Tuesday 17 June 2014

EVENSONG NARCOLEPTIQUE. Le plus noble perspective .The Incredible String Band - Painting box

The finger cymbals  of the Incredible String Band jingle through these lines of mine; through my  sometimes  wet blanket  of a life they are woven and they sing and sparkle; a tiny joyous ping-a-ling of punctuation, a note of completion, affirming a sentence here, a paragraph there, a stitch in time;   they survive every please-rinse-and-return, every personal and cultural de-cluttering;  they are God's nifty percussion section, keeping His mellifluous, cosmic time. There is scarcely a post here which does not reverberate to these six or eight hours of music, listened-to, always fresh,  over a lifetime.

If I could sing only one song, this would be it. Had I a new child to dandle on my knee, this would be its happy, gurgling  tune.  If  I knew my time was nigh, yet I could squander a little of it on music, this would be what I sought. Strings of silver, words of love.

We  all collect so much stuff, so much treasure, we have so much, albeit framed by  the awareness that it will mostly die with us; all our fractured fragments of knowledge, all our tiny personal jewels of understanding, our myriad connections, junctioned through art and science and faith,  they do not survive us, the universe dies with me.  

 But in the meantime I have my treasures,  their fires breathed upon occasionally by my enconia - we all do it, that lemme tellya  about.... thing - their spark handed-on, to such few wise hands and heads as now abide in  the darknesses of Cruelty TeeVee, MediaMinster, HMP Britain and GlobaCorp's decreed Infotainment. Frightening, how the indivualised enslaving  engines of social media have all but banished the practise of listening together, each entombed in the highly personalised impersonality of his list of i-tunes, each his tastes monitored,  captive and collated to be used against him in the endless retail war, not so much a purchase, more a way of life; each whistling, as it were, in the dark.

 Way back in the nineteen-sixties and 'seventies the Incredible String Band were adored by  and influential upon everyone from the Beatles downwards and outwards; every inferior ragbag of plagiarising junkie strummers from the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin ripped them off blind, like the great ones do; fragments of their output formed the bedrock of others' lucrative careers;  when supergroups retired to a country cottage to get their shit together, man,  it was shorthand for hiding away and plundering the Incredible String Band canon.  More significant, though, than the kleptocratic embrace of Plant and Page, Jagger and Richards, Lennon and McCartney is  the fact that Mike Heron and Robin Williamson are admired and loved, treasured from before,  by multi-generations of  really nice, really proper, non-hysterical  people.  I have seen them, on the sole ISB reunion tour, been them, Stringies and Stringies' children grinning, yet,  at  the very first, alchemical  globalising of popular music, at riffs, reels and ragas; bardic, benevolent and beautiful, a mystical music hall of wondrous delights.

That people ignorant of this unique treasure nevertheless call themselves musicologists or cultural historians demonstrates their shitting-in-the-face-of-Truth,  their perjured critical view,  their own ascent of their own greasy pole, their self exaltation,  the gushing  We-Know-Besters, superstars themselves, PotatoHead Lawson,  Alan Groupie Yentob,  Kirsty Wark, may peace and blessings not be upon her shrivelled, warty, cackling head. 

The Incredible String Band, originally sharing manager/producer Joe Boyd with Richard Thompson's Fairport Convention, Pink Floyd, Nick Drake and a young Eric Clapton obviously didn't refine the skills necessary to please the mainstream music  critics.  Boyd, who had recorded Muddy Waters and overseen the Infamous Electrification of Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival, probably felt that merit was all that was required, didn't bung drugs and groupies at nitwit journalists, in exchange for exaggerated praise in Melody Maker or the New Musical Express, never got them a gig on Jimmy Savile's Top Of The Pops show,  they remained, anyway, a cult band,  a band, rather, with a cult following;  people like me.

That Bonny Scotland has not raised a statue to her most eclectically, comprehensively  gifted, most compassionate, spirited and erudite musical sons is, somehow, just as it should be;  it is what we would expect from an Establishment of crooked lawyers, bent bankers and thieving politicians, it's arse encrusted  with greedy, talentless kulturista warts.

