David Green

David Green (Books) is the imprint under which I publish booklets of my own poems, when there are sufficient of them. Apart from that, the website has become what it is. I hope you find at least some of it worthwhile.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Baroque Ad Hoc

Baroque Ad Hoc, Lunchtime Live! Portsmouth Cathedral, Sept 28th.

Baroque Ad Hoc do it for the joy of playing as well as giving the pleasure of listening which are the two purposes of this kind of ensemble sonata and good for them.
Three recorders, one of them often John Kitcher's diligent and riveting bass - the interest is not always in the top line and we mustn't mistake it for a bassoon- and the cute hapsichord pictured, combine with great delight and, further to my recent points about 'impersonality', it matters little whether it's Vivaldi, Alessandro Scarlatti or arrangements of Handel opera by one of his contemporaries because their first piece was an anonymous Sonata in F Major. Which didn't detract from it one bit because even if some of like to think we can differentiate Bach, Handel and Vivaldi asnd assume it's Telemann if we don't think it's one of the first three, there is precious little biographical detail in these saloon entertainments and so it's difficult to see why it should concern us unduly.
I have a disc of Telemann recorder music and so am aware that an hour is enough but it's nice, light and nimble while it lasts, of course, and Gil and Portia exchanged themes, overlapped and interplayed to great effect with Gordon directing from his charming keyboard. They were ready with a deserved encore, fittingly maritime in the Cathedral of the Sea, some variations on Portsmouth.
It's been a fine couple of weeks away from working covering five lunchtime concerts from the Wigmore to Chichester and Portsmouith cathedrals. It's fair to say no item was more warmly received than Ad Hoc's jolly rejoinder.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

High Windows

It's a good job I took photographs of the high windows in Chichester Cathedral today to take this project of Pictures That Bring to Mind Famous Poems because I had those in Portsmouth in mind but now I might not be going to Portsmouth Cathedral on Thursday.
It simply wouldn't be the point to use a photo of the Arundel tomb to illustrate An Arundel Tomb, the poem that, although brilliant, one of Larkin's very best and just as clear and accessible as anything else he wrote, is apparently becoming a major stumbling block for Larkin scholars.
I'd love it, I'd absolutely love it, if anybody could explain how 'transformed' was an improvement on 'transfigured' on the telly last night. And where it came from. 
High Windows is one of those poems where the old devil uses a swear word, just to show he can, which might have been more shocking coming from an old fogey in the 1970's than it is coming out of the mouths of every so-called comedian on the telly nowadays so early in the evening that you haven't got the rest of your respectable family to get themselves to bed yet.
But it's not about that at all, the whole poem is about the,
      sun-comprehending glass

and one doesn't need to be religious to appreciate something beyond.
In fact, the non-religious who are capable of such straightforward transcendence might be one step ahead of the devout by not feeling the need to provide quite such an outrageous tapestry of explanation. Nevertheless, we are always in the debt of those who took the time and trouble to build cathedrals. They're lovely.


I'm not sure that the sun-comprehending floor in Chichester has been captured here quite as well as it was in Gloucester a little while ago.

Melbourne and Socrates in Chichester

Henry Melbourne, clarinet, and Ben Socrates, piano, Chicherster Cathedral, Sept 26th

