EMBARRASSING LYRICS

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A couple of days ago I was rummaging through an old box, when I came across an old sketch book. It was one I used in my early twenties to write song lyrics. Reading through some of the songs, I was confronted by my younger self. Who was this strange cynical disturbed youth? I could recall writing some of these lyrics; sat in a flat in Camberwell in South London. At the time I was working as a photographer at South Bank Polytechnic and in a relationship. Despite this somewhat stable environment, the lyrics suggest insecurity, loss and cynicism.

I’ve always been largely an introvert, as a child my schoolwork suffered, as I spent most of my time looking out the windows day dreaming. When I was about ten I was put into, what I can only assume, was child therapy. This mostly consisted of writing, drawing and playing. To this day I am unaware of why my teachers considered it would help my development. Did it help? I’m not really sure; it didn’t cure anything as far as I am aware. As I wasn’t aware of anything that needed curing.

At the age of twelve I was shipped off to a minor boarding school. An experience that I hated. It was borderline Dickensian; run by a Viennese professor and a crotchety old Scottish spinster. Think Dotheboys Hall. It was an environment in which only the tough survived. I left at the age of seventeen with three ‘O’ levels and an animosity towards the world in general. I never went home, I moved into a flat in a community of artists in Hertfordshire. I began to study graphic design at the local art school.

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Art school proved more problematic than I expected. One would expect the lecturers to be an open-minded bunch. Think again! By this time I had discovered sex, hash and rock n’ roll. My disparate lifestyle soon led to consequences.  Firstly, I was chucked out of my flat in the artist commune for having a noisy drunken party. Well two drunken noisy parties. The artistic temperament of my neighbour artists was a bit more conservative than I had anticipated. Secondly, I was removed from art school at the end of the second year. They made some feeble excuse as to why they had taken the decision, but it was clearly based on my  behaviour rather than artistic ability.

I spent some time after art school at my parents house in Shropshire, reading and getting stoned. Then, I was offered a place at college to study photography in Blackpool. I lasted a year, but, it was a great year! I enjoyed the course immensely. I had always been interested in photography and now I had the opportunity to study it full-time. Blackpool at the time was amazing, I got to see some ground-breaking bands, made some good friends and discovered acid. Oh! and the women were friendly, open and frankly very accommodating.

But once again I fell foul of the bureaucracy. For complicated reasons I cannot really comprehend, I got on the wrong side of the college hierarchy. One day, without any warning I was taken, by the college pastor, to the local police station for questioning. Strangely, they were not interested in me, but my then girlfriend. They wanted to know whether she had sold me drugs! They used bullying tactics to try and get information out of me. Threatening to charge me with kidnapping, after we had both visited my parents for the weekend. It was frankly ludicrous, but they did scare and intimidate me.

Shorty after this, the college decided, (after a year of study), that I didn’t have the right ‘O’ levels to be on the course in the first place. A rule that didn’t apply to some of my fellow students. So once again I found myself set adrift in an uncertain world. For a couple of years I bummed around, before ending up in London. Which brings us back to where I started this blog, sitting in a South London flat writing songs that very few people have ever heard.

And here I am in the twenty-first century attempting to understand these embarrassing lyrics. Do they tell me anything about my younger self or older self? They say that the child is father to the man; perhaps this is true? But, I only feel the sense of unease that permeated my younger self rarely. I look at these lyrics and I am perplexed; what does it all mean? Who wrote these songs? Where is he now?

Anyhow, below you will find some of my embarrassing  lyrics laid bare for all to see. So, any analysis would be welcome, because I’m damned if I can understand a word. Well maybe a few.


Green Sea

I am a man of few words
I am an eater of mushrooms
I am the beginning and the ending
Of my own life
I am an immaculate conception
I am a blood stained knife
Green, green, green sea
Why don’t you wash over me?

Had many lovers
And this I know
When you play with fire
You don’t want snow
Oh you pretty things
With your hair so long
You’ve got ice between your thighs
So why do you come on so strong?
Green, green, green sea
Why don’t you wash over me?

I am the man
I walk inside the void
Seasons follow on my coat-tail
Your worship is my joy
The day they came to take me
I kissed my father’s ring
I knew the kind of worship
My death would bring
Green, green, green sea
Why don’t you wash over me?

NB. I had just read: “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross: A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity Within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East” a 1970 book about the linguistics of early Christianity and fertility cults in the Ancient Near East. It was written by John Marco Allegro. You’d probably have to read the book to understand!


