Sunday, 26 April 2009

Jukebox Plays

Jukebox plays ska
I do nothing
And I don't sleep.
Days of fear
September through New Year.

When I think of my friends
Who are working
I'm afraid to go that way.
Isn't one of them
Loves the thing he does
Every one of them
Wants to get away.

I wish that I had something that
I could put my heart and soul around.
So I dream of better days
And I slip into a haze
While the jukebox plays.

Jukebox plays Doors
Strange Days and Riders On The Storm
Ray's keyboard and the sound of spray
And a long black car
Comes to drive me away.

When I think of the fate of my heroes
I'm afraid to go that way.
don't want a be a heap
On a bathroom floor
Don't want to burn out or blow away

Just want to find me something that
I could put my heart and soul around.
So I dream of better days
And I slip into a haze
While the jukebox plays.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Song From Under the Floorboards

I saw my friend Amy the other day.
Amy is good with naked women.
We talked about Dostoevsky.

Amy is an artist, but she had never shown me her portfolio before. She is very good at life drawing, and has a real eye for the female form. She had several nude studies on her iPhone, and even on the small screen, the curves of her figures were beautiful and involving.

By coincidence, Amy mentioned that she wanted to read some Dostoevsky, the Russian author I alluded to the other day. I mentioned this book, and the song that Howard Devoto made of it. Devoto restored the original Russian word the translator rendered less poetically; the anonymous narrator addresses the reader from between the floorboards of his apartment.

I am angry, I am ill and I'm as ugly as sin
My irritability keeps me alive and kicking
I know the meaning of life, it doesn't help me a bit
I know beauty and I know a good thing when I see it

1982 was a year when I was not good with naked women, and everything in my life felt crooked, rather than curved. "A Song from Under the Floorboards" was an existential crisis you could dance to, with an insistent opening riff that moved harmonically and went nowhere melodically. I was angry, and I felt ill and I felt ugly. These last few months, I have felt it all over again.

This is a song from under the floorboards
This is a song from where the wall is cracked
By force of habit, I am an insect
I have to confess
I'm proud as hell of that fact.

I know the highest and the best
I accord them all due respect
But the brightest jewel inside of me
Glows with pleasure at my own stupidity.

This is a song from under the floorboards ....

I was never stupid at school. Stubborn, yes; lazy, distracted... and afraid to speak out. But I did not manage to be stupid. (Yes, dear reader, I knew too much.) And I knew a good thing when I saw it.
I knew beauty, but it was not the involving kind.

I used to make phantoms I could later chase
Images of all that could be desired
Then I got tired of counting all of these blessings
And then I just got tired

This is a song from under the floorboards ...

Friday, 24 April 2009


My real self

isn't something I find very easy to fit into
the real world

"There is a crack
in everything...
That's how
the light gets in."


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Strung out in Heavens High

This blog post is late, just like a lot of the others and a lot of stuff in my life (filing my tax return, losing my virginity, etc etc.)

On Monday morning, I read the obituary of J.G. Ballard in the newspaper. Monday evening was the series premiere of Ashes to Ashes, the Eighties time-travel police drama.

Ashes to Ashes is set in 1982, a time of my life when the black dog of depression had already moved in on me, and I was darkly cynical. I listened to Elvis Costello albums and read Dostoevsky and Oscar Wilde, and I knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Ashes to ashes, punk to funky
We know Major Tom's a junkie
Strung out in heavens high
Hitting an all-time low

Punk had been and gone, and the charts were filling up with dross again. 2-Tone let different races mingle, and dance together, but it didn’t stop there being two million unemployed. The New Romantic movement meant that people like Jonathan Ross were allowed to become famous. Bowie was still good for a couple more years, but Roxy Music had deteriorated into some sort of soul band.

The show captured my feelings well. Apart from the Gene Genie and Bolly-Knickers, who are the hero and heroine and therefore have to look good at all times, everyone around them was drifting into an abject state. Not tough, not soft, not principled, not a-moral; just strung out and getting low. The sex was nasty and loveless, the prostitutes were unhappy and not nice to look at, and even the arrival of Princess Margaret and a giant pink penis failed to improve the mood.

JG Ballard was a science fiction writer who wrote about the twentieth century, and the imagined twenty-first, as though he were dissecting a corpse trying to establish how it died. He describes a civilization that’s lost, only we are inside it, and losing ourselves with it right now. I discovered his work when I was sixteen, round about the time my father died, thanks to a friend I used to borrow records from, who lent me this paperback.

Ballard was trained in medicine and for part of his childhood, he and his parents were interned in a prison camp in Shanghai. I had a chronically ill father, and both my parents spoke endlessly about the war, so Ballard’s stories seemed like pointers to my own future, in a world where my father’s visions partially came true, and I was an adult capable of inhabiting this savage, whimsical, collapsing scientific experiment. I would become an illuminated man with “arms like golden cartwheels, his head like a spectral crown”.

