Musical Tuesday – Satellites

Sad musical news over the weekend with the death of iconic composer, musician and rock poet Lou Reed. It was a foregone conclusion that I’d feature one of his songs in tribute this week, but I had to think long and hard about which one. The beautiful Perfect Day, which after one listen had me listening obsessively to RTR back in the pre-internet early 90’s in the hopes that they’d play it again so I could find out who it was by? The rocking There She Goes Again that I accidentally downloaded off a less than reputable file sharing service in the freewheeling early 2000’s while looking for the similarly titled song by the La’s, but grew to love anyway? The classic Walk on the Wildside? Something really obscure to prove my musical cred? No. In the end I decided I couldn’t do better than simply posting my favourite Lou Reed song, no matter how overplayed or cliched it may be this week, 1972’s Satellite of Love.

Thanks Lou. We won’t see your like again.

The second song I’m highlighting is another one concerning satellites by another musical magician. In his truncated life, Joe Meek inhabited the space where genius and insanity collide. But by insanity, I don’t mean entertaining whackiness – he  was emotionally and psychologically unstable, moody, irritable, occasionally violent and dangerously paranoid. He was obsessed with death and hung around in graveyards trying to record ghosts, and was convinced that Buddy Holly was talking to him from beyond the grave. Yet despite this, in late 50’s and early 60’s Britain, musicians were lining up to work with him. Why? Because he was the only guy on that side of the Atlantic who could produce records that sounded like they came out of the big American recording studios.

He achieved this by combining obsession with a natural talent for electronics which allowed him to convert his rented London flat into a recording studio. All of it. Every room was riddled with wires, with microphones hanging from the ceilings, and a band who wanted to record would be broken up into the areas and corners as Meek saw fit to best record their sound. With the tracks down he’d tune and mix them on his homemade equipment – often supplementing the recording with what today would be regarded as samples – and come out with something astounding.

He was also a composer – although he couldn’t write musical notation or even sing in tune – and hired session musicians to come in and record his creations. The best known of these is the track I’m featuring today, 1962’s Telstar – inspired by the launch of the world’s first communications satellite Telstar 1 – and recorded by the Tornadoes. It sounded like nothing anyone had ever heard before and was a worldwide hit – reaching number 1 in both the UK and the US.

Sadly, things did not end well for Joe Meek. A lawsuit prevented him from receiving any royalties from Telstar, and the coming of the Beatles changed pop music fashion from lush orchestral arrangements to stripped back drums and guitars. He went into debt, fell deeper into paranoia and depression and finally in 1967 he took his own life and that of his landlady in a murder suicide. Nonetheless he left us with an incredible (and surprisingly vast) legacy of recordings that are still being explored and enjoyed to this day.

So that’s your lot. Tune in next week for more Musical Tuesday!

No, it Hasn’t

I was channel surfing last night and came across a man in a purple cape, sitting at a piano performing a mash up of Scarborough Fair and The Diva Dance from the Fifth Element.

It was not – as I initially thought – a scene from Liberace: Behind the Candelabra, but the semi-final of Australia’s Got Talent.

If that’s talent, I hope it’s not catching.

LATER: Ha! Found it! Weirdest damn thing I’ve ever seen on TV…


Now ’tis often said by those learned in the ways o’ the briny deeps that the surest way to attract the common or vulgar squid onto a line is with that that can sooth the breast of the most savage of beasts, to wit, a song. As such, as the Lucky Betty sailed leisurely out o’ Cap’n Bandy’s marina, Phil – a member in good standin’ for many years of the Quantoket Bend G&S Society – suggested we join our tongues in the ballad o’ the HMS Pinafore. This proposal however was shot down by Old Joe, who explained that if he ever claimed to be a sober man, be it even in song, the Good Lord would strike him down with a bolt o’ heavenly lightning right as where he stood. This caused us no little consternation as he were the one captainin’ our fine vessel, but he allayed our fears by explainin’ that his alcoholism was of the ‘functional’ variety, and so long as he had a steady supply of liquors spirituous there could be no firmer hand on the wheel. The problem thus dispatched we returned our attentions to matters musical, and decided after some discussion that a chorus o’ the well know duet from Lakmé would serve almost as well, and so motored out to sea with my good self taking the title role, Phil as Mallika and Benny Mousetrap keepin’ time by beatin’ his head against the port gunwale.

Our destination that fine art’noon were the Peabody Shoals off the south end of Body Island, a well known place o’ habitat for the speckled squid o’ the delta coast. While confusin’ and treacherous for large vessels, and the site o’ many a piteous shipwreckin’ in times o’ yore, a craft of shallow draft such as our own would be in little danger, and Benny’s innate sense o’ direction, honed by many years o’ rollin the streets of the Cable District, would see us in good stead when avoidin’ the few banks and reefs that could pose any kind o’ serious threat. However we were no more than halfway to the shoals when a sudden change in the winds precipitated a dampening o’ the atmosphere and the western horizon changed all pale and hazy – a sign o’ certain assurance that the mists would soon be upon us.

