Tuesday 29 July 2014

SIMPLE MINDS: Once Upon A Time

(#323; 2 November 1985, 1 week)

Track listing:  Once Upon A Time/All The Things She Said/Ghost Dancing/Alive And Kicking/Oh Jungleland/I Wish You Were Here/Sanctify Yourself/Come A Long Way

Scotland, it seems, is one of the few places where Jim didn't work on the new album. First there was Nice, where he went on his own to do some writing: then (a shade less glamorous) Esher, in Surrey, where he and Charlie Burchill and Mick MacNeil rented a house for a month and worked out the melodies. recording was done in London and then it was off to New York State for the mixing, and finally New York itself for a spot of "fine-tuning"..."We've better melodies now," he says, "and we're arranging the songs better. I just think it's a glamorous noise - it really uplifts." A touch of arrogance here? "Well, I think we always had a rather nice kind of arrogance. Ten years ago, there were bands doing a lot of talking and all they did was talk and talk, make a few records and die. But we've always had the belief that in the end our music will become so big it can't be stopped..." Tim De Lisle,  6th - 19th November 1985 Smash Hits

There are certain albums which sum up their time very well and can bring back, summon up, moments and feelings and emotions, good or bad; the full significance of music for many is that it can do this.  The fall of 1985 was, however, a kind of non-time for me, plunked in the yellow-lockered halls of the wing of Sheridan College where us young women were learning to type, girls just out of high school who were still being formed and shaped, fickle and forgetful.  The year was waning and the warm glow of summer was gone, but here are Simple Minds, to remind us of what things were like only a few months before.

Oh how time passes!  How high on self-congratulation and general vaguely smug rightness filled the post-Live Aid period, a time when raising awareness and curiosity about how the world worked and really was was trumped by a sense that a huge event and some optimism would salve/solve things, that actual facts and details would somehow sort themselves out.  I don’t think there’s an album that sums this whole feeling up more than Once Upon A Time, itself a product of misguided optimism.

After touring in support of Sparkle In The Rain, the band – now minus their secret weapon, bassist Derek Forbes, who joined old Simple Minds drummer Brian McGee in Propaganda – commenced to record this.  Jim Kerr has by now met, married and had a child with Chrissie Hynde, and this album is full of the exuberance of this love, an exuberance that does turn into hot air after a while.  Some of that hot air was to push him to record this for a definite aim of cracking North America, the heartland of the US in particular, and so Jimmy Iovine and Bob Clearmountain produced it, with big washes of synth, a woman – Robin Clark, ex-singer with Chic – brought in to give their music soul, passion and honesty, while poor Charlie Burchill has to struggle most of the time to have his guitar heard above all this.   Kerr’s I-Have-Seen-The-Promised-Land vocal style, meanwhile,  is so self-satisfied as to make you think that it’s Jim Kerr & The Simple Minds and punk never really did happen.

It is a odd thing to describe an album as coldly warm, but that’s what this sounds like; what with Kerr dropping in “God only knows” and “new day rising” and other clich├ęs, and ending two songs with “take me away” as if the rapture of his existence is more important than writing coherent lyrics.  Even on “I Wish You Were Here” (which may be about Ian Curtis), the calmest Kerr gets on this can-you-hear-me-in-the-back stadium rawk, he and the band aren’t really struck enough by the loss; in the haze of the summer and the heat of his romantic bliss a great deal of what made Simple Minds buzz is gone.   

John Giblin is no replacement for Derek Forbes (it’s the drummer, Mel Gaynor, I feel sorry for here) and the technical excellence of the whole thing sucks out any possible empathy Kerr is so eager to display.  “Oh Jungleland” (not as good as Springsteen’s “Jungleland”) may well be about Glasgow but it is sung to the city from the point of view of someone looking out the window at it, flying away in first class, so happy that “she” is in his life, even as he says “There’s a Kid called Hope” who is somehow going to lead the city out of its violence.  I can understand Kerr’s constant references to his joy in being a man in love here, the vivacity it is bound to produce, but “Time looked around herself/Time got excited” is awkward at best, “All The Things She Said” is basking in a kind of reflective glory, and “Ghost Dancing” starts just like “I Travel” and then refers to a “Polish Knight” and “Mother Ethiopia.”  Only at the end of the song does this whole hot air balloon parade get a puncture:  “They all went to heaven in a stupid fantasy. GO!”  

