“Happy Birthday Charlotte,” said the voice from behind the wall. There had been an exorcism and all kinds of electronic equipment installed in trying to locate the source of the disconnected words. There had been no known murders, not any kind of serious crime, there was no strange atmosphere or vibrations penetrating the walls from the graveyard opposite. The cottage was hundreds of years old, with sturdy wooden doors and low beams. The window’s crisscrossed leadlight gave it authenticity, the glass was more translucent than clear as age ravaged the process of authentic deterioration. There was music in the shelves in the form of long-playing records, there were books in English and French, pictures of authors and all kinds of paraphernalia, including two old broken guitars and it seemed as if all past residents had left something behind after they had gone. It also seemed that the mysterious disconnected voice wasn’t meant to scare but to soothe, to show caring and awareness and the importance of the date as it was only heard once a year. History shared many myths about the origin of the voice, the most famous being that it came from an amateur actor that once lived here, reading the script of his life, saying the lines out loud, lines that he knew by heart and those final words “Happy Birthday Charlotte” closed the play. But the play never appeared and the skill with which he delivered the lines, the love he gave the part, the soul he gave the character in this, his big break, was to fall on deaf ears.
Scrutiny, that’s the keyword today and one realises when one writes 1500 words a day for 6 months that you come under scrutiny. So one might ask what’s the point of putting yourself through this, being either analysed or attacked, generally read, enjoyed, shared, loved, insulted, second-guessed, ignored, encouraged and having a range of effects on an odd mixture of friends, strangers and followers of your work. Well mostly it’s 99% positive it only gets dodgy when someone feels attacked by your ideas, having said that no-one asked you to read what I write or subscribe to my views. I might also add that my views are pretty tame in relation to views I see around me with the different levels of conspiracy theorists, rightists and leftists – Just Gimme Some Truth! To think that someone would attack me for calling out Trump is actually bizarre as many who initially followed him have done just that, his own people. Proper conservatives are ashamed, as are religious people, as are the people he has fired and insulted for trying to stand up to him. Everyone can have an opinion but this is just insane, you have to stop this.
So why do I write, well, I like it and I Iike to observe and write about the things I see, the only problem is that such hatred has been built up in the world that it’s the only topic in town. I’m not a political animal, I’m just sad. I always loved reading and words, writing songs and playing the guitar and collaborating. I also felt like an autobiographical day to day diary that incorporated all these observations of music and events might be interesting to record and it seems even more so now as this period will go down in history as a unique time when the world was disrupted by the pandemic and the people were so shocked by the leaning towards intolerance. We used to accept a different approach by the other side because we had our democratic chance to change it but even the chance to compete fairly seems to be being eroded like in dictatorships – this week’s trouble in Belarus a case in point.
The idea was to talk about all the places we went in the world, seeing different countries and meeting fascinating people. I never expected to be sitting in Penzance and not moving out of the town limits for months. Although it’s nice to be near the sea and on the beach. (The pic today is us meeting Hannah and Liz the other day with Hannah’s friend’s dog, a Saluki.)
On a general level if I do happen to make a mistake with a fact, politely let me know and I will politely correct it. Don’t look for errors, I write a lot and there might be some oversight but enjoy the positive things, a nice sentence, the discovery of a group you’ve never heard or an interesting fact that we both might have heard for the first time today. If you find anything I write tedious then don’t read on, or at all. Just to let you know, I’m more interested in the life cycle of the otter than I am in the nasty world of power and I’m certainly not going to argue the point with people who are so philosophically opposed. Thank you for reading, now let’s find out about some music, a book, a film or an interesting situation that occurred during the day. I also may sometimes wander more into the world of fantasy as I am not exactly having adventures here outside the music Dare and I are making and Olivia. Luckily I have the sessions all over the world with all kinds of wonderful people, unfortunately I can’t slip through the screen into Istanbul or Sydney or Montreal or Europe or anywhere in America.