Unwillin’ to abandon our expedition but equally reluctant to chance the shoals under conditions so increasingly hazardous Old Joe suggested we drop anchor where we floated and begin our squid huntin’. All agreed as to the prudence o’ this course o’ action so we rolled out the rusty anchor chain, set out the ridin’ lights – red, green and yellow to inform any passin’ vessel exactly what it was we was about – and optimistically hoisted the purple squidin’ flag for luck. Benny took station in the fo’c’sle to keep an ear for approaching vessels and Phil consulted his well worn copy o’ the Recollections o’ Joan o’ Arc while Old Joe and I took our seats in the stern and dropped our lines o’er the side to await the comin’ of the squid, doin’ so just as the first bank o’ fog rolled in on us.

I tell ye it was eerie out there on the open ocean with no more’n twenty feet o’ vision in any direction and no sound but the clank o’ the chain, the slap o’ the waves and Benny’s muttered recitation o’ the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam –  a nervous habit he’d developed stayin’ in a house o’ easy virtue o’er the west coast many years prior. I can fairly state that it would have surprised our party in no way had the legendary Great Sea Serpent, Old King Neptune and his Naiads or the Eliza Battle loomed at us out o’ the mists. The squid we had come out in earnest search of seemed similar spooked and not a nibble was felt on either o’ our lines, leading Old Joe to comment on our foolishness in settin’ sail on a day o’ the full moon so late in the year – an observation that would have been a great packet more useful back on the land before we committed ourselves to spending our time afloat on the briny deep.

I was considerin’ the wisdom of pullin’ our lines and headin’ back towards shore when a cry came from Benny up at the bow. Somethin’, he asserted, was headin’ our way at a right lick o’ speed, though with the current atmospheric conditions being as they were he couldn’t commit to say as to what it might be. Phil leapt to at the foghorn and began pumpin’ out a mournful howl while Old Joe and I braced for the expected impact, remembrin’ too late that short o’ clamping a rope betwixt his teeth Benny had no way to do similar at his perch in the fo’c’sle. I let go of the gunwale and headed fo’ward with a mind to his rescue  just as the biggest wave any o’ us could recall seein’ in all our God given days slammed into the Betty, throwin’ the boat skyward and sendin’ Benny flyin’ off into the mist with a final wail concerning what was to be done with his mortal remains, assumin’ they could be located after such a woeful misadventure. The boat slammed back down, fully intact, leavin’ us bruised and sore with no sign o’ the king wave, or o’ Benny Mousetrap whose fate it now seemed was fully in the hands o’ the mighty ocean.

We did, in the end find the mortal remains o’ Benny, but that my friend is another story entirely.


Well it were about 20 years back now when me, Old Joe, Phil and Benny Moustrap decided to go out squid fishin’. We didn’t have any squid rods handy but Phil said he knew an old schooner captain’s trick (which he learned at the foot o’ his gran’pappy) where a body could take an ordinary rod and with a few quick applications o’ nails and paint fashion up the finest squid rod you e’er did see. So we hauled out a tin o’ old paint Benny had in the back o’ his shed and scrounged up a handfull o’ nails from the gutters outside Levi’s Gin Palace and before ye could say ‘Jack Whiticker’ we had a fine pair o’ rods ready to go.

Now at this point Old Joe raised the issue that there happened to be four o’ us and only two rods, which seemed quite the dilemma until Phil explained, in his usual wheezy fashion, that he never liked doin’ the catchin’ himself, and much preferred to watch, and then Benny pointed out that with him havin’ no arms or legs he wouldn’t know what to do wi’ a squid rod nobouts. So fully armed and prepared we carried ourselves down to Cap’n Bandy’s Pelagic Boat Hire to acquaint ourselves with a vessel for the catchin’ o’ squid suitable.

Now, as it happened Cap’n Bandy wasn’t around, him havin’ to rush off and take the place of another Cap’n who had made certain promises to judge the Trout contest over at Lake Chudditch and all o’ a sudden been unable to due to an outbreak of the chitlins, but his assistant Lootenant Bejtman was most helpful and led us to a fine boat o’ the sea goin’ by the name of ‘Lucky Betty’. Old Joe weren’t too keen on this at first, two o’ his wives havin’ shared the name o’ the ship and he not havin’ good memories o’ either. But we talked him round and in said process even convinced Lootenant Bejtman to give us a discount on the hire for Old Joe’s emotional pain and sufferin’, which he said was easily the best thing to come out of either set o’ nuptials. So we piled into the Betty – Benny rollin’ in off the side of the dock as was his way – and set off into the wide blue ocean in search o’ squid.

