Iggy & Me; Part 5

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5-

“The main effect of time on ideas is to normalise them, to knock the rough edges off them; but often the rough edges are the idea.”

-Brian Eno (on the Adam Buxton Podcast)

Iggy joined a band that played Kinks’ songs and the like at a place called the ‘Ponytail Club’ that was a teen club frequented by the kids of families like the Du Ponts of the huge chemical company notoriety and wealth. The band was called ‘The Iguanas’.

These ‘teen clubs’ have gone now. Before the 195os there was no such thing as teenagers. Then ‘teenager’ became an iron clad category of human development and social life developed outlets accordingly. In the sense of socialising I think that category no longer exists. We jump from child to adult in the partying sense in the way people used to jump from child to adult in the working sense and teenage discos are the almost exclusive territory of church groups today.

A lot of bands came through the Ponytail Club to play- greats of R ‘n’ B and Blues and often they had no drummer when they rolled up (makes you wonder what was happening to these poor drummers. First to be eaten when money runs short on the road perhaps?)

So young Jim sat in and played…

…And he learned.

Right from the beginning you can see that he was hungry for an education. This is where the old man he is now would be happy with the young man he was then and that is a nice thing to be able to say.

He took in how these outfits played but he took in more too. He took in how they acted, how they performed on and OFF stage, the way they occupied space and moved through the world, the way they dressed and the way they spoke, the way they held a drink or a cigarette, how to add style to the substance. The outward existence of Iggy Pop was taking shape there.

It was a fine education, but he worked hard. You can hear real fondness for this time of his life when he talks about it but in his own words-

“I had some fury too.”

He started writing then, he always felt he had something to say and the right to say it.

He got a DUI (that’s American for drink-driving) while working at the Ponytail, got the band fired and wrote his first lyrics-

“Why do you hate me, why to you hate me, why do you hate me like you do?
One day I’ll have the stuff; and I’ll come after you.”

This is the peapod; this is where all the elements that would make the life and career of Iggy Pop were starting to mix together and threatening to explode.

After The Iguanas Jim played with a band called ‘The Prime Movers’ for a while but it wasn’t for him. The music wasn’t for him and drumming or “looking at someone else’s ass” was increasing not for him.

He had the urge to perform. Iggy Pop was ready to be born.

If Jim’s childhood is one I imagine in the form of a painting (remember the family posing outside their trailer home in front of a field of waving corn), this late adolescence period feels to me like a series of short stories revolving around the mess of hormones, hopes, history and ambition that most of us have to push ourselves through like some pathetic, weak and blind mammal.

When I was in school in was pretty common to be in a band that had never actually played anything. Music was pretty much our whole culture so kids were constantly talking about forming bands and what they would play and what they would sound like and by extension who you might be. I didn’t matter if you had any musical talent, it didn’t matter if you could play, there was no other way to be in the world, no other acceptable way to express yourself. We were fish; music was water.

Naming these bands was a pleasure and a great philosophical responsibility. I wrote a poem about that and you can read it here-

https://thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/whats-in-a-name-a-poem/

That’s the way the Stooges came together. Four friends with nothing better to do in their late teens in the late sixties in an area that was alive with the energy of the counter culture deciding that they wanted to be in a band, that life was the one for them. They could work out the details, like who would play what instrument and who COULD play what instrument, later.

The early Stooges sounded very much like the early Einstürzende Neubauten. They were dropping microphones into oil drums and beating on them. They were making noise with the tools available and then trying to shape that noise into something more structured, more musical. Improvised jazz on industrial tools.

The Stooges worked through that stage before they started recording and being recorded so there is only word of mouth evidence for the noises they produced then as far as I know but they never lost that feeling of managing and simplifying energy and noise. Chaos must be created in order to shave it down and reveal something moving and powerful.

This time in the life of a person, artist or band may be essential.

 

 

 

Jamie Lynch is an Irishman living in England. He is the author of numerous short stories, poems, child’s stories and a novel entitled “Opinion Pieces”. He has been published online and in print. He also writes the lyrics for the band “The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show”, who play at the crossroads where David Cronenberg and Merle Haggard meet. He maintains a blog at www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com.

 

Twitter: @HovelPress

 

Read for free: “Bodies” https://thefictionpool.com/2017/01/15/bodies-by-jamie-lynch/; “The Night I got lost on the way home from China” http://www.litro.co.uk/2015/02/the-night-i-got-lost-on-the-way-home-from-china/; “The Pleasures of Reading Short Stories” http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/12/the-pleasures-of-reading-short-stories/

& any- and every- single thing on http://www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com

 

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/medicine-show-136232208

Debut album “Weeding out the Wicked” out now here-

https://www.facebook.com/commerce/products/1483099768368762/

And available for digital download worldwide from 19th May 2017.

 

Children’s Stories on Kindle: ”The True Story of how Plopinton got its name” https://www.amazon.co.uk/true-story-how-Plopington-name-ebook/dp/B00DY8S2XM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361666&sr=8-1&keywords=The+True+story+of+how+plopington+got+its+name

“Small tales of little creatures” https://www.amazon.co.uk/Small-tales-little-creatures-James-ebook/dp/B008NALXTG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361727&sr=8-1&keywords=Small+tales+of+little+creatures

“The Young Vibrate at a Different Frequency”: Mick Harvey, Serge Gainsbourg and going to gigs alone in your 40s. Or “Mick Harvey live at Under the Bridge London 25th March 2017.”

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“The Young Vibrate at a Different Frequency”:
Mick Harvey, Serge Gainsbourg and going to gigs alone in your 40s. Or “Mick Harvey live at Under the Bridge London 25th March 2017.”

“My loves that have passed on, are blown away like autumn leaves..” – The Pervert’s Song.

I have been feeling old. How? Why?

Let me count the ways and break it down by the numbers.

1- I am 45 years old and I feel the 5 more than the 40. 40 is a landmark, the extra 5 is just an indication that the ageing process never stops, the months and years just keep on adding up.

2- I love combat sports and the best and worst thing about combat sports is that they deal in brutal truth.

When you are trying as hard as you can to bring someone to the point where they must submit to avoid being choked unconscious or having a limb snapped and that person is trying just as hard to do the same to you, you cannot fool yourself about the outcome. You achieve your goal or you don’t.

That is a profound sort of truth. One aspect of that truth is the fact that being 20 is different from being 40. Being 20 is better. Say what you like, dress it up as you will- 20 is better.

After a training session recently I was chatting to a warrior and wise man (same person) about the difficulties of sparring with younger guys- the sharpness of their movement and the speed of their decision-making. It’s hard and frustrating to contend with that when you are also contending with a stiffening body and diminishing hormones of your own; when all you have on your side is some guile and a mysterious thing called ‘old man strength’ – a type of dogged isometric strength that is closely related to stiffness.

“The young vibrate at a different frequency.”

My friend and teacher remarked.

That says it. The young vibrate at a different frequency. Watch them, it’s obvious… and it’s annoying.

3- Lemmy died, Leonard Cohen died! This is not ok. This should not happen.

This is the reason I decided to go to gigs this year after years of listening to music mostly recorded (if it isn’t the band I write the lyrics for), staying comfortably at home with my own things around me, with none of the hassle and expense of getting to and from gigs and dealing with large groups of people. I decided to see and listen to the artists and musicians I love live and in person while both they and I still can.

That means dragging my home-loving ass up to London from my home in the middle-of-nowhere Dorset, staying in little hotels of varying quality and hygiene, spending too much money for food that isn’t worth it and dealing with the frightening realities of the Tube.

It’s a lot to ask of an old man who could be at home with his records and CDs and itunes and Spotify.

4- The damn, dreaded drip.

When I have absolutely definitely finished peeing and then about a dessert spoon more appears from nowhere and goes where it shouldn’t.

God I hate that. It makes me feel as if the death of my libido is approaching. I can hear it dripping in the darkest, most insecure places in my mind, like Poe’s ‘Tell Tale Heart’. It says I have a limited time left as a man. It says the juices; sexual and creative, don’t last forever. It says the day is coming when I will be no more than a burden to the pack.

5- Missing friends. You get to my age you’ve probably lost at least one friend and by that I mean they have died. But you will also have friends living all over the place. You will have real friends who you never get to see. People you care about spread across the country or the world through work and family commitments.

You realise that the time you get to spend with them is ticking away too.

