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Title: Morley on pop stars & music journalists
Author: Paul Morley
Source: Blitz
Publish date: February 1985

MORLEY

“like kids imitating journalists…”

MORLEY ON POP STARS & MUSIC JOURNALISTS

Extracts From Paul Morley’s Third Book

The first, “And Suddenly There Came A Bang!” is published on February 4th by Z.T.T. etc. The second, “You Can Even Feel Lonely When You Make Love To Your Wife,” is published next autumn by Faber. The third, “Framed In Basic Syncopated Groovy Themes”, is published in 1986. Hence these extracts are a miracle, and a treat.

1 - Buzzcocks Live

“The tradition / of buzzcocks / a pop group framed in basic syncopated groovy themes / is in preparation / there’s a lot to observe / he says / a spatial junkyard sound / he’ll say / attractive / precise / untamed / he’ll continue / and note if you can / afford the record / Girl trouble prints part one of youngs / review of the second buzzcocks gig at the band on the wall / may the second / nineteen seventy seven / part two appears in popzine ghast up number two / make up your own part three I ritualistic bang-bang on the tom-tom /

‘properly punctuated’

A unique development of a traditional form. Never neglect the little things in life - whatever happened to the yellow pages? - the structure of the feeling of the actual is often a loss of faith - oh shit - and an essentially uncertain waiting. The simplicity of everyday speech - I’ve been waiting at the supermarket - and an edging of this simplicity, defining this suburban-surrealism, semi-realism with patterns of repetition and recurrence, an emphasis of key phrases which go beyond what is otherwise the simple exchange of conversation between peter shelley and me I you… it’s strange, but shelley’s seemingly non-imposing cute quaint camp stance is dramatically a lot greater than is apparent. An appeal as if to someone or something beyond them, which is also, in immediate convention, the technique of the stage figure, a comedian perhaps?, appealing to and involving as much as possible a theatrical audience.

The first set included all four method contrasts off the expressionist love-resent fragmentary blurred disc spiral scratch.

That’s ‘boredom’ - where the technique of repetition is used is used in different and several ways; the guitar muscling-riff obvious but functioning with deadpan underlying imagery. The guitar break a non-reference to a system of traditional ways and meanings. The blank ‘boredom’ spoke straight out of the mouths of decades of souls, speaking of hope deferred. The berdum, berdum reinstating that, like jean genet maintained, a function is a function. There’s a voluntary relationship between bass and drums.

There’s a crack in space. A crack between domination and being dominated. The speaking is lively. The words are up, irrepressible, comic and accepting. The instrumentation an unmade bed But the pattern (energy-full) does still not cancel the movement, or the tone (aggressive) the feeling {tedium} It is just their tension that is the real action, the real language/meaning of the play. Play? One way. For the message similarity with beckett’s waiting for godot is no, mere coincidence - the pattern is desperate and yet the movement paradoxically hopeful.

That’s ‘time’s up’, vain and humiliating urgency of desire. A hardness that breaks complacent visions.

That’s ‘breakdown’, blind stumblinggabbling, a mind in breakdown-haunted by scraps of traditional learning, years of brainwashing.

A sharp fusion of terror and habit.”

That’s friends of mine with characters yearning to be sketched by Ralph Steadman and interviewed by Paul Krassner. Fatigue and compulsion; all these pieces.

2 - To Show How Complex Selfishness Is

“‘I love to Boogie’ - Bolan needlessly re-affirms with steady understatement, audacious echoing and groovy four-to-the-bar-speed beat his love to boogie. From his boogie era-which most critics accept to be 1972. The b-side is ‘Baby Boomerang’, a track lifted from a 1972 album ‘Slider’ to emphasise the time scale. It also cunningly lifted and re-used at fear of rip off out roars for those hip to recent sensation Patti Smith unknown to many the two mistreated and misunderstood poet/workers had a short sharp raging affair back in ‘72 and ‘Boomerang’ is Bolan’s exasperated but typically cheerful lament to the lady. Two other tracked poems from ‘Slider’ also hint at the secret - ‘Baby Strange’ and ‘Mystic Lady’ - but it’s ‘Baby Boomerang’ where Bolan revealed all, for those just too deaf to hear. The song is basically about the bitter separation. The first verse is the cruncher:

Slim line sheik faced
angel of the night
Riding like a cowboy
in the graveyard of the night
New York witch in the dungeon
of the day
I’m trying to write my novel
But all you do is play.

The second verse is more oblique and obscure. Smith appears to have severed connections with Bolan, and Bolan ‘searches through the garbage looking for a friend’. Bolan returning attack assumes the role of a scathing personal attack on Smith. Bolan hints at some perverted incestuousness that Smith may have participated in with her uncle.

Your Uncle with an alligator
chained to his leg
dangles you your freedom
then he offers you his bed

The affair seems irretrievably over. The final verse has Bolan detachedly observing.

It seems to me a dream
is something too wild
In Max’s Kansas City
You a belladonna child
Riding on the highways
On the gateways to the south
You’re talking with your boots
and walking with your mouth.

