapes and shadows on the TV screen are laughing. The wall begins to ripple, slowly, gently, and in silence, as if grazed by a wind of light. The room already seems distant and moon-far away even though I might still be sitting there. Goose-pimples of nameless fear trip my spine…
This is how it begins. NOW !
I’m watching ‘Manhattan Cable’ on TV, in my Den at the back of the autowreck yard. Sneak home-movies smuggled in packages onto late-night screens for gonzo-eyed insomniacs. In blurry hand-held camcorder tremble there’s a subway stair-head (Grand Central Station?). It’s shoved brutally into green-shift colour distortion. Two Warhol Factory reject transvestites unexpectedly confront two predatory black Born-Again Christians hungry for the souls of the damned.
This is all relevant. Women and aliens. I’ve experienced both. Women are weirder. There are three women in my life - my evil wife Sadie, my former lover Amanda (Mandy), my prospective conquest Carolyn. Three relationships so maddeningly incomplete it makes my teeth twitch in their sockets.
My Den is probably the oddest room in the solar system. A monk’s retreat. A tinker’s warren. An assembly plant. A beast’s lair. The security and refuge that a cave represents to a Cromagnon. A Byzantine despot’s sanctum. It’s anything I want it to be. And – although my wants multiply without limit, tonight I’d have settled for a little late-night TV – for this edition of ‘Manhattan Cable’ which I never get to see clear through to its end. The Gay clothes-horses play flamboyantly to the lens, “homophobia is a form of racism” they quote in unison from some post-‘Christopher Street’ bumper sticker. “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” chant the P.B.B.A.’s (Predatory Black Born Again’s). A lack of dialogue ensues with both bizarro’s mouthing-out verbal lines preprogrammed from mutually incomprehensible texts. I’m not taking sides. I’m just watching. Both are slyly aware of the audience beyond the screen. Both have no other possible point of contact. Existing now in the same early 21st Century Megacity, but as distant from each other as two nebulae.
The situation with women is like ‘Manhattan Cable’. Aliens you understand. They have tentacles and scales, or hooves and eyes on stalks. But you understand what they want. They’ve come for Earth’s uranium deposits. They’re here to steal our pure water. They investigate us like we investigate germ-cultures on slides. They play with time and the fabric of quarks, but they have objectives we can relate to and hence thwart. They are vulnerable. They are controlled by an orbiting electronic brain, which – when it’s short-circuited, they can no longer function. Or they all die from the flu germ leaving their War-Machines to rust over the ruins of London. Rainfall melting them into glutinous pools of vomit.
But not so women. Like the transvestites versus P.B.B.A.’s mismatch their ultimate objectives are utterly incompatible with mine. We are pulsars separated by an expanding universe of incomprehension. And they have no vulnerability. They operate on the fact of my need for them which is greater and in every way different to their utilisation of me. For example – I’m in the ‘Railway Tavern’. To the best of my scant knowledge there’s no rail artefacts in miles so why it’s a ‘Railway’ tavern I can’t guestimate. The Science Fiction group in the ‘SF’ alcove consists of, to my immediate right, a beard and a speech impediment scrutinising the ‘Evening Post’ with exaggerated care. He’s ignoring everything else out of existence. I slide the nail of my index finger between the layers of the triangular beer-mat so that its uppermost veneer is gradually loosened. Across the table the over-weight American in the over-large Aztec-print top is describing quite calmly and reasonably how Say-damn Huss-ayn should be suspended upside-down by the testicles. At the termination of each carefully argued line she smiles artificially to demonstrate the purely impartial basis of her argument. The other woman smiles more-or-less in sync and so far hasn’t contributed.
He lowers the ‘Post’ long enough to fill his pipe. I seize the window of opportunity, which might be as transitory as a splash, and blurt “which SF writers do you read?” He fills the bowl with a nest of fibres. I prompt “Aldiss? I sometimes don’t read anything by him for eighteen months, then each book I come back to him on, he’s spinning out in some new direction.” He folds the ‘Post’. Unfolds it. “We don’t HAVE to talk Science Fiction, you know. In fact, sometimes we don’t even mention Science Fiction.” He explains it in the weary manner of one repeatedly telling a particularly stupid five-year old that ‘D’ is for dog, dinosaur, dyslexia, diarrhoea or dysfunction. “The origin of the group was probably a shared interest in SF… probably, originally. Mostly now the main purpose is fannish…” He waits. I wait for more. “…Yes, that’s about it.” He resumes reading.