And so this this in part the fall of 1985 – big expansive and ultimately nearly impersonal* music, nothing that really sticks closely or touches finely, but blusters and pounds away and congratulates itself on “Come A Long Way” – a song about time again, the metaphysics of which boil down to…well, I’m not entirely sure what.  Kerr ends up sounding like a man who thinks he knows what’s what and is more than ready to impart his knowledge to us, but it was written in haste (the whole album seems to be done in haste) and is clumsy at best.  How on earth could he have written “See this race is wrong/Come see, this race is right/See millions of years pass with no end in sight” otherwise?   

For the first time Simple Minds have made an album worse than U2, not better, and it will take them some time to fix that; whether they cared or not I don’t know.  Once Upon A Time was a big hit in the US, so the producers’ job was done, Kerr appeared – just himself, not the band – on the cover of Spin, and I had to start looking elsewhere for something a bit more immediate and recognizably human, whether it was Easy Pieces by Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain, or heck, even that song I always heard while having my (in retrospect) not very good bagel and cream cheese in the cafeteria, “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult.  Kerr wants you to somehow “Sanctify Yourself” by being “a part of me” – Simple Minds tries to do gospel and it fails; Ian Astbury testifies and makes more sense.  Even the Cocteau Twins’ Tiny Dynamine/Echoes In A Shallow Bay makes more sense, come to think of it.  But Simple Minds’ attempt to get Iowa to love them is way behind all of these, and is far worse than “Don’t You Forget About Me” which is ultimately what they are really remembered for, in terms of 1985.

Next up:  Quiet storms, longevity and how to be cool.    

*I find it rather cold that The Pretenders, not Chrissie Hynde, are thanked in the acknowledgements section.  It smacks of a man who is in love but really is married to the game, who makes a big show of being in love without actually doing things to prove he’s a good husband.  Hynde’s response to this, The Pretenders’ 1986 album Get Close, is an answer record to this one, and much better, too.

Sunday 27 July 2014

George BENSON: The Love Songs

love songs cd: Amazon.co.uk: Music

(#322: 26 October 1985, 1 week; 9 November 1985, 1 week)

Track listing: Give Me The Night/Lady Love Me (One More Time)/Love X Love/New Day/Feel Like Making Love/20-20/Never Give Up On A Good Thing/Inside Love (So Personal)/No One Emotion/In Your Eyes/Turn Your Love Around/The Greatest Love Of All

Last weekend on BBC Four I watched Jon Brewer’s documentary Nat King Cole: Afraid Of The Dark. It was an intriguing and somewhat unsettling watch. There is unlikely to be a more definitive or comprehensive Cole study; practically all of his surviving family, friends, associates and peers are interviewed – including his widow, Maria Cole, who lived on until July 2012, less than a month short of ninety - and much long unseen archive material was incorporated, including footage from Cole’s sixties television shows.

The reason why the documentary was unsettling to watch was the underlying question of whether, over the nearly half-century since Cole died, things had really got any better for mainstream black entertainers. Cole was the first black performer to get his own TV series, and his fame did not preclude repeated, nauseating incidences of ingrained racism from others who really ought to have known better.

As I said, many of his musical peers get a chance to speak in the documentary (including archival interviews with Frank Sinatra and Oscar Peterson), and amongst their number – Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte, Buddy Greco, Johnny Mathis, Nancy Wilson – the most striking interviewee was George Benson, a man with fair claim to being heir to Cole’s mantle, having similarly crossed over from respected jazz musician status to mainstream stardom. Benson is now seventy-one, but throughout his comments there still lay a politely buried rage. More than once, Benson emphasised the importance and unprecedented nature of what Cole had achieved. In relation to his crossover to easy listening territory, Benson remarked on how Cole’s style and approach had made him – and, by extension, his people – “easy to accept.”

It is an approach which Benson has been careful to maintain throughout his career, which almost exactly coincides with, and leads on from, Cole’s death. He is from Pittsburgh, and if I say that other jazz musicians of note from that city include Erroll Garner, Earl Hines, Art Blakey, Ahmad Jamal, Roy Eldridge, Maxine Sullivan, Paul Chambers, Kenny Clarke, Geri Allen, Billy Eckstine and, by extension, Billy Strayhorn (who actually came from Dayton, Ohio, but grew up partly in Pittsburgh and partly in Hillsborough, North Carolina) then you may discern a common purpose; none of these musicians has ever shouted out their newness or radicalism, but instead prefer to propose an unassuming but determined alternative to the musical norm.

