We set off on an adventure tonight. First, we waited for it to get dark, for it to get a little colder and looked up into the sky to see if rain was coming and then it was time to go. The wind was up outside the Archive door and we stepped out onto the pavement into the night. We walked down Chapel Street past what once was Steckfensters, the recently closed down curios shop, and turned left, down the cobbled hill by the Admiral Benbow pub that leads down to the water in front of the dry dock. The sea flows under the road bridge beyond the harbour and today it was the highest I’d ever seen it as it flowed over the road at the bottom of the hill. It was warmer than it at first seemed but I was glad of my coat on an English November night.
We crossed the road by the harbour, now sparsely populated with boats as the winter takes hold. The sea is, of course, high here too and from a distance, the boats look like they are on a level with the cars as if they both occupy the same modes of motion. Further along across and on the edge of the car park that sits aside the harbour, a giant buoy, (pronounced ‘boy’ in England, ‘buey’ in American) a reminder of the old-fashioned markers from the sea, outmoded by some new technology. The buoy stood next to the boats’ winter hibernation area, nylon ropes flapping against the masts in the wind.
We had reached the sea path and ventured into the darkness that led to the shore walk. I had my torch but the batteries were low and it made little effect on the blackness of the path. The occasional minefield of already trampled dog dirt made it a precarious trip but I managed to make it with no damage. You are walking with the train tracks on one side and the sea on the other and tonight the sea was loud, the train tracks quiet. On our journey in the dark, we were passed by a girl jogging, two teenagers, a man on a bike. There’s no feeling of danger here on this dark path – welcome to Penzance.
Suddenly a train appeared but it was so silent that it was hardly noticeable over the roar of the sea, it clicked softly on the tracks, off to Plymouth or London, barely occupied due to the lockdown. We walked by the pathway that led down to the beach the last time we made this trip but this time the sea was right up against the rocks and there was no way you could walk there. There was no sign of seagulls, I still wonder where they go at night.
We came to the ominous silhouette that was the bridge that leads from the footpath over the railway line. The torch was failing but we were soon over and dazzled by the orange light of the street lamps and the headlights of the cars. We made them stop at the crossing, surely cursing as they were now on the road out of Penzance and they could speed away, this was the last hurdle on the dual carriageway. They impatiently accelerated off as the light turned to green and we reached our destination. What excitement to be here again in this space-age place next to the Scilly Isles Heliport.
On the way back, we stopped on the top of the bridge and gazed down at the black sea and into the blackness beyond the breaking waves. We breathed in the air, filling our lungs with oxygen and breathing out as long as possible, exhaling old air from our lungs and then breathing in the new fresh batch. On the path, the torch was even dimmer and although the tide was high we went down as close as we could to the waves and I managed to stand on the wet pebbles and experience the awe-inspiring power of nature.
On the way back another man on a bike, it may have been the same man, it was too dark to tell and a jogging couple with bright lights stuck to their heads. They might have been aliens, it was impossible to tell. What a trip, walking out into the night, taking in the sea in the darkness and wondering how we could ever live anywhere without this benign monster in our lives.
Music of the day is The Doors’ second album, Strange Days (1967). It seems appropriate. It’s a poetic album, with Morrison’s moody vocal and evocative lyrics. The band, sensitive to his vision, are a perfect vehicle, Ray Manzarek’s unique keyboard sounds and Robby Krieger’s sixties guitar with John Densmore’s jazzy drumming arrangements and of course the bass player they didn’t have, but did – if not in Manzarek’s left hand, then in the studio at least on this album, Clear Light’s Douglas Lubahn plays “occasional bass”.
The poetry of Horse Latitudes, the hits, People Are Strange and Love Me Two Times and a lot of thoughtful album tracks, makes this a must-have album. Allegedly sonically inspired by receiving an “early copy” of Sgt Pepper’s, a sonic inspiration as they used a state of the art 8- track recorder and experimented with sounds. I love the last track, the ten minute plus When The Music’s Over. The album was produced by Paul A. Rothchild who produced all their records except LA Woman (regular engineer Bruce Botnick did that one). The album was a big success making it to No.3 in the US charts.
After hearing this I had to hear more, so went back to their debut. This one reached No.2 on the US charts and included the hit Light My Fire with Manzarek’s wonderful keyboard line. Larry Knetchel plays bass on Light My Fire and also Soul Kitchen, written as a tribute to Olivias Soul Food Kitchen on Venice Beach. Break On Through (To The Other Side) opens the album and of course that classic, The End, finishes it, later evocatively recorded by Nico on the album of the same name in 1974.