But that my friend is another story entirely.

Musical Tuesdays – Theme Edition

Wow, I’ve actually managed to make a second Musical Tuesday post. Maybe this will last a while after all!

The first song for this week is Christmas Island by Washington State natives Lake. Also known as Island Song, keen eared listeners will recognise it as the end theme from possibly the best cartoon series ever, Adventure Time with Finn and Jake.

Even more keen eared listeners will realise that it’s not quite the same song as the end theme. The Adventure Time version has a whole bunch of altered lyrics – although you don’t get to hear too much of them, as the end credits only run for a verse and a half. If you’re interested in a complete comparison you can track the full version down – think of it as a challenge!

In any case, this version of the song is a sweet, lo-fi ballad with a touch of the 50’s to it, which is A-OK by me.

The second track for this week is another TV ending theme, this one belonging to 80’s sci-fi series Max Headroom. Those too young to remember the 80’s may be unaware of Max and his career trajectory which went from Pepsi spokes-thing to star of a cyberpunk TV series, to interrupting late night Doctor Who reruns with incomprehensible rants about Chuck Swirsky. In any case, I remember the TV series as being a greatly entertaining distopian extravaganza set “20 minutes into the future”.

It would no doubt look pretty dated now, but then Cyberpunk itself is dated. It was the 1980’s idea of what the 21st century would look like (much as Steampunk is the 21st century’s idea of the 19th century’s idea of the 20th century). It got a few things right, but a whole lot more things wrong. Cybernetic limbs for instance are rare, and not terribly good. There certainly is a “net” – but it’s not an exciting virtual reality world made up of vector polygons, it’s a place where people post videos of their cats. Corporations are  not – as yet – in charge of private armies of mercenaries engaging in prolonged gun battles through the city streets. Climate change has mitigated the chance of constant gloomy overcast and pounding rain, and neon signs full of Chinese and Japanese logograms are mostly limited to the areas immediately surrounding Asian restaurants.

But back to the music. This end theme apparently appeared on a only a few episodes, which meant that for years the only way I’ve had to hear it is the scratchy version I recorded straight off the TV onto an audio tape circa 1989 – which features the added bonus of an announcer talking about all the action coming up on a new episode of something called Paradise. But I recently stumbled over a copy that some kind soul has put up on YouTube. So slip on your mirrorshades and chill out to a great piece of 80’s synth that may or may not have been written by that dude from Ultravox.

Best. Put-Down. Ever.

One of the best put downs I’ve ever seen was on a message board I stumbled across many years ago…

Someone had taken it upon themselves to start a new thread by posting a lengthy and quite astonishing white supremacist screed. This consisted of some kind of KKK edited version of It’s a Wonderful Life in which a young idiot named Jimmy (or Timmy, or Heinrich or something) goes off to college and comes under the influence of an evil, atheistic, Jewish professor who convinces him that white people are the worst thing to ever happen to the world. On returning home for the holidays he gets into an argument with his white, God fearing, patriotic father and announces “I wish white people never existed!”

Conveniently for all racist didacts an Angel named Clancy appears and takes him on a tour of a world where white people never existed. This mostly consists of barren wastelands devoid of all civilisation because without the influence of white Europeans the rest of humanity are (apparently) unable to even come up with the idea of rubbing two sticks together. Jimmy makes numerous idiotic requests such as “Take me to a Holiday Inn” to which Clancy invariably replies “Without white people there are no Holiday Inns!”, prompting Jimmy to fall into a state of complete despair and request to be whipped off to some other part of the globe, where Clancy is conveniently able to inform him that Archeologists have “recently proved” that the Pyramids or the Great Wall of China or the local KFC were all built by white people. On the rare occasion when Jimmy and his companion manage to locate some semblance of civilisation, the locals are all bloodthirsty savages who try to cook and eat him, which causes him to fall deeper into despair and eventually see how foolish he was to wish away white people, and Clancy undoes the wish, returning him home.

Rather than put this experience down to eating some bad turkey, Jimmy proceeds to gorge himself on a vast meal that name checks every country in Europe, then heads back to his college and shows his classmates THE TRUTH by bawling out the evil, atheistic, Jew Professor who is corrupting the youth of America with his evil, atheistic, Jewish ideas (I don’t recall if the story mentioned it, but it’s highly likely that one of the Ravens of Odin flew into the room and shed a single tear while singing the Horst Wessel Lied).

Following this bizarre rant was a single post from one of the other members of the forum which I can still recall, word for word, all these years later…

So… did you copy that from somewhere, or did you just wake up this morning and think “I think I’ll go batshit insane today!”

Best. Put-down Ever.