As a jazz guitarist, Benson is, stylistically, a relative conservative; his fingering technique was apparently inspired by Django Reinhardt, his simultaneous soloing and vocal scatting derive from Slam Stewart, and there is always the feeling in his work that Grant Green’s Idle Moments was about as far as the electric guitar should dare to go (this is, incidentally, no idle comparison; Benson was a great friend and admirer of Green, and uses a not dissimilar style, turning down the treble and bass controls on his amplifier to zero and turning the mid-range control up to ten, thus highlighting a certain rhythmic bite in his playing. In addition it should be noted that Green, beaten down by a history of heroin addiction, heart problems and overwork, suffered a fatal heart attack at the end of January 1979, not yet forty-four, on his way to a gig at Benson’s Breezin’ Lounge in New York).

Most of Benson’s early recordings are unfussy, meat-and-potatoes soul-jazz affairs; he worked for some time with the organist Jack McDuff (who also appeared on Benson’s debut The New Boss Guitar), and records issued under his own name – e.g. It’s Uptown With The George Benson Quartet and The George Benson Cookbook (both 1966) – were generally straight-ahead fare, featuring one Dr Lonnie Smith (not to be confused with Lonnie Liston Smith) at the organ.

But by early 1968 he was invited to guest on Miles Davis’ Miles In The Sky album – a record whose title was inspired by “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” – and appears on the twelve-and-a-half minute-long “Paraphernalia.” This was a Wayne Shorter composition, and sounds it; a knotty harmonic maze repeatedly thrown off-balance by Tony Williams’ seismic, onomatopoeic drum rumbles. Miles digs in and concentrates; Shorter is as inventive and elusive as ever, soloing with the faintly distracted air of a professional assassin attempting to complete a crossword puzzle; Herbie Hancock is in his “guess which chord I’m going to be playing next” mood; while Williams plays so obscurely away from the beat that it’s hard to determine whether the beat remains (N.B.: this is a good thing).

In this environment, the casual listener might be forgiven for mistaking Benson for a lost tourist who’s turned up in the wrong departure lounge. He comps, mostly rhythmically, throughout and his solo space is relatively limited and restrained (note how, when Hancock launches into his solo, Ron Carter’s bass immediately bends with and follows the pianist, which does not happen at all with the guitarist). However, more attentive listening will reveal that Benson is actually the anchor holding the entire performance together. His tone and foot pedal control are strangely prescient of what Derek Bailey would do on the Tony Oxley Quintet’s “Stone Garden” the following year, but unlike Bailey, he is there to bring all of the stray elements flying around him together.

As the sixties turned into the seventies, Benson moved on to Verve records, then A&M, and thence to Creed Taylor’s CTI, reaching steadily further into the mainstream. It is reasonable to say that much of Benson’s CTI work is Formica-pleasant but unthreatening; his The Other Side Of Abbey Road is nowhere near as radical a reconstruction as those offered by Booker T and the MGs or the Mike Westbrook Band, and his “White Rabbit” is the equivalent of Wes Montgomery having a go at “A Day In The Life.” Perhaps his most telling work of this period was his gutsy and moderately exploratory contributions to the only album by the Harlem Underground Band, recorded for Paul Winley and including the much-sampled “Smokin’ Cheeba Cheeba,” although his first British hit single, 1975’s “Supership” was released on CTI, and still credited to George “Bad” Benson.

Thereafter Benson moved to Warner Brothers and became a superstar; it is telling that, unlike Cole, he did not end up in a situation where he had to choose between being a singer and being an instrumentalist; even on mid-eighties affairs like “20/20” the scat unisons remain intact. And so the fork in the road which would eventually lead to The Love Songs making number one was reached.

But things like “Breezin’,” “Nature Boy,” “This Masquerade,” “On Broadway” and even 1979’s “Love Ballad” do not make it to this compilation; of its dozen songs, only one dates from the seventies. A more extensive anthology such as Music Club Deluxe’s 2011 2-CD set The Essential Collection includes all of this material and may serve as a better entry point for neophytes. The Love Songs was intended for an “export” market and was only released in Britain, Holland, Germany and Japan. Moreover, it was the final number one album to be released by K-Tel, thus bringing a thirteen-year reign to a relatively subdued close.