The American woman has somehow connected into the social ramifications of rape. There are beautiful monochrome photographs of Jazz musicians in the alcoves. I count Coltrane, Roland Kirk, Bird, Miles Davis. A chalkboard says ‘THURSDAY: COUNTRY MUSIC NIGHT’. Burgers are available at £2.95. There are also pies. Tonight is Friday. I’m thinking of Carolyn. She’s not here yet. People drift from outside in sudden explosions of cold air and the smell of night blackness. Each time it happens I can’t help looking. He’s reading the ‘Evening Post’ again. Exhaling a toxic wheeze of blue smoke. I prise the surface from the slightly beer-damp beer-mat gradually upwards. Upside-down I read his newspaper about a man frightened of burglary who buys a Rottweiler for protection. Two nights later he’s burgled. They ransack his room, steal his TV, DVD, CD, while the dog watches and does nothing. It sounds like the start of a joke…
She’s explaining in detail how Rapists should be suspended upside-down by the testicles. Music submerges in a background wash of other people’s conversations. Other people’s love affairs. Outside, across the strip, there’s a huge dark car-park where my Nissan squats. The seats already reclined to horizontal. The upper veneer separates. The man trades in the Rottweiler for an Alsatian. Two days later he moves its food-dish, and it attacks him. Rips his throat out. He bleeds to death…
“Is there a phone?” I ask abruptly.
He angles the ‘Post’ down. He notices the deconstructed beer-mat. Indicates with his finger across the lounge towards the snacks and by the CD jukebox.
They watch as I get up and go. Holding the receiver there’s music in the interstices between the ‘phone burrs. It must come from someone’s crossed line? An 0898? But who’d willingly pay-‘phone such bland elevator music? Gonzo-eyed insomniacs? Carolyn’s voice cuts across, “hello”. I say “I’m here. The ‘Railway’”. A silence. Perhap’s she’s scrutinising the ‘Evening Post’ too? “We didn’t say DEFINITELY” she ventures at length. “Yes, but you said you’d be here and I assumed you wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see you…” “But you didn’t ring to confirm, we didn’t make definite arrangements.” I say “but it’s all I’ve been thinking of all week. All I’ve been looking forward to. I thought you felt the same.” “Well… I don’t really like SF.” “But I just used that as a convenient excuse, an alibi to get out of the house. We don’t STAY here. I… I could come round and pick you up.” “No. That’s not a good idea. I’ve got friends round…”
My jacket is scrunched up around the chair to the immediate left of the beard and speech impediment. Before I can leave I must retrieve. Sod-a-duck
“Are we boring you?” he says, putting down the newspaper and taking a sudden interest. Although he’s smiling, I notice his eyes don’t smile. “Do we not live up to your expectations?”
Aztec-top looks as though she’d like to suspend me upside-down. Her smile appears like a fissure in a glacier.
“No, naw, it’s not that. It’s just that I was expecting to meet someone here, and she’s stood me up. I think I’ve tried to trade in a Rottweiler for a throat-ripping Alsatian…”


I open one bleary eyelid. Then the other. Then the third eyelid.
I have a nest of short feelers. On the tip of one of them is an eye. Another extends experimentally towards the nearest suspended globe. A globe that glows slightly with the merest hint of luminance. I watch closely with the eyeball feeler. Attenuating the other so that it’s coiled as tightly and as thin as possible. Then I twitch it wormlike to strike at the globe. Nothing. No reaction. I fatten the feeler to a more substantial thickness, and flick with greater force. The vaguest suggestion of warmth, but nothing more. I make a fist and strike it hard. The globe drops abruptly, hits the floor and explodes, shattering into a million incandescent fragments. Shrapnel bursting around me, bouncing and ricocheting off every plane of wall and floor in vicious trajectories.
