A little exhausted on my return from End of the Road, here is a hasty blog to meet my deadline.
The stomach aches of joyful anticipation seem to become far fewer as you age. Is this a sign of cynicism, disappointment, experience or just the necessary control of emotions required for a workable adulthood? Have those thrills gone where the wait for a new song by a beloved artist, or a film by an icon from your obsessions, meant that time seemed to cease moving and, on occasion, rear backwards?
Reading a Hunter S Thompson interview, I was thrown back to my teenage obsession with him. This was nothing unusual, he was one of those rebel journalists that slotted nicely into the satchel of the NME reader of 1985.
I remembered the excitement of seeing a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for the first time. It was on a bookshelf in Cheltenham house, the Cheltenham streets were laden with Thompson wannabes in the 1980s, though most went off to managerial roles in John Lewis or running small chains of real ale microbreweries.
I saw that frantic and frightening cover art by Ralph Steadman, what could lie behind such passionately inked desert madness? I wasn’t allowed to borrow the book as it was owned by an apparently grumpy older brother. So I had to wait…and how long that wait seemed. I wrote the book in my head clumsily over and over again. I wish I could remember what I imagined it contained then, just so I could know how far short I fell. I can’t remember where I finally bought my first copy, some secondhand shop of picture discs, old record mirrors and Elvis ephemera I think. I read it hastily and frequently.
I imagined growing up to me a man in a brimmed hat with an insatiable desire for bourbon and blowing things up while writing barbed words of destruction about political swine. The daydream of debauchery was fortunately quashed by an average human constitution, unable to contain such booze rations and cowardly around explosions and guns.
Now this bundle of memory was open, I started rummaging around and recalling all those other things that had the dark-haired, knobbly kneed me desperate for ownership or experience. And how many of the fulfilled my dreams?
How many movies in Alan Frank’s Horror Films book lived up to the hope engendered by that one still? (and like Mark Gatiss, I have still failed to see The Frozen Dead)
Were any of the real Hammer movies as good as the cartoon strips from House of Hammer magazine (certainly not Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter).
I remember bouncing up and down like and insane yet unrhythmic Nijinsky when the title music of Blake’s 7 began. While 30 miles away the older kids pogoed to punk in a basement, I was reflecting their anarchist zeal in my moves to Dudley Simpson’s synth work.
Then there was the wait for issue one of Doctor Who Weekly. Once it was out, I blew all my pocket money and washed car hubcaps so I could buy two issues; one for reading, one for cutting out and blu tacking to my bedroom wall. My room looked like Patrick Troughton’s in The Omen, but with pages of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Sontarans rather than pages of The Bible.
Then there was Pink Flamingos. At maybe ten or eleven I saw that image of Divine, fresh from murdering Raymond and Connie Marbles in the woods, and wondered what freakshow this could be. I probably read the first putrid details of John Water’s carnival when I was 14 (courtesy of Danny Peary’s Cult Movies), but had to wait until I was 18 for a triple bill at the Scala in Kings Cross. I couldn’t conceive that anything so cheap would be projected on a cinema screen. Six years of waiting, and I was happily startled (maybe I misremember, I might have just been startled).
The launch of Channel 4 created a similar anticipation. They would be showing a Boris Karloff season, The Avengers, The Prisoner – treasures I had been imagining since they first cropped up in Starburst magazine. I would finally witness these ancient things of wonder. On top of that, they would be showing a new kind of comedy called The Comic Strip Presents…
Though my few C60s of The Goodies were made by me sitting next to the TV with a tape recorder, so they were not really tapes of The Goodies but recordings of an insane sqeal and giggle with vague whisperings of Tim Brooke Taylor, my audio tapes from the Comic Strip were made with some odd lead I could plug into the side of the telly, so not marred by sounds of my joy.
The unbearable suspense of waiting for Cronenberg’s The Fly, Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, anything with Alexei Sayle or pretty much anyone that Time Out classed alternative, albums by bands unmissed and forgotten, my first trip to Manchester, a city made mythical by The Smiths, The Buzzcocks and John Cooper Clarke, my first time going to a room above a pub to see this alternative comedy thing live, the horror of realising there was only three minutes of Not the Nine O Clock News left as Monday night went too fast.
When was I last so giddy? Was it news of new Hal Hartley film or a PJ Harvey gig?
On the outside, I still have some control when I see Tony Soprano drives to New Jersey, but inside, I think I might be jumping on my bed to Alabama 3.
