25 September 2007

He Was Born To Boogie

I couldn't let the month go by without paying tribute to the great bopping elf himself, Marc Bolan. Marc died 30 years ago this month when the car driven by his partner, Gloria Jones, hit a tree after they had been on the town for the night. He was a couple of weeks away from his 30th birthday. I often wonder what Marc would have gone on to achieve if this tragedy hadn't occured and it's odd to think of him as a 60 year old. How I wish he'd made it.

Marc was my first musical hero and has remained a hero through all other twists and turns in my musical tastes. I didn't notice him when T.Rex released 'Ride A White Swan' but once the follow-up single, 'Hot Love' hit the airwaves and stayed at number one for six weeks I fell in love with the music of this amazing man. I was ten years old and the world was just beginning to open up for me and the music of T.Rex would be the soundtrack of the next few years. I bought every single as soon as they were released, saving every penny of my pocket money and rushing into the centre of Bristol with my mate, Geoff Ford, so we could get our hands on the wax at the earliest possible moment. 'Get It On', 'Jeepster', 'Metal Guru', 'Telegram Sam', 'Children of the Revolution'....on and on and on. It's almost impossible to imagine now an artist having such an impact as Bolan and T.Rex did back then. Bolan invented Glam Rock. They were the new Beatles. It took a me while to get hold of an album because they were financially beyond my reach for a while but Geoff (who was a little more affluent than me) bought Electric Warrior and we played it on his little mono record player constantly. My own first T.Rex album was one of those budget MFP label things that actually featured the weirdo folk songs of Tyrannosaurus Rex plus 'Ride A White Swan'. I didn't care, it still sounded mad and wonderful! It wasn't until my 12th birthday that I actually got an up-to-date album, The Slider, which was also a gem.

To fast forward a little, by about 1974 we started to get into prog and heavy rock and Geoff decided he didn't care so much for Bolan anymore and I ended up with his original copy of Electric Warrior, which I still have today with the original poster inside and all. I'd never part with it. I wonder if Geoff regrets his haste now? So, we were digging Deep Purple, Sabbath and Yes but I was still secretly spinning 'Teenage Dream' and 'Truck On Tyke'. Slowly, Marc started to slip from the centre of the pop scene and even though I kept up with his singles I didn't buy any more albums after Tanx. I couldn't afford Zinc Alloy and The Hidden Riders of Tomorrow (Or A Cream Cage In August) AND Stormbringer! It was either/or in more ways than one.

Most of the pop press and the radio shows mainly ignored or scoffed at Marc by the mid-70's but in 1977, with punk rock taking over our lives (I went that-a-way too), he came back with a strong album, Dandy In The Underworld, and a tour with The Damned as support. Geoff and I couldn't resist the chance to see our old hero at Bristol's Colston Hall, so we got our tickets and I'm so glad we did. It was no longer the old T.Rex of Mickey Finn, Steve Curry and Bill Legend but Marc played a blinder even with his session muso pals. I believe this was in March of that year. A few months later, he was gone and we had lost a true star.

Over the years I have now collected all the albums on vinyl and CD (including the excellent pixie-folk with Steve Peregrine Took) and all the singles are stashed away safely in the attic and I'll not part with them. I still play the music of Marc Bolan and T.Rex regularly and I just want to thank him for all the pleasure he's given me and for starting a young lad off on a musical adventure that will never end. Wherever you are, Marc, thanks and keep on rockin'!

24 September 2007

Keeping The House Warm

Whilst The Purple Gooroo and Pixie are off on their hols I thought I'd pop by and make sure the place is up together, open the windows, use the toilet and steal the biscuits! I certainly want to say how much I sympathize with The Gooroo and all that he says in his post below. Mr. Gooroo... I'm not sure why you think these are demons of your own creation, though. Don't blame yourself for feeling unwell just put your energy into getting better again. It's true what you say about being unwell making you selfish. I've been there, brother. When I suffered my own mental torments I was a pain in the backside to live with (and still am, from time to time). It's important to make the most of the times when you feel better and convey to those around you how much you appreciate their loyalty and support but don't beat yourself up too much because that won't help either! You know that those who love you understand. I've found it helpful to keep my radar open for the first signs that I might be getting into one of my 'pits' and try to either act quickly enough to head it off by doing something therapeutic or, if I'm already too far gone, then remove myself from the company of others for a while so at least they don't get hurt by metaphorical flying glass. Of course, I'm not saying it works all the time or for all people. Life can be tough! I agree that medication helps too but it just gives you the platform to change things for the better from within. I'll admit I'm still chewing on the things after countless years but they have certainly helped and there's no shame in needing them, especially if it gives you the chance to start really 'changing your mind'. I know, in my own case, this has been a very slow process.

That was a long and rather rambling paragraph but I hope it was okay to say these things. One final point regarding the above, I'm seeing a counsellor at the moment (mainly due to non 'head' related stuff) but she has asked me to try and write down all my current thoughts and feelings about things I'm going through. It's odd but although I can ramble on about all sorts of nonsense I find it really very difficult to write about my own truest feelings. I've never been able to keep a diary, not because I wouldn't want anyone else to read it but because I know I'd find it hard to be honest with myself in words. I'm not sure what this means. I think seeing my own deepest, sometimes most fearful, thoughts actually on paper, in words, would make some things too real. I'm almost phobic about it, which is probably why I enjoyed art therapy so much because I could get my feelings down in symbols (usually utterly abstract); with honest words (and there is no point to dishonest wordsmithery) you have nowhere to hide. Anyway, I'm going to try but I think it'll be hard even though it could be very helpful.