Persona

Fire burns, stomach churns
Out of the night
Where are you my compatriots?
Where are you my past?

The future comes
The future always comes
I pray for my future

I don’t walk alone now
But I stand alone
I read a lot
But what do I know?
The truth is sad
Lies can be bad

Am I all the man I think I am?
It’s all the same when it hits the fan
When I saw the space I upped and ran

I often join in the game
But I know I’m playing just the same
So I bend the rules to fit the frame

Wild winter big city
Stuck in the room
Digging the gloom
We all live in head room
The horizon stretches through
No matter what I do
I’m no nearer you

I dig the news
That we can all choose
Choose me a blues
Choose is in the nooze

All my lovers bare me
What can I do
I choose to stand naked
But why must they consume me
They are stealing my head

I want friends to share my time with
Friends who
Speak
Think
Live
Friends who Give

Are you scare too?
Scared I’ll melt you
Scared I’ll take and not give
Scared to throw off your stance

You have faced me
Deface yourself
Stand naked
Trust me

Maybe the time will come up
When the space we fill
Will be calm
Will be still


Common Ground

The monkey that you’re wearing
Has been there too damn long
The world’s been long past caring
To take the poison on it’s tongue

This planet spins like a crazy top
As the joker waits in the wing
The instant before the storm breaks
He lifts up his eye and begins to sing

The ground on which we stand is sacred ground
Our ancestors lay mingled with it’s dust
You forever gave us a knife in the back
When all we wanted was your trust

And out along the wasteland
Where my crazy vision flys free
There’s room enough for all of us
If you just want to be, that’s okay with me


Out of the Blue

I was lost in the hungry past
Devoured by each memory
Savouring moments long ago
It all seemed so real to me

I was young and my time went slow
A clown in the art school ball
I didn’t see any shadows then
I didn’t see the writing on the wall

I took a job in a town in Wales
Working for a guy named Hugh
Cleaning out the local drugstore
That’s where I met you
Sailing through out of the blue

I bought tickets on an all night coach
Out of Holyhead
Wrapped up in my overcoat
We was warm, but underfed

Taking a pencil out of your bag
You proceeded to give me a clue
Scratched on the back of a matchbox
I love you
Sailing through out of the blue

You took the darkness out of my dreams
Turned my head around
You dealt the cards so delicately
I didn’t see the ace go down

I see no future in my past
Now that I see it straight
No rosy recollections
Will influence my fate

There was a time before the storm
I dealt in day dreams too
Clinging onto a passing cloud
But that was before I met you
Sailing through out of the blue


 Next of Kin

The signs of life are slowly disappearing
As the flies buzz around the carcass in the sand
The reasons for it’s demise are questions not worth asking
The final program just got out of hand

And the mother earth is slowly taking over
Turning all the daydreams into sand
The death of fourteen thousand generations
Is born again as seeds upon the land

The temple bells are falling from the steeple
The deity lays face down in the mud
The accumulation of two thousand years of waiting
Falls from the sky as two thousand years of blood

And we shall find our own salvation
Holding hands together in the dawn
We shall be the brand new nation
We shall choose the rose and not the thorn

And the empty sands they seem to last forever
An infinity of seeds beneath the sky
And now my vision set free from paranoia
I know at heart this earth will never die

And the whole ghostly mess is slowly sinking
Trying to drag us down beside it in the shit
But we will have no part of moral masturbation
The door is closed the pyre already lit

And I realise as the death knell slowly rattles
The age that dies is born within my skin
The faults that we attribute to our fathers
Are the faults we pass on to our kin

And we shall find our own salvation
Holding hands together in the dawn
We shall be the brand new nation
We shall choose the rose and not the thorn


Hester At Her Needle

She takes a cab
Makes up her face
The foggy buildings lean together in the waste
Outside on the pavement
The human race

The place is small
A smokey bar
A man in the corner plays guitar
The wine from the barrel
Tastes like tar

She waits an hour
The barman leers
She put a hand to her eye
Trying to suppress her tears
She has another drink
Trying not to show her fears

And morning finds
Hester at her needle

It’s the kind of day
She’d welcome rain
Sat in a faded chair
Trying not to show her pain
Outside the window
The sky is like a stain

A faded print
A photograph
Held in her fingertips
The thrown to the hearth
He’s a pearl
I’m just a laugh