I could maybe combine going to a gig or two with meeting a friend or two.

So, partly as an antidote to all this ageing I decided to do stuff. You know; say yes to things, compete in grappling competitions, go to gigs and see the people who make the music I love before they or I die. Also try to meet up with old friends.

That’s the background to the long trip to London to see Mick Harvey.

(I was planning to meet one of those old friends before the gig but circumstances took him away. That’s what life does when you’re a real grown-up adult, it makes demands that have to be met.

It’s also why you have to keep trying; making and taking opportunities.)
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A little background on Mr. Harvey: I first saw him in the picture on the back of the album “Tender Prey” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds that was released in 1988 I think. He was one of the original members of the Bad Seeds and indeed one of the original members of The Birthday Party and even The Boys Next Door, the two bands Nick Cave was previously in. He and Nick Cave have worked together since they were in school. I use Nick Cave as a reference point; as I possibly do too often in life, because he is more well known, more famous and it should, I hope, position Mick Harvey for readers.

He has worked with Crime and the City Solution, Einstürzende Neubauten, P J Harvey; more people than I can name.

In short, Mick Harvey has been played a crucial role in the production of many of the best and most influential ‘alt-rock’ music made in the last thirty years, working with bands across the borders of geography and language.

He is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, musician and song-writer.

Recently Mr. Harvey has produced four records (Pink Elephants; Intoxicated Man; Delirium Tremens and Intoxicated Women) of songs by the late French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.

So when I found out that he was playing a gig featuring the songs from those four albums at a venue called Under the Bridge in London I decided this was just the sort of thing I should be going to.

So, the 25th of March found me rocking up at Poole train station with my smallest backpack in tow.

I visited the public toilet and saw a syringe in one of the cubicles. That is something I have been seeing more and more of lately in the Bournemouth/ Poole area and there would seem to be a real increase in the number of people using heroin here.

The area around Poole rail station is filled with a number of large abandoned buildings which are clearly being used by homeless people and ‘chaotic drug users’ as squats and the whole place has a bit of a George A. Romero zombie feel about it. The situation doesn’t effect me like it did when I was young because I don’t have to live around it but I know the misery it causes and it makes me sad. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to run back to the Dorset woods and hide.

The train, of course, was diverted half way to Brighton and back again to cover for ‘planned engineering works’; a phrase only slightly less dreaded than ‘replacement bus service’

Still, I had a book to read, an audio book to listen to and my notebook to write in. The book is set in the ruins of Hamburg in 1947, the audio book, is largely set in the ruins of Ramadi in Syria and the book I am writing is about a child assassin so I was setting up the perfect state of mind for travelling to the great metropolis. Maybe I should have brought something sunnier.

A little background on London and me: London kicks my ass. It amuses London to do so. I never seem to get in and out of London without some minor trouble or disaster. I expect it now. I get off the train in Waterloo thinking ‘Ok London, what’s it to be this time?’ It’s a game we play, London and I, a game that London always wins.

This time London surprised me- everything went basically smoothly. The journey to Waterloo was long but steady; I got something to eat near the station that was nice and not too expensive (although I got grumpy about the fact that the price was printed on the menu with no ‘£’ and no pence, just numbers like 5. Five what? Five beans?); the tube form Embankment to West Brompton was not too crowded, easy to follow and the stations were pleasant- with flowers and everything.

I left the station anxious about finding my hotel. I was getting my A-Z out of my pocket and taking a deep breath as he walked though the door and… there was the hotel right in front of me.

It was a sixties, brutalist building looking a bit the worse for wear but then those buildings looked tired on the day after they were built so you shouldn’t judge.

It seemed to me to be a family run hotel. Things were done in a somewhat old-fashioned way. There are quite a few of these establishments around London, where things are a little more individual and idiosyncratic than your average Travelodge or Holiday Inn.

The good thing about these hotels is that I like to pretend to be in a 70s German New Wave film (whenever I can really) and they really lend themselves to that. The old-fashioned décor, the process of registering at the desk with passport details etc, the slightly scary lifts that are just about big enough for two and have that inner and outer door combination like a crocodile’s double eyelid.

I checked in and got to my little room, and it was a very little room but a clean one so that would do fine.

Ten minutes later I was on my way out again, on a scouting mission to make sure I could find the venue (and continuing to pretend I am a detective in a 1970s German movie, pounding the black and white streets of Hamburg or Berlin). I did fine going down North End Road but then went right where I should have gone left and ended up nearly at the King’s Road.

I took a deep breath, looked around, assessed the situation and make a decision. Turn back to the left and look for Stamford Bridge. Five minutes later I was in front of Chelsea’s football stadium. I asked a security guard, who was keen to ask me what I was doing wandering gormlessly about, where Under the Bridge might be.

“You mean that,” he said, not unkindly, pointing to large neon sign that said ‘Under the Bridge’.

“Yep,” I replied, “I’ll be back later.” ..and I departed mysteriously.

On the way back to the hotel I bought some pasta, a veggie samosa and two beers in an M & S foodhall and took them back to my hotel. Nothing if not classy me!

By six o’clock I was back out on the road and heading to a pub half way to the venue for some chips and a pint. I took my time and pushed off for the gig just after seven.

The venue is friendly. The door staff are really polite and genuinely pleasant to chat to. In fact they probably wished I was less friendly but I hadn’t spoken to anyone all day. Downstairs there are photo prints on the walls that you should take some time to look over if you are ever there. I was particularly taken by a series prints of Sadé (Ah, memories). And this one of The Buzzcocks.

I get myself a comforting pint of Guinness although I am starting to feel a bit tired and am wondering if I have already had too much to drink.

I sit myself down at a booth and have a good look around. The place is filling up.

It quickly becomes clear that none of us here is young, except for the support act who sings his own songs and works well with the crowd. His name is Josh Savage and I find it particularly endearing that he was selling raw honey as well as his own album after his set.

Here is a video for one of his singles. He told a good story about making it, I’ll let you hear it from him if you go see him some time-

Looking around there is no way to deny that we are an older crowd for sure. There are an awful lot of bad postures, even outright orthopaedic disasters limping around the venue. I don’t say that to be cruel. In my proper job I am a Physical Therapist and I have feelings of real concern looking about me. I feel like lining some people up and getting to work.

Time is ticking on am I’m on my second Guinness and beginning to feel like it’s getting to my bedtime. Then the band start to take the stage. There’s James Johnston from Gallon Drunk. Now I’m getting excited and waking up again. Mick Harvey comes on stage and the music gets going with that song about the ticket-puncher in the Paris Metro losing his mind and obsessively taking about holes until he starts to consider putting another little hole in his head with a rifle. That’s the territory we are inhabiting here.

Mick Harvey’s approach to performance is tactical. Much like Brian Eno he sings like a producer, like a scientist. His performance as a singer is not showy (nor are the performances of the two other singers on stage) He builds an emotionally affecting whole by layering all the sounds available to him, the voice (his own and others) being only one part of that.

Like the crowd he is also getting on in years and in between being impossibly cool he has some trouble with his specs.

Gainsbourgh himself, as a lyricist was clearly concerned about ageing and the death of desire. He was constantly engaged with questions of desire, often personal and pressing but a great deal of his songs take place at a distance from his own person also- either in the past or in the notional.

Through it all the lyrics reveal a character determined to keep living, to hang on to the core of life long past youth, long past good form and decorum, past the point where desire becomes disgust (and for Serge it always turns to disgust or absurdity) for its own sake. There is always this conflict, this attraction and repulsion: and ageing brings it closer and closer to you. Flavours get more complex even if palates don’t.

I think this was the first evening of a tour and the band loosens up and gets better and better as the set progresses through songs like “Bonnie and Clyde” and “New York USA”. By the encores the band is blazing, sounding like a combination of The Velvet Underground and The Dirty Three.

After the gig I walk back to my hotel in the cool air enjoying a feeling I haven’t had it along time; surfing the wave of energy that you take from watching a fine band live. It’s hard work getting through the extras, the ‘everything around’ art, travel and living as we get older but that doesn’t kill the passion and the love of what is really important in art and life.

So the (slightly clichéd) advantages of age are there: experience, sophistication, best of all wit (Harvey and Gainsbourg have a genuinely pleasing grown-up wit about them); but there’s more than that, there’s old man strength, that dogged ability to hold on.