The globe fell, but the hole within it remains suspended. A perfect hole in mid-air. Looking into it is like looking into a front-loading washing-machine on full spin loaded with a detergent of pure lightning. And it’s expanding. The effect is a little disconcerting. Inside the maelstrom something is moving that is not maelstrom. An imperceptibly thin quiver of a line that might be horizon. And beneath it, a humpback. It becomes more distinct as the swelling continues. The glistening vortex below the quiver is molten, surging torrents of magma and tides of liquid metals. The upper part a riot of superheated gas storms, through which the vast arc of a sunspot-spotted sun blares. And the hump is flip-flop heaving itself from a pool of shimmering lead. A sparking tortoise-shell that looks like reticulated sapphire, with a crocodile beak that snaps and barks. Explosions and fountains of incandescence all around.
The thing is now only half submerged, half hauled up onto something solid. It pauses, biding its time. A cacophony of lightning drenches everything to a swimming mess of light-waves. As they clear, the creature – for it is a creature, reforms. It’s looking back out to the ‘sea’ from which it’s emerged. Following its line of attention there’s a second hump made of ruby. The swelling continues until almost all else is eclipsed. A series of sharp retorts ripple along its back. Five harpoons eject trailing filaments of thin fibre. Despite the roar three of the harpoons find their mark. The second hump is impaled in triplicate. It’s all so close now there’s nothing else. Vertiginously it’s like I’m falling into the closest planet of the Canopus system where they’re murdering each other. The head is all crocodile beak, projecting without any visible perception organs, from the sapphire hump. I’m drawn into the scene. Shocks and jolts of energy are pulsing up and down the filaments reciprocally from one hump to the other. It’s coming up through my senses, curling my toes, my guts are all aquiver, my throat dry and retchy. A blinding cascade of lights like magnesium blitz – but this time internal. They’re not murdering. They’re mating!
The light separates out into melting bands that dribble and fade. The hole vista blacks out. The purple cabin refocuses. The walls run with phantom tears that dissolve into nothing. The hole in the air is small and dark, but expanding again. Motes still dance across my retina in aftershock, but slowly things subside back to what passes for normality here. There’s something that moves like wind in the hole, but a cold mournful sadness of a wind soughing over grey mountains of grit and scree targeted with dull rings of lichen. There are also forests of spikes that curve upwards like hugely magnified hairs on the back of a giant hand. A lime-green Saturn dominates the sky, although it’s probably not Saturn but a similar planet in a foreign star-system. As it expands there’s a thin row of somethings winding up one steep slope and over the next. Watching more closely, the line extends even beyond that, towards the mountains at the dark horizon and on to infinity. Probably the line completely encircles the planet, or moon, or dimensional plane, asteroid or whatever. The line is made up of cones that move slowly, one after another, snail-like on a single slime-foot that’s only occasionally glimpsed.
As I watch there’s a skittering, a vibrating. One of the cones winks away incredibly quickly, to re-appear within the stalk-forest. But the line continues. Two more cones skitter, vibrate, and relocate to form an odd forest group. As they scrabble and tick into a three-tall interlock of cones a second and third group in similar formations appear beside them. Meanwhile, the eternal column continues with no visible gaps, all cones equally spaced and moving at identical speed. There are three configurations of three cones apiece in a lattice of green spike shadows cast by the not-Saturn. The vista expands until it blanks out all else, until the sad wind is a tactile thing on my skin and the coolness of the forest shade chills me. A burst of sparks, flickering and darting from one cone-trio to the next like electrical arcs leaping contacts, a slowly complexifying blizzard of sparks whizzing and darting with the speed of thought. So close I’m inside the strange mating ritual of triple-sexed copulating cones as they mount the countdown to conal ecstasy that bursts in kinetic pulses like gigawatt short-circuits.
The hole thing blacks out… and begins again…
A swarming Sargasso of viridian threads swirling in a canopy of layered clouds a thousand miles above a vast flat world with a shifting constellation of sixteen visible moons that orbit at varying speeds and in conflicting directions. Different patterns of differently-shaded threads drawn by the warring lunar gravities into choreographies with other threads following other moons. Meeting. Mingling. Entwining. Then separating.