And morning finds
Hester at her needle

A china cup
A silver spoon
She takes her needle out
And shoots for the moon
Embroidering a heart
In an empty room

And morning finds
Hester at her needle


Waiting for the Ragman

The sun sink slowly
On a small provincial town
When your daddy flicks the switch
There’s nowhere to go but down

So you don your faded Levis
An the shirt got bought last week
And you slip out through the backdoor
To meet the man they call the geek

And you’re stuck in the lamp post halo
Throwing up poses in the rain
The kids think you’re a drag man
Spending your time
Waiting for the ragman

The mayor and corporation
Meet at the corn exchange
The Jacey by the gasworks
Plays guns across the range
You walk out from the Wimpy Bar
Feeling kind of strange
But you know it’s just amphetamine rushes

The lamp post on the corner
Cuts deep into the night
The glory boys on Newport Street
Are trying to pick a fight
So you duck into an alley
Trying to avoid the light
There’s no success in being a victim

You head out for the blackness
Around the edge of town
You hit the local graveyard
Just to see what’s going down
In the country of the blind
The cyclops wears a crown

And you’re stuck in the lamp post halo
Throwing up poses in the rain
The kids think you’re a drag man
Spending your time
Waiting for the ragman


Eden Express

Everybody want’s to grab a piece of the action
Looking over their shoulders
Trying to gauge the people’s reaction
But me I must confess
I never passed the acid test
I just stand here watching the rest
Trying to catch the Eden express

All the pretty peoples
Putting cocoa up their collective noses
While all I have to sniff
Is everlasting plastic roses
Me I just ain’t that blessed
I missed out on the cream of the jest
I just stand here watching the rest
Trying to catch the Eden express

All the space cadets
Are getting their time out of joint
When they gave me a blast
I just seem to miss the point
When I finally got to the crest
I was half a mile behind the nearest
I just stand here watching the quest
Trying to catch the Eden express

All the small ads in the paper
Selling salvation to the rich
When it comes to prophets
They’ve certainly got the pitch
But when it comes to looking East or West
Enlightenment’s just got messed
I just stand here watching the blessed
Trying to catch the Eden express

All the Bogarts of the age
Are turning their heads to Zen
While I just sit here
Trying to give myself the yen
The I Ching is just a pest
The tarot should be suppressed
I just sit here watching the rest
Trying to catch the Eden express

BROKEN | OUT ON LOCATION | #1 THE DRUIDS TEMPLE

This video is the first of a series which highlight locations from my novel “Broken”. This one focuses on the Druids Temple at Ilton in North Yorkshire.

The Temple is close to Masham in North Yorkshire, but is quite isolated in a plantation near the settlement of Ilton. The plantation was originally owned by William Danby, a wealthy landowner of Swinton Park. Danby was an old Etonian who studied at Christ’s College, Cambridge. In 1820 when Danby was sixty-eight years old, he started a project in the woods near Swinton park. The creation of a mock-neolithic stone henge. Workers were paid a shilling a day to erect the standing stones. Within the henge sits a sacrificial alter stone, a portal cave and a stone table. An avenue of standing stones leads to the temple, and scattered in the woods surrounding, a jumble of cromlechs, menhirs and stone towers. Over the years, there have been numerous  rumours that the Temple at one time had been used for black-magic rituals.

In my novel “Broken” the Temple makes an appearance near the end of the book. If your curiosity has been peaked, you can purchased the novel in paperback or ebook on Amazon: UK http://amzn.to/1M3DkUC United States http://amzn.to/1AMq5kZ And other Amazon outlets.

Beaten, Broken, but Not Out!

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I had the concept for my novel “Broken” over thirty years ago. I was working as a researcher at Huddersfield Polytechnic in the Department of Behavioural Science. It was my first post-degree job. I was living with my partner and my daughter Esi who was about a year old. The job didn’t pay very well, but I had a lot of time to read academic works. One book I picked up was “The Sociology of Georg Simmel. Chapter three was called: “The Isolated Individual and the Dyad”. It interested my greatly and one particular part of the text gave me the idea for a work of fiction.

Well, I carried the idea around with me for years, but never got around to writing my novel. Five years ago I gave up a well paid job to put pen to paper. I started writing in January 2010 and by July I had finished the first draft. I then put the draft in a drawer and left it to age for a while. After a couple of months, I pulled it out and started editing in ernest. Half a year later I had what I thought was a reasonably good piece of work, barring the odd typo.