The clarinet wouldn't be my favourite instrument, it's fair to say. Once we've had the Mozart and Stranger on the Shore, all that's left for it are the tootling emellishments in trad jazz. So it's a credit to Henry Melbourne that he made today's Chichester concert a worthwhile one with some music away from the mainstream of populat taste.
Poulenc, however, does rate quite highly among C20th composers, the lyricism and peace afforded by passages in the Sonata being a further reason to admire him. Written in 1962, athe year before his death, we were warned that it was full of grief and other such dark thoughts but it was lively enough in its acrobatics and high energy ending and it would need to be grrimmer than that to be too dark for me.
Two songs by Rachmanninov gave Henry the opportunity to bring out his bass clarinet and I'll retain my pose of clarinet philistinism by wondering why Adolphe felt the need to invent the saxophone when there was already such a thing as that. She is as beautiful as the day (in Ben's translation) was a somnolent beauty and the highlight of the set, Rachmanninov being a bit of a dab hand at the lush and gorgeous.
Herbert Howells, the Gloucestershire man, always reinforces m preconceived ideas of him as the A.E. Housman of music, redolent of lost soldierrs and loss of faith, or at least the struggle to retain faith.  His Clarinet Sonata might have benefitted from me not knowing who had written it. Ben put in some fine work as accompanist and I'd like the opportunity to see him in the main role as pianist one day, which I might get as he returns to Chichester from time to time.
Fine, convoluted expressions of anxiety, sorrow and fracturing probably do transmit the artist's state of mind, if I'm reading it correctly, but I'm on safer ground with the less idiosyncratic baroque.
But top marks to Henry and Ben for their adventurous programme. It would do us no good at all to listen to Brandenburg Concertos all day long.
I would have been back down to Portsmouth Cathedral on Thursday for some restorative baroque, and wish I was, but I saw the local poetry Master of Ceremonies on my way out of the cathedral who kindly invited me to present myself and poems in Havant for a poetry day event so perhaps I ought to be doing that. Kind of him to ask.      

Monday, 25 September 2017

Larkin's Photography

A nice programme this evening on Larkin's photography, Through the Lens of Larkin, BBC4, included many previously unseen photographs from the archive of 5000 pictures, many of which were in The Importance of Elsewhere published in 2015.

But, more riveting than even the photos was the reading of An Arundel Tomb at the end, a poem that continues to provide difficulties for Larkin scholars.

Time has transformed them into
Untruth,

it said.

I went to my several books with that poem in and all of them provided what I had expected, 'transfigured', which is not only better but also fits the eight-syllable line.
Being a programme about photographs rather than poems, though, it did not explain where this new reading has come from.
Or did they just get it wrong.

Publish and Be Damned

...or not.

That would be the question if it made much difference.

The Perfect Book is 20 poems now all set up in a document to send to the printers and I could hit the vaguely defined deadline of October 17th, four years since The Perfect Murder, if I wanted to.

Many of the poems were filed, and put here, in the knowledge that they might not be finished and could need further attention. I've been pleasantly surprised by how relatively easily I've convinced myself that I've improved them recently.
I've re-read The Perfect Murder, admittedly towards the end of long, hard nights of wine appreciation, and like it very much and so from time to time I go through The Perfect Book wondering if it's as much to my taste- I'm not going to say it's 'any good' - because ultimately it is only my taste that matters these days on my own poems. And maybe it is. Nothing stays in if it's not justified by something that seems worth having.
But two more poems I want to include aren't even written yet. The Flawed Book, in answer to the title poem, and Letters to the Editor. Poems that are hard come by are usually nowhere near as good as those that come as naturally as birds to a tree. They look 'worked', or they do to me, and so aren't as satisfactory.
So it looks like Plan A. Wait and wait, do a bigger booklet for once. Don't run to the printers just to see what a new book will look like. It might still be Oct 2019.

Meanwhile, I've been through the website, ticking off which poems have already been on here, to see which I can send out to a magazine, genuinely and honestly never aired anywhere before. It doesn't leave many. 

Poetry Workshop

....but seriously, though, you didn't think I was going to present a poetry workshop here, did you. I know that many enjoy and benefit from such sessions and good luck to them but it's a bit earnest for me.
Which is not to say there isn't worthwhile things to be said about poems. It's just that people do have this tendency to make up, or seek, guidelines about writing poems as if there were a cache of secrets to be discovered and then you'll do it better.
I don't believe there are. Each poem, as it has been said here before, succeeds or doesn't on its own terms and what applies to one poem might not apply to another. Thus rules, guidelines and advice are out. Just do it. It's about enjoyment, of any sort, that's all.
But in a yearr when I've been struggling for poems and collections for my shortlists of Best of the Year - which is my fault for not seeking them out-  I thought I'd stumbled upon a candidate when being passed a copy of Poetry Review. And whereas it is often a lot of modish cleverness and sometimes a bit precious, the issue contained an interview with Muldoon, poems by Arrmitage and Jane Yeh amongst others and reviews of books I had read, and others of interest, I was grateful for it. I immediately went to the poems by Jane Yeh who I've been impressed with before and if A Short History of Patience seemed okay but nothing special at first, I stuck with it and after several readings saw through my initial reservations and was ready to put it on my list. Until I realized that the magazine is c.2016. D'oh.

