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A record album, a song, a photograph – or two

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In 1974 – when the 60s dream of love and peace was well and truly over – I continued to live and experience life through the veil of psycho-phantasy; this often set me apart from the world. But that was a good thing ! The great writings that I had read as part of my attempt to haul myself out of the drab conventions of the past had – well, they had worked; For much of the time their content and their subsequent effect on my imagination meant that I didn’t really have to engage with the grey-brown world that surrounded me:

England – close up – was often rainy and dismal, scruffy, worn, dull and without sparkle. However, the exteriors and interiors of much, or even most, of the UK did not particularly affect me. By contrast, ideas and narratives and images did. And my recurring tendency to a certain ‘dreaminess’ simply meant that I was often not really ‘there.’ (I think this is also why I often detach myself from the presence of others …)

And certain songs served to stimulate and support my ‘dreaminess.’ Some of them appeared in 1974. It was then that Jackson Browne released his wonderful LP, ‘Late for the sky.’ I was immediately ‘taken’ by its cover. There’s no doubt that certain images and the overall composition, without further reflection, look wonderful. The cover of ‘Late for the sky’ is one of them. There’s something about an old snazzy American car – and there is something about a certain kind of sky – and I suppose that the whole thing would have to be explained by a theory of fetishisation … …

Late for the sky includes the prescient ‘Before the deluge’ and the transcendent ‘For a dancer’; they are my favourites; ‘For a dancer’, for example, takes the form of magical realism and includes the words:

Keep a fire for the human race – And let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down

Perhaps a better world is drawing near – Just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found …

But, in relation to my art, it is the song ‘Fountain of sorrow’ that says something fascinating about photographs – and relates directly to the temporary completion of the ‘autobiography’ project upon which I have been working. In this song Jackson Browne  tells us about how the discovery of some personal photographs led him to reflect on someone he once loved; He sings:

Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you

There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn’t show your spirit quite as true

You were turning ’round to see who was behind you
And I took your childish laughter by surprise

And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes.’

I too, as part of my autobiography project, have been looking through some old photographs and I have also been ‘taken’ by one or two of them: The photos I found of me when I was just a boy reveal someone who seems happy enough; and, there doesn’t seem to be a trace sorrow in my eyes. In fact, initially the photographs have the power to evoke particularly good memories. The one of me on holiday in North Yorkshire reminds me of picking bilberries under the glow of a hot sun and liking the way my hands became tinted dark-purple – and joyously competing with my brother to see who could pick the most. But as I look back and imagine those early days – imagine how they were made possible – I can see how much effort and love and dedication my parents expressed towards me. But I learned all this too late. Over the years I had allowed a kind of relational destruction to take effect. So, now that I cannot make amends, the photographs also leave me feeling terribly sad.

And Jackson Browne’s beautiful and sombre song moves on to include the lines:

And while the future’s there for anyone to change, still you know it seems
It would be easier sometimes to change the past  …

Yes: There is no going back but I often wish I could.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dear Rob Evocative. You introduced me to Annie Lennox when we worked at Brammers – and she was popular with the police too! You were always ahead of me on current trends in music, as much else. And the better athlete! Nothing would induce me to go back to adolescence and early adulthood, were it possible. Life for me began at 28. Always incredibly immature compared with my wiser contemporaries, and yet with rare and barely noticed flashes of insight. Am reading E H Carr (again) on the idea of history. Disappointing, as a re-read, but (as above) with flashes of insight! Will read Collingham again. Self-isolated? Yes, more or less, although N Devon is quite phlegmatic. Ruth has determined to save the world, or at least Portsmouth, and has converted her whole pilates business to on-line. It is a remarkable achievement. I am simply walking and swimming, while we are allowed to do so. I am looking again at what I began as a thriller, set around the Portuguese revolution of 1974: but it will become something else… In the meantime, I will send you for your amusement, my latest little play for the Joseph Conrad Society – which we might perform, I suppose, in 2021. O tempora! O mores! Best wishes and stay well Peter

    March 21, 2020
  2. Hello Peter,
    As usual, a little bit of distance from that which i had written (posted) helped me to see some mistakes in the text. I hope you will not have seen the unamended version but you portably will have!
    What you say is fascinating and I will reply by email later!

    March 21, 2020

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