I have always had a love of music, in my teen years I saw myself as the prog rock kid. A blending of Rick Wakeman, Richard Wright and Peter Gabriel. I was mad on Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Rush. The latter was my guilty secret for many years as was a raft of analog keyboards. At one point I had stacks of them, everything for the magic of moog to the warmth of the Juno 60. At school I had to build a case for that keyboard, I built it from oak, and the guys in the band I was in called it the coffin. Such was the fame and fear of the coffin (it weighed more than the Juno 60) that when a cyclist whose brakes failed going down hill near our rehearsal room, prefered to hit the bassist of the band I was in rather than roll over me and the coffin. That oak case is still out there, so is the bassist, they are built of things that make them survive.
I always thought I was alone in my love Rush. I do recommend anyone to listen to 2112 or Tom Sawyer. In the last few years, I have since discovered their are many poets of my generation who love Rush. The poet, John Siddique is one of those Rush lovers, and I have sneaking suspicion that Floyd and early Genesis may make him smile. I know as he reads this he will be too busy playing air guitar to 2112.
I am not surprised that many poets and writers are more influenced by music rather than a literary tradition that is often alien to them. When I was growing up we had two ice cream parlours in my run down hometown of Horwich, both parlours were called Ferrettis. The story goes that they were owned by two brothers that had fallen out with each other over ice cream. They moved to opposite ends of the main road that run through the town, infact one moved so far, he dog legged around the crown and onto the new road. These ice cream parlours were dens of inquity as my Mum would say. Here bad boys, bad girls, bad teenagers, bad bikers and drugs hung out.
It is no surprise to anyone that I was drawn into these marginalised figures and with them came the music. I did not come for a town that waxed lyrical about poetry or fiction or even knew what literary tradition. They didn’t need to, the poetry and stories where in their blood. I came from a dying town of cotton, engineering and blast furnaces. The people there told stories of the dead and drank to them. Horwich once boasted having the most pubs for a town of its size. There was even a game where you tried to drink your way through the 60+ pubs, most never made it past the Station park.
In that town gossip ran from ginnel to ginnel, tales of bad boys, bad girls and bikes that did drugs. Here is Coffin Ginnel, the ghost streets of spring, summer, autumn and winter, the story of the loco works hid during the war from the Lufftewaffe by painting the roofs to look like tennis courts. Except they just painted the one court which was a mile long, end to end, a place for giants to lose their balls.
There is one song though that always reminds me of those dens of inquity, it isn’t prog rock but each time it makes my blood pulse. That one song drives my writing, my stories. That song is Louie Louie by The Kingsmen (which is a cover of a Richard Berry track from 1955). The song makes no sense, but it pulses and it was on a juke box tucked in a corner of one of those ice cream parlours, it had probably been there since 1963 (the year The Kingsmen released their version) and I found it in the summer of 1984. I can still see myself, slightly pudgy, a cheap baseball cap to keep off the sun, the tips of my ears burnt from the summer sun and the old guy behind the counter, fag in mouth, lip hanging down, arms drooling over the counter, who told me to bugger or buy something.
That is the heart of my writing, bugger off or write.