Yes, I believed I had a novel that I could submit to a publisher. So I researched the process I needed to go through to get my book considered. First, I found out that the majority of publishers expect you to go through an agent. So I started looking at the process for getting myself an agent. This involved sending a potential agent a four page synopsis. What! my novel is 500 pages, how the hell am I supposed to condense what is a complex plot into four pages? I tried I really did! But, after a couple of months in which I wrote the synopsis many many times, I was pulling my hair out.

Then I got to thinking. The agents going to take a fee, the publishers going to take a fee, the bookseller is going to take a fee. I might as well cut them out and self-publish. Lets’s face it it’s the new paradigm. Or so they say! So I uploaded my novel to Amazon and CreateSpace and the rest is history. I am now a published author. Check it out “Broken” is available on Amazon and I get a fee every time they sell a book. Paperback or Kindle.

Here lays the rub! How do you publicise your book? I had heard about all those Kindle millionaires whose books had gone viral, but how did they do it? So I set up a Twitter account (@ynoyddot if you are interested), I set up a Facebook page, I emailed all my family and friends. I plugged mercilessly. I handed out cards, I sent out press releases. But, so far my sales have been modest.

I found out you can’t rely on anyone to help you out with the publicity. Friends who had been enthusiastic, suddenly went silent. Even some family members who had been supportive had nothing to say, no words of encouragement. I always knew that writing was a solitary pursuit, but I didn’t expect the selling process would be the same. It’s a very isolating experience.

I am beginning to think that perhaps I should have submitted my synopsis to an agent. I know the novel is good. Who knows I might be the new Ian Rankin or something by now. And, I wouldn’t have to keep up this undignified welter of self-publicity. I could be practising my signature for my book signing session at some posh book shop. I could be hobnobbing with Rankin and Robinson and Ann Cleeves and Kate Atkinson, over a pint of Theakston’s XB.

To be brutally frank, I didn’t really go into this for the money. I wanted to share my vision, to entertain, to mystify and to make people laugh and cry. But at the end of the day if my book never sells, at least I know I’ve achieved something. I have made sense of thirty years of thought. As Disraili said: “When I want to read a novel, I write one.”

EVERYTHING IS BROKEN

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When university lecturer Morris Lane’s grandfather is found brutally murdered in his home. There appears no motive for the killing. But  before long Morris uncovers a secret that will ultimately threaten his life. As Morris digs deeper into the riddle, each revelation reveals another piece to the puzzle.
But before long, Morris’ life starts to unravel as he loses himself in sea of sex drugs and alcohol. Who will save Morris from himself. Will it be beautiful student Skye Laroche or police detective Dobrilla Koudelka.
As he lurches from crisis to crisis, Morris realises that his life is ultimately BROKEN.  His only chance of redemption seems to lay in solving the mystery of his grandfathers death. But, will collecting the pieces of the puzzle help reclaim his soul or will it leave him reeling at the hands of an obscure enemy…

It’s taken a while, but now my first novel BROKEN is finally published and available. The genesis of the story occurred many years ago when I worked in the Department of Behavioural Science at Huddersfield Polytechnic. I was reading: “The Sociology of Georg Simmel” in my little basement office, when I came across an idea for a story. However, the time to write the novel never materialised. But, a few years back I decided to give up work and concentrate on writing full time. BROKEN is the outcome.

BROKEN is not your usual police procedural crime thriller. Instead the main protagonist is a university lecturer. That’s not to say, there are no  murders, mysteries or puzzles, there certainly are. The novel is set in 1979 in Yorkshire. Those of you old enough to remember the seventies will know what an interesting time it was here in the UK. It was great to be able to go back to a world of divisive politics and social unrest. From SUS laws to the Southhall riots. And, it was amazing to re-visit some of the amazing music the seventies produced.  Heavy metal, prog, punk, reggae, funk and soul. Whatever you bag, there was something for you. I have tried to get a flavour of that into the novel.
So here comes the advert! If you would care the check out the book, it is available on Amazon in all regions. I really hope you do check it out. It’s been a labour of love.

Black To The World

Cavities in the teeth occur for good reason, Eigenvalue reflected. But even if there are several per tooth, there’s no conscious organisation there against the life of the pulp, no conspiracy. Yet we have men like Stencil, who must go about grouping the world’s random caries into cabals.

