Friday, March 28, 2014


I knew it was the end when I saw that photograph of your smashed up steel-blue Fender Precision Bass. The headstock was roughly decapitated from its thick neck, the strings were severed and hung loose across the bruised body. Fans cooed dramatically, commenting on how rock'n'roll it all was. You never addressed them, but I know you would have loathed that suggestion. You only ever said: "Goodbye old friend."

I imagined your relief that came from that violence. How it must have felt for you to destroy the object that had kept you away for so long. It reminded me of our first conversation, when you told me about how you saw Richey Edwards' last show with the Manic Street Preachers. Years after his disappearance, you still seemed so shaken by the determination of his violence, diving head first into the drum-kit at the end of the show.

I hope you've managed to return to the life you wanted, free of old friends and draining obligations. I'd be lying to say that I didn't miss your hysterics, they were always so poetic. I still think of the world in terms of us and them. There are those who will swoon over the rock'n'roll gesture and then us, those who will try to derive some meaning out of it. I think we live differently to everyone else.

Monday, March 24, 2014


The proposition read as a perverse challenge to me: Sad music might actually evoke positive emotions, reveals a new study by Japanese researchers... The summary suggested that there is an odd ambivalence that comes from listening to sad music, suggesting that pleasant feelings derive from sad music because that it does not pose a real threat to personal safety. It was a vague proposition with little scientific certainty in its brief citation. In any case, I decided that I wanted to conduct my own uncontrolled study using myself, an old unfinished C60 cassette and the tape deck in my Volvo.

I tested the theory during a familiar late night drive, when time was indistinct and the streets were empty. I pushed in the tape and pressed rewind. The tape whirred, eventually clicking to start. The plane trees bowed ruefully over Orrong Road, the heavy branches clouded the flossy glow of the passing street lights. I was convinced that I could handle whatever associations it threw at me and I did. I remained stoic throughout the aggressive jangly semiquavers of Fonz. I felt fine through the scarcely discernible French ramblorings of Still Fond. Each lyrical proclamation left me unperturbed: One day, we're gonna live in Paris, I promise...

It was sad, but not in the Lacrimosa sense of the word. It was sad in that everything from its sequence to its sentiments felt so familiar to me, in spite of the fact that it had been so long since I'd listened to it. It felt like living: speeding through the darkness, being bombarded with scarcely-forgotten reminders, always battling to shut up.

Now homeward bound, the last song came on near where I spotted a Toorak fox, some nights before. I was bemused, having momentarily forgotten the song's inclusion on the tape. It was a lo-fi home-made demo with acoustic guitar and loud female backing vocals. I recalled its lyrics and sang along in a plaintive masochistic style, Why don't you call me? As the song went on to describe the devastating possibility of his crush running out of phone credit, I had to smile and acknowledge how dated and painful it all was. As much as I tried to guard the ongoing legacy of this thing, there was always the risk I'd trip over something like that. I'd come across a horrible reminder of how this is life, as it worked out.

I'll admit, I had some doubts about this scientific proposition. For one thing, I don't necessarily believe that music can be divided into the happy and the sad. There are associations, meanings and intentions, always contained and largely untapped. For me, both music and living is all about legacy management. I try to organise memories in the knowledge that time will never make the painful, painless. I appreciate that one point that study did make though: that music, like memory, poses no immediate threat to us in the present moment. Despite my initial reluctance to reacquaint myself with his songs, I will always be protected due to the nature of the past and its complete irrelevance. I am comforted in the idea that I'm strong enough to return as an unmoved silent tourist. I am safe, I will always be safe, so long as I am alone at some indistinct hour.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Whenever we would have guests around, my Dad would boast about my ability to identify the year of any photograph, film or song. I would be sheepish, downplaying my mad skillz, but I've always made a point to ask the year of everything. Whether it's a deteriorated red hardcover book by Arthur Mee or a DVD of a J. Arthur Rank film, I want to know where it all fits historically. I need to develop this narrative in order to make sense of the past.

When my Dad and I watch old 1950s English films together, he always remarks about how sad he is to learn that all these actors have since died. Together we contemplate what they would have been like in real life, whether the cast were friends with one another, whether they were warm, kind or funny. We often know that they led tragic lives. They were either alcoholic depressives or else closeted homosexuals who would later commit suicide.

His knowledge of this particular genre of film is astounding and whenever we sit together, I encourage him to document all his observations in a blog or even a zine. I urge him to get in touch with his old English teacher, who coincidentally has written two encyclopaedias about the history of British film. He puts it off, expressing anxiety that he needs to learn more before finally making contact. I tell him to hurry up: we don't have much time.

I suppose we share not only the desire to be experts, but also that fear that we may never know enough. I wonder if we'll ever be ready enough to reach out to the establishment. I wonder if we'll ever spar with those we admire, in such a way that might suggest that our views might even carry some kind of authority. I look forward to that feeling that might fill me one day, that satisfaction that would come from knowing enough to finally move forward.

Highly Dangerous