And maybe us older folks vibrate at a deeper frequency…

..No? Well, it was worth a try.

——————————————————————————————-

Next morning things are quiet and London is at its best, just waking as if from the river bank up; from history as much as from Saturday night. Before I get the train for the long, diverted journey back to Poole I take a stroll down the Southbank and happen to spot a reason why I might just be making another trip soon…

 

 

 

Jamie Lynch is an Irishman living in England. He is the author of numerous short stories, poems, child’s stories and a novel entitled “Opinion Pieces”. He has been published online and in print. He also writes the lyrics for the band “The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show”, who play at the crossroads where David Cronenberg and Merle Haggard meet. He maintains a blog at www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com.

 

Twitter: @HovelPress

 

Read for free: “Bodies” https://thefictionpool.com/2017/01/15/bodies-by-jamie-lynch/; “The Night I got lost on the way home from China” http://www.litro.co.uk/2015/02/the-night-i-got-lost-on-the-way-home-from-china/; “The Pleasures of Reading Short Stories” http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/12/the-pleasures-of-reading-short-stories/

& any- and every- single thing on http://www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com

 

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/medicine-show-136232208

 

Children’s Stories on Kindle: ”The True Story of how Plopinton got its name” https://www.amazon.co.uk/true-story-how-Plopington-name-ebook/dp/B00DY8S2XM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361666&sr=8-1&keywords=The+True+story+of+how+plopington+got+its+name

“Small tales of little creatures” https://www.amazon.co.uk/Small-tales-little-creatures-James-ebook/dp/B008NALXTG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361727&sr=8-1&keywords=Small+tales+of+little+creatures

Iggy & Me; Part 4

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4-

‘I was born in a trailer camp, the days were cold and the night’s were damp.”- Iggy Pop

The boy who would become, on and off, Iggy Pop was born James Osterberg near Ann Arbour in Michigan. He was raised in a 500 square foot trailer home situated by a cornfield by a mother and father he describes as inspirationally decent, hardworking and kind.

This is the problem, for me, with biography- there is too much to it. Those first two sentences have so much in them, so much resonance and potential that they make my temples throb and my pulse race.

How am I to properly tease out and develop all the history and emotions implied by the picture they paint?

How am I to interweave all that with the bells it rings in my own psyche?

In fiction you can play around with the scenes you choose; the facts of an actual life are so demanding, the responsibility so great.

“There should be a painting,” that is my first thought. A painting would capture this so much better:

The Osterberg family outside their trailer home with the golden corn waving in the background. The father is study, steady of gaze but not aggressive. He has a neat, short haircut and neat clothes. The mother is smiling, her shoulder length hair is gently held back from her face with a single pin. She too is neat and combines a look of strength and gentleness.

A simple, clear painting. Perhaps with the perspective slightly flattened; nothing too dramatic, nothing that draws too much attention, but enough to give the viewer a slight ‘iconistic’ feeling. A certain sense of transparency that makes the viewer feel that they might see through the painting, for just a moment, and catch a glimpse of something transcendent.

And then my mind skips, as it does so often, like a vinyl record. I wonder why Americans are so keen on describing their homes in terms of square feet. Does it come from the abundance of space? Would it not be more likely to occur in countries where space it at a premium, like Japan? Is it some kind of shadow of the urge to occupy space expressed in the move west, the cowboy movies of my youthful Saturday mornings?

It puts me in mind of a story that the Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski tells in an interview from the book “Kieslowski on Kieslowski” published by Faber. He had made a film called “Three CoIours: Red”. It was the last in a series on the symbolism of the colours of the French flag.

The film was about to be released in the States and there was a problem. The problem was that in one scene a young female character, after the break up of a relationship goes and visits an older man. Apparently, American test audiences found this confusing. Who was this old guy? What was she doing there?

It was, of course, her father. The director didn’t feel there was any need to make that explicit but perhaps there was such a need.

On the plane on the way to the States to try to fix the problem he was sitting beside a European manufacturer of windows. This man also had business to do in America and a story to tell.

His firm had manufactured windows in Europe for generations. They were very proud of the quality of their work and they offered a lifetime guarantee to back that up. Not long ago they had started doing business in America. Business had not gone well at first. They were puzzled. Did they not offer the highest quality window at a fair price with a lifetime guarantee? What did these Americans want?

Then an American business colleague suggested that they should reduce the length of the guarantee to twenty-five years. It didn’t really make sense but it was worth a try. Anything was worth a try at this point. They did it; and sales of windows went up. They reduced the guarantee still further, to fifteen years, and sales went up still more.

Now they were doing a roaring trade and he was on his way to New York to organize the legal end of reducing the guarantee still further.

Form this, the businessman had taken a lesson about Americans; they did not enjoy the feeling that they would be in the same home for a lifetime. He thought they were motivated by the unconscious desire to be always moving to a bigger and better place- more square feet. He suggested that the director’s problem may be that the idea of one, fixed home might not be the most immediately available to the American psyche.

Who knows? At lot of ‘maybes’ and large generalizations there but I find it interesting. I would genuinely appreciate suggestions, especially from my American readers.

Young Jim Osterberg’s father was a veteran of WWII, educated on the GI bill and by the time Jim arrived in the world, a high School teacher.

The topic of fathers and sons hits home hard here. Mr. Osterberg was a man of intelligence, imagination and ambition who, like a lot of people for his generation, found that when he should have been fulfilling those ambitions he was off to fight the Nazis and when he got back it was time to settle down and be responsible.

I should say that no doubt the same thing and worse was probably true for mothers. It was true for that generation of Americans; it was equally through for my parents generation of Irish. I notice it was true for people like Nick Cave, whose father sounds very much like Iggy’s. It is probably a good bet that if someone is able to spend a decent amount of their time and energy on expressing their thoughts and feelings, exercising their artistic muscles, there was likely to be a generation before who sacrificed their opportunity to do the same thing so that they could work jobs and keep homes that nurtured within their children from a young age the feeling, the expectation that they had the chance and the right to try to do fulfilling work and even follow an artistic path if they choose. The people who open those doors make up many ‘great generations’.

Of course you still have to put the work in, and it helps if there is some support outside the family.

It seems that Jim Osterberg found that in the public school system in the Ann Arbour area which was an example of excellent progressive educational programming. He mixed there with the sons and daughters of ‘the great and the good’. The children of Robert McNamara attended his school for example. From a young age, Jim thought he should find a way, a decent way, to “syphon off some of that power and money”.

The Asheton brothers, Ron and Scott (a.k.a. Rock Action), who would become the guitarist and drummer in the Stooges, also attended Iggy’s high school. They were not the children of ‘the great and good’, they were what people called ‘Townies’ back then, which gets me to wondering how a word can carry with it such weight of condescension even when you have never lived in an environment where it was current.

The Ashetons would be dropped off by their mother at the back door, walk through the school and out the front door again. Presumably to go stand on a corner and smoke. My grandmother would have called them ‘corner boys’ or ‘guttersnipes’, I think.

But that’s not exactly how it started.

It started with Jim Osterberg learning to play the drums, or just starting to play the drums, he taught himself with endless hours of practice in his trailer home.

In fact his bedroom was too small to fit his drums into so he took over the living area. After about a year of that his parents ceded the large bedroom to him and moved their own sleeping quarters to his child’s bedroom. Parents again.

That’s it for this instalment. Next time we’ll see where all that noise in the trailer home so productively lead.

Jamie Lynch is an Irishman living in England. He is the author of numerous short stories, poems, child’s stories and a novel entitled “Opinion Pieces”. He has been published online and in print. He also writes the lyrics for the band “The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show”, who play at the crossroads where David Cronenberg and Merle Haggard meet. He maintains a blog at www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com.

 

Twitter: @HovelPress

 

Read for free: “Bodies” https://thefictionpool.com/2017/01/15/bodies-by-jamie-lynch/; “The Night I got lost on the way home from China” http://www.litro.co.uk/2015/02/the-night-i-got-lost-on-the-way-home-from-china/; “The Pleasures of Reading Short Stories” http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/12/the-pleasures-of-reading-short-stories/

& any- and every- single thing on http://www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com

 

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/medicine-show-136232208

And the debut album “Weeding out the Wicked” is released worldwide on April 28th 2017.