Thomas Pynchon – V

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FACT 1

I can’t remember exactly the first time I heard of Black Classical. He’d always been a myth in the shady world of record collectors. However, I do recall a visit to Manchester in late 1992. At that time I was trying to get hold of a copy of Billy Parker’s Fourth World – Freedom of Speech. I had already scoured all the record  shops in West Yorkshire, but then a friend in Manchester told me he had spotted a copy in a second-hand record shop, not far from Afflecks’ Palace.

I walked out of Piccadilly Station into one of those drizzling, grey Manchester mornings. The city was full of the usual hustle and bustle. Mostly hustle. I had hardly gone fifty paces before some smack head tried to sell me some MDMA. He was the spitting image of Sean Ryder from the Happy Mondays. I declined and walked down Newton Street with his curses still ringing in my ears. It only occurred to me later that perhaps it really was Sean Ryder.

After wandering down a number of run-down streets, where graffiti covered every available surface and some that weren’t available, I found the pokey looking record shop, nestled between a sex emporium and a kebab house. The front window was a sticky mess of city grime and what looked like yellow curry. Although, it could have just as easily been vomit. The door was open, so I walked in. Immediately my nose was assailed by a smell of mildew, sweat and cigarettes. This is the lot of the obsessive record collector, I thought. But without considering this premise for too long, I got digging into the rows of plastic boxes that lined the walls.

I spent a fruitless two hours scouring through the boxes and found neither the Billy Parker’s Fourth World album, or anything else of note. However, the shop appeared to house a treasure trove of James Last albums. I was tempted by a mint copy of Tricks in Rhythm which was probably worth a bundle, but I would never have forgiven myself if I’d have bought it. Principle, at the end of the day, is worth more than money. I approached the counter where an obese man in a Smiths teeshirt was sitting reading a Spiderman comic. The Reprehensible Riddle of the Sorcerer, if I remember correctly. It took some time for him to raise his eyes off the comic, despite the few subtle coughs I made.

I asked about the Billy Parker’s Fourth World album; whether he still had it. Loathed to engage with me, he shrugged and went back to his comic. I asked again.

Eventually he responded in thick Bolton accent. “Sorry mate, I shifted that and a boatload of seventies jazz shit to a geezer, ’bout half n’ hour ago. He took eight Strata LPs n’all.”

“You mean Strata-East albums?” I asked.

“No these were Strata,” the man said.

“Holy mother of God, those must worth a fortune, they only ever released ten albums!”

“You’re shitting me,” the man said, “he had those off me for thirty squid.”

I felt deflated. If I had taken an earlier train, that might have been me walking out the door with a big smile on my face and some rare vinyl in my hand.

“Was this guy who took the jazz LPs a dealer?” I asked.

“Nah, I don’t reckon he were,” the man said, “he only looked about twenty.”

Fuck, I thought, gazumped by a bloody student or something. Just my luck. I looked at my watch, it was quarter past one. Time to get moving. Grab a bite to eat, then back to Leeds.

As I was about to leave the man spoke again. “He were dressed a bit rum, lad who bought LPs.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“It looked like he were wearing one of them monk’s habits.”

“Was he one of those TM blokes?” I asked.

“Nah, the gear were all black.”

“Black you say. Interesting. Anyway, I’ll be off then,” I said, and turned heel.

I was about to leave, but then it occurred to me that the man might have an address for the monk. Perhaps, he was from a charity or Carmelite Brothers or something and didn’t realise the value of what he’d bought. He was just getting stuff for a bring and buy sale. That was probably it. Maybe I could buy the Strata albums back off him for fifty or something. Give him a little bit of a profit.

I turned back to the counter. “Did the monk leave a contact number or anything. Name of monastery perhaps?”

The man shook his head. “No, nothing like that.”

“Did you get a name?”

The man looked amused. “Now here’s a thing,” he said, “he said his name were ‘Black Classical’.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Black Classical?”

The man nodded. “Yup, that’s it.”

“That’s not a proper name.”

The man shrugged. “It’s what he said.”

“What’d he look like?” I asked.

“Hard to say, he were wearing shades under his cowl.”

“Was he actually black then?”

The man shrugged again. “Might have been.”

I shook my head. “You don’t really know much do you.”

“You learn to forget faces quickly in this business,” he said, “if a lad from Moss Side comes with a box of 12” hip-hop singles, you give them the money, no questions asked.”

“Was he from Moss Side then?” I asked.

“I’m not saying he were, I’m not saying he weren’t.”

