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MONDAY 10 SEPTEMBER
We hold the first editorial meeting of Careless Talk Costs Lives in a plastic café at London Bridge station. No one sips strawberry tea. No one looks round and sees a portrait of Mavis Staples. Steve Gullick buys me too many containers of imitation coffee: by the time I reach my meeting with Carlton Books later to discuss my journal/deconstruction of celebrity/anti-fame ego booster I'm jabbering 10 to the second. Probably just as well. I have no new dialogue to add, except to explain my laziness. The weekend before was taken up rooting through old letters and faxes, putting together a 20,000-word blast of righteous revelry from 1990, 1991 and 2000. God, I was an asshole when I used to drink.
I notice I have no sense of purpose right now.
I mean, of course, structure.
Appropriately enough, there's little to discuss about Careless Talk. We're agreed that we want to create a magazine that will ultimately replace the decaying UK music press, through the use of one simple idea to cover the music we love in an intelligent, soulful and stylish manner. For months now, I've been disturbed at the volume of free CDs that nestle on my Billy bookcase shelf just over there to the left, just below the Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics and the Yoko Ono and Billie Holiday box sets some of which are very fine indeed, and none of which British music 'journalists' (or perhaps that should read their 'editors') consider important or interesting enough for exposure. Also, I have no great urge to know what ring tones teenagers in Milton Keynes may or may not be using on their mobile phones. Also, I despise bad photography and the cult of irony more than I despise the Cosmic Rough Riders. Also, most music critics shouldn't even be allowed out of bed in the morning, particularly those who appear on TV to reinforce the consensus. (This, they all do.) Steve Gullick would like to be able to print his photographs in a manner that befits them, and support great music. Stevie Chick, too, only substitute the word 'writing' for 'photographs'.
Steve says that Mogwai will speak to us in Glasgow next week: this is a wonderful thing I am led to realise because they are a great band and have attitude. I like 'attitude', that most ambivalent of words.
Of course, it is a major mistake getting me involved because of my bruised ego.
In the evening, I buy a Lester Bangs book and a book on the Ramones, neither of which will offer me any solace in the weeks to come when the murmur of the world consciousness, usually so low as to be ignorable, will become scarily audible to even the most insensitive of Americans. Steve and myself eat at a decadent price in a Mexican restaurant he favours, and envy the departed Stevie, who is flying to New York the next day.
TUESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER
I phone some PRs around 1.00pm to try and figure out a floor to stay on, and bands to interview, when I fly out to New York next week. They advise me to watch the television.
I watch a 15 second loop of film on television for the next 12 hours.
I have little words to add to what's already been said: I know what its like to grow up as a child under the shadow of The Bomb, thinking that every plane that flies overhead is the one that will bring about the end of humankind. I don't know what it's like to have that fear actualised. When Charlotte was being turned away from America in Seattle, for no reason whatsoever except that some Americans can be complete assholes particularly towards foreigners, who they delightfully call 'aliens' I had this terrible feeling of powerlessness, of knowing that what I did had no effect over my life whatsoever. I felt anger. I felt sadness, for any number of reasons. I felt a an odd sensation too, call it shock, that bad as the event that was unfolding around me were, I knew that the shockwaves would be felt in our lives for years to come. This was only a tiny event, no one died. No one was hurt, at least not physically.
I have the same feeling now, watching the plane ram into the WTC Tower that, however terrible the events are, the events that follow will be even worse. A couple of days later I tear out a newspaper item the only one I've kept headlined Why Would They Want To Attack Us, and then listing several pertinent points about American foreign policy, how they bomb and kill innocent people across the world at will, down to money, down to xenophobia. It's not the terrorists I'm scared of, it's the bullish American leaders, the ones I know whose behaviour doesn't reflect that of any of the (many) people I hold dear in the US, but who represent them nonetheless. And yes, I'm angry with Blair and his vote-seeking cronies.
Bush hops around America during the afternoon from one city to another, like a little scared child. See his eyes as he's told the news. This is not a leader of men. This is a man who dare not speak without an autocue. And this is not a war of Good Versus Evil either, at least I hope not, because that way lies madness; what makes America think they have the high moral ground? Isn't that precisely what their enemies think? What's terribly sad is that it's clear many people Stateside don't understand why they've been attacked: 'It's because they're jealous'. Really?
I'm scared of the terrorists too.
Any regime that classifies women as second-class citizens, and refuses them the right to even earn a living, doesn't get my vote either. But neither does a regime whose secret service helped train and also funded escape tunnels for their now professed Number One Enemy.
