Blues Fell This Morning

by admin


Being in New York city on September 11th 2001 gave you the chance to share in the deluge of love and emotion, the first peace vigils and marches. To experience neighbourhoods of New York Fucking City behaving like San Francisco in 1968. It gave me a haunting bond with the place I didn’t feel before. The downside to a close proximity to such a massive and senseless loss of life is you are included in a deal that gives you, if you care to accept, a percentage in the towering monstrous grief.



I was working on a memoir that ended seven years after my fathers death, hoping that I’d made sense of that bereavement and with the release of my second independently released album by the reformed Lilac Time (lilac6).  Although we had released two independent albums before (The Lilac Time on Swordfish 1987 and Astronauts on Creation 1991) I took this to be my divorce from the major label existence and the beginning of a healthy and remunerative renaissance in the remnants of the counter culture.



I was wrong on all counts. By the end of 2001 I was prescribed antidepressants. My already fragile mental state and narrative were derailed so completely I’m still re writing the book. The music industry would also collapse taking the Lilac Times ability to function as a full time band with it and within two years I would effectively be working for EMI as Robs collaborationist.



What I remember most clearly of that September Tuesday is the complete poverty of hard news and leadership. In that pre internet radio era I don’t think I understood the totality of the situation until I found a copy of the Guardian Weekly days later. I watched the television in the Gramercy Park Hotel. A news channel invited eye witnesses to call in. The first caller – ” I was watching the TV and a ‘plane crashed into the World Trade Center. . .” It was time to leave the room.



On the street people huddled around cars listening to the radio. The first tower fell and dusty ghosts in Union Square. All the phones were down and the sirens had begun their day long requiem. Slipping past the police and down to Soho people still shopped. Normality fought to continue through the dread hallucination. When reality gets so vivid the ordinary becomes hysterical.



Back in Washington Square Park the candles and the photocopies of the lost began to appear. Without a raised eyebrow a chorus of Kumbaya began around the fountain? Orphans of the folk revival and the Civil Rights Movement together with new ghosts singing “Someone’s crying Lord Kumbaya.”



It wasn’t the first day of the Somme but regrettably the fears held in the week of 9/11 – that we would be tricked into an equally senseless war – were justified.

Almost everyday something reminds me. “One of the towers has collapsed. . .” The occasional siren or aeroplane in the sky can induce a shiver. It is banal to say we could have done without the conflict and the causes of the conflict but I don’t think I would have wanted to be anywhere than under that cloud.

Here are a few random fragments from unrelated chapters of the unfinished memoir “Memory & Desire“.  (Not the chapters written in the first person about standing behind Lucien Freud in an off license or being on Gary Crowleys Runaround, sorry).




He was on little record labels
who liked out of the way hotels
in red light districts
or manicured gardens
or motels
even though he refused to drive
and always
in areas he never seemed to be able to locate again.

In Hamburg
he talked with Christoph in the hotel bar
of Pudels
and the fatuousness of popular culture
he felt a new drunken desire to march against banality!

Lufthansa to London
BA to New York for more interviews
and to sing at a the Fez.
He was selling fewer and fewer records
and it was no longer a given
that he would do more than cover his costs.
Economy if he wished to carry on.

As he made his way through US immigration.
he was stopped and his case searched
“For what?” he asked



Outside he perspired in line and
as he pulled the cab door shut
an electrical tempest crackled overhead
a thunder shower hammered
on the roof
rain pouring through a cracked window.

In the winter of 1983
on his first visit to New York
to sing at Danceteria
a grey and black limousine
with empty decanters
picked him up.

Imagine neat whiskey and a little ice
in the sunshine crossing the Queensboro Bridge
listening to Swamp by Talking Heads on the radio.
“How many people do you think I am
pretending I’m someone else?
You can pretend I’m an old millionaire.
A millionaire washing his hands”



Then he was off to the Howard Johnson on 8th Avenue
where he’d be too scared to leave his room.
Today as he entered his room at the Gramercy Park Hotel
the low clouds in the late twilight
made the Empire State Building disappear.
Disconcerted and fearing disaster
he photographed the eerie void where he felt it should be.
He sensed he was on the eve of an immeasurable change in his life.
His epitasis.
He had to engage with life before it was too late.

“And what did happen?” asked Christopher Robin.
“Next morning.”
“I don’t know.”
“Could you think, and tell me and Pooh sometime?”
“If you wanted it very much.”



The Onion Fair

[Introducing Henry Miller just as busy as a fizzy sarsparilla]

In Highfield Road he was teething
his mother gave him Woodward’s Gripewater.
his grandmother carried him down the garden
to look at the motorbike
in the garage they rented out
because they didn’t have a car.

That evening they walked up the hill
to St Marks Church
in the rainy winter twilight
for the pantomime.
The pushchair registered and amplified
the regular rolling rhythm of the paving stones.
The church hall was dim with five watt light bulbs.
The smell of size water
and the perfumed institution of women.
Someone played a Doris Day record
and he fell a sleep to the clatter of teacups
sterilised milk bottles on trestle tables
and his mother humming.

Can’t you hear ’em hummin’?
Happy times are comin’ for to stay – hey!
We’ll be home tonight by the light of the silvery moon
And my heart’s a-thumpin’ like a mandolin a-plunkin’ a tune
When I get home, I’m fixin’ to stay. . .




They parked and
walked passed the Mulberry Bush
and New Street Station
before going down
by the Midland Red garage
the stairwell that always smelt of piss
as it did that black night
in the headlights and streetlights
of Station Street.
They crossed
and into the ancient red
sagging velvet magnificence.