But, not to worry. It is still worth admiring some qualities in it that aren't tenets, models or the basis of any manifesto for future conduct but are the reasons why one might admire one poem above others and, yes, try to do something similar if one is not doing them already.
In a way, it is no more than a list of good lines, of metaphors for the situation. It doesn't move from a beginning to a conclusion particularly, like a 'history' might be expected to, but it doesn't have to and we can even enjoy a gentle irony in that.
The poem echoes the Old English Wulf and Eadwacer in its forlorn, undemonstrative pining for an absent lover although they seem to have gone for good of their own volition in Jane's poem whereas Wulf appears to be forcibly separated from Eadwacer.
It's quite possibly to get away with knowledge of only a handful of technical literary terms in a workshop and the fewer one tries to use the less chance you have of using them inappropriately or being found out so it's a good idea not to mention hyperbole, pathetic fallacy, zeugma or, especially, dying fall. But we might try to pass off  'objective correlative' with regards to A Short History of Patience in as far as it conjures the absence in a litany of sentences in terms of other things from,
The soft chiffon of the river as it turns
Out of view

to

     the evening's smoky eye draws near.

Both of which, like the others do, have an attractive music. And 'music' would be one item I'd have on an agenda for good poetry if agendas for good poetry were permissable but they aren't and it is quite possible, I dare say, to have a good poem that lacks obvious music.
It was,
                      without you it's cold
As a warthog's bare bottom

that first put me off a bit and where I thought I'd draw the line between quite good and brilliant. But re-reading is essential to give things a proper chance and it turned out to be me that was wrong in finding such words incongruous among the other, softer words. It signals a shift in the poem from morose self pity to a discomfort that becomes the spreading ennui of loss,
Ryegrass spreading thrrough the yard like an open secret.

That tells of malaise, a lack of maintenance as result of the disruption caused by the perceived end of the relationship and so maybe close reading eventually reveals that the poem has moved from one thought to another, very subtly.
It looks like a minor masterpiece to me which in many ways is preferable to the grandstand of a major masterpiece destined to become so well-known that nobody actually thinks about it any more.
Whether or not Jane Yeh's partner left her is of precious little interest if the object of our attention is the poem. We need not be convinced of its veracity by the fact that it is any good because a good writer will convince us of many things that aren't true. It is by now overdue that literary studies returned its focus to the words and not the author's biography which may or may not be any more of interest that than of your local greengrocer or plumber.
And, as such, I'd like to praise the poem's distance from its theme, the impersonal, objectified way it is a vehicle for the emotions it recreates for the reader rather than, in a Keatsian way, an expression of, and indulgence in, the emotions themselves. That might be a fine line but it's an important one.
We might love Keats- I certainly do- but it's for his odes rather than for being Keats. I'm much more interested in A Short History of Patience than I am in Jane Yeh who is, it says on the internet, ohlordjesussaveus, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Open University. But at least it shows she can do it and perhaps, if there must be workshops, it ought to be her that leads them.   
--
But, oh look, here she is,
https://soundcloud.com/poetrysociety

One could get used to being retired on afternoons like this, the radio playing a Mozart Piano concerto, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and Brahms 4 to the accompaniment of a bottle of Medoc.

Mending Wall

Several years ago now I took some pictures in Portsmouth's Kingston Cemetery, put one here with reference to Eliot's line, I had not thought death had undone so many, and undertook to continue with a series of such photographs that brought to mind famous poems.
It didn't come to anything until yesterday when I thought I'd apply a coat of wood preserver in the hopes of making the the garden fence last a while longer. It does at least look the better for it.
But while I was at it my neighbour came out and we exchanged a few cordial words which reminded me of Robert Frost,
Good fences make good neighbors.














Coming soon, some high windows. I have some in mind from where I'll be on Thursday.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Gary Desmond in Portsmouth

Lunchtime Live ! Gary Desmond, organ, Portsmouth Cathedral, Sept 21st.