It begins to rain five miles outside of Manchester the following day, and doesn't stop for a week.
WEDNESDAY 12 SEPTEMBER
It's the losers who have the best humour. The winning side has no need for it. In the evening, 30 or 40 of us sit around the top floor of Waterstone's in Manchester and, fortified by cheap wine and kinship and something like a siege mentality sheltered from the rain and a pitiful hour away from The Real World, discuss irrelevancies and music and whether Everett True really did introduce KC to CL as is claimed in some places and not others. John Robb, the mighty John Robb, inspiration and friend for more years than I deserve, is my interrogator. Increasingly, I find myself playing the role of the self-righteous hero figure and wonder where I lost track of the time: that was never my intention, I always shied away from acclaim and if my only defence is the fact that my current interview on amazon.co.uk rings with a certain bitter authenticity then that's scant consolation. I'm interviewed by a girl from a student paper about further irrelevancies such as music and me. She keeps mentioning the fact she's talking to me, and clings on to the idea of being near Everett True all night like it matters. Maybe it does. That's not my call.
During the book promotional bit, John asks me about Kurt and asks me about Courtney and asks me about Kurt, like there is only one person that matters to the people assembled. I assume that he knows his audience better than I, and go along with the fa≠ade: there is much laughter and ribbing between the two of us, and we both thrust and parry, thrust and parry and refuse to take ourselves too seriously. This is good. See the part about humour once more. The locals think John must be loaded because he appears on TV and is charming and intelligent: he pays 20 quid a week rent, steps over junkies in the alley, and has fake leopard-skin sheets underneath a poster of Elvis in his spare room. He believes in the power of rock and roll and hates critics in London with a passion more righteous than mine because he never sold out. He says that he likes populist music like Slipknot and the (successful) punk bands, but his whole lifestyle and label and music runs contrary to that creed.
John has himself sorted out, that's for sure. I invite him and his partner down to Brighton for half term, and hope they show.
We watch TV, and grieve, but that's later.
We get soaked through three times, and watch an American punk band the Bouncing Souls, if you've heard Green Day, you've heard them run through a typically enthused set in front of a University hall full of bouncing 14 year old boys. That is fine and wonderful and strange, and there's cheap beer and JD too. The evening is subdued, but we don't seek it that way. That's later, though.
We talk of WWIII, the arrogance of America, the rumours of other planes shot down in the skies, all of that stuff. That's later, too.
Back at the show, John wants to know why I wrote Live Through This. I say it's because I never intended to stop writing about Nirvana, it was that events drove me to: I forget to add it was because I wanted to reclaim history away from the professional rewriters, the Charles Crosses and Paulo Hewitts of this world, and put the music I loved and brought to people back in the context it first appeared to me. John argues that 'Nevermind' is a great record, and it doesn't matter that it has a production to suit Motley Crue because the Crue are a great band. I concur, but Nirvana weren't the Crue. Two girls thank me personally for helping popularise Riot Grrrl, and afterwards half the audience buy the book to be signed, taking full advantage of £3 money off coupons. I don't know what to write, and keep it simple: either a bad three-line illustration or a Keep On Rockin'. Back at the flat, I play John my new album and he says the guitars on the first song sound like The Who's 'Can't Explain' and, oddly, he's correct. He likes the spoken word tracks, and the fact I remember 13th Floor Elevators - or was that Stephen?
We sit in a bar that reminds me of Seattle but that's later, or earlier, or some other time frame anyway, too. I have no sense of structure.
THURSDAY 13 SEPTEMBER
The countryside is beautiful, especially up near Glasgow on the train, and when I can raise my eyes to view it in between reading The Guardian's surprisingly gung-ho coverage of events - I don't like the paper, but I'm certainly not going to take The Sun right now - and Graham Greene's 'The Third Man' it makes me feel melancholy, like those heart-wrenchingly beautiful mountains in Afghanistan. Early and friendless, I wander into Glasgow's Museum Of Modern Art to pass the time, and my attention is drawn to one painting in particular: a view of a football match on a hillock near an industrial estate in front of an imaginary crowd, the players dwarfed by their surroundings, imagining the roar of the distant traffic to be the roar of the fans. The colours are grey, but not oppressive, more like it's cold but it's Christmas time.
