Life’s What You Make It

Earlier this week, a friend who makes a brief cameo appearance in my survival memoir, Stroke: A 5% chance of survival, sent me a link to this recent article celebrating the original release of Pavement’s album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. Here’s the tl;dr take:

C'mon, man. The kids are really... nice.
I was there, kid. That’s not how it went down.

I mean, I was there. Not James Murphy. Though he probably was, too. I saw Pavement touring their first album, the epochal Slanted and Enchanted, at Edinburgh’s late and legendary venue, The, er, Venue.

That’s quite enough sub-muso-journo dross from me. Get to the human reflection below.
And in the Apoplectic Tiny Letter.

Well, not quite enough. Sorry!

The article introduces footage of the band on The Tonight Show as follows:

Crooked Rain was a relative commercial success… landing the band on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show when this was quite an honor. This compelled the band, of course, to treat the gig with even more contempt than usual.

That *is* quite a lot of contempt

To be fair, the performance still captures the energy that could leave a mark on a former Scottish teenager 27 years after S+E. As such, it’s a pretty good answer to the question what would you do if you ended up on the flagship late night show of General Electric’s house channel when it was hosted by the current host of Jay Leno’s Garage.


Or maybe you’re not a smart-aleck jerk and you wouldn’t wilfully screw up your big shot at becoming Smashing Pumpkins or Stone Temple Pilots or Pearl Jam or something. Let’s just say that it’s probably a good thing that being on the cusp of alt-rock stardom isn’t in my future.

Y’see, Stroke is – I’d like to think – pretty approachable. It’s certainly written to be that way. It’s a positive story that hopefully offers hope and/or solace to stroke survivors and/or their loved ones.

George Formby's looking a bit rough
“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”

Yeah. Mate, I don’t want to tell you how to write, but let’s go with My unlikely miracle breezed in. Bit more positive. Upbeat.

I’m very fortunate, and the snippet from my life that is Stroke – while occasionally sad or bloody – reflects that. But. Contrast a recently completed short story that ends on a note of hope when it turns out that the young man travelling a devastated post-Brexit apocalyptic landscape is, unknown to him, taking the same journey for the 8,000,001st time.

No-Deal Notice: The Movie
Actual reference picture, from Threads

It is a hopeful story. Honest.

Another story that I did for Interrobang’s Field Work ends with the narrator exhorting her unborn son to propagate actual hope, and

[k]eep my story and tell it to your children and light a lamp for them. Light a lamp for the people you meet, the people you touch.

Unbeknownst to the casual reader, the unborn child is this guy.

Yeah. The stuff that I and the world allow out in public tends to have a few more laughs.

Bob does cheery

I got to thinking about this contrast when I learned of the death yesterday of Mark Hollis, the co-founder, lead singer and principal songwriter of the band Talk Talk.

Now, he was a bit of a genius, so let’s not dwell on that. Here’s how Guy Garvey of Elbow spoke of Hollis to Mojo magazine in 2012:

Mark Hollis started from punk and by his own admission he had no musical ability. To go from only having the urge, to writing some of the most timeless, intricate and original music ever is as impressive as the moon landings for me.

"Let's see Mark Hollis balance a cheque book."

When Hollis released his only solo album in 1998, he spoke about his decision not to tour anymore or maintain a public persona – 

I choose for my family. Maybe others are capable of doing it, but I can’t go on tour and be a good dad at the same time.

The centrepiece of the album Mark Hollis is a song inspired by the true story of a young man who died in World War I. But for all the sparse minimalism of that album, the little that I’ve read about Mark Hollis’s life after he disbanded Talk Talk in 1991 suggests that he had won at life on his terms. Taking a very different tack to Steven Malkmus and Pavement.

I’m going to have to dig out my Talk Talk stuff, and track down Mark Hollis. Not that he’d care, but it feels sad to me that – as is so often the case – it takes his death for that to happen.
I’ll leave you with this

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