I've also been spending a fair bit of time reading and listening to music but in my case it's been re-reading books and listening to OLD music, much of it from my ancient vinyl collection. Actually, I'll have to admit that all the reading has been about music as well! I read Woody Guthrie's Bound For Glory again, followed up with a fine book on the musical roots of Bob Dylan (yawn...I can hear you!) by Wilfred Mellers called A Darker Shade of Pale. His analysis of Dylan himself is a bit of a drag but the first half of the book concentrates on Dylan's folk and blues influences and is a good primer for anyone who wants to get into the old stuff but isn't sure where to start. We all know about Son House, Robert Johnson, Woody and all but for anyone who hasn't heard Dock Boggs or Roscoe Holcomb or Gaelic Psalm singing....get some now! Ah, music. The cure for so many ills. I recommend the warm, heart massaging bass that comes with most great reggae, particularly dub or the works of Jah Wobble or the Bronx based sisters ESG. In the words of the great Smith and Mighty, 'Bass Is Maternal'.

I'm glad to have been able to get around to making this brief contribution to our blog and I hope to be back again soon with something more concrete to say or maybe I'll just ramble on as usual! Hope Pixie and The Gooroo's holiday is wonderful and we all are blessed with good health and happiness soon. Peace.

14 September 2007

Escape From Chapel Perilous

2 Tishri - Year 5768

I apologise to you loyal readers (all three of you) for not posting much lately. I've been battling with the demons of my own creation, a classic case of what R.A.W. used to call Chapel Perilous. My visits only last a couple of months, thankfully, but they pack a wallop. I have been getting anxiety spells probably most of my life--but they only really made their presence known in 2001 (and no, they didn't have anything to do with the W.T.C. atrocity, as I was already in the midst of the Chapel when that happened, though that didn't help my state of mind at all, at all). It took me a few months and regular doctor visits to break out that time. I had to go on "the meds", which did help and I eventually stopped having panic attacks and insomnia. I thought I was finished with C.P...heh heh..little did I know....

I ended up on another tour two years later and again I got better and again thought I was "free" from it's doors..then again two years after that and this year I was confident I was going to break the cycle, but I wandered through the entrance yet again. I tried to go without the medication this time, but C.P. once again seemed too powerful and vast to attempt a quick exit. Ah well...so it goes. Last month was a blur of insomnia and strong emotion, but I'm feeling a bit better now.

The weird (and ironic) thing about the medication is that for the first week or two that I take it, it actually "spikes" the anxiety and I feel worse than before. That does seem to be a common side effect of an S.S.R.I. (that's a "selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor"--it's supposed to replace any depleted serotonin in the brain). It takes between 2 and 4 weeks to really start to work. I ended up being signed off of work for two weeks and was told to relax as much as possible. I mainly read quite a bit and went for walks in the fields nearby. I found that it helped, but it was still difficult during the days, due to restlessness. I read an ancient book of Mark Twain's short stories that I'd been meaning to get to for quite a while now. I also read Mike Oldfield's autobiography, Changeling, which, in a strange synchronicitous way--highlights Oldfield's own battle with anxiety throughout his life. Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye kept me occupied for a few days, as did James Joyce's A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, which I'd never read all the way through before. I'm reading David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (spoiler warning: the link is a review of the book) at the moment, which I borrowed from the local library. Another thing I was meaning to do was get a library card--and the time off afforded me the opportunity. I've since checked out Philip K. Dick's Confessions Of A Crap Artist and Luke Rhinehart's The Dice Man, which was the subject of a Maybe Logic Academy course. I'm looking forward to reading them.

I also delved into a lot of my classical CDs--as they've been neglected for some time now. I would play some Satie or Debussy to accompany my reading. I own a few classical guitar discs, so those were given a spin. Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis sets a mellow mood, as does Oregon's Music Of Another Present Era. I ordered the new Richard Hawley album, Lady's Bridge, from Amazon. It's quite good and fits in with all of the other stuff I chose. I bought the new Super Furry Animals CD, Hey Venus!, at the local Tesco, of all places--and while it's not exactly ambient, I gave it a couple of spins just to check it out. My initial thought is that it's good, but not extraordinary--just another S.F.A. album. I don't really like the cover art, either--I miss Pete Fowler's alien landscapes and weird creatures. Ah well, a new kinda-average S.F.A. album seems better than no new album to me.

I've returned to work since then and while it hasn't been completely smooth sailing--I've adjusted back into the daily grind better than I initially thought I would. I've also been getting a bit more sleep in the past couple of weeks, but I'm still battling with the anxiety, especially in the morning. Ah well, I feel like I'm closer to the exit of C.P. than I was a few weeks ago. Then the real work starts of trying to rid myself of the anxiety, or at the very least, learn to cope with it better.

R.A.W. mentions somewhere in the Maybe Logic DVD that one of the unfortunate things about having an illness is that it makes one very self-centred. I've been trying not to let that happen either (though it's very tough at times). Watching the news each night reminds me that I'm far more fortunate than many others on the planet today. I saw the announcements that both Luciano Pavarotti and Joe Zawinul have left the planet, in the same week. Sad. Along with the wars, floods, typhoons, earthquakes & other catastrophes that many are having to face each day--I feel fortunate, indeed.