The crowd in Waterstone's is intimidating: at least 120 strong, big room, Eugene from the Vaselines is there, and the Pastels and assorted knowledgeable friends, and Lindsay from Next Big Thing, and no one laughs not like the previous night, good old John, can make everyone feel good about themselves, one of his finest tricks even though myself and my accuser, Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai think we're very funny indeed, or at least some. Stuart proves surprisingly adept at asking questions, then I take over and try not to stumble over my words too much as I try to link in the various disparate elements of my book from Huggy Bear to Melvins to Courtney to Jad conscientiously, remembering that I'd barely mentioned any of the bands I loved the previous night. So Stuart contents himself with finishing off the bottle of wine supplied, and occasionally waking up. I look at Katrina constantly, as she's the only one smiling.
While SB is being introduced, a mumbled heckle of 'why?' is heard from the direction of Eugene, throwing Stuart completely and making him even more nervous. Stephen Pastel opts to contribute from the audience: Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) opts to put up a map on his kitchen wall instead, forgetting. The evening is strange, I can't figure out why so many people - good people at that, Glasgow has long been my favourite British city - are sitting there, taking my words seriously. I have no idea what I say: someone in the front even throws a 'did Virgin really censor your description of Calvin as a sexy retard, as you stated in The Stranger?' my way. I wish I hadn't quoted myself out of context on that. It makes it seem like I was poking fun at Calvin when I wasn't, and it also starts Stuart off on a very dubious line of PC bating. I sign five copies after - no money off coupons.
Steve Gullick, who's just flown up with major delays from Stansted Airport, and I later help Stuart onto a train to Edinburgh because he's having difficulty communicating between his legs and brain. He passes out in the toilet, and the accommodating guard uses his key to let him out. Steve and I hold another Careless Talk editorial meeting on the train: we decide to sack everyone, especially ourselves for being out-of-date and irrelevant, and simultaneously decide we should create the whole magazine ourselves as we hate all other critics and photographers. Because we're arrogant, obviously and, hey! We deserve to be.
Stuart's young wife is very charming and accommodating, especially considering she wasn't aware she had guests - I played drunken Cupid at their first date, last year at Queens Of The Stone Age concert at Barrowlands, furnishing them with half-pints of whiskey in response to entreaties for alcohol - and shows me and Steve the room we're staying in. I opt for the duvet and floor. Steve takes the sofa and air. I play my album to Steve, and he likes it. It contains my essence, like my writing: it is what it is, and there are also melodies and stories and the odd tremulous quavers in my voice. That's enough for me nowadays. I never did like universal music.
Earlier, many people asked me why I'm so (strangely) quiet in our drinking establishment of choice. It's because I'm not familiar with the mechanics of being around others nowadays. It's also because I feel I have no place showing off, not when I'm failing to contribute to life's general discourse.
FRIDAY 14 SEPTEMBER
One article stands out from the herd, in that last bastion of left-wing radical thought, The Guardian - an interview with Jo Whiley in Guardian 2, the only story not directly related to the 'war' in the entire paper, a small column on Jo's week, wherein she goes shopping for new clothes and finds herself in the terrible dilemma of having turned up in the same glittery top as Zoe Ball at the Mercury Music Award ceremony, Tuesday evening. 'But being a real sport, she changed it,' Jo gushingly reveals, before adding 'and she still looked gorgeous.'
'The evening was a bit strained,' she adds.
That photo of Bush looking on uncomprehending as his aide tells him of the first plane crash, is the image that will stick in my mind eternally that, and the collapse of the aerial and tower an hour later. In the morning, Stuart and myself write a spoof review of Live Through This for amazon.co.uk (I guess I shouldn't be typing this here) that has the book down as 'Lord Of The Rings in flannel'. It makes us laugh, and please note the point about laughter at times like these. Stuart has a new theory about how local globalisation is the way forward, in direct opposition to that Sensitive Bloke From Radiohead. I have no real idea what he's talking about. I'm too happy to be wandering through the streets and parks of Edinburgh once more, even if it is only for a morning. It rains.
In the afternoon, we interview Mogwai. Later, in an echo of my wayward past, I lose the first tape (also containing a Quasi interview I was very fond of). I am gutted, the knowledge of my carelessness affects me even more than the realisation our neighbours below are planning to build a sun patio on our land, and of course, good people dying in New York. I think that's called transference, classic worried behaviour. I ask them about motivation and hatred, collaborations and the mechanics of writing a song. I ask them to not justify the means.
Outside, on the steps of a boarded up church, I feel like a child working next to Steve Gullick again.
It rains, and I start sipping beer only when I know it's safe to.
© Everett True 2001 2001