The Teardrop Explodes formed in Liverpool in the late 1970s. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? Or at least of their loopy lead singer Julian Cope, who’s held up remarkably well. Echo & The Bunnymen were formed about the same time as Teardrop. In fact, for a while Ian McCullough, lead for the Bunnymen, was a bandmate of Cope’s. That’s a lot of talent to try to contain on one stage.
Modern Eon came out of the same city, at about the same time. But even if you're familiar with the other two, and are sympathetic to the punk and New Wave music of late 70s, early 80s England, you might well have missed them.
They only made one album, 1981’s marvelous Fiction Tales. I’ve listened to that work a lot this year, and it remains a powerful, underappreciated set. Better than Teardrop’s debut, Kilimanjaro, I reckon, which seems more slight now, and slightly done in by Cope’s need to be always saying something. That album is less atmospheric than I remember, and more dated than I’d hoped. But Fiction Tales, perhaps because they didn’t record again, offers up a unique experience. It’s a dark drum- and synth-centred sound unlike else I can think of. But push me up into a dark corner and I’d point to some of the usual suspects: Echo, and Joy Division, the early work of Simple Minds, even. But the occasional blast of horns is reminiscent of Bowie’s Berlin work, and Roxy Music’s first three. I’m entranced, and maybe you will be too. There’s a link to the whole album here.
Every Saturday morning I try to steal an hour or two with my family, and after Sam’s yoga class we all walk down to the market behind City Hall. We pick up our vegetables for the week, often concentrating on the Patchwork Gardens stall. Eric and Meghan and Ian, who regularly work the stall, are among the nicest people I see in any seven-day period, and it's a fair bet that they're among the hardest-working too (as are all our farmers). The produce is fantastic and this week they said that they have a few spots left in their winter CSA program. We had a piece of that action last winter and I thought it was some of the smartest money we spent all year. The link to their website is here.
The new novel.
I started a new book about six months ago, but it’s a slow process this time. Usually I can get a first draft on paper in three or four months. Sure, it takes years after that to edit the work, but I’ve always liked being able to throw a lot of ideas at the page in pretty short order and have them roughly (very roughly) resemble a novel. This time it’s very different. I don’t have six hours a day to write. The majority of days I write nothing at all, aside from emails, and the odd piece for this site. And so there’s lots of handwringing in my life, and a lot of pacing and head-scratching. And when I do find a few hours, it’s very hard to pick up where I left off. The flow is different, or there’s no flow at all. I tend to write fragments that I hope I can stitch together in a later draft. And I’m okay with that; I’ve embraced it, at least. It’ll make for a different sort of novel, and that’s exciting to me.
Another big difference this time around is that while normally I hold off on reading much fiction while I write the first draft (it’s my voice I want to hear; not that of Amis, or Parks, or McEwen etc), this time I just can’t do that. It would probably mean not reading anything for a couple of years. And sometimes that means that I’ve read an entire novel between writing sessions. And if I enjoyed the book and it’s still floating around in my head, I’m concerned that its shadow may show up in the finished work. That’s not a problem that you should give a moment’s thought to, of course, but for me these days it’s a real preoccupation.
My final thought for now is that the audience for this sort of revelation must be so small that perhaps I should be keeping most of this stuff to myself, or risk having you all fall asleep at the screen. So I’ll stop. Right here, right now, and for about seven days.
*The photo of the Patchwork farmers is from their website.