 

Children’s Stories on Kindle: ”The True Story of how Plopinton got its name” https://www.amazon.co.uk/true-story-how-Plopington-name-ebook/dp/B00DY8S2XM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361666&sr=8-1&keywords=The+True+story+of+how+plopington+got+its+name

“Small tales of little creatures” https://www.amazon.co.uk/Small-tales-little-creatures-James-ebook/dp/B008NALXTG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361727&sr=8-1&keywords=Small+tales+of+little+creatures

Iggy & Me; Part 3

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3

Like E M Forster said: “A novel needs and plot; oh God, a novel needs a plot.”
In that spirit it’s time I tried to lay some facts and background out here. Who is Iggy Pop, where does he come from, as Tricky wrote in some sleeve notes once about Kate Bush: “Is (s)he from this planet?”

I’ll do my best, with the help of some interviews, books and documentaries that are out there to tell the story of a life.

My sources are these-

1- A book called “I Need More.” Written by someone whose name I can’t recall. This is a strange book. There are ‘celebrity’ biographies that are serious and in-depth; there are ones that are short on text and long on pictures. This book is something of both. It seems to be out of print now but it was really quite good. There was a lot of information about Iggy and about the Stooges- well written, adult and informative stuff. Also, since the element of performance is so important in the Iggy story it was really great to have a lot of candid, publicity and concert photos collected in there also.

I have admitted that I have a very poor memory in many ways but I have a excellent memory in one particular way. This is best illustrated by my fascination with motorbikes when I was a child. There was a motorbike dealership in Phibsboro, quite near to my school and not too far from my house. When I was around ten years old I was obsessed with motorbikes. There was a programme on TV about motorbike scrambling, the one where they race against time on a cross country course, crossing logs and mud fields and ploughing up ridiculously steep hills. It was great. I was fascinated and dreamed all the time about riding a motorbike. Strangely, in my fantasies I always rode a medium sized bike in a very sensible manner. I never dreamt of speed or of being the next Barry Sheen, my desires were far tamer, but no less ardent for it.

The dealership used to allow me to wander around their shop looking at bikes and asking questions as if I was in the market, they were really very kind and would give me brochures to take home to further ponder.

At some point I got a book, illustrated with photos , teaching the reader how to ride a motorbike. I read it from cover to cover, over and over again. In truth I have probably read that book far more times than any other piece of literature in my life, and for me then it was a great work of imagination, even though it has been lost I know not where for at least thirty years now.

Years later, in another country, in what can sometimes feel like a different life, I bought my first small motorbike. I had ridden mopeds previously, having never learned to drive (there wasn’t really any need in the inner city and I never thought I’d life any where else I suppose) but this was an actual, real motorbike with gears and a clutch.

I bought and paid for it on a Saturday and then had a week to go get insurance and organize such practical things until I could pick it up and drive it away.

I had never had a lesson and never ridden a geared bike before. I had sense enough to understand that might present a small problem.

I sat in a quiet room, closed my eyes and in my mind picked up and opened that illustrated how-to manual from all those years ago.

It was all still there.

The clutch is the lever on the left hand, the back brake is the operated with your right foot. I recalled it perfectly page by page, picture by picture. I worked through it’s virtual pages slowly and carefully, practising everything over and over in my mind.

A week later I got the bike. Wheeled it to a side street. Put it in gear, drove up and down the street a few times to make sure I had this stuff right and then rode about fifteen mile home with not too many problems.

My long overdue point is this, I have a similar sort of recall when it comes to that book about Iggy. A great deal of that information is still very clear in my mind. I just have to be quiet and close my eyes for a while.

Still I cannot remember the names of either author 9the motorbike book or the Iggy book)- some kind of author envy I suspect and I apologize. These two books have been at least as influential for me as “Moby Dick”, “The Story of Mr. Sommer” or the Moonin novels, and I remember who wrote all of them.

One other literary input has to be mentioned. He went by the name of Lester Bangs. Still does in a way.

He was a writer who famously, now, really only ever produced record reviews and still managed to be one of the best writers of the last century. In truth that is a little bit of a case of printing the legend. He wrote a lot more than record reviews: novels, short stories, manifestos- they just didn’t get published that much. They should have been but they weren’t.

He’s the sort of fella we like to lionize in order to paper over the sad facts of a life cut short and seriously frustrated. But he was a fine writer and he wrote some serious words on Iggy and the Stooges. He also did this close to the time this was all happening whereas most Iggy appreciation has come a long time after the fact (guilty as charged).

The two pieces I have read and reread over time, and which are risky reading for me on this subject because they are so good they tend to colonize the landscape surrounding the subject, are entitled “Of Pop and Pies and Fun (A Program for Mass Liberation in the Form of a Stooges Review, or, Who’s the Fool) and Iggy Pop: Blowtorch in Bondage- both contained in the excellent collection “Psychotic reactions & carburettor dung” edited by Greil Marcus.

“ Of Pop and Pies and Fun…” is presented as a review of “Funhouse” the second Stooges album but is very much an anatomy of the band and of the times. Bangs perfectly understands the importance of the Stooges as being rooted in a great willingness to make fools of themselves in a sincere way in the age of the dominant and obsessive ‘supergroups’ but he gets it wrong with- “The Stooges are not for the ages- nothing created now is, but that are implicitly for today…”

In fact the Stooges more than lasted the test of time (as has Lester Bang’s own writing). Perhaps because they were not of their own time but so purely their own weird shelves their music has not been temporary but has remained with the permanence, if not the pretence, of, dare I say it ‘art’.

There will probably; moreover, never be a time when it will not be the case that we need liberating ‘from basically uncreative lifestyles in which people often lacking half the talent or personality or charisma of you or I are elevated to godlike positions’.

We’ll always need the Stooges to combat that disease.

Bangs also correctly identifies that Iggy himself was at heart a nice sensitive young guy reacting to an environment where everything from the music scene to social movements were beginning to look a little (or a lot) too damn sure of themselves and just plain corporate.

Things were getting somewhat self-satisfied in certain hip quarters and the antidote required someone willing to be dismissed and disrespected as ridiculous but for honest reasons.

Who might be the Stooges to the Apple and Google corps I wonder?

The Stooges helped to break down the wall that was building up between audiences and ‘superstar’ musicians and without them or something like them- no Sex Pistols mixing fluids with the crowd, no Nick Cave in The Birthday Party days kicking and punching folks at the front.

Iggy was always more inclined to take punishment than to dish it out but that’s just taste and personality, I suspect Nick ain’t quite as sweet as Iggy when it comes right down to bruises, but the action and the atmosphere and the environment is the same. I’ve seen both live in concert and it’s a similar energy.

It is extremely difficult to describe music, in that sense it is like anything which is its own best and final explanation such as sex and the pleasures of eating but Bangs pulls off a near perfect clause about the Stooges and the few other groups that have managed the same trick of sculpting beauty from noise- “Because properly conceived and handled noise is not noise at all, but music whose textures just happen to be a little thicker and more involved than usual,…” Boom, drop the mic.

Iggy Pop: blowtorch in Bondage comes from a later period- 1977 and the tour Iggy did with David Bowie after the album “The Idiot” was released. It’s a much, much shorter piece- no less insightful for it.

It’s disappointment with “The Idiot” (just past its 40th anniversary) is not one I share (I don’t believe that Iggy sounds like a dead man on that album, just a tired one, which may have been part of the point and, more basically- true) but it’s central theme, concern really, that being Iggy might turn out to be an impossible burden for Jim Osterberg is clear and urgent. I’ll refer to it again perhaps in an upcoming discussion of Iggy and Primatology.

2 (Secondary)Audio material.

I have a large type podcast habit. Really, it’s a problem. I’m waiting for the syndrome to be named. Heck, they may end up naming it for me. At present I have too real addictions, by which I mean obsessions that I sometimes worry about, and they are coffee and podcasts.

It doesn’t help that they go so well together too.

I have, at present, at least five different devices for brewing coffee and none of them are those crappy Nespresso machines or whatever. I have, at present, about 3,000 podcasts downloaded or waiting to be downloaded. There are just so many of them and they are so perfect. I can listen to them when I am out for a walk, when I’m riding my moped, when I am travelling back and forth to Dublin. They always seem to be just about the right length and they cover pretty much any subject and interest. They are also largely uncensored. They do not have to pander too much (usually) to corporate sponsors and they allow people who genuinely have put in the work to understand a subject to explain it at the appropriate length without being made to fit into a fixed half hour or hour slot or chopped into sections of a specific duration to accommodate advertisements with every section beginning with a reprís of all prior sections to comfort anyone who has turned the TV on with three quarters of the programme already over.

