Thursday, 15 January 2009

The weirdness/ R.I.P.

I mentioned in the last piece I posted up here that music is one of my obsessions.

Thinking about this then, in a way I would have expected myself to have written a post upon hearing the news that Mitch Mitchell, drummer with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, had died. Now I don't actually own any Jimi Hendrix albums, but I'm more than familiar with them - and one of the main things I like about them is Mitchell's drumming.

I'm not sure whether what follows is in accord with received opinion about him, but to me he's a fine example of the early rock drummers in the sense that while he could play the drums hard, fast and heavy, his style and technique also owed much to some of the great jazz players in terms of inventiveness, subtlety and being able to really swing. I love that kind of drumming, there's something that delights and fascinates me about it.

So it feels odd that my reaction to his death, sad and premature as it was, was really nothing more than muted. I'm not sure why that is, really, since I do hold him in high esteem as a musician.

Same goes for the far more recent, equally sad news that Ron Asheton, guitarist with The Stooges, has also died. Again, I don't actually own any Stooges albums, but I know them well and their influence is stamped firmly over many parts of my record/cd collection. There's a direct lineage from the Stooges, and Asheton's guitar playing particularly, to many of my favourite bands, albums and pieces of music.

But again, for reasons unknown to me, this news didn't affect me like I might have expected it to. As above, it's not for want of respect for him and his work. I'm not saying I would exactly be weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth, but certainly that it would have registered far more with me than it has done.

Today, however, I read the news online and saw that Patrick McGoohan has died aged 80, and that really did instil in me the kind of reaction oddly lacking with the previous two examples: a deep sigh, pause for a few minutes' reflection and the need to talk about it with the people around me.

I remember my mum mentioning The Prisoner as being "quite weird," before I'd ever seen or heard of it, but "quite weird" was bound to attract my interest. So when it was aired on Channel 4 - latish on Thursday nights around 1983 or 84, if memory serves - I can remember there being something hugely exciting and esoteric about it. It was baflling, intriguing, and thoroughly engrossing and thought-provoking.

It was one of those things that seemed a real highlight of the week: far beyond the mundanity of sitting watching television, it seemed so much more than that. Plus the fact that it was on a Thursday night - it was one of those things which served as a signifier that the weekend was imminent, and so it carried that kind of resonance that everything was just as it should be (of course if I've remembered this wrong then I'm talking rubbish, but we'll gloss over that).

Perhaps in a small way it represented a kind of marker for me: that I'd reached an age where there was no problem in me being able to stay up late to watch it; but, more significantly, that I was at an age where I could engage at some level with many of the concepts it presented and explored.

I haven't seen it since that rerun, some 25 years ago. Predictable though this may be, I won't be surprised if that changes in the not-too-distant future.

Anyway, with his death, it feels like we've lost another one of the good guys. Regardless of my described response about the passing of Mitch Mitchell and Ron Asheton, the same goes for them too.


Fire Byrd said...

If you ever go and stay in Portmerion, where the prisoner was filmed you can in a week watch all the Prisoner episodes in a week as there is a special just for them.
And of course you can go to the prisoner shop, but that's crap now years ago it was wonderful and eccentric but it's been made commercial now.

zola a social thing said...

Bet our Trousers has Kafka on the bookshelf.

trousers said...

I'm in two minds about the idea of staying in Portmeirion, fire byrd - I'd love to since it looks to be a fascinating place. On the other, I wonder if I feel a bit precious about my memory of watching The Prisoner first time round (first time round for me that is, on what may have been the first rerun) and whether going to Portmeirion itself would shatter so many of my perceptions.

If the latter were to be the case though, I realise it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, and might enhance my perceptions of it.

Maybe one day... xx

Of course, zola! Where would I be without my copy of Metamorphosis and Other Short Stories?

tpe said...

Hello, Trousers, how are you doing today?

I watched the drumming clip and thought your guy was maybe lost in his own head, oblivious to the task at hand. But no. He started to make sense of it (for me, anyway) around about the one minute mark and good God - but that takes skill. Ad-libbing spontaneity requires such discipline and craft. Impressive stuff, although I'd never heard of him and usually prefer drums in the background, unobtrusively keeping things moving along.