The reason for taking time off in September is to avoid the height of summer and the possibility of a heatwave. But last year September ambushed me with an alarrming late hot spell so this year I delayed it to late September, when I really should be back at school, in the hope of side=stepping any repeat of that and to align with the choicest lunchtime concerts.
The sea was agitated as I took my late morning constitutional towards Old Portsmouth and rather more autumnal than the anticipated calm of summer in retreat before the onset of winter but it makes for lively company. And what better to welcome you to the cathedral than Gary Desmond, from Bath Abbey's, programme that begins with Buxtehude.
Three hundred and ten years since the maestro departed this life in favour of that Luheran heaven, he's still on the bill. The Praeludium in C (Bux WV 137) announces itself in grand gestures and tootles along in a jolly way in between. Thomas Arne's Gavotte was a more becoming jaunt, modest, sensible and attractive, and then Denis B├ędard's Variations on the Old One Hundreth began big before the imperious congregational was wrapped up in a variety of disguises.
Frank Bridge's Adagio in E gradually crept up on one, achieving impressive grandeur before drifting off, apparently sated. Percy Grainger's Handel on the Strand, arranged by Peter King, used a subdued dampening effect in what I assume was the left hand in a lollipop that was followed by the highlight, the beguiling, consolatory And the peace may be exchanged  by Dan Locklair which my rudimentary research tells me was played at the funeral of Ronald Reagan. I bet nobody thought they'd miss him as much as we do now.
Alexandre Guilmant's Choral et Fugue from Sonata no. 5 was suitably hymnal and opened out into an entirely expected rousing and elaborate finish to send the Lunchtime Live faithful back out fortified into what had become gorgeous, doleful, street-emptying drizzle so that I could undertake some shopping in Southsea in peace.
Such days make retirement seem very inviting indeed but one must be cautious of the fact that not every day will be like that.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Door

In the Dick Francis thriller Flying Finish, the hero goes through all the usual trials and tribulations at the hands of hoodlums and gangsters before miraculously arriving intact with his star horse at Cheltenham in March for the Champion Hurdle. It's a gripping race, it's all action until, jumping the last upsides, they charge up the hill and are just beaten on the line, undermining expectations of a happy ending. And, it says, That's racing.
Well, it's poetry, too. In the equally glamorous world of local poetry, it's all to play for in Portsmouth Poetry Society's annual competition. This year the prescibed theme was 'Door'. It took me a couple of weeks to come up with anything to write. I thought I really ought to take part, to be sociable, but didn't want to put in anything too sub-standard. Eventually, once the idea came, the poem followed easily. I thought it stood a chance, bearing in mind that one doesn't know what the judge will like and the standard of the opposition is good.
But my runner was tight, fit to race, accessible and did the things that poems are usually expected to do.The judge did a marvellous job, her comments detailed, showing that she'd given everything due consideration and also said that in a close decision, my poem had been placed second.
So, what can you do. Congratulations to everybody on some fine poems. And small consolation that I don't have responsibility for the cup for the next twelve months.



Door

Time was I’d look behind a door
To investigate what was there
On the off-chance of adventure.
Intrepid, then, I didn’t care.

Later if I saw one ajar
I’d glance through the inviting gap
And weigh up what the chances were
Of opportunity, or trap.

But now I’m glad to leave it closed
For fear of what there is to find.
My attitude’s metamorphosed.
I’m not prepared to gamble blind.
 

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Continuum at Chichester

Continuum, Chichester Cathedrral, Sept 19th

Continuum, in an ever-changing programme of groupings, offered two rarely heard composers alongside Bach, Handel and Corelli in a generous lunchtime helping of sonatas.
Michel Blavet (1700-1768) was a new name to me with his delicate, airy flute music and then Sebastian Comberti impressed on the cello, with a particularly smooth cantabile Adagio in his Op. 1, No.1, by Stephen Paxton (1734-1787) which was available on CD and had to be snapped up.
The group returned to a three-piece for Corelli's La Follia for recorder, cello and harpsichord, Elizabeth Walker nimble and dextrous in her fingering on the unforgiving instrument and finishing with a flourish.
Bach's erudite meanderings in the French Suite no.4 were delivered by Michael Overbury with its all-too-brief pizzicato section gorgeous on the instrument.
Morven Brown then joined to make a four-piece for Handel's Sonata in G minor with some fine interplay between two flutes for which a front row seat was a great advantage.
Continuum maintain the high standards of Chichester's lunchtime concerts which are always a pleasure and worth the trip and now I am grateful for three other Stephen Paxton works for cello to take further. One is happy to still be learning something new every day.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Fretwork at the Wigmore

Fretwork, The Art of Fugue, Wigmore Hall, Sept 18th.