So the compilation centres on eighties audiences’ notions of George Benson as a pleasing and acceptable MoR-soul-jazz performer. In the context of the autumn of 1985 it is worth remembering what “soul music” had become. The most prominent steps forward appeared to have been taken by two albums; Luther Vandross’ The Night I Fell In Love (arranged and produced by Marcus Miller, who would render a similar service the following year on Miles’ Tutu), and the eponymous debut album by Alexander O’Neal (essentially the work of Jam and Lewis). Both took recognised soul man tropes and advanced them; in Vandross’ case discreetly and elegantly, in O’Neal’s case, alternatively aggressively and elegiacally. Of the old school, Bobby Womack (on whose Poet II album Benson had appeared) impressed with the fury-under-a-lake-of-serenity of So Many Rivers, Al Green’s Going Away was his best and most purposeful record since The Belle Album, and Shirley Brown’s magnificently angry Intimate Storm was something more than either, while, on the spiritual side, Steve Arrington’s Dancing In The Key Of Life was a spaceship gospel sermon. Womack and Womack’s Radio M.U.S.I.C. Man was a more than worthy second album, including a heartstopping rendition of “Here Comes The Sun.”

Set against all of this, Benson can come across as slightly old-fashioned, but in a way that makes it work as an attribute rather than a distraction. Nowhere better did he achieve this than with Quincy Jones: 1980’s Give Me The NightOff The Wall grown up and enrolled at Berklee – whose two hits are repeated here. As with other artists, Rod Temperton appears to set off something in Benson that otherwise might have gone unreported; hence the dopey naivety of world-peace-via-dance that is “Give Me The Night” is turned into a declaration of authority. “Love X Love” is also sublime; both songs benefit from Jones’ ceaselessly inventive producing and arranging - the way, for instance, that Patti Austin & co’s 200-miles-from-the-microphone echoes of backing vocals overlap each other to tectonic shift levels worthy of disco Steve Reich. Meanwhile, Benson plays much as he had done on “Paraphernalia,” holding this parallel landscape together.

He never quite hit those heights again; the pair of 1981 songs recorded for The George Benson Collection (has all the seventies stuff, but 45 edits only) with various people from  Toto, “Turn Your Love Around” and “Never Give Up On A Good Thing,” do not hold the same magic but are both fine pop singles in their own right. In this environment, however, the songs suggest a scenario of Benson as a kind of agony uncle with a rather stern moral rectitude. Both examine the problems of lovers from both perspectives and arrive at the conclusion that it’s worth working at them to overcome them because what is there is so precious and important that it cannot be tossed away.

Is this record therefore an update of Love Is The Thing, or a musical setting of Erich Fromm’s The Art Of Love (on “In Your Eyes,” Benson sings of “trying to write a love song with just a single note”)? Throughout these songs, Benson is very careful to distinguish between everyday romantic  love and a greater, more universally encompassing songs; in both “Never Give Up” and “In Your Eyes,” the importance of looking at and understanding love is made key. But a sense of purpose is certainly made evident; appreciate what you have, and just because things aren’t working out so well right now doesn’t mean that you mustn’t work on the problems and retain your essential faith; don’t worry, things will get better.

Four songs appear from 1983’s In Your Eyes, and as great a producer as Arif Mardin was, he wasn’t quite Quincy Jones, and so “Lady Love Me” and the title song drift harmlessly by, enough that either would fit snugly into Chinnery’s early eighties notion of Radio 1 as offering comforting muzak to young couples driving, on their way from the theatre, or to the restaurant. His “Feel Like Making Love” does show a good deal more vivacity and enthusiasm, however, and one can tell from its accompanying geometric rhythm arrangements that Mardin is already making other plans.

Once we get to 1985, however, we are in 1985, so to speak, and so “20/20” – late 1984, but who’s counting? - is hackwork which doesn’t deserve the dignity Benson bestows upon it, while “No One Emotion” is ruined by some horridly squidgy rock guitar (not played by Benson).

But 1985 also gives us “New Day,” composed by Womack and Womack, both of whom are very evident in the song’s background – and suddenly, all of the anger harboured over the previous two decades surfaces as a melancholy lament.  The “it makes me wonder” refrain may come from “Stairway To Heaven” but the song’s message is far closer to There’s A Riot Goin’ On; “Where is so much of the beauty that we see?” Benson asks in dignified despair. “Now I'm wondering if it's all been in a dream/Times, they go from bad to worse/Seems it's all been rehearsed/We were standing here acting out this scene.” In other words, have things really got better for black performers – or, for that matter, black people as a whole – in the three decades since the Klan burned the “N” word into Cole’s Hancock Park lawn? The refrain of “And that new day’s coming soon” dissolves into aerated Afrofuturist ethereality, voices and rhythms slipping out of comprehension and consciousness; as with Vandross’ “The Other Side Of The World,” the song absorbs itself, becomes its own planet, could wander through space forever. Or was Terry Callier’s “Love Theme From Spartacus” already on premature radar?

