August 23, 2014
When I was writing my book on Sparks, which is also a travel journal as well as a memoir of sorts in London, I would always sit on the top deck of the bus and would take the one route that will take me down Albany Street on route to Angel Station in Islington. I would pass the blue plaque for the British composer Constant Lambert, whose music I don’t find interesting whatsoever. What I do find fascinating about the composer is his alcoholism and fear of doctors. Also the fact that he had trouble composing music, so therefore in my category of Heroes: The great failures of their time. I think his greatest contribution, besides his lifestyle and wit, was the fact that his son was Kit Lambert, who was the co-manager (along with Chris Stamp) and record producer of The Who. 197 Albany Street was the last address for Constant, who died in 1951. He lived at this address from 1947 till his death. For me, those were the crucial years of London. Recovering from the war and the ill (and long recovery effects of that war) I think produced great literature as well as art in London. Constant wasn’t a great artist, a skilled one yes, but his genius lies in his life as well as a critic. He has commented that “the whole trouble with a folk song is that once you have played it though there is nothing much you can do except play it over again and play it rather louder. ”
Which to me pretty much describes the nature of rock n’ roll as well as folk music. It is one of the main reasons why I love it so, and not so much Lambert’s music. The world falls apart and yet one can depend on the nature of the rock, that it won’t fail you. In the 1980s, I was pretty much in awe of the band Orange Juice. My first impression is not the music, but their name. I thought it was (and still is) a brilliant name for a band, or even a novel or a poem. The first thing it makes me think of is Frank O’Hara, for no reason, except he brings up an object or a food and he takes off from that and goes into another part of the brain. The lead writer for Orange Juice was Edywn Collins, who was/is an incredible lyricist and as a young man, quite stunning looking. At the time, I took great pride in not owning any albums, whose band names I didn’t like, or their haircut. Very surfaced of me, but I find the surface actually tells a lot about a person. He had one huge mega-hit as a solo singer called “A Girl Like You” which has a great lyric (of course) “This old town’s changed so much/Don’t feel like I belong/To many protest singers/Not enough protest songs.” Or from “Consolation Prize, ” “I wore my fringe like Roger McGuinn’s/I was hoping to impress/So frightfully camp, it made you laugh/Tomorrow I’ll buy myself a dress/How ludicrous.” At that time in my life (I was in my 20s) I was more like 17, due to my sense of identity, which honestly (and no one else either) could take seriously.
When I looked in the mirror I tried to imagine myself as Gene Kelly, but the (obvious) truth was that I was fat. But still, I think of Kelly as a role model due that he was recognized as a hard worker who was tough if you don’t follow his stance, which to go for perfection. To be fair, I didn’t go for perfection, either in my writing or physique, instead, I went a notch or two down from perfection. Adequate would be a satisfactory description for yours truly. Still, in my deepest depression, I would dance in the rain and my ability to jump over fire hydrants, usually caused a skinned knee here and there. Oddly enough I would be caught in the rain, while walking around Islington to wait for the Sparks show at the theater.
What I have in common with Lambert, Collins, and Gene is that I attempt to learn from my peers to do better and not follow their footsteps to specific disasters. But no one can be your driver or pilot. At best, you can drive your own car, and have the guidance of the angels to make sure you make it to your destination.