It's the place we like as much as the music. It's me who decides what the best option is on the dates available and if the Art of Fugue is not the most inviting thing Bach ever wrote, at least it's Bach. One instinctively knows that the Wigmore Hall is right, there's almost nowhere else one would rather be and they don't let you in if you don't know your Pergolesi from your Buxtehude.
Fretwork founder, Richard Boothby, has completed The Art of Fugue which Bach left apparently unfinished, maybe as an exercise for others to finish, maybe in a post-modern way before the fact but it does now seem unlikely that he had just re-introduced the B-A-C-H theme and then died. Richard's study only sees fit to add no more than two minutes.
One knows what one's in for from the start with four parts introducing themselves one after the other with the main theme that is going to become very familar during the next hour. It is an exercise but an epic and labyrynthine one - reggae would call it a version excursion - the variations not mixing it up the way that Brahms on a theme of Handel or Beethoven's Diabelli do. It is academic stuff but benefits greatly from the five-part viol ensemble arrangement compared to the organ disc that I don't always see through to the end. Fretwork's tone is a pleasure in itself and seeing it played adds considerably to merely hearing it. Contrapunctus IX comes eventually to liven it up after the rich melancholy of eight mostly decorous and leisurely movements as if J.S. came back to it from arranging some Vivaldi- but, no, that is not a serious scholarly suggestion.
But it is an intricately woven canvas to explore like a maze Goldberg variations or the high point of such extended exercises, The Well-Tempered Klavier. And thank you kindly, the Wigmore and the BBC, for the bargain it is to sit in such a seat, over to the side but well upfront and right behind Ian Skelly (deputising for the indisposed Sara Mohr-Pietsch) as he addresses the choicest of radio audiences, where it would cost twice as much to sit in the evening to listen to, say, Andras Schiff.
rather then the more expansive
We aren't going to forget what B-A-C-H sounds like in a hurry but I doubt if any performance of it would make it more profound, and palatable, than Fretwork and, as Ian's notes said as I read them over his shoulder, he guaranteed that you won't have heard that music (that last couple of minutes) before. As such, Richard Boothby is to Bach what Mike Yarwood was to Denis Healey, saying things he never said but saying them just like he would have done if he had. Whether that was a more historic moment than an Electric Warrior t-shirt being worn in the Wigmore Hall is a point that might remain moot for some time. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Oh, Babe, What Would You Say

The trouble with so many modern composers is that they insist on being themselves.
A young Malcolm Sargent circa 1920.
Many of us would do well to remember that it's poetry/music/art that any potential audeience is interested in, not us and yet so many think they need to 'express themselves'. It has been encouraged in poetry for years now in the phrase 'finding one's voice'. As if yet another unique voice is going to be interesting.
The sameness of style among Elizabethan sonneteers did them no harm and it is, of course, a Romantic problem, more than 200 years old now, in which art became a vehicle for personal feelings. James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and, more lately, Thom Gunn were keen to be impersonal and one can but hope that their example, objectifying, standing outside of themselves, will reclaim more ground.
--
That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with innovation or idiosyncracy but it does often mean some respect for tradition. Many thanks to BBC 4, Sky Arts, Johnnie Walker and Dotun Adebayo for their Marc Bolan features this weekend. Absolutely rightly, Dotun's listeners on Up All Night made Get It On their choice, a casting vote giving the decision over 20th Century Boy. From Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and through Bob Dylan, Bolan knew his heritage and, in their turn, Oasis carried on purloining riffs.
There have been some moving moments over the last couple of days, the records still sounding astonishing whereas, as it has been pointed out, it's the music and tastes of some of those who descried his pop and glam that now sound dated.
--
Johnnie's first half hour of 70's records, with Roxy Music, Al Green, the Faces and Telegram Sam and Children of the Revolution reminded me what it's all about, amongst other things, rather than rating my well-being on two indices, those of the plus or minus balance on the horse racing year and my rating at Chess24.
Although still comfortably ahead on the racing, the plus is not what it was and I've slid abjectly from an unreal high of 1917 at chess and am now struggling to regain 1700.
But it really doesn't matter at all,
No, it really doesn't matter at all,
Life's a Gas.
 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Douglas Dunn - The Noise of a Fly