There is also the fourth single from In Your Eyes – a club smash, it really should have been the first – “Inside Love (So Personal),” co-produced by Mardin and Kashif, which is quite, quite brilliant, and not just for its use of such infrequent pop words as “topics” and “intensity,” but also for a staggeringly adventurous musical template which more or less sets the stage for Mardin (and Gartside)’s Scritti Politti. It is another song to have love as its subject, but one feels, listening to this compilation overall, that Benson is actually playing a very smart and purposeful game – he knows exactly what he can get away with proposing.

I have left until last the record’s last song, its only song from the seventies, and perhaps one of the most misunderstood of all pop songs (not least, in the past, by myself). We need to get over the Bateman notion of “The Greatest Love Of All” being the ultimate hymn to the ego, and remember exactly why this song was written and the way in which Benson performs it.

It was written for The Greatest, a Muhammad Ali biopic in which the great man plays himself, with a surprisingly effective Ernest Borgnine as Angelo Dundee; and knowing the details of Ali’s life, it is reasonable to claim that this song, at the very least from his perspective, is justified. Benson – in one of the record’s few songs where he does not play guitar at all – sings, as he does elsewhere, in a style very close to that of Donny Hathaway (with the odd nod to Mathis).

But there is no doubt that Benson means what he is singing, or about his greater meaning. For “learning to love yourself” isn’t a green flag to narcissism and is probably not about an individual person; why else does the song linger on the notion of children being “the future” and the importance of teaching them the right way to go, and why else does Benson sing of failing to find any “heroes” – how could he, when Cole had been gone for over a dozen years, or Coltrane for over a decade, or whatever/whoever?

In other words, Benson sings “The Greatest Love Of All” as a message to his people, his race; the celebrated Curtis Mayfield iron fist in benignly velvet glove technique. In many ways, this song serves as a good bridge from the end of Hounds Of Love, wherein the protagonist returns to the world and learns to love and relate to other people; but Benson takes it one step further, addressing the need for his people to push for something new and better to happen, and, as always, making the message easy to accept. Some revolutionaries prefer persuading to shouting. This is not to say that either notion is not valid. But The Love Songs, in its own welcoming way, proposes changes much more far-reaching than those of the Style Council; its subtle message is: well, the war’s still on, and who’s to say we can’t still win it? At the time of “The Greatest Love Of All”’s original release, Obama was sixteen. There was never any need to be afraid of the dark.

Friday 18 July 2014

Kate BUSH: Hounds Of Love

(#321:  28 September 1985, 2 weeks; 19 October 1985, 1 week)

Track listing:  Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)/Hounds Of Love/The Big Sky/Mother Stands For Comfort/Cloudbusting/Running Up That Hill 12"/And Dream Of Sheep/Under Ice/Waking The Witch/Watching You Without Me/Jig Of Life/Hello Earth/The Morning Fog

“Dans le fond de forets votre image me suit.” Racine

Prelude:  Cosmic Zoom

I remember it fairly well.  A classroom with the curtains shut; a short film playing while the teacher sits and grades papers.  It is a short movie, in color, and starts, mysteriously, with a shot of a town and a church bell chiming the hour.  The chime ends and the tolling bell rings, rings, stops… At first you see a boy and a dog in a boat, and suddenly the camera pans not left or right but keeps going up, up, up….until you see the park by the river, the river itself, the city of Ottawa, the province of Ontario, the Eastern Seaboard…maybe it will stop when you can see all of North America?...but no….now you can see  South America too, and then the Earth itself is becoming visible, then the awful darkness around it apparent, and then boom the Moon, Mars, Jupiter…until the Earth is too tiny to be seen, and the camera pulls back to Neptune, Pluto, the edge of the Solar System…and out and out to the Milky Way itself…then goes straight back towards that boy in the boat, to his arm, to a mosquito on his arm and closes in on the mosquito so you can see one atom of it…

There is nothing to prepare us kids from feeling…we don’t even know the word…dizzy?  Stunned?  We all knew about mosquitos and boats and parks and stuff like that.  But to look up from all that and see that there’s something beyond the blue?  The big world we already could fathom from globes and maps just got a whole lot bigger, too big to comprehend.  The credits roll, the film ends, and in eight minutes our collective minds are expanded.  I remember seeing this twice, in different classes; for that matter, I saw the short film The Violin twice too, a movie about music and art and loss – which also pertains to this album, of course…

So far in 1985 there’s been something of a tussle between those who represent, for want a better phrase, The Man, and those who are doing their best to fight The Man.  This stands outside of that struggle, the outer one, to look at the inner one, instead.  