Today (I mean Monday) I remember one scene in particular from ‘The Terminal Beach’. The earth is much hotter, and London has become a tropical rainforest, and the narrator is trying to make himself a home on an abandoned scientific testing station, while grieving the deaths of his wife and son.

One day, he finds some large charts showing mutated chromosomes, and he takes them ‘home’ and hangs them on the walls of his bunker. They are his art, but he doesn’t like the pictures not having any titles, so he begins to make up titles for them. Then, one day, “passing the aircraft dump on one of his forays, he found the half-buried juke box, and tore the list of records from the selection panel, realizing that these were the most appropriate captions.”

“Thus embroidered, the charts took on many layers of associations.”

Monday, 20 April 2009

No Means

"We only become what we are
by the radical and deep-seated refusal
of that which others have made of us."
John-Paul Sartre
Thanks to Howard Rheingold for Twittering this.

Saturday, 18 April 2009


Since I'm finding it so difficult to blog at the moment (in fact, to do any kind of writing) I may as well attempt to write about not being able to write.
  1. I'm doing okay. My friend's trial (the weirdest school reunion imaginable) brought up some very unpleasant childhood memories, but it's all for the good.

  2. The words "I wish I'd never been born" are less true than they have ever been. (I just haven't stopped saying them.) I might get used to this place, y'know...

  3. That dead badger I was complaining about? I don't think it really was a badger. I think I just ate something that disagreed with me. Like... a bath towel. And I didn't chew it properly.

  4. Everything happened when I was thirteen. I don't mean literally everything, not things like the moon landings or Princess Diana, or Richard Curtis making a good film. But it was a time of teenage weirdness.

  5. And I had nobody I could talk to about it.

  6. I'm ready to talk now.

  7. I'm not really ready to talk, not yet.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


We are all imprisoned
In the castle of our skins
And some of us have said
So be it. If I am in jail
My castle shall become my rendezvous.
My courtyard will bloom with hyacinths
and jack-in-the-pulpits.
My moat will not restrict me but will be filled
With dolphins sitting on lily pads
And sea horses ridden by starfish.
Goldfish will make love to Black Mollies
And color my world Black Gold.
The vines entwining my windows will grow butterflies
And yellow jackets will buzz me to sleep.


Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Dead Badger Syndrome

So, anyways... I know I told you I was going to feel a lot freer to write and talk about a wide range of things once the court case was over, didn't I?

Well, I'm still borked.

If you need to know more, RTFM (Read The Friendly Manual.)

"People can also be prosecuted for having a dead badger. If you see a dead one, arrange for the local council to collect the carcass and dispose of it. Never try to dispose of a dead badger yourself."

Thanks to the guys at for their helpful guide to The Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Happy Birthday Billie Holiday

"If I'm going to sing like someone else,
then I don't need to sing at all."

Billie Holiday, born April 7th, 1915

Monday, 6 April 2009

Spot the Difference

The Daily Telegraph reports this morning that most airport scanners can't tell the difference between Osama bin Laden and Winona Ryder. This is probably important if you're travelling on a plane. I think Osama pays for his own clothes.

Friday, 3 April 2009

The Best of All Possible Worlds

"This world is the best of all possible worlds,
and everything in it is a necessary evil."

[F.H. Bradley]

I was runnin' thru the summer rain,
Trying to catch the evenin' train.
To kill that old familiar pain
Weavin' thru my tangled brain
I tipped my bottle back and
I smacked into a cop I didn't see.

That policeman said "Mister Cool,
If you ain't drunk, then you're a fool"
I said "If that's against the law,
Then tell me why I never saw
A man locked in this jail of yours
Who wasn't just as low down poor as me?"

And that's just when someone turned out the lights
And I wound up in jail to spend the night
And dream of all the wine and lonely girls
In this best of all possible worlds.

Well I woke up next mornin'
Feelin' like my head was gone
And like my thick old tongue was lickin'
Something sick and wrong
I told that man "I'd sell my soul
For something wet and cold as that old cell"

That kindly jailer grinned at me
All eaten up with sympathy
Then poured himself another beer
And came and whispered in my ear
"If booze was just a dime a bottle boy,
You couldn't even buy the smell"

I said "I knew there was something
I liked about this town"
But it takes more than that
To bring me down
Cuz there's still a lot of wine and lonely girls
In this best of all possible worlds.

They finally came and told me
They was gonna set me free
And I'd be leavin' town if I
Knew what was good for me
I said "It's nice to learn that everybody's
So concerned about my health"

I said " I won't be leavin'
No more quicker than I can
'Cause I've enjoyed about
As much of this as I can stand
And I don't need this town of yours
More than I never needed nothin' else"

'Cause there's still a lot of drinks that I ain't drunk
Yes and lots of pretty thoughts that I ain't thunk
And there's still so many lonely, lonely girls
In this best of all possible worlds.

Words and Music by