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?