In short, podcasts allow for a level of rigour I very much appreciate.

I subscribe to lots of podcasts and download individual episodes of still more. One of the van guards of the podcast movement was WTF. An podcast produced by the American comedian Marc Maron. Mr. Maron is a big fan of musician’s so he has had a lot of fascinating cats on there. He has interviewed John Cale and Nick Cave and back in 2013 he had one Iggy Pop.

I think he interviewed Barrack Obama too which apparently was some sort of big deal but anyway. ..

The Iggy podcast, of course, has been useful to me in getting some of the biographical details of Iggy’s life a little straighter and the podcast with Cale also shed some useful light on my subject as he produced the first Stooges album He played the viola on at least one song on that album and I think was at least partly responsible for the inspired, what I have always taken to be, single note piano pounding on ‘I wanna be your dog”.

Another extremely important audio source of information, and a gift straight from the gods for the likes of me, is the fact that for a couple of years now Iggy has had a semi-regular radio show on BBC 6 Music for two hours on Friday evenings.

This show proves two things- the first, that Iggy has a record collection that puts even Alan’s to shame. The second is that there is a great need for an Iggy Autobiography. I suspect, but don’t know, that he would be resistant to a straight forward, chronologically bond autobiography but it could work brilliantly in the same sort of form as Nick Ray’s fragmentary “I was interrupted”.

I am convinced of this because Iggy, now in his seventies, is a wonderful storyteller.

Sure it helps that his voice has the deep, considered, friendly, sincere. mid-western tones of your very best fantasy American uncle but more importantly it is clear that Iggy never took himself so seriously that it got in the way of him noticing and really paying attention to, the people around him.

He has a clear and intense interest in other people. He has a respect for knowledge and experience and basically, he’s been watching and listening for a long time. It’s no surprise that in the Marc Maron interview he mentions that one of his two favourite courses during the short time he attended college was Social Anthropology, (the other being Asian studies.)

He tells a lot of these stories in a relaxed, unaffected manner on the radio show “Iggy Confidential” and it will put you in mind of the likes of James Agee and Walker Evans and any other fine and sincere collector of the stories of real American lives in recent history. I’m a big Iggy Pop fan, you get that by now, but try it, it’s that good.

Another important secondary audio source is the John Peel Lecture given by Iggy in 2014 with the title “Free Music in a Capitalist Society”. I’ll write about that at more length later in this series but for now I want to acknowledge the fact that it has helped provide me with material for these posts.

3 The primary sources. The most important of all. It’s a cliché but no less true for that (which in itself is another cliché; thus helping to prove that it is impossible to write without cliché because language implies a certain level of cliché. It may be the skilled use of cliché that counts. That…,or cut-up techniques) that the best explanation of a poem or a song is the damn poem or song itself.

What’s the meaning of that poem? Read the poem, maybe out loud- that’s the meaning. What’s that song about? Listen to the song, maybe quite loud- that’s what the song is about.

It’s ok, if it doesn’t mean that much to you. It’s also ok if a repetitive, droning, strange, sort of hard rock but not really song with equally simple, repetitive lyrics cracks your heart open like an egg and changes the course of your life.

We all like different things, we all react in our own ways. Or rather we all play out small but significant variations on basically similar themes in response to our slightly unique but often routine reactions to the soup of primate hormones, social interactions, experiences and ideas that make our lives and personalities special, but not that much; or the same, but not quite.

It’s like the cliché thing. Most of our lives are a series of clichés; bond by restrictions of biology, history, environment and economics, but not so that you can actually pin down the formula, not so much that the mystery doesn’t leak in and leave people like Iggy watching the world and trying to make sense of it all through words and noise, and people like me trying to make sense of it my writing about him.

…and one live concert….

After all that I think we are going to have to start the biographical content next week. I promise I’m not going to get Tristam Shandy on you. I’m not that clever.

Iggy & Me; Part two

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2-

 

Now, my sister’s boyfriend curated a record collection that was the envy of the likes of John Peel. Why am I being coy about his name? His name was Alan and he lived in Great Western Square.

 

A couple of years later I would end up hiding from the police (An Garda Siochana as they are officially known in Ireland. ‘The Guards’ as we actually call them) under a hedge in the very square that gives Great Western Square its name.

 

I had gone there with a couple of friends to hear some tiny scraps of music from the U2 concert that was happening a few miles away as the crow flies in Croke Park carried to us on the fresh Dublin breeze.

 

Some drinking had happened, back then I had the habit of buying a two litre of white lemonade and a ‘naggin’ of Pernod, half emptying the two litre and mixing myself a ‘twoey’ of Pernod and White.

 

It was classy. Classy I tell ya!

 

We didn’t hear much of U2, but we heard some; many years later when I was living across the road in Cabra Park I heard a lot more of a Billy Joel concert from the same source- annoyingly, and we didn’t in fairness make that much noise but the citizens of Great Western Square were a conservative bunch so someone it seems called the cops.

 

We huddled down there with the roots of the box hedge feeling scared and dangerous until the Guards went away and on with their evening. It was an exciting moment for me back then.

 

In my twenties I was working in Dublin Corporation and a co-worker and I were discussing how we loved country music. Old fashioned Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Crystal Gayle country not the peculiar Irish form of music called ‘Country and Western’ that was dominated by acts like Joanna and Tequila Sunrise or Big Tom and (I kid you not) the Mainliners. That name caused some misunderstanding in the U.S. I understood.

 

We discussed in the vague way I used to back then in my freckless youth the possibility and desirability of creating a Country Music club maybe upstairs in a pub somewhere. A room upstairs in a pub somewhere was the answer to a lot of questions back then. Later on I believe he actually did it. Put on a country night called “The Johnny Cash Appreciation Society” out of which if I understand it correctly a band called “The Great Western Squares” was born.

 

Whether that is true or not, they were a great band and I enjoy my completely underserved feeling of having been basically responsible for any and every good thing that they produced.

 

As was the style of the times Alan would make cassette tapes for my sister. He did it quite systematically. He would make a compilation tape with a playlist of maybe twenty or more artists and songs and then if she liked a particular song he would make a couple of tapes with the back catalogue of The Stars of Heaven or Dina Simone or whoever.

 

As a decent boyfriend he also knew it was important to me nice to the little brother. To that end he made it know to me that if I had the good sense to listen to these tapes and pick an artist or two I would like to learn more about, and he certainly saw it as a process of education, he would make a tape for me too.

 

I took him up on the offer enthusiastically. I took my time. I had a Walkman at the time so I could basically live inside that 120 minute cassette. I put the same sort of serious study into it that I put into my Inter Cert and in the end, went with my gut.

 

“Could you make me a tape of this band please?”

 

Tapping my finger nervously on the cassette case.

 

I was very intimidated by talking to sophisticated people in their late teens but I was nothing if not polite.

 

Polite and I was sure what I wanted.

 

His look was an equal mix of the quizzical and disappointed.

 

“You’re sure you want this?”

 

He pointed the worldly, confident finger of someone approaching the mature age of twenty.

 

I kept my nerve. Maybe I was wrong, but I held way ground.

 

“Yes, please.”

 

As I said; nothing if not polite.

 

I had asked for The Stooges.

 

He couldn’t quite understand. Sure The Stooges were cool and in a seminal sort of way, important; they were the kind of band you were supposed to like and respect whatever your true feelings might be, but why would you choose them when you could ask for bands like Pere Ubu, The Dream Syndicate, Martha and the Muffins, The Violent Femmes, Talking Heads, The Undertones, The Stars of Heaven, Patti Smith (“Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine…, my sins are my own, they belong to me, me, me.” Could you say that?), even Richard Hell and the Voidoids?

 

The reason was simple. I had been exposed to the virus contained in two songs. Yep, I had been exposed and had been infected. Yes I admit, William Burroughs and David Cronenberg were soon to follow.

 

The two songs were near the end of side two, almost an after thought. Was the end of the second song cut off by the end of the tape? That was always a way you could tell how much or how little a person valued a song. If you really loved a song you would never sentence it to the “I can get most of it in before the end of the side, that’ll do” position.

