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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

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