Standout performance for me at Kinks Night at The Clissold Arms “unplugged” session was a storming Twentieth century man. When Geoff nailed the bit where the organ sweeps in two young men next to me – mid-20s? I’m not good at this – punched the air and cheered. (Take a bow, Geoff Lewis). I’d been talking to them earlier – favourite album Muswell Hillbillies (so men of taste) – and they got no kicks from modern groups at all. With audience participation expected, these young lads knew all the words, on some songs better than the performers.
It’s a fascinating phenomenon, the way the musical generation boundary lines have faded. At the annual Official Kinks Fan Club Konvention in November – a shindig graced on stage by a full cast of the Kast Off Kinks, with sometimes brief appearances from Ray Davies (though never Dave) – attendees’ ages range from teens to late seventies at least.
The Clissold Arms in Muswell Hill is where the Davies brothers had their first public performance, in late 1960, over the road from where they lived. It now houses a room dedicated to The Kinks and their works. The Kinksfan Kollektiv‘s Clissold sessions had their origins in an evening before the Konvention singalong and grew in scope from that to almost a military operation. This summer special, outside the usual season, came about because of the vacation arrangements of Jim Smart, over from Hawaii, one of the original movers and performers of the fan sessions. Was a good evening, heartening to talk to someone you’ve only previously known over the internet (hi Jim). But … London prices: £4.40 a pint!
Book Group book for August was David Mitchell‘s Cloud Atlas (2004). I’d read it when it first came out and been impressed enough to give it a re-read. I wasn’t the only one in the group, this time around, to subvert the subversion of the novel’s original unorthodox format. It consists of six novellas, all relating to one another by various gestures, arranged like an onion with its layers, as if you were boring through to the earth’s core and then out again on the other side.
The initial nineteenth century diary of an eventful Pacific voyage cuts off suddenly and we’re into an epistolary account of an entertaining scoundrel of an English composer on the run in Belgium in the 1930s, wherein a purloined first (and only) edition copy of that diary figures in one of his personal fundraising schemes. We move from there to a stylish fictional thriller novel set in post-Three Mile Island America, which breaks off at a genuine cliffhanger, into a very funny comic novel concerning an English publisher, whose experience publishing true crime has him on the run too, set in the present. Then we move into the future, for a future archive interview concerning the development of artificial intelligence in cyborgs until we hit the core of the book, another kind of science fiction, a (not too difficult) dialect record of life when hi-tech civilisation has collapsed, into which an anthropologist from a surviving remnant of civilisation is allowed to stay for study purposes. And then we are out the other side, in reverse order, with more links between them floated as the narratives develop, and the eighteenth century diary entries constitute the final part of Cloud Atlas.
But, as I say, this time I ignored the splits in the individual narratives and read each one straight through. And the links between them became more obvious. All are fascinating in their own right; he takes you into the working mind of a composer of music, for instance. And it’s a lot funnier than I remembered and – definite shades of Thomas Pynchon – still just as seriously prescient a decade later. Beautifully written too, an impressive fluidity of style. It’s a meditation on human nature, really. What drives us, makes us great, is what is also likely to be our undoing: “human hunger birthed the Civ’lize, but human hunger killed it too“. Simple yes, but ultimately there is hope. Near the end, our voyager comes out of his shattering experience, vowing, “A life spent shaping a world I want Jackson to inherit, not one I fear Jackson will inherit, this strikes me as a life worth the living.” So over to us. I thought the notion of a ‘cloud atlas’ was very Yoko Ono, and it turns out Mitchell got it from an actual piece of music composed by her first husband.
No August open mic hiatus for Vaultage nights in the Vaults, which Pat and Lois have established as a more than dependable full music night out these past few months. Featured act at the last Vaultage were VHS Pirates, who describe themselves on FaceBook as, “a new uplifting exciting band from Northampton who play a mix of frenetic Folk Ska with a sensitive sprinkle of 80’s pop.” Not to mention the unlikely sight of a banjoist supplying the rhythm on the up beat, the owner of one of two fine voices, a subtle keyboardist (the sprinkle) and original material of wit and no little invention.
Meanwhile, over at Aortas in the Old George a sparsity of performers on Sunday gave the bonus of what turned into featured sets from Dan Plews, Naomi Rose, an angry Mark Owen (his driven Getting away with it, a take on the Rebekah Brooks saga, given fresh venom with the news earlier in the day she was getting her job back), and comic verse from the poet Hobbs. Would have happily paid to see that. Earlier in the month stand-in host Pete Morton had led what turned out to be a decent night with his own songs and some well-chosen covers, in an evening also notable for an older couple leaving the pub muttering ‘Shouldn’t be allowed’ at Naomi’s most miserable song, Permanent blue.
MK Calling 2015
This summer‘s exhibition at MK Gallery featured selections from an Open Call for work from local artists, amateur, student and professional. I went along with someone whose default position on a lot of contemporary art is disparagement, but she stayed the course well enough. It’s a varied and interesting exhibition. My favourite piece was Chin Keeler and Emma Tornero’s Heads of assembly (2014), hanging from the ceiling of the Cube Gallery. You have to be there: these are heads made from moulding vinyl records over mannequins’ heads, with the labels still in place. The programme notes suggest the artists deal, among other things, with ‘unkempt fantasy‘. Here’s an individual head, image filched from the internet (probably their website); click and click again for an enlargement.
Crossword clues I have loved
Can’t do cryptic crosswords but can appreciate a bad pun when you hear or see it? Then you’re in with a shout. Some favourites of old from the Guardian – an occasional series here at Lillabullero – with the compilers credited. Zen punnery & thinking out(or well in)side the box. (Crosswords are printable for free from the Guardian website.)
- From Rufus: Space for army manoeuvres (5,4)
- From Paul: One’s days are numbered (8)
- From Pasquale: Call at table, suggesting preference for sirloin or T-bone? (2,5)
- Paul again: Most adventurous combination of underclothes (7)
- A favourite of mine, from Paul: Bad quality expensive jewellery? That’s clumsy (8)
- More from Rufus: No beer left? That’s the limit! (6,3)
- Arachne spinning: She’s over-groomed (8)
- From Picaroon: Celebs ill-equipped for dinner parties (8)
- From Chifonie: Space traveller posed on vessel (6)
- One more time from Rufus: A loaded statement (8)
Solutions under this picture of some frogs ©moi:
- Rufus: Space for army manoeuvres (5,4) Elbow room [arm-y]
- Paul: One’s days are numbered (8) Calendar
- Pasquale: Call at table, suggesting preference for sirloin or T-bone? (2,5) No trump [not rump][a bid in the game of bridge][a US election slogan?]
- Paul: Most adventurous combination of underclothes (7) Bravest [Bra vest]
- Paul: Bad quality expensive jewellery? That’s clumsy (8) Bumbling [Bum bling]
- Rufus: No beer left? That’s the limit! (6,3) Bitter end
- Arachne: She’s over-groomed (8) Bigamist [women can’t do it too?]
- Picaroon: Celebs ill-equipped for dinner parties (8) Notables [No tables]
- Chifonie: Space traveller posed on vessel (6) Saturn [Sat on urn]
- Rufus: A loaded statement (8) Bulletin [Bullet in]