Hi readers. Have you missed me? I know I have. These last few weeks have been a bit of a blur what with one thing or another, but I am now once again a (largely resting) artistic minnow at large in the fetid sharkpool that is Sean Penn city.
Catching up with J on his return from the glistening Christmas card frosts of the UK is proving to be quite a sobering experience. I’m still not too ‘au fait’ with this world vibe webslinger, or whatever it is that allows me to communicate my collected drivel electronically to your good selves, so my knowledge of the big wide world out there beyond my couch comes largely from the Taiwanese news programme, which is broadcast on the only current affairs channel I can get a decent picture on due to next doors cat chewing on the cable that brings the wonders of Cambodian Cable Channel into my modest home. And so it was that I knew nothing of the passing of Harold Pinter….
(Sound of clock ticking gently in background. Author pulls puzzled face and rubs his unshaven chin during Pinter-esque lengthy pause in tribute…)
… Eartha Kitt (neck and neck, or perhaps claw and claw with Lee Merriwether for the best Catwoman ever – sorry Halle and Michelle), Ron Asheton, Oliver Postgate or Tony Hart. J’s roll-call of the recently demised has left me saddened and indeed sobered, as the Christmas/New Year booze supplies have finally dried up. He’s trying to cheer me up somewhat but not even a free CD from Mojo of progressive rock gems called ‘Heavy Mod’ can help to ease the ache, although it includes yet another version of Demis Roussos’ strangulated yelping on ‘The Four Horsemen’ by Aphrodite’s Child which does raise the ghost of a smile from me. ‘666’ is an album I can heartily recommend to all you ‘End of Times-ers’ out there. Maybe Dubya can hunker down with a copy now he has the time, and the weight of the free world and the mess he left it in is off his bloodstained little mitts.
I think a little measured reflection is in order here…
Ron Asheton was a raw, brutal guitarist and a bit of an inspiration to those of us whose technique on the six string centres around the creation of NOISE. Particularly with the early Stooges, the Louie-Louie inspired youthful riffage churning from his instrument struck the lost chord of intelligent dumbness with absolute exactitude. If I had a glass I would raise it to you right now Ron, before smashing it and using the shards as guitar picks and slides…
The work of Oliver Postgate was equally ground-breaking and just as scary, but he chose the path of children’s animation to spread his manifold talents amongst humanity. British kids like me and J growing up in the 60’s would be in complete thrall to the tales of Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine and the Pogles of Pogles Wood, and just a little bit scared of the dark undercurrents lurking beneath these imaginary worlds conveyed in the honeyed deep tones of this committed socialist. This most masterful of storytellers mellowed a little in the 70’s, the Great Green Bird Graculus giving way to the deeply surreal Clangers and ultimately his most popular creation, Bagpuss, but I never could stand that stripey cat. I wonder if it chewed through television cables? Or maybe I was just too old by then, no longer a child. Postgate’s unique visions were realised in genuine collaboration with illustrator Peter Firmin and bassoonist Vernon Eliot in a shed in Firmin’s back garden – great things can happen in sheds, just ask D.H. Lawrence. Or J. He’s just told me he has recently written a blog about his nana’s shed. We shall never see the like again, I imagine…Oliver Postgate, I mean, not garden sheds…
…nor indeed shall we see another Tony Hart, who died last week and was again a huge inspiration to many British children over nearly five decades of broadcasting. Like Postgate, a gentle, quiet spoken and unassuming man, his influence on generations of budding artists was incalculable – he brought art into everyone’s living room and demystified it, deconstructing it’s complexities before our eager youthful gaze, and doing it in an innovative inclusive manner with Vision On. All of this was accompanied by his mischief making plasticine friend Morph. Goodbye, Tony, Oliver and Ron (and Eartha and Harold), and thank you all from this old reprobate for making his childhood and youth an infinitely more exciting and stimulating place.
Well, I have a mischief making plasticine friend also, and I do believe he is beginning to melt away before me like the wicked green witch from Oz. This is partly because my aircon has ceased operations (I think the aforementioned cat is slaughtering the birds nesting in there and blocking the thing. Oh Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, dear old bird-murdering machine…) and partly because all I have to offer poor J to drink is a chili flavoured fortified wine-type concoction I picked up from a dodgy streetside stall somewhere.
But wait a moment, J, bless him, has come up trumps, pulling from his bag a pristine copy of… …Bulghakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’!
‘For me?’ I say
‘For you.’ he says ‘Happy Christmas’.
Life is good sometimes, isn’t it.
See you soon, friends, I’m off to do some reading….
* from Big Star ‘Radio City’. If you don’t already own this, shame on you. A jangly fuzzy snarly hazy power pop masterpiece if ever there was one