Just before the interval
a thud
the first bomb
its execution of quietus
as he sat at the top of a spiral staircase
at the back of the wings.

There were two bombs
like there were two ‘planes.

No one seemed surprised
there was no information
rolling news or mobile phones
and as no one could see smoke from the fire escape
his mom said Bye and went home.

But it was two pubs
of young people.
A seventeen year old
opened the door to die.
Twenty one dead on 21/11
one hundred and eighty two wounded
mutilated and scarred.

Chaos in the streets
and terror?
Anxiety imprisons six blameless men
degrading the tragedy of the dead.

But that night he and his father
stood with horror in their veins
in the propinquity of death
and the Midland Red bus garage
learning the nearness of mortality.



Make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again till their doom, that is the logic of the imperialists and all reactionaries the world over and they will never go against this logic. When we say “imperialism is ferocious”, we mean that its nature will never change, that the imperialists will never lay down their butcher knives, that they will never become Buddhas, till their doom.

It was Monday the 10th in this life time as
he flew from Heathrow to JFK.
The previous week he had been in Hamburg Berlin and Paris telling
all who would listen that they
had to join the anti stupidity march
carrying banners by Jackson Pollock and
chanting the poems of Gregory Corso.

He had been writing a book
a memoir called Memory and Desire.
“My first memory is reaching up to touch the cats bum”
it started.
he hoped one day it would be finished but
he was waiting for a happy ending.

He had returned through it to
the inspirations of his youth.
The beatniks punks
folkniks and artists
from when he was thirteen living in a tent
at the end of the garden
all summer
reading On The Road.

Now ranting about the boredom of the
big brother nation.
“We’re back in the fifties.
Living in a pre Beatles era.”
He was promoting another album no one wanted.
No more pretty words and vague reassuring promises.
“Accept it. You’re going to die poor and
lonely and possibly sooner than you think.”

The last time he had seen Patti Smith
in Hackney
she had spoken of the boy
who died on the anti globalisation march and
how the marches would get bigger
and bigger until there were half a million
and then a million.
Like she knew
that soon two million
would be marching
through the streets
of London.



Everyone knew they were part of “History” except the deceased.

Walking through the smoke he heard
“I keep on expecting someone to shout cut”
“I don’t know if we’ll be going bowling.”
As the world tried to look through the cloud of smoke over Manhattan
he bought stars and striped Converse
and ate pizza whilst drinking Dos Equis
at Astor Place and Cooper Square.
Like Auden he and a thousand others remembered

I sit in one of the dives
On fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night

He went to the St Marks bookstore and found it.
The bookshop was so still and quiet
they were safe briefly between the pages
where other people found the words to describe
what was going on outside.

Down the road he found a bootleg VHS tape
Cocksucker Blues by the local Robert Frank.
At the hospital they wouldn’t accept blood
for even English vegetarians might have c.j.d.
The sirens continued through the night
and the gig at the Fez
became a benefit for the firemen.

The night before the show the peace march
left Union Square and headed for Times Square.



Whoever controls the media – the images – controls the culture.

There had been a meeting he was informed
and the committee had decided that
Peace not war” would be sung this evening.
War is not the answer, no war is not the answer
1234 we don’t need a stupid war.
however became more popular.

Here was the anti stupidity march.
He waved Auden
next to the banners
the critiques of Americas previous funding of Bin Laden
and the vaguer “God Bless Humanity.”

As he crossed East 17th street
demonstrators stopped the traffic by
holding hands across the bumpers.
By the time he got to East 22nd
the traffic was fighting back.
A scuffle broke out
a dude in a suit ran passed,
“Did you see me deck him baby?”
By the time he got back to Britain
stopping the traffic would be a anti-American.

The police were starting to get volatile.
This wasn’t hundreds
it was thousands
and it wasn’t about to fizzle out.
They started to break up the march by enforcing don’t walk signs
making us little blocks of protest.
“Go back to Russia”
came a shout from a shop doorway
to the hilarity of the peaceniks.

Just beyond the Condé Naste building
the police sealed off the route.
Everyone stood around singing for a while.
“No dissenting voices against Bush?”
said an educated voice
“This is just the beginning.”

As they realised they were being kettled
everyone ran to avoid the police barricades
joining other demonstrators finding alternative routes
to Times Square and mayhem.

He looked at the sign outside a cinema
Apocalypse Now Redux.
He had been looking forward to it.

Back at the hotel a telethon for relief aid
was on all channels
and when the news resumed
patriotism = war
and no footage of the march
although there had been thousands of cameras.

Sitting at the computer at Gavin Brown’s enterprise
the gallery where I’d come to say I was alive
“They wont give peace a chance”
e-mailed my brother
that was just a dream some of us had.

At the Fez after the show
someone said they’d seen people jumping
from the towers
“How many?”
“Too many to even count.”

And in that Manhattan bar
outwardly unchanged from last month
but now filled with ghosts
falling ghosts

Walking back through the streets
now they dust had settled and the fire was almost out
he began to recognise his fearfulness.

But the lights must never go out
the music must always play.

On the train
beneath ground zero
stations closed
the smell of smoke.

On the Staten Island ferry
plumes of smoke
where the towers had been.

To Spin Art Records
the reason he’d almost stayed in a downtown hotel
before sentimentally moving to the Gramercy
without telling anyone
so it was thought he was in
the Marriott.
and under
it all.

We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way



 The Lilac Time are currently recording lilac9 for release in 2012