Two tours starting in September, one with Josie Long and Grace Petrie, and one with me on my own banging on about Charles Darwin, Richard Feynman and Blobfish. Glasgow, Salisbury, Reading, Norwich and Newcastle all this week. Dates are here
And here is the Cosmic Genome app
So what made the youthful you overly excited?
Nice post. I have often wondered the same thing myself. I used to feverishly anticipate the next episode of Red Dwarf or upcoming issues of Overkill. Now I consume more but look forward to less. The last thing I really got pumped up for was Skyfall. But that feeling was rare.
I would like to recapture some of that anticipation and the feeling that what I was going to experience would somehow be important rather than just entertainment.
I love this. For me: buying The Velvet Underground and Nico having read about it but never heard anything from it. Sitting in an arthouse cinema in Melbourne for the very first time, waiting for Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train to start. Slightly different, but getting off a plane in America for the first time and hearing American accents everywhere. And yes, the thrills are far fewer now – a new Joanna Newsom record is still really, really exciting.
For me, the instant access to so much music online, films on Netflix, books on Kindle etc., has taken away anticipation that you describe so brilliantly re: Hunter S Thompson. Also I don’t get obsessions like I used to because when something piques my interest now, instead of getting a book from the library and become immersed and carried off on tangents, I read the Wikipedia entry or maybe three Wikipedia entries if I’m feeling thorough, so I spend 10 or 15 minutes in that world instead of… sometimes years!
Listen Grasshopper. The media is fiction. Hunter S Thompson is fiction.That’s why all these people loved him.
The real Hunter S Thompson was a gun toting, deeply misogynistic, serious and nasty mental case. He only stayed out of jail because his best buddy was the local sheriff. There was only one political story that mattered in the 1970s, COINTELPRO. Thompson was too busy chasing $$$$$ and the wrong man, Richard Nixon. He missed it. In a word, he was corporate.
The new Kitchens Of Distinction song did it for me recently, ‘Japan To Jupiter’ which is ALL about nostalgia for a more exciting life lived when younger.
As for me – at 8 I’d get overly excited on a Saturday morning waiting for the paperboy to deliver 2000AD. Then it was trying to sneakily watch Blakes 7 (after my bed time) from the top of the stairs. Then it was illicit thrill of watching The Young Ones despite only being 10. By 11 – the Tripods had exciting opening music (by Ken Freeman, who also wrote the Casualty theme) and graphics that promised much more than weeks of a slightly sinister but a bit bulbous big metal leg sitting in a duck pond. Then it was bands and gigs – starting with the late 80’s Midlands scene with Pop Will Eat Itself and moving to Manchester where excitement seemed to be everywhere. I can’t recall being giddy at all recently, but then I’m 40 now and maybe life dulls with excitment entropy. Maybe the thrill suckers from 2000AD were playing a longer game than any of us realised.
Is this actually why 40 something’s buy wing-suits and throw themsleves down mountains ?
ah yes, the sheer electricity coursing through my body, making me vibrate in anticipation of a new episode of Alan Partridge, or a new tune by Andy C, or a promise of a bag of joy…
I’ve totally developed a way of smothering those feelings to the point of non-existance now. At least I hope they’re being smothered, and it’s not that my brain is so jaded that it really doesn’t give a shit about anything and is slowly waiting to die…
No, it has to be the former, as I literally went bat-shit crazy waiting to be able to bring my kitten home from the pub where she was born. Ah little puss-chops, little bundle of fur and madness and love. I guess for the the next big buzz I’ll have to wait to see if I’m blessed with kids, then live vicariously through their grin inducing excitements. Please God don’t let them like pop music!!
Teenage enthusiasm in middle age men can be vomit inducing, seeing grown men getting excited about gadgets, or getting tickets for festivals, is tragic, what is it with modern men’s obsession with Youth culture, its time to leave these childish things, and let the kids have there go, as our parents did, I can’t imagine the horror of my dad wanting to go to Glastonbury with me, and I would never put my kids though that. And don’t get me started on utterly pathetic “men” playing arcade games
I also believe grown men should give up Twitter, mainly on health grounds, and the fact its sheeeeeee-it
Many of the same things as you mentioned plus I’d have to add 2000AD comic, ZX Spectrum games and Star Wars stuff. Funny that we also now share an interest in the writings of Dawkins, Dennett and co. I guess we must be very similar age 🙂