Music Matters
Back in the nineties I created a lot of essays all loosely joined by A being about music B memoir related and C pertaining to how place affects creating music and how one listens. A mixed memoir called "Music Matters". Much of it I would heartily disown now , but not all - and who am I to judge now that the work is done, anyway? So I am resolved to dripping out the essays over the next few months, often without comment, sometimes with.
Geoffrey Armes
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Jenny, Muhtar, Flip
Geoffrey Armes - 2020-10-13 23:27:00+02:00

At the end of the summer I went to London, alone. V’s rent had become an agony, as had the heat and the arguments: C.and I, T and C, T and I.

Once back in the city I stayed at my fathers house, as his second marriage disintegrated, and he roared and grumbled at all and everything around him. ‘Why is it all my boys are such wasters and my daughters not?’ he cried, pounding the table with a wine bottle, until I, the oldest, and not the child of the woman who grumbled back at him that day, pointed out that all his elder daughters had ever managed to do was marry, and his youngest, both sons and daughters were still in school. “You get back to New York and do your music’ he growled back, ‘and stop wasting time here’. In this of course, he was right.

Rather than take action I sought solace. I went to Covent Garden, to look for Jenny. Whenever not on the road working, she was auditioning at the Pineapple Dance centre. As I turned the corner at Langley street she came bustling round. Easy. We hugged and kissed, and hugged again, like the almost lovers we were, and ate together and then she told me something of her life. She was married to an American singer who needed working papers, and living in Chelsea. At least, that was how she told it, despite the softness in her eye when she said his name.

“O yeh?” I said, peeved.

“ Yeh, “ she answered, striking a boxers pose, pummelling my biceps. “Gonna make something of it?“

I squared up too, but then squeezed her leg, remembering my American singer, faraway in every sense, envying the closeness I believed her to have with hers. She smiled and put her hand on mine, and wriggled in her chair, lazy and thoughtful.

I pushed on, flattering her, “He does realise how special you are, though?“ “Well do you, and did you--ever?” she countered, flaring for a moment, but then she softened, eyes dreaming again.

“Come on, let’s go, my place” she said. “And we’ll go clubbing later...”

Jenny felt like both a lover and a family member that day, as integral to my life as I was:

You’ve taken this boy far from home under your wing. This is my city, come, run with me a little; is this what you told him? You who are all drive and a simple push to be what and who you are, I see none of the complication that I bring to my life in you, just your tight and sometimes inflexible body, and middling voice, not bad, not exceptional, and none of it stops you, and I remember you barely past your childhood, becoming you, searching out your own madness; yes you remember too: all those crazy parties and that effervescent kissing under the stairs in the big manor house you squatted in Bromley, those long and intimate embraces, and now I see you again at last, grown, older, loosed back into the cruelty of London’s night that you negotiate so well; fly free angel, but let me caress your brown and wondrous hands and remember, before you leave... and you do, you take me with you once again and warm me, as before, now I am calm, now I know what I am feeling....

London’s mire crept and throttled: one afternoon sat on a suburban train as the summer wore on, between homes, I could feel the brown and grey comfort of England harassing me, ‘stay’ whispered the golden leaves on the trees at Clapham, and the shining wet slate roof of the junior school by Lavender hill that looked as innocent as mine must have all those years ago. I had cried when my plane landed at Gatwick, circling the farmhouses and fallow fiefs of England; glinting up from the lakes came sunlight, why should I not remain here? ‘Stay,’ cried the Pen ponds in Richmond park where I walked searching out respite from my father’s hassles, the dogs crazily chasing the sticks and geese and reindeer, but no, I was lonely and ambitious, no squat-life for me. Young and hungry, I despised the cold welcome I had been given (all and everyone too wrapped in angst to welcome the prodigal home), only Flip had asked me to stay. ‘You can stay here as long as you like,’ he pleaded, but I knew how desperately he wanted to leave his home at the end of a shit-smeared council estate walkway, where only the young and virulent were comfortable...

We, the remaining band members had built a studio in Flip’s flat. Finn obtained the eight track via various dubious runnins in North London. This treasure he brought down to Stockwell and I uncovered some old speakers in my father’s attic and Flip a mixer. So we assembled, and the old magic was at hand, or so it seemed for a moment, but Finn still all pop star dreams in his projects in Camden wasn’t going to stick it, and I was slipping too deeply back....

Hence, a surreptitious phone call in the night to my friend Muhtar, in Manhattan, who knew the game and the trap too well. We shared certain antecedents, Muhtar and I: paternal roots in the Durham mines, fathers who had explored alternative spiritual ways, including work with JGBennett, and a need to wander. Finally, we had both (independently of each other) opted to follow the spiritual practice of Subud, a ‘way’ that had come to the West in the late fifties. It was through this that we had met.

He sent the ticket and then I was gone, rising above the English West country. When I came down Newfoundland way hours later, I saw a single road appear in tundra, and then slide through trees and around rivers, and then fork, two roads curling away, one towards the sea, the other through a ribboned village and more clearings, and more roads (a tee junction this time). A maze grew out of the land and towns appeared and then, at last, against the glimmering ocean horizon, came the city of Boston, and then I knew the descent was to begin, back into the never relenting city of New York, which I would now call home.

Flip phoned a few weeks later to say that the studio had been ransacked, and the eight track stolen, with our master tapes on it. This, despite the fact that the window of the room in which he kept the gear overlooked the police station...