It goes on.
I move slowly across the purple room. I begin to shatter other spheres, starting with an opaque one, then one that’s cloudy with dripping grey fog. One by one the group of spheres is blown to flinders and the room fills with swelling novae’s of brightness…


The motorway is a system of spider’s webs unravelling along grids of white lines. It cuts north and south for hundreds of miles. It is a self-supporting eco-system with parasitic organisms feeding along its length. Providing food. Fuel. And the dung-beetle trucks that crawl out every so often to haul off the cracked chitin shells left by auto-wrecks. My Den in the corroded junk-scape of the yard is quite possibly the oddest room in four planets. A drape of overalls hangs on the wall between alloy wheels. It is creased into what resembles ribs on a flayed skin. Another slouches empty over a swivel chair like a deflated manikin. It is tie-dyed with gear imprints. Freshly sprayed convex panels are distorting mirrors. The air tainted with cellulose. The remaining air is part sump-oil and part perspiration, mixed with just enough oxygen to sustain life. I remember the chair, smudged stainless steel, swinging to accommodate me.
I relax down and thumb on the TV… and suddenly I’m in internal exile. I’m imprisoned in my own body. I’m like one of those elements of nanotechnology, a molecule-size machine that drifts along the bloodstream effecting repairs to the bio-system. Except that my purpose here isn’t exactly clear, yet. In this situation it’s easy to be lulled into primary colours. Such bizarreness shoves time backwards in awkward lunges to a warmer world where drizzles of soft sadness moisten the soul. The alternative is this terror, this purple room where ancient baleful horrors pulse and slither, this gimpy ice lizard of fear crawling in my gut, coiling tighter and ever-tighter around my intestines.
I don’t make things complicated. They just get complicated on their own. But I know that the immediate mess of my past has some relevance to it all. And it’s important for me to understand how it all started.
Sadie – my Rottweiler wife, began shelf-stacking at Gatebury’s. Yard profits were poor – temporary market fluctuations, I’m certain, so she did three nights a week on the 7pm to 10pm shift in a crisp light-blue uniform with her own carton-opener on its yellow plastic belt-coil. At first I meet the evenings alone with carefully disguised glee. Instead of the unrelenting wall-to-wall mush of TV soaps and game-shows I could punch the stereo decibel-high, watch trash-brain videos with a sprawl of lager cans and feet-up on the coffee-table. But once I’d done all that, and done it again, the house began to loom huge and empty. So I began sneaking out to Thursdays at the ‘Railway Tavern’ ‘COUNTRY MUSIC NIGHT’. I don’t like C&W, but then again, neither does anyone else there. It’s an excuse to wear stupid Stetsons, confederate flags on denims, and belts with spread-eagle clasp buckles. The photographs of jazz musicians in the alcoves don’t fit (Wednesday night is jazz night), but there again, the ‘railway’ on the pub-sign is equally misleading. So local groups with names like the Sidewinders or the Texans are largely ignored as they do bad Yorkshire-dialect Waylon Jennings to an audience more preoccupied with strutting and marital infidelity.
And that’s where I meet Amanda. She’s with a friend called Michael who has serious gender problems. Cowboy or Cowgirl? – he leaves his options open. So I buy her drinks while Mandy and I trade problems. It’s pure cornball country schmaltz. We confide in each other. We comfort each other. And she is very good at comforting. I tell her how Sadie’s geriatric father owns the yard, and although I get to control the day-to-day operation of the haul-them-in and smash-them-up, I’m not allowed to expand or innovate. Together they’ve driven me up a cul-de-sac, a-same-ing when I should be-a changing. Sadie severely restricts me, rations me and keeps my sex-life on hold, while her father blocks out any hope of my business ambitions or career advancement. She looks at me with Bambi eyes and tells me of her failed marriage and her husband who has vanished to – she thinks, somewhere in Wales. And of her inconclusive relationship with Michael.