I cannot help but think of the two; the young man and woman.  They are a pair to be sure, but how much of one?  And they’ve had a fight.  Perhaps he has gone off to the pub or a friend’s house, leaving her alone; or perhaps he has stayed downstairs while she has gone upstairs.  They aren’t, in any way, together.  Wherever she is, she puts this album on, and becomes the woman singing…the first of many exchanges takes place.
Do you want to feel, says the first words – well, do you?  This whole album is asking you the listener if you want to feel, if you are capable of reaching out, of being reached.  If you say yes, then you have to stay on the entire time, like boarding a train – no stops missed, not until the end.

Side One

The work of knowing another.  It is perpetual.  It is an ever present urge, but also the scariest thing; and despite her saying so, it does hurt.  I’m sitting up here and it hurts, he’s down there or gone to the pub to sing and drink and sing some more, working things out out out with everyone but me.  Over that hill, down the road, it would be so easy for me to just go with him.   But that is his escape from me.  Where would he go after that?

That drone of nothingness.  Out of nothing comes…something.  And it is a beat, a rolling one, not fast not slow.  It catches the breath.  It goes back and forth.  Yes I want to make that deal, but he has to be with me here…I have to be with him there…we have to, for one moment, become each other.  He’s hurt me and he can’t see it, I’ve hurt him too, what better than to make a deal, the lightning will crack and suddenly he will see, understand, and I will too…

…the will to do it, though.  The sheer will of the thing is what is needed here, what is lacking.  We both have to be willing and able to do it, to meet at the certain spot.  She thinks back to Hilly Fields, how time caught up, how maybe that was a deal with God too.  Maybe the labor of the thing is enough.  The letting go of one thing has to happen in order for something else to occur.  But the drone persists at the end, the problems remain.  How can he feel what I feel;  how can I feel what he feels.   It has to happen, maybe it can happen, but so much stands in the way, not just the geography or his not being there.  Does he know what this absence feels like? 

I will make him know what it feels like.

First, I’m scared.  Scared and exhilarated.  I cannot decide what to do as it is dark and he could be everywhere, anywhere.  He is looking, he is perhaps just lounging somewhere, lurking, waiting for me to appear.  Blood is pounding in my ears.  Is this what I want?  Who likes to be chaste; who likes to be chased.  I want to run and do not know where to go.

Through the trees; that tree I dreamt of, the cherry tree in blossom, glowing in the night.  It was behind a wall but he could still reach out and touch it, in the night.  The pink glowing blossoms in the darkness.  Only how could I reach them?  I was dreaming and I was…him?

Oh I was him.  This is happening already, with or without my permission.  He reaches out for me, and I can feel it, only can he feel me being tugged back and forth, desperate to get away for even a minute, throw him off my trail?  

It’s all I can think of for now, to jump in the water.  An end to running, from those arms, an end to running and hiding and hoping and not hoping.

Outside now, the clouds still visible, she walks.  Water’s not close, but not that far away, either.  Just to sit and look at it lapping would be good, away from the house, the town, from having to do this and having to do that.

The bigness of the world, compared to the smallness of my life.  He wants to be away from me now, but I can be more away, more merged with the world, than he could ever imagine.


Oh to hop on that jet, wherever it is going, he thinks.  It must be going somewhere more exotic.  He looks his watch and assumes she’s had dinner (she hasn’t).  He assumes she is reading or sketching or just watching tv (she isn’t).  He assumes she’s at home…

What does s/he know of me?

He continues to drink and sing but there is something in him that starts to turn against it, knowing it is wrong.  He does his best to stop it up, to act as if it’s just passing, like clouds – appearing, shifting, disappearing. 
She keeps looking at the sky as she goes down to the water, a perfect harmony, free, understood by nature if not by him.

A dog’s tracks; blood – suddenly it’s very quiet, away from the town.  She remembers that this was where that murder happened, that the murderer hasn’t been caught, though that was a long time ago.  Breathing mechanically, forcing herself to keep going.  The crash of something distant, a car?  Someone dropping a glass in their house?  It is still, too still, the trees barely rustle, but there’s pressure mounting somehow, in the air, out of the earth itself.  In the growing darkness she trips and nearly falls, crying out; no one can hear her.  She continues, roughed up a little, missing him, perhaps, now.