With that the man looked down at his comic, signalling our conversation was at an end.

FACT 2

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A couple of years later, in 1994, I was digging through the albums on a second-hand record stall on Bury Market. In the past I had been to this stall before and found some gems. But today the stall was bereft of any jazz whatsoever. Not even an Acker Bilk: Stranger on the Shore reissue, or a Kenny Ball Best of, for that matter. I asked the guy who ran the stall, Jeff I think his name was, if he had any jazz under the counter.

“Sorry sir,” he said, “I just sold all the jazz LPs as a job lot to another young gentleman.”

Another wasted journey I thought. I scowled at my boots. The man could see I was disappointed. But added to my distress by saying.

“Pity you didn’t come earlier, I had twenty Flying Dutchman albums in pristine condition. Lonnie Liston Smith, Gil Scot-Heron, you name it I had it. Picked them up at a house clearence in Colne. Belonged to a biker lad who crashed his Honda up in Dales. Wife wanted rid.”

If I had been holding a knife at that moment, I would probably have slit both my wrists. The utter devastation I felt must have been written across my face in bold letters.

The man shrugged. “Sorry.”

He looked away in embarrassment and started whistling a Rod Stewart tune. But all of a sudden, stopped and pointed down the aisle.

“Look that’s bloke what bought the albums, down by the black pudding stall.”

I looked toward where he stared and caught a glimpse of a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt carrying a record case. He’d obviously just bought a black pudding and was now walking off down the aisle. I took off quickly, scattering old ladies behind me, like blades of grass from a mower. By the time I reached the end of the aisle, the man in the hoodie had disappeared out the door. I walked outside onto Minden Parade, but he had vanished into thin air along with a boxful of very desirable vinyl. I walked back into the market and returned to the record stall.

“The guy who bought the albums,” I asked, “was his name Black Classical?”

“I dunno,” the man said, “I think he said his name was Eamon or something. He said it were an Egyptian name. Sounds Irish to me. But he were wearing on of them ankh thingies around his neck.”

There was nothing to gain from staying any longer, so I walked back to my car. As I drove back to Leeds, I Slipped a Stanley Turrentine tape into the cassette player. As Stanley played Flipped Out, I thought about the man in the black hoodie. Probably, home by now, gloating over his spoils. I was sure it was Black Classical again. Once more he’d got the worm, so to speak. As I came of the M62 slip road into Leeds I thought about the name he’d given to the trader on Bury market. Eamon he said, but that is definitely Irish not Egyptian. Then it clicked. He must have said Amun. If I remember rightly, I thought, Amun was the god of mystery, who eventually became Amun-Ra. How appropriate for Black Classical, he’s becoming a mystery wrapped up in a myth.

FACT 3

Gradually as the years passed and my record collecting days slowed down; I completely forgot about my nemesis Black Classical. Over twenty years passed before I heard the name Black Classical again. By that time I had given up being a live DJ and concentrated on making mixtapes for friends and lovers. Then in 2012 I started putting my mixes on line, with no agenda other than to share my love of jazz with the Internet community. Yeah right! Anyway, quite by accident one day, as I was trawling the Internet, I came across a mix by Black Classical. To be honest I was shocked. I had begun to believe that I had imagined him. But here staring me in the face was a fucking 12 hour: DoctrineHistory Of Spiritual Jazz 1955-2012.

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I looked down the track-list. There were plenty tracks off the albums that were rightly mine. Okay, so I’d managed to get some over the years, but it still hurt. I downloaded the mix and started to listen, but it was just too painful, listening to the music the motherfucker had stolen from me. I thought of him sat in his room, a glass of single malt in his hand, listening to his undoubtedly high-end stereo system, as some obscure private-press album spun a plaintive riff around his head. I stopped listening. For Christ’s sake who creates a 12 hour mix anyway – no one but a obsessive Amun-Ra worshipper. More to the point, who listens to a 12 hour mix? To be honest – no one. You may think my opinion is governed by bitterness. Maybe it is. For God’s sake, the man must have a warehouse full of bloody spiritual jazz. The combined vibe of all that vinyl karma must be enough to levitate the man into another dimension. Therein lays the rub, is Black Classical a real person or a celestial being?