 

These songs, these vectors for a lifetime of fascination, were called ‘1969’ and ‘I wanna be your dog’. They were by the band The Stooges. The band no longer existed. The band had not existed for very long even when it did and unless you invested, as I would and still happily do, a few moments with a completely unreasonably inflated sense of importance, it had made very little impact on the world of music or the world in general.

 

On the other hand, as I was to learn and history would prove, The Stooges had released a slow acting venom that would last long and grow strong and have an influence far beyond what could reasonably have been expected when they broke up around the time I was born.

 

“You can have a bit more time to think about it.”

 

He didn’t actually say that but it was in the look on his face.

 

I could see his point, there was nothing particularly sophisticated about these songs. They had simple, repetitive riffs and simple, repetitive lyrics. It was just that those riffs and lyrics were basically perfect-

 

“It was 1969 0k

all across the USA

it was another year for me and you

another year with nothing to do”

 

and-

 

“Well last year I was 21

I didn’t have a lot of fun

Now I’m gonna be 22

I say ‘Oh my and a- boo hoo

Now I’m gonna be 22

Oh my and a- boo-hoo.”

 

1969 starts with Iggy, the singer, intoning the words “Well alright” with the a startling amount of negativity for such a positive coupling. His voice is old beyond its years, teasing the wise old lived-in, kindly uncle Iggy has developed into over the course of many years, but it is also clearly a teenage voice, whatever age he happened to be right then- who knows , he might have been as old as 20.

 

It’s a grinding, exhilarating hymn to the depths of boredom and disgust and the genuine creative energy that can spark. If you don’t try to be too clever, if you don’t try to play it too sophisticated…

 

… and the thing was I wasn’t particularly sophisticated myself.

 

I was a small, confused, angry, ugly, unsure, uncoordinated, unbalanced, often unhappy, tiny boat tossed around on a storming sea of hormones and just generally being lost in a massive web of emotions and ideas.

 

This band got that and they were not trying to be clever or impressive about it. I was always trying to be clever and impressive and I thought less of myself for it because it was just such an obvious, large and pathetic lie. These guys were not afraid to be the fools they were. Hell, they called themselves the Stooges, it was clear they were more about the work and not at all about looking big and clever.

 

I knew nothing abut the Stooges when I asked Alan to give me more of their music. I didn’t know if they were still working or not, alive or dead, if they were as big as the Rolling Stones or the Doors, though I certainly felt they should have been, if I would be able to go see them in concert next week or if that chance was gone forever.

 

I did know that ‘1969’ was one of the very best songs I had ever heard and ‘I wanna be your dog’ was the single best work of art produced in at least a few thousand years.

 

I will quote all the lyrics of the song here but bear in mind that no song is alive and itself until the music and words come together.

 

I am genuinely going to put my old vinyl copy of the Stooges (their first album) on the new record player (it’s a record player, not a stereo; not a turntable) and have a listen to the song now, just to be sure, though I know the lyrics off by heart like a childhood address or a prayer.

 

I could stay sitting exactly where I am and listen to it digitally but I don’t mind admitting that I enjoy the nostalgia of hearing it the way I loved it most. After Alan got an upgrade to his home record player (ok, his was a stereo) he gave me his old one. I brought that big, heavy old thing around with me for years through bedsits and house shares and it was one of my best friends. It was also an excellent music player with two very fine wooden speakers. Music sounded very good indeed played that way back in the pre-internet days when you were sitting alone in a bedsit with no television or radio, cassettes and records were all you had to convince you the world might make some kind of sense, in small pockets at least.

 

‘I wanna be your dog’ starts with a short series of ominous chords as if to inform you that however low you might feel right now, things are about to get a whole lot darker fast. Guitarist Ron Asheton, according to Iggy, was used to playing the bass and so used thick, heavy-guage strings on his guitar which made them sound that much more like the stomach rumblings of a hungry carnivore you think might be following you down the trail.

 

“So messed up,

I want you here,

In my room

I want you here

Now we’re gonna be face to face

And I lay right down in my favourite place

 

Now I wanna be your dog

Now I wanna be your dog

Now I wanna be your dog

 

COME ON!

 

Now I’m ready to close my eyes

Now I’m ready to close my mind

Now I’m ready to feel your hand

And lose my heart on the burning sand

 

Now I wanna be your dog

Now I wanna be your dog

Now I wanna be your dog

 

Well Come On!

 

Wooh

Wooh

 

Wooh”

 

As I write this, a very long distance in journeys travelled and years put down, from the first time I held a cracked (they were always cracked), clear plastic cassette case in my hand and read-

stooges-titles

 

 

in Alan’s neat handwriting; far neater than my drunk spider scribble could ever be, I am most impressed by how ordinary a moment it was, a moment of interest and some intrigue certainly; but with no hint of how important the lyrics and music behind those titles would be in the course of my life and the construction of my personal, emotional and intellectual landscape.

 

How many of these moments do we experience in a lifetime, when the past and present quietly collide and change course forever. Even the past can change if the perception of the direction it was travelling is altered.

 

Could we train ourselves to recognise these moments, to notice and appreciate them? Would that rob them of some of their power to shape a life?

 

Take some time. Maybe not now but some time when you have time, take some and see if you can remember any of these moments.

..and I’ll be back on Friday the 10th of March.

 

Jamie Lynch is an Irishman living in England. He is the author of numerous short stories, poems, child’s stories and a novel entitled “Opinion Pieces”. He has been published online and in print. He also writes the lyrics for the band “The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show”, who play at the crossroads where David Cronenberg and Merle Haggard meet. He maintains a blog at www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com.

 

Twitter: @HovelPress

 

Read for free: “Bodies” https://thefictionpool.com/2017/01/15/bodies-by-jamie-lynch/; “The Night I got lost on the way home from China” http://www.litro.co.uk/2015/02/the-night-i-got-lost-on-the-way-home-from-china/; “The Pleasures of Reading Short Stories” http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/12/the-pleasures-of-reading-short-stories/

& any- and every- single thing on http://www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com

 

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/medicine-show-136232208

 

Children’s Stories on Kindle: ”The True Story of how Plopinton got its name” https://www.amazon.co.uk/true-story-how-Plopington-name-ebook/dp/B00DY8S2XM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361666&sr=8-1&keywords=The+True+story+of+how+plopington+got+its+name

“Small tales of little creatures” https://www.amazon.co.uk/Small-tales-little-creatures-James-ebook/dp/B008NALXTG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361727&sr=8-1&keywords=Small+tales+of+little+creatures

Iggy & Me; Part One

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Preface-

2016

The year when the balance of power between the living and the dead shifted.

2016

The year when the number of people in that mental category marked ‘those I feel I know but have never met’ who are dead outgrew the number of them still living.

2016

The year when most of us wondered even more what it might be like to be dead and how much interaction might be possible between ‘them and us’. A year when we might have wondered if everybody else on the bus was alive and how would one know anyway.

A year when the old idea that your dead friends may be gathered just around the corner, just out of your vision got that little bit stronger. We might think of them the way William Burroughs wrote about the Western Lands, Will Self’s vision of Dulston (the London suburb of the dead) or the run down café (as I see it) where the dead gather in the spaces between the words and notes of the song “There’s a place around the corner where your dead friends meet” by the German band Einstürzende Neubauten.

Lemmy Kilminster from Mötorhead, Carrie Fisher, Prince, George Michael, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen!

It made me sad. Oh, they say that it’s all statistics and numbers. They say that mass popular culture blew up in the sixties and that created more celebrities which in turn means after forty years or so more of them are going to be dying. But it made me sad… and it made me worried. What about John Cale, what about Nick Cave (he’s not that young), what about Iggy Pop?

How to keep them safe. Would you find me appearing over Iggy’s shoulder as some sort of informal bodyguard/ stalker? Could I borrow Werner Herzog’s idea of walking from Germany to Paris to prolong the life of a near friend and mentor, Pauline Kael? Where would my walks start and finish. Dublin to Ann Arbor- it would be a long walk.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who made a New Year’s resolution to make sure I get to that Tom Waits concert or Barry Adamson gig if the chance arises. As I write this in January 2017 my ticket is bought for the Einstürzende Neubauten Greatest Hits concert in London. Also, it seemed the right time to celebrate the role that an artist can play in your life, the strange importance of someone you have never met, never spoken one word to, never exchanged a handshake or a meaningful glance with.