You maybe seem a bit keen, though, to beat yourself up for having what seem like perfectly normal and valid reactions to the deaths of these three people? It's really bloody difficult, I find, to sit back and appreciate or make sense of a loss to the world at large unless the loss is intensely personal. It all just ticks away in the background, really, adding gentle and often indecipherable layers of melancholy.

Going back a bit (I've been catching up with your blog stuff today) - are you managing to stick to your non-drinking in January vow? I hope so, although I know for a fact it can be horribly difficult.

I also have some sickeningly bad news: you didn't make up the word "linguician". Oh, I checked, Mr T. Having tried and failed (miserably) to make up some words of my own these past few months I was never going to be mature enough to let you get away with this excitingly wild claim. I hope this tragedy doesn't send you prematurely back to the bottle, of course, but I was simply too (potentially) jealous to let it pass me by.

Incidentally, judging by what Fire Byrd said, I imagine that Portmerion may come as a disappointment. Maybe it's better to hold onto the imagined memories, after all?

I hope you're having a splendid Saturday, splendid Mr T.

KInd regards etc....


trousers said...

I'm fine and dandy, thanks tpe, hope all is well with you too.

Mr Mitchell, he's good isn't he? To be honest I'm not particularly into drum solos or such flashy displays of versatility and facility, but once in a while - such as in this case - I just can't help it. He doesn't go on and on, but in the time taken, he strikes a balance between virtuosity, aggression, and feel - and spontaneity, as you say.

Thing is, I'm drawn to drums as an instrument (as opposed to, say, drums as a sandwich), and whenever I go and see a band who has a drummer, it's what I always focus on.

As regards my reactions, I don't think I gave much thought to my fairly indifferent responses (there's a necessary tautology there - but then is necessary tautology an oxymoron?), not at the time. It was my quite immediate reaction to Patrick McGoohan's death - a far more personal reaction (albeit in just a small way) than I would have expected, that caused such thoughts to subsequently occur: and I'm not troubled by it especially, it just struck me as a little surprising in retrospect.

There may, I suppose, be any number of reasons, just as there may be when eccentric old millionaires(ses) sometimes leave most everything in their will to their pet cat or to someone who smiled at them every morning from the local shop as they were driving past - leaving behind a fuming spouse, relatives and staff.

Maybe it's not just like that, but then again maybe you get the idea. That second paragraph of yours though, very wise words.

As regards my temporary teetotallism, I'm happy to report no difficulties so far: I think, to oversimplify, once I've made the decision then my mindset adjusts accordingly, it's just something I do, and I've become used to being within those parameters...(like I used to be one of those annoying smokers who would be on 40 Gitanes a day, and then, depending on certain triggers, just stop) the other main thing which makes it easy, is that I enjoy it for so many reasons.

Except the dreams. The lack of a depressant with which to dampen down my subconscious workings means that, although my quality of sleep is pretty good, there's some strange stuff working it's way through my synapses and slowly unravelling. It would perhaps be easier if I could remember them fully but at the moment, as it is, there are just lingering nuances which add a certain odd flavour to the day.

I actually welcome the fact that linguician is a real word, and so what I may do is toast the fact - but not until February.

I'll take your thoughts on Portmeirion into account too - the way it will probably work out is that should circumstances conspire to lead me there, then I'll go happily. But in the meantime, I shan't compel myself in that direction.

Best wishes to you tootpe, very good to have you visit once again.

tpe said...

Nicely put, yes. I think I may have grown slightly unsettled had he gone on for a great deal longer (Mr Mitchell, I mean), but everything felt perfectly well contained and was, as such, far easier to appreciate than, say, a twenty minute thrash-attack of meandering and thudding violence.

I don’t exactly share your fascination with drums as an instrument, it’s true – although let’s not be hasty and rule out the drums as a sandwich option, okay – but was forced, by my brother in-law, to appreciate that this is something far more complex and skilled than simply whacking a couple of sticks on an upturned bucket. He made me sit through his routines (he was simply breathtaking) and even though I wanted to feign disinterest and make out that it was all no big deal, well, I was mesmerised. If it’s done right – like the guy in your clip – then it’s something worth taking the time to appreciate.