Her eyes caress me like cool liquid tongues. Her life, it seems, is also at an impasse. So we empathise in the car-park in the back of my Nissan, the seats reclined to horizontal, her triangular dart of pubic hair forming an arrow encouraging and directing my attentions down and in. And then in my Den at the yard, and then pulled into a dark copse of trees off M-way Exit 69… and it’s so good I can’t believe my luck. But so perfect an arrangement is too exquisite to last. When the anonymous ‘phone call tips Sadie off I run the precipice-edge of losing the yard. So we suspend loving until things die down, with long breathy highly-charged ‘phone conversations to punctuate the enforced separation. I should have guessed long before I did. I already suspected who’d made that anonymous tip-off. But at last, just as I’m about ready to resume serious comforting and fornication where we’d left off, her voice over the wire is saying “isn’t it wonderful? Michael has resolved his sexual identity hang-ups, and we’ve decided to live together!”
Which is where my interest in SF… and Carolyn, begins in earnest.
Three women. Three relationships so maddeningly incomplete it makes my teeth twitch in their sockets. Sadie, my wife. Amanda, my ex. And Carolyn – my prospective conquest.
The movement of what I call my foot – for want of a more accurate term, make the oddest sounds on this purple floor. The air is sweating. Brightness flecks before my eyes like tadpoles. My breath is probably radioactive. Novae throb and fluctuate with an orgy of copulating life-forms snatched from a million trans-galactic and inter-dimensional planes. A small spiral galaxy eddies an inch from the wall curvature. A sea-horse drifts past, grazing on random star clusters. A chaos of brightness drizzles from the air in shimmers of dematerialisation. I’m an octopod with the consistency of snot. My single foot makes warm glutinous contact with the floor. There is a purulent smell. My entrails slip and slither independently within the transparency of what passes for my body. They coil in tight about each other like dark birds of prey attacking their victim, then sucking and slurping away into new configurations, sometimes piss-yellow, sometimes as red as the lattice of blood-webs in a hung-over eye.
The ‘phone is purring.
I reach for it automatically, without realising I’m back. The chair swings almost imperceptibly, as if from the recoil of my return. It’s evening. The sky beyond is purple. Flies leave visible vapour trails as they vibrate irritably. Impurities drift in from the slip-road embankment in an invisible silt of lead pollution and exhaust fumes that never ends. Sometimes it dry-ices the setting sun into a toxic nimbus of chromatic quintessence that can be breath-catching. My epiphany quadrupled by the sudden rush of awareness that I’ve escaped. I’m back in my own body.
I cup the receiver, noting my hand trembling ever-so slightly, with aftershock. “Yeh?” My voice shakes too.
A liquid pause. “Darling? I’m so glad we made it again.”
“Just had to bell you to tell you. Until this morning I’d forgotten just how incredible it can be with you. I can’t help the way I feel, I can’t wait for the next time, my love.”
Some time later, I’m security-bolting the yard, my shadow multiplied by sodium vapour lamps. My internal sidekick – my insidekick, is gone. Back to whatever hole in space-time it materialised from. Either I precipitated its hasty exit by deliberately trashing its control-globe, or else its mission was complete anyway. Or a skewed fusion of the several. Sadie will be mad. Twenty-four hours have elapsed while I’ve been out of my head. Literally. I walk with long shadows, oblivious to dog-turds and garbage. Working it all into place. I don’t resent the transdimensional snot-ball which traded bodies with me while its ship was parked in my chest. But I’m puzzled.
The lights are low as I enter. I cross the circular carpet which lies on the square landing, within the oblong entrance hall. Sadie is waiting. A woman d’un certain age, her nipples perked up with arousal, liquid fire surging through her thighs. “Do you know what I think?” she sighs.
“No. But I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”
“I think we should go back to bed and suck each other’s brains out again, like we did this afternoon.” Her eyes blaze phosphorescence like suns shot through with starry promise and stellar romance. Her lips are slightly parted.