  Jock, poor and  angry, malnourished and inebriate, cross-dressing, wife-beating, ginger tribesman, must not be agitated out of his misery by the wistful, the contrary, the uplifting, the magical  and  is told, instead,  that the howling, ranting,  atonal Everly Brothers from Hell, the Proclaimers, are what is good about his culture;  is told that folkmusicPLC's offensive armpit, Ms Eddie Reader, whining the dreary, melancholy doggerel of Robbie Burns, is their proud musical heritage;  that Sir Sean Connery, hailing them, Och Aye,  from the gold-plated, bonny, bonny  banks of Lake Geneva, is their national hero, when in fact, he is nobody's hero, not even his own, the hulking old bitch-slapping moron.

Why should I worry, then, why should I take on, so, about a lack of discourse on my wee blog, when accidental, unforced, natural  genius such as theirs is so  easily and widely disregarded? Well, it's not for unrequited  narcissism or vanity, for, as some have opined - mr tdg, mr vincent -  I would - I have - written all this and much else without a thought for others reading it;   mr mongoose would know what I mean when I say it levels my head and eases my mind;  that others enjoy it is by no means secondary but separate, running on a parallel line,  I have said often, here, that without the audience no performance happens, y'know that one, a tree falling in the forest, with no-one to hear, is its fall silent?  Whichever it is, the tree will have fallen;  whatever it is, as mr vincent says, this - these - will still be written, will lead me to pastures green, the quiet waters by.

And it's not that I'm ill, although I am.  Mr Skip James had a song, Sickbed Blues - heard the doctor, speakin' soft and low, said he might get better but he'll never be well no more..... It's like that, I'll get better, I won't get well.  But that's alright, when I was well, I was weller than most, even though even then I was ill. Now that I'm not well, even so, I am weller than most of the people who are not well and some of those who are. Sounds facetious, to say it's all just a state of mind but I think that up to a point it is. It's not illness or pain that bugs me.

No, what pisses me off, is, just for instance,  that  MediaMinster is such a well-struck coinage and yet so few use it. It's what happens here, in the frustrating absence of  le mot juste, one arrives, I couldn't keep on saying the busy two-way thoroughfare between parliament and the press, couldn't, should't continue pointing-out  that so many legislators were formerly or subsequently and in some  cases - as with Hizonner the Mayor of London  - simultaneously  Fleet Street or BBC hacks and the word arrived, MediaMinster.  It does what words are supposed to do -  it delivers meaning; it combines the supposed dutiful pious monasticism of  the minster - monasterium - with the whoredom of showbusiness - telly, radio, print journalism, film, Internet - combines them into  the Great Knocking Shop of Self Interest which they so clearly - and to such national vexation -  are.  MediaMinster, a temple of thieves, pimps, killers, extortionists, war-for-profitmongers, tarts, copraphiliacs, ladymen,  pornographers and child molesters. Why is the concept of - and the word for - MediaMinster not prominent in the Lexicon of Mistrust and Discontent? That's what bugs me.

If Mr Nigel Fruitcake, bless his starched brown shirt, hanging in the wardrobe, were to start talking about MediaMinster, tomorrow, it would be in general usage within a fortnight.  All the confused, angry bitter ones, all those already frustrated by age, by their own  cancerous miserliness, by the Otherness of others and affronted by the inescapable  criminal corruption of the whole fucking shebang - Old Queen Brenda and her scrounging Ruritanian beggars, cheats and bullies; the Lords,  the Commons, the beasting bishops, the noncing monsignors,  the lying 'papers, the predatory vileness of Cruelty TeeVee;  the greedy ennoblement of thieving banksters, Christ AlfuckingMighty,  you could go on all day,  the elite inhabit the biggest, costliest whorehouse in history.  But if all the Mr & Mrs Angrys  had a phrase which summed it all up, how so cool would that be? That's what bugs me; it's not lack of acclaim; it's not a lack of what I believe are called, by the New People, likes; it is a lack of rippling-outward influence which is troubling.

That is what has been on my mind, being a busy fool, pissing in the wind, wringing blood from a stone, blogging a dead horse.
Still, managed my whole life without influencing anything, probably too late to stop now.