Well, I had a bit of a reaction with the Patrick McGoohan thing, too. This may be simply because I recognised his name when I read it here and feel sure that I used to watch that series he was in – was there a great big squidgy ball that chased him around all over the shop? If there was, then I used to watch that show with a kind of uneasy fear and excitement. But yes, the reaction – a sort of very tiny pinprick and quickly corrected deflation – was definitely there. Something gets through every once in a while.

Slight diversion, sorry, and not to dismiss your analogy, but I LOVE when millionaire guys leave all their stuff to a favoured cat or tree. Man, that stuff gets me every time. You can test me on this when my uncle dies, okay, and I bet I’ll still be whimpering with delight. He went mental last year and probably won’t last long, poor soul, but it’s almost certain he’s re-written his will to pack it full of crazy. I can’t think of a single reason to find this anything other than jump up and down funny.

I’m rambling. Oh dear. Anyway, no offence, but that smoking thing is v. annoying, yes. How on earth did you manage such a thing? My girlfriend can do that with smoking – just completely stop for a month or so – and it makes me bloody mad.

And do you mean to say that you enjoy the disciplined act of self-denial itself (talking about drinking here) or that the clear-headed mornings and myriad plus points of sobriety are the things you enjoy the most? Or both, I suppose. Sometimes that’s all that keeps me from caving – the thought of a discombobulated morning after.

Do you not have any other drugs you could take in the absence of alcohol? Like hash, say? I find it really difficult having nothing (bar cigarettes and coffee) and remember that my nights were terror-filled miseries when first abandoning alcohol.

Actually, now that I’m here – and not for a moment suggesting that you’re a druggy – but is it true that hash these days is always miles stronger than it was in days of yore (talking twenty years ago here)? And, if not, is it still possible to get the weaker stuff easily enough? I’d like to give it another shot (never cared for it in my debauched youth) but have no real desire to get whacked inelegantly by anything too powerful.

Oh my good God, I'm sorry. I really am going on and on. Next time - 100 words maximum. Honest.

Linguicianistally yours and with kind regards....


(Hmm. I said "next time". Given that you've just announced that Tony Hart is dead, Trousers, I'm starting to properly dread my visits here. You are picking off our childhood favourites one by one, surely? Go anywhere near Bagpuss, sunshine, and you're for it. Leave. The Cat. Alone.)

trousers said...

tpe, to be honest I think I would quite happily watch someone hitting an upturned bucket with a couple of sticks, if someone did it well. Sounds like the brother-in-law may well have been as capable of mesmerising with such a set up, or at least I like to imagine so.

Yes, you're correct in that The Prisoner was the series which featured the big squidgy ball which came to collect Mr McGoohan every time he strayed too far or tried to escape from The Village. A very arresting (pun not really intended) and iconic image. I think at the time I watched it the uneasy fear was outstripped by the excitement, whereas now I think the balance would be different, I'm sure it has more than its fair share of rather dark resonances.

As regards the smoking, again to oversimplify: I reached a point where I would realise, for whatever reason, that I wanted to stop; once aware of that, I would wait for the moment (which might come days, weeks or more later) at which I actually felt able to stop. The meeting point of the two states would then result in a rather dramatic reframing of attitude towards smoking, and the sheer non-smokingness that would result would feel as satisfying and enjoyable as any cigarette.

When it comes to drinking, it's primarily the lack of hangover and all the rest - and when you don't drink, you've so much more time and money to do other things, such as not drink. It's always nice to sleep in on a Saturday morning, for example, and wake up without even so much of a trace of alcohol-induced lethargy in one's system. There's also the much narrower range of moods (in a positive sense) given that you're not artificially stretching them with masses of sugar, depressants, and anxiety thanks to a huge influx of adrenaline when the alcohol is wearing off.

There is something about the self-denial aspect too - though again it feels more about liberation (see reframing of thoughts regarding smoking as above) than denial. I think the key here is that it's a reassurance that I feel I can stop - or cut down - drinking if I really feel the need, and that there is enjoyment to be had of a different kind as a result. So having said that, I don't go for any other drugs (apart from caffeine), because it's nice not to be intoxicated by anything other than endorphins from (say) a good walk or a jaunt on two wheels.

I think you may be right about hash, but it's a very, very long time since I had that (and if I did, I would be putting myself in danger of taking up smoking again), so I can't confirm what you ask, not from my own experience anyway.