My life has been much enriched by these experiences and I am confident that those of you who live as much in the imagination as they you do in the actual, but not more real, world will share the feeling.

Nothing encapsulates my life in other people’s art like my relationship with one Jim Osterberg A.K.A. Iggy Pop. His work has been around me and influencing me for thirty years and THAT, in these troubled times, is something worth celebrating.

1-

There are certain ways of viewing the world that sit at an individual’s core. They are not the same for everyone but they are not entirely unique either. We cannot erase these tendencies; they are fixed in a peapod deep within, something that roughly approximates to a soul; or the misunderstood movement in the dark seen from the corner of the eye and imagined into a nebulous idea labelled ‘the soul’. For better or worse; no for better AND worse, this is something I believe, and I don’t believe all that much.

The idea of ‘the peapod’ is one I first found formulated in that manner in Nicolas Ray’s segmented and fascinating autobiography “I was interrupted”. I especially admire Ray’s absolute refusal to indulge in the comforting myth of there being a linear narrative to a life.

Part of the reason for that admiration is that in my own personal peapod there is a certain inability, a resistance, to understanding and recording chronology. I cannot remember when events occurred in relation to one another. My world as if recedes behind me with the passage of time dissolves into a series of impressions and images that are categorized by emotional content and impression.

I really cannot remember which of two sad, lonely train journeys in unfriendly areas of foreign countries happened in 1989 and which in 1999 but I remember a tree seen in passing from the dirty window or a song I was listening to on a Sony mini disc player I thought represented the ultimate achievement of centuries of technological progress. And both those moments are in the peapod, decaying eternally and leaking influence, like a gangrenous appendix, constantly into the moods and actions of the present.

All this is a way of explaining that nothing I write here can be considered reliable. Please don’t expect it to be. This is a story based on real events, imperfectly remembered and even less well understood. Nothing I write here will be an outright lie; accept the lies. Don’t hope for exact details in these posts.

So, it was 11.17am on a Tuesday in early February in 1987 when I first heard Iggy Pop. Ok, that’ s a lie. It was definitely somewhere in the mid to late eighties of the last century (exciting to say). I was probably fourteen years old or so (I warned you). My sister; who is three or four years older than me depending on the time of year, had a boyfriend. That boyfriend had a record collection,.. and what a record collection! But before we get to the shiny Aladdin’s Cave that was the room containing this now legendary record collection let me provide a little more context.

I was approaching my mid-teens. Chicken, any kind, was my favourite food and I thought about it on the many days of liver and onions. I was an average sized and shaped male kid for the times that were in it. I lived at the edge of Stoneybatter where it met Arbour Hill in the North inner city of Dublin. It was a working class place, perhaps a little rough traditionally, which became a lot worse with the influx of Heroin in the late 70s and early 80s. At this time the runners (what people call trainers now) of hopelessness had been hanging from the power lines at the end of my cul-de-sac for long enough to have looked down on the ruin of a couple of generations of far too many local families.

On the corner where you could still hear the good, old-fashioned Friday night calls of the drunken monkey dance-

“Who’d you fuckin’ think you are?

Do ya want your go?” “

Kick his fuckin’ head in.”

“Ahhh, leave him, him him. Jesus God!” (…and on it would go; there’s a song in there I think)

…You could now also get smack at most times of the day and night. I was two minutes, maybe three if I was dragging my heels in classic teenage fashion and in dodgy fake suede Chelsea boots with heels that were way too tall for me, from the quays and Heuston, formerly Kingsbridge, Rail Station. I loved the Rail station for reasons I didn’t really care to understand at the time. I think now it was the scraps of sad Victorian architecture floating improbably above my head in there and also for the approach over Hueston Bridge that nearly always provided the striking contrast of the sight of gleaming white swans resting on the filthy, green, sinking waters of the Liffey under the blackening stone and metal of the bridge itself.

I could walk to the centre of town in twenty minutes at a leisurely pace and I often did but there wasn’t that much to go to town for. That walk up and down the Quays contributed a great deal to my education. It was a beautiful and messy example of the human zoo and I mean that in the kindest sense. There was a lot of life there. You might spy a naked ass working up and own franticly above the long grass of The Croppy’s Acre as the prostitutes from Benburb Street did their work. Strange characters would stop you for a chat and forget in the end to ask you for money; which was fine as you didn’t have any to give anyway. It was a hard place too.

Well, it was a hard place of course. I remember arriving on the quays one morning to find a complete building had fallen, overnight, into the street. Lucky it didn’t happen in the day time while people, like me, were walking by. Well, lucky in a way. Then you remembered that it was very likely that some of the homeless people you were used to seeing might well have been sleeping in there, trying to stay warm and you might never see them again.

Property developers just let these buildings go to ruin so that they would become dangerous enough to be demolished and they could build cheap rabbit hutches that they could claim would gentrify the area. Now there are some lies.

There was a lot of blood and other bodily fluids on those cracked and uneven pavements and it felt like you could piece them together into some kind of map of the darker side to the human heart.

And there was the question of the public bins. My politics began and may end with the moment I realised that from my house to the centre of town there was not one public bin. Surprise, surprise- there was a lot of litter in the street. That seemed to say it all for me. Why give those people bins; they won’t use them, they’ll probably only burn them. Then there was a lot of litter on the streets; proving the point of your vicious cycle of logic- we were just a gang of animals. As far as I was concerned there would be no justice until there were bins on my streets. No bins; No justice. I still feel that way. Last I looked, still no bins.

In lots of ways, however, Dublin has improved greatly since then. Dublin back then was not as it is now, it was monochrome. Today it is much more cosmopolitan. The movement of people into the country rather than out in a frantic stream has been very good for my native city. There are businesses and restaurants of all sorts. Just having restaurants is a big deal. Perhaps I am being a little unfair but I remember a toasted sandwich in a pub being about the only eating out experience available when I was growing up. It will perhaps be difficult for younger people to envision the strange mix of the modern and well, not-so, of Dublin in the 1980s. There were no ATMs, no mobile phones, we had just got a house phone and it wasn’t even our own, we ran a cable through the wall from by Grandmother’s phone, that’s right my Granny lived next door and became the operator for every phone call I made and received in my teens, it was as good as it sounds. We had not long owned a car.

This was the heyday of the Northside/ Southside divide. I understand that today the same somewhat imaginary boundary runs more East/ West but back then the River Liffey divided the city into two halves, the Southside being at least in my very limited schema, posh and rich, and we on the Northside being ‘salt-of-the-earth’ working class types by contrast. A fifteen minute walk over the river to St. Michael’s Estate or Fatima Mansions (the universal law that the posher the name the rougher the place is particularly strong in Dublin; be careful going for a stroll anywhere called Snowdrop Avenue or similar after dark) should have educated me but it didn’t. I was a Northside fundamentalist.

One way in which this was expressed was my allegiance to Tayto crisps. There were two popular crisps (pronounced ‘crips’ on the good auld Northside) in the Dublin of the day. Tayto and King. No one, as far as I was concerned, was entitled to be neutral as to which was the better crisp, it was most definitely Tayto. King, as the name suggested, née obviously stated, was for entitled, smug, self-important Southsiders. Decent, hard-working and working class Northsiders enjoyed the solid, flavoursome crisp with the stout, common (strange, I admit) potato man for a logo rather than the arrogant King. I would have fought you over this principle, God knows there’s a part of me that still might, which is even more ridiculous than it seems on its face as I discovered more than twenty years ago that the two brands were produced in the same factory and were in essence the very same thing.

tayto

Perhaps the best reason to go to town were the cinemas. This was still the time of the large city centre cinema. Nowadays so much has moved to the suburbs as so many have gone to live there but back then people came into town for entertainment. The Savoy and the Charlton faced each other across O’Connell Street, the city’s rundown main drag. Just around the corner there were the Adelphi and the Screen. Not far from that there was the Ormonde on the Quays. All that just on the Northside. These were genuine palaces of wonder and imagination even if many of them were getting rather shabby and sticky in the carpet area by the 1980s. I went to the movies about once a month with my father and sometimes with my sister. The films I saw than really were the most influential works on the formation of my general artist taste, along with a very narrow group of musicians and songwriters.