I banished the 12 hour mix, to the farther reaches of my hard disk and forgot about it. But then, several month later, one of my Twitter compatriots sent me a link. Low and behold it was Black Classical’s History of Spiritual Jazz, popping up again like an unwelcome guest. By some extraordinary trick of the mind, a wilful amnesia, I had forgotten I had even downloaded it in the first place. So, I downloaded it a second time, throwing my hard disk into dharma meltdown. I stared at my monitor for some time, the file seemed to be mocking me. But after much soul searching, I decided I would give the mix more of a chance. I would banish bitterness to the back-burner. I clicked on the file and bussed the sound through my monitor speakers. Laying back on my couch, I slowly let the music wash over me. I managed three and a half hours this time, before I cracked. And I grudgingly had to admit that I quite enjoyed what I heard. But as they say, every action has a reaction and in my case an unusual one. I had an overwhelming urge to seek some form of confession; even though I am, to all intents and purposes, an agnostic. With a feverish fervour, I set about looking for solution to my spiritual malaise. After leafing through the Yellow pages for half an hour, I found what I needed, an address for The Unidimensional Holiness Church of Miles Platting. It was a fifty minute drive from Leeds, but all that spiritualness had left me needing an outlet. Why I chose Miles Platting, God only knows!

FACT 4

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Miles Platting was nothing like I had imagined. Perhaps it had been nice once, before the bulldozers came and took away the past. Now it seemed like a desolate wasteland; a social housing experiment gone wrong. I drove around for half an hour trying to get my bearings. At one point the car was chased by a pack of feral pitbulls intent on chewing off the door handles. I imagined they were all called Tyson or Razor or Nitro or Bullet or Steel or Cujo or Chaos or Diablo or Anubis or some-such. I rolled up the window, just in case they were unfed. My day out was turning into a bad Steven King novel. Five minutes later, I regretted my decision to come to Miles Platting even more, when a primary school lad bounced a half brick off my windscreen, then ran off laughing. To add to my sense of foreboding, a sudden drizzle set in, reducing the visibility and steaming up the inside windows.

I stopped to consult the map. As my eyes were lowered to the page, there was a huge thump which shook the car. I looked up startled, expecting to see a gang of malevolent five year olds. I checked the rearview and saw nothing. When I stared out the windscreen, I could scarcely believe what I saw. Laid on the bonnet was a frog; a British pool frog to be exact. It was clearly dead. I looked around, I was parked away from buildings and overhanging trees. So there was little chance it had hopped onto my bonnet from a structure of any form. The only explanation was that it had fallen from the sky. It seemed a strange portent.

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Ten minutes later, frog removed, I found The Unidimensional Holiness Church of Miles Platting. Or rather the Majestic Theatre. It looked dilapidated. It rose out of the stoney rubbish like a broken tooth. Its distinctive pyramid-like outline oddly of place in the landscape of brutalist modern structures. I parked the car on a side street and walked to the front of the building. The doors handles were locked with a rusting padlock and chain. I began to question the impulse that brought me here in the first place. Was it some temporary insanity brought on by Black Classical’s Spiritual jazz? Did the music contain a back-masked message that led me here? I felt distinctly uncomfortable, as I walked down the side of the building. Towards the back of the theatre I found another door. Above the door in faded art nouveau lettering were the words: Artists Entrance. I tried the door; it was locked. I noticed there was a bell button set into the door frame.

So, without much hope of response, I pressed it. I heard nothing. I put my ear to the door and pressed again. This time I heard a muffled sound like a chime from an underwater cathedral, followed by the distinct sound of footsteps. I stood back and the door was flung open.

A tall black man in a polyester suit stood at the entrance. He looked at me quizzically.

“Yes son, can I help you?” The man asked.

“Is this the Unidimensional Holiness Church?”

“Yes, it is.”

“And you are?”

“I am the Reverend Kwesi Godson,” the man replied.

“I’ve come from Leeds.”

The man shrugged. “Pilgrims come from many places.”

“A frog fell from the sky,” I said.

The man nodded. “And the frogs shall come up both on thee and upon thy people and upon all thy servants. That’s Exodus 8:4.”

“Can you take my confession?” I asked.

“Sure son, come in.”

The Reverend Godson led me down a badly lit corridor and stopped in front of a stained oak panelled door. An etched brass plate on the door indicated that this had once been the theatre green room. He opened the door and walked in. I followed. Inside there were a couple of easy chairs, a formica table and not much else. The man motioned me to sit down. After sitting, I noticed that a large cook pot was steaming away on a camping stove in a corner. From the smell, I guessed Godson was making peanut stew.