Oh, and the millionaire thing - I think it appeals to me too, because I think I'm far more likely to get rich thanks to a random and highly unexpected act of senseless benefaction(?) than by any other means.

I will leave Bagpuss well alone - I daren't go near him, if I so much as watch one of the episodes (did they really only make 12?) I'll be reduced to floods of tears I'm sure. Though the elephant in this particular room is the sadly-departed Mr Postgate, and I didn't even announce his passing on this here blog.

Still, I think we've more to fear in terms of our own mortality when certain cats are around.

Best wishes from me and, as Number 6 would say, be seeing you.

Reading the Signs said...

I must admit, this is fresh news to me, Trousers, and I am reeling a bit - About Patrick McGoohan in particular. It isn't so much that I loved The Prisoner, but it has a kind of permanent residence in the unconscious (or is it subconscious?) and is a place I go back to (in my mind, have never been to Portmeiron) because the whole weird non-story resonates so strongly with - don't really know, just about everything. Not to mention that one of my alter-ego nicknames is No.6. I used to smoke them too, but that's not why.

He was a good actor and I would like to have seen more of him. Whenever he appeared, though, I always connected him with Prisoner-type weirdness, and he seemed to carry that quality with him.

Be seeing you.

trousers said...

Well I do seem to be doing my bit in terms of bringing bad news, signs, but I'm sorry it left you reeling.

I can only really connect him with The Prisoner, anything else I saw him in I really can't remember (excepting a few episodes of Danger Man), and I did indeed love said programme. I assume that for most people he's known mainly or only for The Prisoner - but what a thing to be known for.

I like what you say about that quality of weirdness - though given what I've just said, I can't really agree except in principle, when it comes to other roles of his.

I wonder how I would find it now, should I get round to watching it again. To slightly echo something I said in a lengthy response to tpe, I think it would be full of rather dark resonances, perhaps uncomfortably so. One way to find out...

I'm intrigued by your number 6 alter ego: anything you'd like to share with us?

tpe said...

Don't encourage her, Trousers.

Hello. I think you're right that he'll only really be remembered for The Prisoner and I think you're right to suggest that this is a pretty special thing to be remembered for all the same. It's enough, surely.

Just going back a bit for a moment, but I can't quite believe that I overlooked your question "is necessary tautology an oxymoron?" This question initially delighted me, but my mood has darkened as I've tried to find a definitive response. This is the kind of thing that keeps me teetering on the brink of hysteria.

Anyway, I'm properly shocked that there may only have been twelve episodes of Bagpuss. That really is astonishing. Bagpuss was on forever, surely? Goodness me. If that's true, well, it can't be, can it?

I'm with you, though. I can't go anywhere near Bagpuss, either. I think I saw you say somewhere (absolutely ages ago) that this show was in some way a primer for death (for children)? I may be wrong, I may have dreamt it. Either way, I find it achingly sad if I catch a glimpse of it now. It just has that effect. I really think it was beautiful, though. ( I run the risk of becoming one of those people who say things in the vein of "they don't make things like they used to." But they don't.)

And if Bagpuss was a primer for death, then Oscar the cat seems like he's maybe the guy who finishes the job off in real time. What on earth is that all about?

Actually, don't laugh, but I'm very, very happy to believe that Oscar may be capable of sensing an imminent demise. Cats know stuff. And I'm sure - with due acceptance of the fact that again I may have been dreaming - I once read somewhere that dolphins can detect cancer. It would be typical of cats to take things that little bit further.

Yikes. It's very late all of a sudden. Must get a move on and go to bed. Disappointed about the hash - it was a serious enquiry and I don't have people to ask about this stuff. Impressed (once more) by your lack of smoking. Agreeing about the alcohol thing and spooked - more than just a little - by The Grim Oscar. I'll be checking under the bed for cats, you know, those sly, murderous swines.


Night all and kind regards....


trousers said...

signs, if you're reading this - or equally if you're not - I wanted to editorialize my last reply to you: changing

I can't really agree except in principle


I can only agree in principle.

Perhaps not necessary, but just one of those things which niggled at me.

tpe, such points as above may constitute further evidence of encouragement.

Meanwhile, it may be too simple and neat, but perhaps the best thing would be too leave the necessary tautology/oxymoron enquiry as rhetorical? Or perhaps we go for a compromise solution, in that it remains rhetorical until a suitable answer can be found. There's been enough darkness round here lately not only with my seemingly incessant death notices, but also with a murder happening just down the road.