Woman is the alien species. In this or any other dimension, be it river deep or quasar high. In my imagination reflections of the copulating images in the spheres swim and pulse. This is my theory, for what it’s worth – aliens you understand, they have objectives you can relate to, male to male, across galaxies or sub and macro-atomic continuities. Maleness unites us in our mutual incomprehension of femaleness. The purple room and its amoeba-octopoid pilot is an alien sex-probe collecting mating patterns across all planes of space-time in an attempt to understand it all. Now, my image is trapped in one of those spheres as the ship punches holes in the fabric of reality to its next weird assignation. To temporarily occupy its next target body in the act of sexual congress. An image of me and Amanda. Another of me and Sadie. I can’t be angry. The snotball used my body more skilfully than I’ve done. It’s given me a chance. I empathise with its quest.
She’s upstairs waiting, in a heat of erotic anticipation. Then the ‘phone purrs.
I cup the receiver – “yeh?”
Another liquid pause. “This is Carolyn. You were so good this evening. I was a fool to myself to mess you around and make you wait so long. I need you. I can’t wait for the next time, Darling. Make it soon…”

(When newly minted I shunted this manuscript around various Science Fiction magazines, seeking a print-home. Got a wonderful response from one editor to the effect that, yes, he likes the story - but not the title, wouldn't it be better as 'Ocean Deep, Quasar High'? I wrote back that, although he may well be right, the title was intended to be a pun on the Ike & Tina Turner Phil Spector record, so further changes to it wouldn't work. He wrote back... 'I think Phil Spector got it wrong too'! After which I didn't bother further...)

Two Albums by JOE WILKES:-
(Vida Music VMCD 006)

Comparisons are odious. And Joe’s probably already hacked-off with the ‘great lost Nick Drake’ album tag. The title-track fades in from nothing, building on graceful discord before dissolving into stinging acoustics buoyed by mystically airy string arrangements. Only Joe’s refreshingly-roughened vocal delivery and the resonant double-bass compensate for those immaculately tasteful string quartet sections, reconciling roots with a glistening spin-free modernity. All indicating that ‘his path’ – as he phrases it, ‘is way beyond the border’. “The Castle” alludes to the ‘sweet medicines’ of cocaine, wine, and mythological archetypes from Katherine Hepburn to kings & queens, where woodwinds lurk in entrancing weaves that surge and ebb around smoky vocals. Then “This Time Won’t Last Forever” takes ‘photographs of urban landscapes’, with the uncertainty of his relationship expressed with smooth mid-tempo assurance. This is Joe’s first album, although there were a couple of more poppy EP’s with his former band – Casino Pil, before he drew up his ‘Ten Limits’ manifesto (inspired by the Dogme95 movies). A principled stand defined by real organic instruments and no studio mix-trickery. Ten tracks that might at first suggest John Martyn, or the neat Bert Jansch fingering of “Infra Red”, or… yes, Nick Drake. But after a couple of plays, no - they all just sound like Joe Wilkes, spinning the kind of poetics that have you hunting for the lyric sheet. Only there isn’t one. So you concentrate. These are songs made of enigmatic secrets and oblique tales, painted shadows and time-passages. He’s a vagabond heart, a smudged boho, a darkly-tousled troubadour. ‘I am a liar, I am a thief’ admits the ‘spotlight kid’. Then harmonica, clarinet and giggles wend into “Too Late To Pray”, a more paranoid political take on the USA, evolving out of his parents hammer-&-sickle inclinations into an edgy need to just smash something. Yet without the need for any mood-interrupting heaviness. Finally, “Tomorrow Whatever” is a bryter layter take on summer in the city, where the traffic crawls like a river, with possibly dark undercurrents swirling in its throw-away ‘Hey, whatever’. The ‘great lost Nick Drake’ album? – naw, more, perhaps, with acoustics being the new black, this might yet prove to be the acceptable face of James Blunt.