“Now son,” Godson said, “as I’m exercising confession, I’m solemnly bound to observe secrecy concerning all thing which is confessed before me.”

I nodded. “That’s reassuring.”

“Do you mind if I put on some music?” he asked.

I shrugged.

“I find it relaxes the penitent.”

“Are you doing my confession in here?” I asked

“Yes, you have no objections?”

“No, I just thought we were supposed to be in a box, or something.”

“That’s catholics, we be sort of Baptist.”

“I’m not a Baptist.”

“No problem son, we are always here to help troubled souls.”

Godson walked to the table and opened a battered old Dell laptop. From where I sat I could see he was launching iTunes. A moment later music spilled from the laptop’s tinny speaker. I recognized the tune, but could not place it.

“I hoped you like jazz?” Godson said, as he sat down opposite me.

“Yes, of course. I recognize the tune, what is it?

“It’s called Music is Nothing but a Prayer. Appropriate, don’t you think?”

“Yes, I guess so.”

“Would you like to confess now?”

I nodded. “I guess so.”

“Go ahead son.”

“I want to confess to envy and avarice.”

“Specifically?”

“I have collected vinyl albums for many years and it became something of an obsession. Specifically I collect jazz from the sixties and seventies. A number of years ago I discovered that another collector, who I won’t name, was at work and had similar interests to my own. This collector, on many occasions, managed get to shops and record fairs before me and buy up the best stuff. I felt, in some ways, those albums were rightly mine. Just recently I heard a mix he had compiled and I felt feelings of jealousy re-emerging that I presumed were dead years ago. It sounds mad, but I can’t help thinking of him in some climate-controlled warehouse surrounded by rare and desirable jazz albums. A smug grin on his face.

Although, in my fantasy, he doesn’t really have a face, just a grinning mask. Like bloody Janus, or King Tut, or something. In my mind’s eye, he seems thoughtful as if he’s planning his next foray into the vinyl rainforest. Like some Victorian butterfly collector searching for a Palos Verdes Blue. I believe with all my heart, he’s stealing what’s rightfully mine. He’s like a latter-day Citizen Kane, searching for his missing Rosebud. And I don’t mean the Cannonball Adderley track. He’s probably got that anyway; on a rare signed original pressing. I mean Rosebud in a metaphorical sense; the rare album he craves above all else. But, do you know what? I want to buy his sodding Rosebud before he gets there and turn it into a fucking vinyl ashtray.”

Godson shook his head. “You seem to have a lot of pent-up anger son, don’t be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

I nodded. “Rant over, I’m calm now, sort of.”

Godson stared into my eyes. “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself.”

I nodded. “I understand, I think.”

“If you want absolution son, you must find it yourself. God sent you here for a reason. You are on a pilgrimage to find yourself. I have a suggestion. Find this man whose albums you covert and you will see he is but a man like yourself. At the moment, he is merely a cypher to you. Peace comes of communication. Your mental environment has become compromised by thoughts of greed. You must realize that music is not a commodity to buy and sell. The medium is not the message. So go forth with love in your heart and seek out your rival.”

I sat back in the chair considering his words. Yes he was right, I should seek out Black Classical and perhaps such a pilgrimage would cleanse my soul of its dark passenger. As I sat considering this proposition, I noticed the laptop was now playing Prince of Peace by Pharoah Sanders. Something began to occur to me, all the music seemed familiar to me, very familiar.

“This music mix you are playing,” I asked, “what is it?”

Godson smiled. “All this music is jazz of a spiritual nature.”

I nodded. “Yes I realized that. Do you collect jazz?”

Godson shook his head. “No son, I downloaded this off the internet. It’s a history of spiritual jazz by man called Black Classical.”

I rose from my chair, shook hands with Godson and walked out. As I walked back to the car, I looked up to the grey clouds. If there is a God, I thought, he is surely mocking me.

NOTES

Text Copyright Tony Todd 2013. Please note that although Black Classical does exist – this is a work of fiction.  His 12 hour History Of Spiritual Jazz 1955-2012 can be found at: http://archive.org/details/BlackClassicalSpiritualJazz19552012 amongst other places. I love it and I can only say that the protagonist of my story is undoubtedly a little crazy. Personally I am not jealous of the hoard of rare vinyl in his climate controlled Custerdome. Honest I’m not!  I too dabble in the DJ malarky and can be found at:http://www.mixcloud.com/tony-todd/