(And no, it’s not for her to just go home, go back home, not now, it’s too late, and she is a heroic figure, there in the darkness.)

She has reached the water, the edge. 

He has left the pub, a little inebriated but still together.  The air is misty, closing in.  He enjoys rain, light rain, though, so it doesn’t bother him, looking up the clouds are now a dense mass, indistinguishable, but companionable nevertheless.  His father taught him to read clouds, to be scientific about them, and he tries to read other things too, like her, scanning her face/voice/body for clues.  When there are no words, as there were no words earlier.  The wind picks up and swirls.  Hot enough to be steam?  Nearly.  It is hotter than he’d like, tropical almost.  The word is humidity, son.  In this weather people are prone to wander, to set their mind free, to do foolish things.  

He goes home, hoping the weather will pass, looking up and knowing it won’t.  That cherry blossom tree he remembers, passing by it on the way home; walking to a party by it, brushing it slightly, with her, the air again soft and sweet…oh it glowed in the dark, lit by a streetlamp, but really pulsing with its own radiance.  Of course it reminds him of her. 

Side Two

She is down by the edge, resting, remembering, remembering her own father and the sunsets and the sea.  In the dark she is tired, getting more and more tired.  Into the water, wearing a lifejacket, intent on being safe.  Just a little wading in, a little place to float and rest…the light reflects my face, “all by myself I am coming and going, flush upon flush.”  It is still hot and I am hot and tired, the waves are rocking her to sleep…this is that unity with all things that I want, to lose myself…

….the tide goes out...

He walks slowly to the house – no need to make the inevitable happen sooner.  Slowly walks, hearing something of a rumble in the distance.  Two forces clashing, on the beach, old poem walks through his head, randomly.  Clash by night, hm, why didn’t they call an album that.  The key, the lock; no the right key, not that one.  Rumble rumble.  Lets himself in quietly…”Hello, it’s me, just me!” he says, to nothing.

Water wet water is wet where is the strand the shore where is it?  I just wanted to be turned and buffed and bathed and in a minute pushed out, pushed and pulled out, drag drag drag. Salty air and skin and water, me floating only just, water’s not as warm as before, though warm enough.  Turn and see shore somewhat, more than I’d like, something winking at me in the darkness.  Lighthouse?

Is this the deal, I mean is this where the deal happens, the exchange, he’s not here he’s elsewhere and yeah maybe he should be here, waves lapping his body, head up to sky that is dark and dumping more water, close my eyes but keep breathing, shoes off or on can’t tell, going backwards and becoming a fish. So tired, so so tired.

Walks up and down stairs into basement calling and calling, looking for clues, signs, anything, a note, belongings, finding nothing, he goes blank and knows she’s not there.  Where? Where?  Obviously not here elsewhere, tames self, no, no anger, it’s not going to help, the rupture’s been coming now for how long, all because I’m scared, scared of what, of something collapsing under its own weight.  She’s not here.  Where is she?  Give in to anger and run out, out to the woods, maybe she’s in the woods in the spot where she likes to think and has fallen afoul of something, maybe she’s lost.  Phones friends family first no one knows.  Already in woods line breaking up, phone buzzes knows it’s not her wishes it was.  Help me baby listen to me talk to them listen to me talk to them baby.  Not too wet yet in the woods, follows trail, footprints, paths.   Finds the right one, only to trip…

Oh how dumb is this how stupid am I and where is he he said he’d be with me everywhere that means here too, oh drama queen now are we, he’s probably still in the pub singing some old old song and charming everyone there and then coming home, half-drunk and apologetic and what good is that.  This is my end of the deal.  Acres of nothingness.  Floating in the dark staying awake helicopter flying over, not seeing me, yet.  I got myself into this, I’ll get myself out of it. Go on and accuse me, go on, big talker, what is this, I can’t get back, I thought I could and I can’t.  

 Push push push. Bless me father, bless me, red roses pinks posies back back how little am I here I'm nothing, oh I am nothing...

She’s some bitch for not giving me a warning, dirt in hair and on cheek, up again, trying to avoid mud.  Yes things were bad but not this bad, ugh tamp down anger, I can’t I can’t I have to.  Oh young lion where is all that nobility now, that ability to deal with anything sang fucking froid, you’re a bundle of nerves is all, no good for yourself or anyone else, for that matter.  Coward.  Run run run. Down to the beach, the stones and pebbles, as if you could see anything or help.  Go on, cowardly custard.