Douglas Dunn, The Noise of a Fly (Faber)

Dunn takes Donne as his text, a sermon in which he neglects God and his angels for the noise of a fly and sets the tone for some self-disparaging, eye for detail and honouring of literary forebears.
Sixteen years after his last collection of poems, Douglas Dunn is very recognizably the same poet and, if that much older, his cussedness and accompanying tenderness are undimmed.
Subsequent generations of poets have arrived but that's no reason for him to accommodate their poetry but he takes no offence at the young, only a sanguine complaint against himself. He is a second generation Movement poet, if something reluctant to concede that it ever had a first can have a second. He counts syllables diligently, mixes lyricism with irony, followed in Larkin's wake and is admirable in his observance of much of the 1950's aesthetic.
'Wondrous Strange' takes up the Donne idea of minutiae with,
Now it can almost be heard. But not quite
Almost. Still on the far side of nearly,

which echoes Larkin's 'almost instinct almost true'. And Thursday revisits Toads Revisited,
But I've a problem. It's called 'work ethic', so
I'll slog on with the daily, dreary toil.

Not that he thinks it's worthwhile. As 'the model of a modern academic', he's 'absoultely super at ennui'. If younger poets are prone, or even encouraged, to play up their talents, Dunn prefers to play down his own prodigious gift under a blanket of unforced modesty.
He is a fine visual poet with his 'runic birdprints tracked in frozen snow' and 'spring's predictable daffodils/Bugling yellow silences' and it is his garden that he takes most pleasure in these days, like Michael Longley celebrating home and place. But on later pages, his eyesight is a concern, having made a case for use of all the senses in poetry, in poems about Braille and a monocle.
In Self-Portraits he conflates those of Rembrandt into one of his own. It's a meditation on art and self and not the only poem in the book to read like a manifesto in places. But the longer poems have taken the energetic discursiveness of Dante's Drum-kit and started to ramble a little bit, as Auden is charged with doing in later life. Not in a dull way but not as sharply focussed as earlier poems were.
It was in Dunn that I first recognized the list, which now seems a way of avoiding convoluted syntax. A list of more than three items might offer a choice of things to rhyme on at line-endings if one juggles their order but after more than two or three instances it begins to look like a habit. It can suggest abundance or variety but if overdone it is less than fine poetry, as are a few of his prosaic phrases.
None of which detracts from the number of poems which belong among Dunn's finest. The Nothing-But seeks out the priceless truth from a choice of irritants,
To have kissed the lips of one who was dying
Is to have tasted silence, salt , and wilderness

and it is the 'wilderness' there, 'the desert where there is no lying' where he finds a transcendence equal to anything in his own poetry or that of his generation.
Moments such as that are more impressive coming from one who is so determinedly unimpressed, especially not impressed by himself, and worth more than a bookful of such thoughts from a poet forever striving for them. Dunn is unflinchingly honest and genuine and has no trace of bitterness, only the uplifting generosity of one who finds and celebrates wonder and beauty even if it seems sometimes against the odds. He has continued what seemed like an English tradition - from Hardy, through Edward Thomas, to Larkin - and done it in a devoutly, insistently Scottish way, never apparently too far from his dram and whisky is the rich, deeply-appreciated, characterful drink that his poetry has as its equivalent.        

