Rest well, sir. The faith is kept.
Rest well, sir. The faith is kept.
And we’re back! It’s been some time since I’ve inflicted a 5 for Friday post on you all. Blame Real life ™ and the fact that editing has a tendency to crowd all other considerations out of my teensy, tiny little mind. What has also occupied my mind, at least that section devoted to music, while I’ve been editing is an old, old favourite band of mine. The Angels have been on high rotation, jacked up to 11, and making the walls bounce.
I’ve spoken elsewhere about my love for this band, particularly in response to the death of their iconic front man Bernard ‘Doc’ Neeson a few years back. While every bogan that surrounded me in my teenage years was obsessed with AC/DC, The Angels were my particular escape of choice. They were nastier, edgier. AC/DC celebrated drinking, sex, and a particular thick form of fuck-the-police-ishness that resonated with the junior thugs of Rockingham. The Angels were more pointed, more personal, political without the fine edge of rage (and also without the overweening smugness) or Midnight Oil, describers of street level culture and community rather than the nebulous drinking culture reflection of AC/DC. I once described the two bands in the terms of a bar fight: AC/DC was the loud, drunken thug throwing beer glasses and overturning tables; The Angels the guy who waited quietly at the bar until the combatants stumbled past, and then silently shivved them in the ribs with a flick knife.
And so we come to the final entry in the 10 Albums, 10 Days series. And I’m going to cap it with the beginning of a lifelong love.
I have two musical loves that prompt scratches of the head and bemused horror from the majority of those I encounter: I could have gone with Tom Lehrer’s magnificent An Evening Wasted With… here, but he only recorded three albums, and while I love him (much to Luscious’ chagrin, I can now perform an a capella version of Poisoning Pigoens in the Park with no less than three sons), my love for him is an ordinary one, without the element of weird that comes with loving the Bonzo the Dog Doo-Dah Band.
The Bonzos are something special… and something special.
When I was young, music happened in three-minute bursts. It involved someone complaining about their love life, or lack of it, or death of it, or all three, over a frenetic bashing of drums. Guitars, and possibly keyboards, accompanied, unless Big Pig were on the radio, in which case MOAR DRUMS! And it all happened in between the false chockablockofstockcockrock bletherings of the smug twats who somehow got jobs at the local FM radio station.
Then I watched The Exorcist.
As well as being the single scariest goddamn thing I have ever seen, it featured some, frankly, creepy-as-fuck music that I needed to hear again. And lo, I was told that it came from an album by a would-you-believe-he-was-only-nineteen-when-he-did-it genius, and lo, my local music shop had a copy.
And that’s when I began to understand that music could be about immersion. That lyrics were an addition, not a given. That you could close your eyes, plant your headphones onto your ears, and sink into a journey. I have never quite engaged with ‘classical’ music. But here was music made within my zeitgeist, with instruments and arrangements that were recognisably of my time, that took the tenets of older musical forms and translated them into a form that was at once familiar and challenging to my barely-formed musical sensibility.
Tubular Bells is still the album I play when I want to lie back in the bath, eyes closed, and simply float away. It’s still the tether I tie my consciousness to when I need to rise above everything and see which way the winds of my unconscious are blowing. It’s my first journey, and my most meaningful. I have developed a deep and abiding love of the concept album over the years: Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Jeff Wayne, and countless others loom large in my musical karass. But this is the album around which they all circle, the one that most fully encapsulates that sense of narrative that I love, because it supplies the tools and I write the narrative, and that is still, thirty-five years later, the purest and most exhilarating of drugs.
Honestly, everything you need to know about the impact this album had on me as a kid is summed up by that cover image.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know what a bogan reservation Rockingham was in the 1980s. Imagine being trapped in that environment. Imagine having the shit kicked out of you on a very regular basis by the knuckle-dragging bogan ditch-digger-to-be that surround you. Imagine not having the tools–physical or verbal– to mount any form of sustained defence, or escape. Imagine knowing, somewhere in your bones, that you simply don’t belong. Imagine not being able to pin down why you feel that way, not being able to define the artistic and creative stirrings that have yet to find voice but which will slowly and surely come to forge the path that you’ll take to claw your way out of that environment.
Then imagine this album dropping into your Christmas stocking. Imagine the first flickering of light in the back of your mind, the first moment of ‘ahhhhh!’.
Nothing sounded like Adam and the Ants. Nothing. And nothing looked like them, either. Oh, there were other new romantic bands, don’t get me wrong. But nobody with the commitment. Nobody with the elan. And just when everybody had grown used to the banderos/rancheros look and sound Adam had perfected over the preceding years, he disappeared. And returned 12 months later, looking like this.
My. Head. Exploded. So many things I could not verbalise, could barely define, sprung into focus. Later, I would encounter Bowie, and T-Rex. Madonna would rise through popular culture. I would come to love, and study, and understand film, and the way an actor can shed and inhabit skin after skin after skin. But this album– and, it should be pointed out that much of the music on it is not particularly good– was my first chameleonic moment. I caught a glimpse of something that has underpinned so much of my psychology, and certainly my art, ever since– you don’t have to be anywhere forever. You don’t have to be anyone forever.
The music has receded, but the lesson has remained, and for that– and the sense of eventual release it presaged– I will remain grateful.
It could be as simple as my favourite album from my favourite band. That would be enough. But there’s more to it than that.
Picked up on a whim in a Subiaco market CD shop in the early 90s, after hearing only one They Might Be Giants song, this is the album that spawned a nearly-thirty year love affair. I’d never heard anything so quirky, so individual, and so delightfully obtuse before. Here was a large slice of my humour, and my thought processes, set to music. After my first wife died, I went on a comfort spending spree: along with enough KFC to seriously damage my health, and an obsession for Terry Pratchett books that lasted the better part of three years and led to a fast, sharp, deepening of my nascent relationship with Luscious (a story for another time), I took my credit card and internet connection to the music store, filling out my collection from their first album right through to Mink Car in a matter of months.