I remember a quote, In a black and white world, murder brings a touch of colour - well no it doesn't, not in this part of the world anyway - it casts a darker shadow,

Anyway, I digress. Going back to Bagpuss, I was wrong - there were 13 episodes of said series, I felt the need to check. Still not a whole heap more, but 13 is undoubtedly one more than 12, and that's not insignificant (according to me).

Your memory serves you well, I did describe Bagpuss along those lines, but to be more accurate (hopefully - I haven't gone back and checked, and look what a mess I got in between the numbers 12 and 13) I think I described it as a primer for loss: that may be needlessly pedantic, and I do apologise, but death is but one of many forms of loss, as one of my work colleagues would surely agree as he spend 45 minutes searching for his mislaid mobile phone this morning.

I'm happy to stick with a primer for death though, it's what I seem happiest talking about enough of the time. Can only agree with your words about Bagpuss. Well no that's not true, I can disagree as well, for example, but I choose not to as that would be misrepresenting my position.

Moving on to Oscar the furry grim reaper, yes cats do indeed know stuff, and I think they certainly know about this kind of stuff. I did read a follow-up article somewhere which provided a very plausible-sounding set of reasons as to why cats may be able to do this, though I do prefer the romantic element to it over the prosaically scientific (or something).

Phew indeed, now there's me going on.

Time to write a new post, perchance.

Reading the Signs said...

Trousers, I feel sufficiently encouraged to offer you another snippet of information about PMcG you might not have been aware of: apparently he refused to have any love scenes in Dangerman because he was very serious about acting and felt it would compromise the storyline. And he was asked to be James Bond and turned it down. Somehow this enhances his charisma, as far as I'm concerned.

TPE, I know that you know that I am actually, sometimes, really Number Six. Anna Mr calls me that and so it must be true. And anyway, I have always felt that PMcG and I shared something at a very deep level.

(Trousers, I trust this also answers your question about that).

trousers said...

Signs, I somehow feel bad that your PMcG fact is something I was already aware of, but only through having read his obituary in the Guardian last week.

I know it's easy to say it since he never was James Bond, but I really can't imagine him in that role, just as Sean Connery utterly defined it. I was aware, as mentioned, of Danger Man - but PMcG really came into his own with that certain esoteric something about him.

Yes, I agree that it enhances his charisma - and yes, my question has been answered. It all makes sense now, at least I think so...

tpe said...

Signs - to cite Anna MR as a source of reliable and factual information is a grave risk. She just got very got lucky in identifying you as Number Six, nothing more, and normally talks ten types of crazy. If you ever end up in court – which seems likely – just don’t be calling her as a witness for the defence. That way lies madness, confusion and jail.

Trousers - no, I admire and require pedantry and enjoyed the more nuanced definition. And your solution to the necessary tautology oxymoron conundrum shows great invention and collective hide-saving cowardice. A winning formula. (He’s your guy, Signs – for the court case, I mean.)

Be that as it may, however, I’m afraid I just homed in on your passing reference to murder. That’s just horrible and awful, Mr T. The air seems to change colour round the scene of a killing that is too close to home and everything feels sharply unsettling and othery. I hope everyone is starting to make sense of it all and that justice comes calling with an angry and well-aimed speed.

Kind regards etc....


tpe said...

Signs - ignore the extra "got" between the words "very" and "lucky". A tragic mistake, that's all.

trousers said...

Many thanks, tpe, there is more of a sense of normality returning now - albeit with reminders such as floral tributes left at the spot, which simultaneously provide reassurance (that of other people's thoughtfulness and humanity) and sadness (that it happened in the first place). The thing is, of course, that I have the relative luxury of talking about a return to normality, which is surely something that those who have been directly touched by this can hardly even begin to contemplate.

Going back to the question/thesis about tautology: I would have thought that a sound, logical way to start such an inquiry into the best way to find an answer, would be to look at reliable meanings/definitions of the words tautology and necessary.

Mind you, that's probably a highly uninteresting way of going about it, and therefore if any one of us were to pursue this (say, when haunted by insomnia, or when one's pc has broken), then I certainly wouldn't countenance such a prosaic methodology.

Have a good weekend!