   

Monday, 11 September 2017

Marc Bolan Anniversary

It would be remiss of me if I didn't bring your attention to two items on the BBC schedules this weekend. On Friday night, 9 p.m. BBC4, Marc Bolan:Cosmic Dancer and I understand Johnnie Walker's Radio 2 Sunday afternoon show is a Bolan special, too.
Forty years, can it really be forty years since the tragic accident that robbed us of Marc, in between the departues of lesser lights, Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby. There was a record player in the Prefect's Room at school that we could use in the intervals between making up abstruse reasons for putting sprogs in detention. Woe Betide any first or second former suspected of 'looking at me in a funny way'. But I took in Telegram Sam to play as my first tribute since it wasn't a set text in those days.
Legend that he already was by then, I doubt if anybody, not even he, thought at the time that his music would become quite so iconic and celebrated as it has become. Similarly with Cliff's campaign a few years ago to extend royalties to a 70 year limit from its previous 50 years, they must have thought this is fine, make hay while the sun shines but reaching the 50 years and the cash still rolling in, one can understand why Cliff didn't want it to stop.
We took it seriously enough at the time - pop music was a serious subject - but there was always the suspicion that Marc was messing about. He didn't care how he got famous, or what for, with his early modelling career and various projects on the outskirts of the underground, championed by John Peel. Whether it was Chuck Berry, Cliff or Bo(b Dy)lan he took as role models, it didn't matter as long as one day it would work and the early Tyrannosaurus Rex sat on the floor like Indian classical musicians. But, like Dylan, he was to put away the acoustic guitar and plug in the electric, to the horror of purists but it was the making of him. John Peel was thus lost along the way as an admirer, as Tony Visconti, the genius producer who made the T. Rex records sound as good as they do, was to be stood down in his turn. But that was because Marc had lost it by then and didn't know what was good for him.
If nowadays pop acts are marketed by sinister forces and targeted at particular demographic groups, T. Rex weren't just nice and safe and aimed at readers of Jackie. Simon Napier-Bell wasn't the Simon Cowell of his day, the difference being that most of his acts were any good. Cute, androgynous and glam he may have been but Marc knew his 50's rock'n'roll roots and quoted Chuck Berry, lifted Jeepster straight from Howlin Wolf and began 20th Century Boy with the most imperious of rock beginnings. Not particularly interested then in who was the best rock guitarist (Page, Beck, Clapton, etc.), and certainly not now, he is still my nomination for favourite electric guitar player even if I accept he might not have been the most technically proficient. And I'm delighted that in any discussion of the period with my contemporaries, the debate is never T. Rex or Slade - though hats off to Nod for all his fine work- but more acutely, which record represents the peak of T. Rex. Some say it is actually the Tyrannosaurus Rex period, but then there are adherents of most of the obvious Top 6, a feature overdue a revival here, which is the string of singles through 1971 and 72,
Ride A White Swan
Hot Love
Get It On
Jeepster
Telegram Sam
Metal Guru

They seem to pick themselves because you can't leave any of them out. I'm with Get It On, for its guitar sound, prime Bolan poetry and Rick's virtuoso piano part.
And so, more of an exercise for the cognoscenti, I think we need another 6.

20th Century Boy and Children of the Revolution continue that sequence but there are b sides, which Marc was always generous with, album tracks and early work, from which Baby Strange, Sunken Rags, Cosmic Dancer and Ballrooms of Mars suggest themselves but one of them's got to go before we really start thinking too hard because Lofty Skies needs to be in. In the interests of not picking the obvious singles, the bump and grind of our sainted generation, we Children of the Revolution, will have to be deferred to the third list. On which the majesterial, if episodic, Raw Ramp would be essential.
The measure of a songwriter is not one or two masterpieces or the fact that they didn't write masterpieces all the time but how deep is their list. And Marc's are worth a bit more for the panache of their delivery.

   


So, he would have 70 shortly, perhaps touring on a bill that he'd be top of with those who remain from The Sweet, Mud and Showaddywaddy but I'm sure he'd still be claining to be the godfather of whatever new pop crazes there are, if they still have them, from Lady Gaga to, I don't know, do they still have them. I doubt if X Factor would have picked him if he was a hopeful candidate now because, ironically, he had that so-called 'x factor' whereas they are looking for the entirely familar and unadventurous thing that's very much the same as what they always pick and completely lacks it.
We went to pay our respects, some years ago now, at the site of the fatal tree on Barnes Common. As you can see, I wasn't much less beatnik then than I am now.
But the least we can do is be grateful, those of us that did, to have lived through a time when it all seemed worthwhile.
 Keep a little Marc in your heart.



Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Poetry Winner

So, there it is in writing on my name badge from yesterday's official opening of the refurbished Lynx House, Poetry Winner.
Mounted on a cushion of burgundy, an accolade to show for all the 40-odd years it took to become an overnight sensation. Something to make my despairing parents proud of me.

I shouldn't mock. It's not the worst poem I've ever written and now, realizing that Nottingham and Gloucester are also ten-letter words, I've added in two prequels to make a poem that may or may not be called Autobiography. Although I have used that title before, I think it's as much of that dire and dreadful tale of underachievement as will ever be written and more, as it implies, than anybody will want to read.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Oh, Babe, What Would You Say

I'm pleased about it, of course, but I would have been more pleased about it a few more years ago when I still thought it meant anything, before it dawned on me that sport is just a circus and started to feel only pity for those who are 'passionate' about it.
Nottinghamshire, of who I am a nominal supporter, won the T20 on Saturday, to add it to the 50-over cup they've already won and the second division championship they've bossed all season. So that's all three of the competitions they were in. Great.
In both the semi-final and the final they dragged convincing wins from disadvantageous positions and it made for a roller-coaster day that ended happily. Well done, lads, give my regaards to Radford Road.
But I couldn't find on the Paddy Power website where to back them @ 7/4 to win it outright so I didn't, although I would have, and the horse I backed at Newton Abbot was clear and only had to jump the last when he made a calamity of a mistake, came to a standstill, Noel Fehily did well to stay on but it was too late. And that is all that sport is for nowadays, which might seem cynical but I'm not sure that Notts did it for me and so I'm no more than vaguely attached to their success by some vestige of emotion.

Whereas art is the opposite of that. I'm aware that Simon Rattle and Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee were handsomely rewarded for their efforts at the Proms and didn't have me specifically in mind as they performed Gurreleider and Raga Bihag respectively, and what they did was similarly dependent on displaying a high level of technical prowess. Although, yes, Rattle does just move his arms about in front of the band. But last night was the best night's telly we are going to get this year, two Proms I'd heard already but were much enhanced by seeing them having only previously heard them. There's more to music than what it sounds like.
Schoenberg's epic song cycle is the very height of late Romanticism, which doesn't sound like an advert for it but it might be more so if the others one thinks of as such - Mahler, who is let off with a mild rebuke, but Bruckner and Wagner who are guilty as charged - weren't the first to come to mind.
Immediately one is on Amazon looking at the options until one sees there's one of those 5-disc Warner Bros. sets at bargain price, Simon Rattle, the Second Viennese School. That'll do.
So, there's no need to explain to readers of this highbrow website who were the composers of the second Viennese School but you don't hear so much about the first. Oh, I see. That was Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and some say Schubert. It's no wonder you never hear about the First Viennese School, they don't need such billing. They were Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and some say Schubert. It's like the poetry of the 1950's, Philip Larkin and the Movement. Larkin doesn't need The Movement to make him sound significant, it's the others who wouldn't have been in a movement unless he'd been there to define it. But there was no movement. Nobody who was said to be in it either thought they were or wanted to be. Maybe John Wain did, I don't know.
But what is there to do about the timelessness of the Mukherjee performance. Indian classical music seems to have no need of movements or 'late romantics'. The artist remains the servant of the form, maybe it never felt the need to break out of the discipline and they don't seem to make the distinction between composer and musician that came about, probably, with Romanticism where personality emerged and subjugated art to its confessional needs.
The performance is there, then gone forever having conjured forever from somewhere and will be different next time. It's difficult to get used to in a Western tradition that values classic performances and authoritative texts and interpretations. That Prom would probably have been the Event of the Year had I been there but getting home from the Albert Hall after midnight isn't on, I've just about promised the Event of the Year to the Welsh Championship 12 Hour and although I gave it to Chic at Glastonbury not long ago in a not very good year for events, it's a very sad thing to give such an accolade to something you saw on the telly.