On website:-

Review of:-
(Vida Music VMCD 007)

‘If I Could Change Everything, I Wouldn’t Change Anything’ is a neat song title, but in Joe Wilke’s case, it’s not exactly accurate. Since ‘Spotlight’, his 2007 debut, his sound has become a touch more strident, more committed, even more extreme, to match the wrap-around ‘There’s A Riot Goin’ On’ sepia artwork. There are delicate arty chamber-Folk noodlings with a haunting minimalist wind quintet and violin, or a smoky boho Euro-ethnic melancholia with gipsy accordions, and girl-voice harmony (on ‘The Making Of A Fool’) but even with its classy classicisms the essential tone is acoustically downbeat, starkly reflective. The continuity is that, as before he’s strong with words, and knows how to spin them to effect. The title track deals in patriot games as far back as ‘fighting with the anarchists’ in 1936 civil war Spain. But he’s just as sharp nailing complacency to Dubya (‘As It Comes’), or paraphrasing the Pistols with ‘England’s Scheming’, which asks why we ‘in the 51st State… imitate things that we used to hate’. A rhyme I’ve got considerable time for. Unique and remarkable, Joe’s frontline splices the personal with the political, with the issues and the eclecticism to encompass it all.


Both albums from - Vida Music Division, Ground Floor, 66 Manor Avenue, London SE4 1TE (Tel: +44(0) 7903 122 084)
Or visit


Punk throws up an outrage of vividly unconventional performers.
Wayne County - for example, first toured as front-man with the Electric Chairs. 
Then - after the sex-change, her tour is a more flamboyant experience entirely...
Gig Review of JAYNE COUNTY
& BOAB DIDJERIDU at the ‘Duchess Of York’, Leeds

I had too much to dream last night... must have been something in that ratatouille I ate. I swear I saw Ianto Thornber in a ‘PIG LIBERATION’ sweatshirt playing electric didjeridu! A deeply rasping, sonorous, resonance. A growling vibrating that physically ripples striates of stagnant Club air into tumbling tribal images from ‘Picnic At Hanging Rock’, Croc Dundee, Fosters Lager ads, Rolf Harris... you name it. If this is what they mean by World Music then it’s from some world the ‘Voyager’ space-probe has yet to reach. It creates hypnotic mantras of mythic intensity dredged from some primal race-memory sunk fathoms deep in the subconscious to shimmer in unearthly spirals. Ianto - from Wales, and part of the ‘Knock On Wood’ ensemble, plays his own “Why Don’t You Ask”, attacking Australian white oppression of Aborigine lands and culture, and it’s stunning. It’s then that things get REALLY odd!
Joan Rivers on acid? Jayne (nee Wayne) flounces through storming tape-machine distortion, a blonde TV outrage in pink negligée and flowered tights, an out-take from a Warhol Factory movie auditioning for televisions’ Grey-Power Sit-Com ‘Golden Girls’. She opens with a statement - “Are You Man Enough (To Be A Woman)...?”, making it comic self-ridicule, but also a tackily defiant lyric manifest, “I am what I am / and I don’t give a damn”. Last time she played Leeds, supporting U.K. Subs, she was canned off. Tonight, she’s irresistible. ‘Let me look at you’ she teases, ‘let me see who I’m playing to. Um, yeah... trash! That’s who I’m playing to - TRASH!! But that’s alright. I’m the Queen of Trash!!!’ She is too. Her take on the Swingin’ Medallions’ acid-punk classic “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)” rips your head off, then a taped Armageddon roar leads into more tease and camp than ‘Performance’-era Jagger or ‘New York Doll’ David Johansen ever dared, more convincing than Divine or Sylvester ever dreamed of. She follows “Xerox That Man” with her ‘bit for Glasnost’ - “I Fell In Love With A Russian Soldier”, done in her ‘political dress’ of whore-red chiffon. Jayne, a survivor of New York Punk, the Electric Chairs, and a sex-change, scored cult hits with “Toilet Love”, “Bad In Bed”, and the cause-celebre “If You Don’t Wanna Fuck Me, Fuck Off”. Tonight she’s a seamless dream on a video screen. ‘You look like a roadie for Gary Puckett’ she jibes, cruising the audience, before dedicating the Barbarians’ “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl” to a truckload of Southern Rednecks who tried to shoot her up in 1966, taunting ‘you can NEVER keep up with a Trannie’ as a parting shot across the years. Eat your heart out Debbie Harry, Tracey Tracey, and Wendy James.
Stepping out into the Leeds night afterwards is like waking up. Must have been something in that ratatouille.