Sunday, September 28, 2014

The last time

"Their real lives lie before them, teetering on the brink of adulthood …the time when we leave the ghetto like state of incompleteness known as childhood and attempt to make something of ourselves," (gleaned from the latest Knausgaard of course).

There on the carpet, misaligned and mismatched are the photographs that we try to lay together to form some kind of map and tapestry that may take us to a place in the past. A strange landscape viewed from the present day’s solidity from where we hope to understand how and why we came to be here. Then there is the absurd hope that maybe even in all those complex contradictions, appetites and disgusts that still swirl around in our souls and minds and unconsciously and so powerfully continue to govern us, that the light of understanding will shine.

I don’t know if it was Keith Richards or Brian Jones that played the guitar riff in the song “the Last Time”. I seems like it should’ve been Keith, perhaps that just makes it cooler. All I know is the puzzlement and excitement that I felt when I heard it, when I grappled with the strange, glistening sound and the rebellious rasp and edge in it’s tone. It didn’t quite fit with the rest of the BBC Light Programme’s output. Adults didn’t like it; it was like some kind of active poison to them. They recoiled as if a gun had gone off. No “Sparky the Magic Piano”, or the Springfield’s “Island of Dreams”, or the sweet sequined voices of Alma Cogan or Doris Day or  the comedy songs of Charlie Drake and the Goons. This was music from the future, like Telstar or Jonny B Goode. It’s probably the most significant audio moment in my life but I struggle to remember details to connect with and hold it. It’s buried in the debris of a thousand radio shows and flickering TV screens, wedding tunes and great cinema overtures, black vinyl spinning discs leading all the way to the abstract and indistinct sparks of sound we now lose in the deep darkness of file systems and cloud storage.

Back then music was like some living cartoon that danced across the growing, confusing head-space, you memorised it like a drug formula or an exam question. You sang yourself to sleep with the hummed melody as the frost formed on the inside glass of your bleak bedroom window. There, half asleep and half awake as the ambulance took your father away in the grey dawn where cigarette smoke hung and then descended on soft furnishings and tissue. Then up and dressed and out into the wild; you still trudged to school none the wiser of the night’s event, fortified with Frosties and a Melamine cup of sugary tea. As this NHS drama played out Keith’s guitar riff played in, like some bated fish hook bound to pull you away from a terrible ignorance and a fearful existence. Maybe you’d get the belt, wet yourself, get punched or, more likely just get ignored, just like the rest of the herd as you live out your orphan destiny. 

Daydreaming into a decade of insignificance, you could hardly matter less if you were microscopic. Here were the best and most obedient post-war working class job fodder, human confusion, sickly white and unable to grasp the concept of education never mind where it might, given patience and circumstance lead. It may have been the end of the age of the Empire but nothing big occurred inside the 425 line flatness of my being, just the reverberated ring-a-ding of that guitar sound. An elemental force that might change the world, still mostly red and expressed in Mercator Projection with frayed edges. It made me happy and was only really blocked out by getting struck in the face by an unexpected and wet football or a kicking from a big boy who preferred the Beatles.

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