But somewhere, in my mind, there is a painting box and I have every colour there, it's true......

This is with mrs narcolept in mind,  on her cemetery walks; ms lilith down on the wetlands, hostage to floods and the Grateful Dead;  for mr the noblest prospect, midnight-savouring every note of Mr Jackson Browne's big, booming piano - Jackson, too, is a Stringie; for my veteran comrade in motherfuckerism, mr dick, dudeing his way to Heaven; for mrs woman on a raft, tugging at Reality's mooring lines.  But no moreso for these than it is for all those who have here found something  of comfort and value. 
 The pleasure  is all mine. 
With thanks for all your kind thoughts.

The Incredible String Band, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, Electra Records, 1967


Anonymous said...

Not dead then, just resting. Welcome back, you are very necessary.

Woman on a Raft said...

Happy Birthday - that's a lovely song for it.

the noblest prospect said...

I've been extremely fortunate. I had a primary school teacher who introduced me to the Jacques Loussier Trio and an English teacher at high school with a jaggy beard and suit who played us this.

Be glad, for the song has no ending.

Thanks, Mr Smith.

Doug Shoulders said...

It’s your birthday?...Oh my…an oh well..congratulations..I ssume you’ve had many.

Would ISB even care? I started to read some shit written by a lez zeplin fluffer about their tour escapades…a litany of banalities about sex drugs and whatever..I couldn’t read it and never read anything of the like since.
The whole pop megastardom thing is so unappealing..

Probably nice to have the megabuck…but the mega-adoration you can keep. It used to be you sold your soul to the devil and he enabled your musical prowess to increase to levels to not attainable by mortals.
Now you sell your soul to reach levels of adoration…and income…that are on par with the devil himself.
Same with politicians and the like…There is no justice in this world if you look at the likes of Blair still walking around.

call me ishmael said...

I think that we overvex ourselves, mr shoulders, about the condign punishment of Tony Blair; I think he was born a dead man walking, his is a cadaver's grin, he has always reminded me of one of the avenging skeletons in Bosch's Triumph of the Dead, Imelda, praying and screeching, resembling a guilty necrophiliac.

In his weekend interview, marshalling, afresh, the other three horsemen, he wheezed and rattled like a corpse; I think he's aleady dead, always been dead, lacking only the relief ot a bullet in the head. His soldiers, people like David Aaronovitch and Polly Toynbee, plead that he concentrates too much on his Iraq legacy, should re-emphasise his reforms at home, y'know, the ones Gordon Snot affected, minimum wage and so on. They say that he was just mistaken, about Iraq, neither mad nor bad, but then they would for they too pray in MediaMinster.

That is fortunate, mr tnp and I, too, could compile a long list of people who have nudged me this way and that; a lifer in my office one day brought me in a cassette tape, you'll like this, Ishmael. It was Ry Cooder's Boomers Story; thirty years on I am still liking it and it has sent me through Cooder, Mansfield, Lindley, el Rayo X, Ali Farka Tourre, Jackson Browne and Christ knows what else; someone played me a couple of Beethoven symphonies in my late teens, opened a box which I have ransacked and wherein I now delve for Byrd and Pallestrina and Monteverdi, the surgical spirituality of early music. My older brother played me Davy Graham and Bert Jansch, John Rendourn, the Incredibles and thus I learned of Nick Drake and Roy Harper and Michael Chapman and Nic Jones and John Martyn and Richard Thompson, not to mention the Copper Family. John Peel, before he went punkmad, well, where would you start, Planxty, the Chieftains, Frank Zappa, John Fahey, Stefan Grossman, Leo Kottke, Dr John .....

I must write this down while I think of it - I was thinking about reversed metaphors and thanks to the enthusiasms and the generosity of a handful of individuals, all of my musical dominoes are standing up, each has raised the one behind it, all the way back to the beginning.

Oh, I know, as Mike Heron sang, that Music is so much less than what (we) are - but it is a salve, an encouragement and a celebration. And so far they have not quite managed to steal and sell it back to us. Some of us, anyway.

Anonymous said...

How about that, a child of mid-summer?
Happy Birthday, Mr Smith.