Much later I did some time (and that’s how it felt) in film school in Dun Laoghaire College of Art, Design, Technology, Design, Film, Photography, Design, the name has no end…, in the fabulous Deansgrange (to be pronounced channelling Mark E. Smith of the Fall please- hard and highly nasal emphasis on the first syllable) A lot of the students in the film courses had been inspired originally by “Star Wars”. I have nothing against Star Wars but the film that had inspired me was David Lynch’s “Dune”. I saw it in the Savoy 1 with my Dad and watched it through twice, something we often did to be fair.

I didn’t know who David Lynch was and in retrospect it probably isn’t one of his best but it took me by surprise as a kid and more than anything else made me think, in a great big flash of light- “You can do this, you can do THIS!” I wrote a poem about it.

It’s here- https://thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/a-tiny-poem/ (Don’t worry, it’s very short)

I attended (went to) St. Vincent’s C.B.S. in Glasnevin. The C.B.S. stands for Christian Brothers School. Having now lived the guts of twenty years outside Ireland I realise that going to a religious school suggests very different things to people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. Here in England where I have lived now for over ten years I have come to understand that the mention of a religious school brings to mind images of privilege and a private education but then these are the people who happily call private schools public schools so what do they know?

In reality, due to the fact that the Catholic Church essentially bought the right to educate the nation after the foundation of the state in 1922, a Christian Brothers School basically meant a ‘normal’ comprehensive school except that it was single sex. Think of making a rough school even rougher by filtering the chromosomes. It was right across the road from a cemetery. The cemetery was a more upbeat sort of locale.

I hated school. It was a repressive force in a repressive world. I had recently done, or was about to do, an exam called the Intermediate Certificate, the Inter Cert. This was a largely meaningless exam. It has been replaced since with what I suspect is probably an equally meaningless exam. I bought into the lie that was being pushed from all around me that if I didn’t excel in this exam I would be doomed for life.

The economic situation was bad enough to reinforce this idea. Yes, it was true that our chances of getting a decent job without leaving the country were very small but it would turn out that I would be quite happy to leave the country for a while when the time came and the fact that I worked like hell to get high grades in the Inter Cert (and did so, God help me I still remember them) did nothing for me except to convince me that the whole thing was a fraud and that I was never going to put that much of myself into formal education again.

old-dictionary

And I never did.

Since then I have heard about people who are about my age who attended St. Vincent’s at the same time or about the same time who very much enjoyed it so, again, much of my experience there was almost certainly more down to me than anything else.

Still, the worse days of my life.

The very thought of the place makes me shiver. I longed for the day when I could be someone else and I loathed everything around me because it bound me to the person I was. This is a universal condition of teenagerdom but it is no less real or serious for that.

I really wanted to be someone else and to be somewhere else. I was deeply ashamed of the guilt-ridden little Catholic boy who crossed himself passing churches I had been and suspected I still was somewhere deep down. I still feel that way today, just a little. It’s the essence of the phrase- “Once a Catholic.”

Nowadays I understand that if I run away and start again I unravel completely(I’ve tried it enough times); back then I was more romantic and less honest.

That’s it for today. I realise that I haven’t said that much about Iggy but that’s coming. Please look back in on this series in two weeks for the next part. That’s Friday the 24th of Feb. 2017

 

Jamie Lynch is an Irishman living in England. He is the author of numerous short stories, poems, child’s stories and a novel entitled “Opinion Pieces”. He has been published online and in print. He also writes the lyrics for the band “The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show”, who play at the crossroads where David Cronenberg and Merle Haggard meet. He maintains a blog at www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com.

 

Twitter: @HovelPress

 

Read for free: “Bodies” https://thefictionpool.com/2017/01/15/bodies-by-jamie-lynch/; “The Night I got lost on the way home from China” http://www.litro.co.uk/2015/02/the-night-i-got-lost-on-the-way-home-from-china/; “The Pleasures of Reading Short Stories” http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/12/the-pleasures-of-reading-short-stories/

& any- and every- single thing on http://www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com

 

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/medicine-show-136232208

 

Children’s Stories on Kindle: ”The True Story of how Plopinton got its name” https://www.amazon.co.uk/true-story-how-Plopington-name-ebook/dp/B00DY8S2XM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361666&sr=8-1&keywords=The+True+story+of+how+plopington+got+its+name

“Small tales of little creatures” https://www.amazon.co.uk/Small-tales-little-creatures-James-ebook/dp/B008NALXTG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361727&sr=8-1&keywords=Small+tales+of+little+creatures

Introduction to a new series on the blog

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iggy and me

 

Iggy & Me

For Maura and Eric Lynch, my mother and father. Thank you for opening the door and giving me the eyes to see the opportunity.

Over the coming weeks and months; which sounds like a bit of a slog when I phrase it that way but should instead be read as an invitation to an expedition of intrigue and excitement almost too wonder-filled for the human mind to bear, I will be publishing a series of pieces centred on the life and influence of the song writer, musician, performer, actor and broadcaster Iggy Pop,….and Me. As my mother says- “There’s me and the Pope.”

I will publish an instalment every two weeks and very much hope you will come along, enjoy the ride, feel free to comment and be generous enough to share. It’s important to share.

The first one will be released, like a beast long caged to the dizzy exhilaration of freedom, next Friday.

I look forward to meeting you out there.

I also want to say, I will be linking to songs and other material as I write. That opportunity is one of the great advantages of writing in the internet age. Some of this material will be on Spotify or similar websites/Apps where music can be accessed free of charge. I would encourage everyone reading to consider, if you are genuinely turned on to any of the work focused on here, buying a single or album and sending some positive energy, in the form of money, to the artists. Who has the rights to the early Stooges material I am not sure but it’s a good habit to get into.

Jamie

 

About the author-

Jamie Lynch is an Irishman living in England. He is the author of numerous short stories, poems, child’s stories and a novel entitled “Opinion Pieces”. He has been published online and in print. He also writes the lyrics for the band “The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show”, who play at the crossroads where David Cronenberg and Merle Haggard meet. He maintains a blog at http://www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com.

Twitter: @HovelPress

Read for free: “Bodies” https://thefictionpool.com/2017/01/15/bodies-by-jamie-lynch/; “The Night I got lost on the way home from China” http://www.litro.co.uk/2015/02/the-night-i-got-lost-on-the-way-home-from-china/; “The Pleasures of Reading Short Stories” http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/12/the-pleasures-of-reading-short-stories/
& any- and every- single thing on http://www.thestoriesihaveinme.wordpress.com

The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/medicine-show-136232208

Children’s Stories on Kindle: ”The True Story of how Plopinton got its name” https://www.amazon.co.uk/true-story-how-Plopington-name-ebook/dp/B00DY8S2XM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361666&sr=8-1&keywords=The+True+story+of+how+plopington+got+its+name
“Small tales of little creatures” https://www.amazon.co.uk/Small-tales-little-creatures-James-ebook/dp/B008NALXTG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485361727&sr=8-1&keywords=Small+tales+of+little+creatures

Poem for my Da

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Poem for my Da-

My father is old
And noise has started to bother him
He is in good health generally
Not just for a man in his late 70s
His knee gives him a little pain
Now and then
But noise is what has started to bother him

He sleeps very well
He has always been able to do that
But noise now
Has started to bother him
He walked the beat for years
He rode around in a Garda car
The smelliest place on earth
He spent an age in the underground
holding cells of the Bridewell police station in the North inner city of Dublin
So he has been called everything under the sun
He has heard it all
Shouted and angry and desperate and afraid
And Insane
He has heard it all
And he could always sleep and forget
But noise now has started to bother him.

Someone fired a gun near his ear
And noise bothers him now
It makes him angry and short tempered
I don’t think he has much religion left
We don’t talk about that
Noise bothers him though
He tells me that
We walk his old beats
Sometimes
Separately or together
But noise bothers him

He doesn’t trust politicians
“When you
See killers come to power
How can you?”
He turns off the radio when the news is on
Noise bothers him

He still listens to music
The classical kind
But less and less these days
Because noise bothers him

It’s not much
Not much of a problem
For a man his age
It’s just that the world is so noisy these days
And noise bothers him

Ship Blacking

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I like to watch the ones who work
When I drink alone
in public;
I like to see their industry and purpose
and that little bit of distain for the Saturday night crowds

I like to see in their posture,
their movement,
their eyes,
the stories they tell themselves;
Of striving,
of who they are
and are becoming

Do they still use terms like
‘The skulls’, ‘The meat’, ‘The prey’;
Do they think that way at all?
Was that just me?