Preceding the final few bars Bolan painfully cries, ‘Thank you ma’am’. Despite the inevitable traumas in an affiar between two such neurotic workers, Bolan enjoyed the affair. Perhaps that’s not surprising. ‘Baby Boomerang’ refers to Smith’s intriguing ‘twixt sheets technique’.”

3 - The Language Animal

Q: Do you ever feel people regard you as a hero? The name Lou Reed and the things it supposedly stands for.

Yeah.

Q: Is that a kind of pressure?

Is that a kind of pressure? Yes… you’re getting a very straightforward interview so relish-it…

Q: That pressure affects you?

Yes.

Q: You’ve mentioned the pressures of being on the other side of the Berlin Wall…

I can only try and imagine that…

Q: Sure, but as Lou Reed you’ve pressures that other people can only try and imagine.

Everybody has pressures. And everybody has pressure that other people can only imagine. You have pressure that I can’t imagine… it’s just a matter of degrees I would suspect. Although there are some pressures which you can probably imagine… my biggest pressure is to live up to my own expectations.

Q: Your own?

Mine, not anybody else’s.

Q: Not your reputation

Oh no, Oh no, I mean that I have to live down to! People think that way and other people have another version. Their expectations may be somewhat along the lines of my own. I don’t know if my expectations are that high. It’s just that they’re very hard. Harder than I give credit for…

Q: Expectations to do what?

TO BE THE GREATEST WRITER… THAT EVER LIVED… ON GOD’S EARTH… in other words I’m talking about Shakespeare… Dostoyevsky…

Q: What kind of writer?

A writer… I want to do a rock n’ roll thing that’s on the level of the Brothers Karamazov… starting to build up a body of work, y’know, I could come off sounding very pretentious about this, which is why I usually don’t say anything… I prefer not to… It, um, gives people things to talk about… I like playing in a band. I like making records, but I hate talking about them. I mean I’ve mastered the really funny, insulting interview and all that, so we don’t go near anything of great concern to anybody since that’s not what they’re interested in anyway.

Q: A lot of your interviews are simple comic repartee.

(snigger) What else…? How else can one deal with the absurd? The questions that I’ve been asked and the people who’ve asked them have always struck me as comic. It’s like I’ve always thought of it as something straight out of a very bad soap opera on T.V… it’s like kids imitating journalists… I mean, Hemingway was a journalist, Dorothy Parker was a critic, Delmore Schwartz was a critic…

4 - I am writing this in a tiny room in Paris

“Glam Rock preferred to be disgusting rather than dignified. Because Queen and Steve Strange and Kiss bungle so lovelessly what should be a glorious route to transcendence they deserve our utter contempt. One respectable compromise between Glam and Glam rock was Gary Glitter. He got pissed out of his skull exploiting glam rock costume, but his best music had a vivid resonance that matched the joyful drama if not the slight beauty of T.Rex and his self-mocking attitude suggested Glitter was faithful to glam spirit, if a little shattered by life’s complications. His glamorisation was brash and funny, but there were always sad undertones. This sadness was compounded when a largely unaltered Gary Glitter got caught up in the early ‘80 glam rock bubble represented by God’s Toys, Shock, Classix Nouveaux, the boys and girls in the Stevo stable. Gary Glitter, like Marc Bolan, was ultimately too lazy to spin away from the first glam blast with the versatility of, say, Ray Davies. Sweet were a muddled and meagre group adding a commercially sound exhibitionist slant to a hearty bubblegum rock, wryly contrived for them by the sporting Chinn and Chapman. Sweet were boorish brickies breaking wind in a posh public bar and trying to disguise the smell with the cheapest perfume imaginable. Not quite the glam rock pits - imagine the pits - but nothing that will redeem them in the eyes of the Lord. The foolhardy Steve Harley pleaded that he was caught up in the beauty and terror of glam, claimed he was game enough to cleanse the crap out of rock’s corridors, but his Cockney Rebel were just occasionally attractive charlatans. Bumptious, virulent glam rock: weakest glam. Slade padded themselves out in satin and that because it was the thing to do: they were a flare of fun now and then. Their bullying antics, ruttish projection, bawdy personalities and punishing ‘good time’ music was the absolute opposite to glam grace. Slade typify lumpish glam rock: where sarcasm turns into a bad joke, and an opposition to reserved rock passivity breaks up into fatuous pieces.”

5 - The Tongue Set Free

I could tell you about how pop has ended with Nick Rhodes and Gary Kemp. I could tell you about John Blake in India…

I could tell you about Lou Reed…

In Brixton…

I could tell you about the neat new Pete Shelley single…

I could tell you about the gorgeous triple album Marc Bolan Compilation released only on E.M.I. Australia…

But no doubt you’d rather read the lost writers in the low weeklies and pretend with them that there is a direction… it’s up to you, it’s your fault.

If I were you, I’d stick around here.

For journalism and criticism. I would tell you more…

But… Insignificance.

Next column: As Wittgenstein said, if you have nothing to say, don’t say it.