Writing - when it's any good - can feel like a kind of mediumship, which means overthinking its purpose often leads to one or other of Dismay's grey, sullen waiting-rooms.

Keep kicking down the doors.



call me ishmael said...

Thank you, mr verge. For my birthday comes the Lewis Lapham quarterly - satire elegant, waspish, pungent and erudite, as only those infernal New Englanders can manage. I have been reading a collection of his essays and they quite rightly make me feel as though I am daubing bits of mud on a cave wall, enough to make one lose one's voice altogether. Do you know him?

"a kind of mediumship, which means overthinking its purpose often leads to one or other of Dismay's grey, sullen waiting-rooms."

Fuck me, that's a mouthful. It is a favourite motif of my own, that, being in the ante-rooms of Death, trying to bust-out, backwards, back into the light. I dunno, I think over-thinking's probably better than its opposite. But I'd need to consider it for a while.

Anonymous said...

See what you mean about them being ripped off..

Oh, and Happy Birthday!

Is Stanislav coming 'round for a glass or 6?

call me ishmael said...

Thank you, mr rwg. He rarely visits, I'm afraid, my young friend, and when he does I can barely hear him.

Doug Shoulders said...

Mr Ish, the four horse blokes is an apt allegory and nicely put. Indeed he is cadaverish…they all are if you look..which I tend not to.
I hope that our masters’ allegiance to satan will be revealed as their ultimate folly and witnessed by all in club humanity…but I doubt it.
Something akin to Prometheus except with a red hot poker.. then every night grow a new arsehole. The queues to see that would go round the block a few times.
But who are we to judge the few who have brought so much suffering, to so many in so short a time in office.
I have discovered that I’m averse to using the C word in print. Strange that…Fuck me..
I do utter it in the house tho’ whenever I see any one of that shower on tv..

30 years later and I still listen to J Martyn from an album a mate lent me. Zappa is still strangely compelling. Dr John has the best version of Aint No Sunshine. That song has a guitar solo finale that heightens the lyric to new..well heights.
Gil Parris on guitar folks…please..the solo would bring a tear to a glass eye.

Anonymous said...

Lewis L - yes, I remember reading his "Money and Class in America" about 25 years ago, very sharp.

Sorry 'bout the mouthful - may have to change my name to Gab O'Rotund...


call me ishmael said...

If you look, via google, mr doug, for "stanislav on cunt" you might come away with a different point of view. As I recall, my young friend was particularly hurt by Geoof Hoon climing that, in the future, bereaved Iraqi mothers would thank him for having bombed their kids' playgrounds - something, incidentally, which the worthless, lazy bitches have still to do - and cunt seemed, unlike any description of his own actions, the only word which might offend the cunt. I dunno, I have no archive of that stuff but it was something like that. And in any event, it was only Victorian hypocrisy which banished a perectly serviceable Anglo-Saxon word. Fucking slave-driving, wife-beating, child-molesting cunts, those Victorians. I don't believe in WordCrime - nigger, cunt, whatever is currently de trop for stanislav's very reason, people who would simply never dream of saying cunt at the dinner table would quite happily roast alive a schoolful of infants.

I like lots of guitar solos but my favourite is, somewhat bizarrely - but then maybe not- that weeping, roaring, scorching one at the end of Goodbye to Love, by the Carpenters.

call me ishmael said...

I wasn't complaining, mr verge; I should have said that's a headful, a big thought.

The Lapham essays came from my late brother's library, like nearly everything therein it looked as though it had never been opened; reading the thirty or so volumes which I retrieved is a duty I have assumed; I chose felicitously, if haphazardly, with Lapham.

A mirage made in heaven said...

I'd be surprised if you were not already familiar with the works of Jackie Leven Mr. Ishmael. Gone, but not forgotten and often blasted out via my neighbour-bludgeoning studio monitors here in Brixton:


call me ishmael said...

I am always surprised, mr mirage, by how much there is that I have never heard of, even though, obviously, i can only ever have heard a franction of a fraction of a per cent of what there is to hear, read, see and so on and I am sorry to say I had not heard of the late mr leven. But I just listened to his rap on the Welsh fish and chip shop and he seemed like a nice man. I will listen to some of his music, thank you.