Guilty, guilty, guilty! 

He picked up a stone and threw it out of frustration.

I can do anything here, anything, it no longer matters.  I now no longer am part of anything besides the night and water.  Who knows what he is doing, where he is, I am so small, tiny, the water is so big, buoying me up, just another twig or branch or leaf bobbing along.  Rain ends; the fine rain ends. 

He knows she is out there; he knows her that well enough.  How many times have they just stood there, looking out to the water, then trudged back home, quiet, fulfilled?  And she likes to float; just get in a little boat and float along, docking here or there.  No, he tells himself, she’s not afraid of the water.  He stops and shudders; he now has to think like her, or enough like her, or...or...no, no, that can't happen...no....

I’m nobody! Are you nobody too?

Waves are now picking up, some helicopter is looking around, looking.  He waves at it, then finally thinks to call the coast guard, to scramble on back up to safety, as the winds are making it hard for him to walk….

So when is my life supposed to flash before me?  Nothing is coming up, what on earth, did I do nothing while here?  My future self, my mom my mom?, appears.  Look at your hands, your face, know that I am coming into being, you are going up, up, up in time to me, to yourself, who in turn look back at you, there in the water, just afloat, trying hard not to flip over and lose consciousness altogether.  Sober up girl, wake up, cold water slap --- 

The moments of life then come, as jewels on a necklace. 

The past is the past; it is now that counts, everything points to now.

Over here! a voice yells.  Over here! another yells.  Not him, nor him, but…father?

Of all times and places to sense his presence, that the water is not alien, that it is life itself and this is life too, cold and wet but life nevertheless.  The future is riding in on a wave; the future is the wind pushing me…back to shore?

The storm has ceased, or rather there is another one, there always is another one.  That too is the future. 
Meanwhile I am wet and it’s cold and no one is here, too tired too tired to even try to kick my feet, push myself.  The water took me out; the water will take me back in.  Not down, not down, no not down…

Cold wet hungry tired and for what, what.  Why did I go.  I mean he doesn’t even like the sound of his own voice but he goes out singing, drinking, but what if I don’t like the sound of myself?  Don’t answer that.  Rocks stones sand.  Dim light somewhere in the distance, birds something bright though, traveling fast.  He is a bird, flitting and tweeting about and what darkness have I seen, will he want to know?  I am receding from the universe, but not from him...is that love?
It is all because of that which I said to her, a word or two, then silence, leading to this.  That is all.  And if something bad happens what will they say, I will be in mourning forever.  I cannot no cannot give up, not even for a second, I know she is out there.  His eyes now wet, him shaking off the uncertainty like a dog shaking off water.  This is my fault, part my fault, I have to do what I can do.  That is all.

S/he can't get back to where they were.

In exhaustion she thinks she hears him, his voice, mournful, shadowy at first, with that drawl and descending and curl and rise, a voice full of love and apology, mixed with some sorrow and tenderness.  He did not mean to say what he said.  I am looking for you, before the next storm hits, who is this voice, though really, who who and as she falls asleep wonders if the deal has now happened, if he is as exhausted too, wherever he is…

He sees the little light. He runs, with one other, to her.  They loom and zoom up, vague to her at best.

Awake and here, not wet, here in bed my own bed? No but bed, breathing normally, seeing normally, thought I was half dead but no, light headed still not enough sleep but now awake not dreaming, him there too, smiling oh that smile, come here come here over here and he is here, Mum and Father too, everyone relieved.  Air calm and misty, fog rolled in the morning, light kept going though I was unconscious and taken here, I want to kiss everyone, too weak still, but I smile and they know, love love love.

Oh our smile.

The End?
"What a fool I was. Had I not been listening when he told me of his own relationship with the clouds?  'When I'm flying amongst them,' he had confided out at the airstrip, 'I feel like I'm at home.  Up there, I'm soaring with the birds - birds like the Wedge Tail Eagle - and they let me fly with them.  Up in the clouds, you can't help but have a belief in the creator.'"    "The Morning Glory" The Cloudspotter's Guide, Gavin Pretor-Pinney

With regards to David Peace, to Eimear McBride, to Henry Green, to Maggie Estep, to Bobby Womack, to Charlie Haden (if only he had worked with Kate, as did Youth, as did Eberhard Weber, as did John Williams even), with you too in your grief and woe, your relief and delight.  (And for you too Kate, for this one facet fraction of a version, my little light shining back, one modest reflection.)