Music today had me listening to The Cure for the first time in a long long time. I always loved those early records (the words bands hate to hear). 10:15 Saturday Night was the one for me, I loved that song and that drum part. But also Killing An Arab because I’d read Camus’s The Stranger and overall the atmosphere that they created was so enticing. So, tonight I played Standing On A Beach – The Singles (Staring At The Sea in some countries), although the vinyl version is short four songs including my favourite, 10:15 Saturday Night, also A Play For Today, Other Voices and A Night Like This. A Forest, Charlotte Sometimes, Primary and The Hanging Garden were all favourites. I cautiously lent an ear to what happened next – Let’s Go To Bed, The Walk, The Lovecats and The Caterpillar (the last 3 all standalone singles) where Robert Smith discovered he was a commercial cartoon character, the hair, the lipstick.
We were all doing it but he took it further. So it’s not a criticism, he found an image, quite different to the earlier days and it worked, the suburbs thought he was wacky and the rest of us could still hear that he was a great eccentric English songwriter with a unique voice. I still don’t think he gets enough credit despite the success. But The Lovecats, I really didn’t like that one. In Between Days and Close To You were also catchy as hell, commercially viable, who knew? But Faith and Pornography and later Disintegration were the great albums for me. Standing On A Beach has the singles from Three Imaginary Boys, 17 Seconds, Faith, Pornography, The Top and The Head On The Door but also the American compilation Boys Don’t Cry that included the other standalone singles Boys Don’t Cry and Jumping Someone Else’s Train. Great, a must-have, but get the CD with the four extra tracks.
Julian Cope’s My Nation Underground sat somewhere in the middle of his life realisation that commercial pursuit was not for him and these more clinically produced albums of the era 1984-1991 including the predecessor Saint Julian were more what he could be rather than what he wanted to be. A better grasp of his preferred comfort zone would be found on the albums Fried, Skellington and Droolian and perhaps on one of his best albums, Peggy Suicide, which seemed to incorporate eccentricity and reason, madness and an eye on the charts simultaneously.
Always a fan, this is not my favourite record by him but because it’s today it has the track Charlotte Anne and today is Charlotte’s day. His knowledge of music is legendary and the opening track, It’s A Five O’clock World, comes c/-sixties group The Vogues and has a momentary brush with Pet Clark’s I Know A Place. So you know a good artist when you can still like the album you might like the least. Apart from Charlotte Anne, the album also has the lovely China Doll, it might have been nice covered by Scott Walker or Robert Wyatt.
Actress/singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, the daughter of Serge and Jane Birkin, released her first album in 20 years, 5:55, in 2006. It included a cast of hip collaborators including Jarvis Cocker, ex Pulp, and Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy writing most of the lyrics with Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel of Air writing the music, it was produced by Nigel Godrich of Radiohead fame. It’s a strange whispery album with Gainsbourg’s quiet delivery somewhere between talking and singing softly floating above the music. The album was a huge success in France despite her singing mostly in English selling over 500,000 copies – wow that’s a dynasty. It’s a dreamy hushed indie album. The first single The Songs That We Sings stands out but the quality of her speaking voice similar to Jane and the mood similar to Serge makes it an evocative and engaging album.
Stage Whispers came in 2011 (IRM with Beck in 2009). Stage Whispers has eight studio songs and eleven live songs. It’s initially much more of an Electro Pop direction and is produced by Beck. There’s something unsubstantial about it. This seems to happen to albums that have their finger on the pulse of the day, minutes later they lose their importance. It might sound better in another 10 years when the time period it was recorded in is further away. But then it suddenly changes with White Telephone, less Electro more of a song with sounds rather than sounds with a song lurking in there somewhere. Anna has the same positives, but then we’re back with a duet with Charlie Fink from Noah And The Whale, it’s so hip it doesn’t need to be better. New Zealand hip dude Connan Mockasin wrote the next track, Out Of Touch. Last of the new songs is Memoir, again more organic. What a strange record. Then we are into the live tracks, you really have to say that if she wasn’t Charlotte Gainsbourg you wouldn’t care but the audience goes nuts, so what do I know? It’s ok but when your album has sold 500,000 copies in one country and you’re massively famous, the whole thing takes on a life of its own. A version of Just Like A Woman, I think I know what it is, she sings/performs like an actress.