Musical Tuesdays

So here’s a new thing I’ve been thinking about doing for a while to get me back into the habit of blogging, and hopefully resurrect the Wyrmlog from its current state of moribund sporadicity. Musical Tuesdays! Every Tuesday until I forget or get bored I’ll be highlighting two musical tracks that I think worthy of notice. Ideally one recent, and one from the past, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

So the first track I’ve decided to go with is the – as far as I’m aware – only notable hit from Texas natives Fastball – 1997’s The Way. The song is based on the true account of an elderly couple who set out one morning to attend a festival in a neighboring town, never turned up, and were discovered dead hundreds of miles away two weeks later – but it reinterprets this sad tale into a story of a couple who leave their lives behind to head out together onto the open highway into an eternal summer. The anxious verses describe their decision to leave and what happens to them on the road, but are resolved in a soaring, triumphal chorus, and the entire work has an enjoyable latin flavour as befits the song’s south-west origin.

The second track is Pizza Guy from Australia’s own Touch Sensitive. To be honest I don’t know much about the track or artist, except that I stumbled across it on late night radio and spent much of the next day trying to track it down. An electronic piece, it’s redolent of the 80’s and the works of Jan Hammer.

So there you go. Musical Tuesdays Issue One complete!

A New England

People ask me when will you grow up to be a man? But all the girls I loved at school are already pushing prams.

So, on Saturday night it was my 20 year high school reunion.

I didn’t go to the 10th year reunion. I was – as blog entries from that far off era will attest – still bitter and twisted out of shape about the less enjoyable aspects of my high school career. But I’ve mellowed out over the last decade and decided to put in an appearance at the Rose and Crown in Guildford at 7:00 in the evening to see what could be seen.

As it turned out, what could be seen was a really good turn out, including in particular my old friend Mark who hasn’t been in Perth for a good five years. Justin also turned up (after I phoned him on the Friday to remind him it was on) and I divided the evening between lurking with them and wandering out to inveigle my way into various conversations and catch ups.

It was a really good night. Our principal Mr Mulchay turned up for a while, as did chemistry teacher Mr Sorge. About half the people looked the same – with some extra weight, a few wrinkles round the eyes and (for the guys) less hair (apart from Daniel who had a beard Ned Kelly would be proud of). The rest looked like complete strangers, but a good half of those were identifiable after comparing nametags (I had no idea who the hell the remaining 25% were, but that’s the way it goes I guess ;))

Particularly gratifying from my viewpoint was catching up with Renee, who’d been one of the main organisers of the event. She was a major part of my high school experience in that she was the most popular and beautiful girl in the year to pay me any attention at all. I was constantly half in love with her and remember being more or less struck dumb in her presence, but she apparently remembers me as being really smart and funny, and us sitting together at the back of the room in English with me continually making her laugh. So that’s nice to get another perspective on 🙂

She’d also read the Tales of the Geek Underclass at some point (I suspect due to Ryan’s pimping it on Facebook), thought they were great and demanded that I write more. As my old PCG associate Lincoln also complemented them I probably shall.

It was also nice when later in the night she wandered over to the table I’d sat down at (my feet were killing me at that point – one of the perils of letting yourself age for twenty years) put her arm around me and repeatedly told everyone “I love this guy!”. I must admit she was a bit worse the wear for drink at that point, but it still had the tiny ghost of 17 year old me doing cartwheels somewhere deep in my soul ;). As one of the major social hubs of the event her presence summoned a wide variety of people to the table and that same tiny ghost was overawed at hanging with all the cool kids for a while – including Sherri and Rebecca which along with Renee made up a two thirds reunion of my year 10 English table.

I caught up with plenty of other people too. One person I was particularly happy to see was the girl (I suppose I should really say woman shouldn’t I?) I had a major crush on all through year 12. In contrast to most of the rest of the attendees she hadn’t changed a bit – I recognised her immediately, and was surprised to find my heart briefly skipping a beat when I did so.

She also had exactly the same laugh, which – again to my surprise – made me come over all… well I can’t think of a suitable adjective, but you know how it feels when you hear someone you’re crazy about laugh. It took me back for a moment to when I was an awkward, nerdy 17 year old still trying to figure out the world – as opposed to an awkward nerdy 37 year old beaten down by it. That alone was worth the admission cost.

(Of course, even if I were to mistake those emotional echoes for anything real, she – like most of my former classmates – is married with a couple of kids. She seems to be doing really well for herself, which is the best you can really wish for anyone.)

The evening went on, with the crowd thinning out, until midnight, when the Rose and Crown staff explained that they’d really prefer to close. Someone who I recognised and had spoken to earlier in the night but whose name has escaped me took it on himself to climb up on a table and draw the night to a conclusion with three cheers for the organisers, and a call for those who wanted to keep partying to reconvene at the Casino. I was so tired by that point that I was becoming positively gregarious, so after some goodbyes (including hugs from Renee and Rayanne who… well, any guy who was there would agree that she certainly changed… I mean, wow!) got a lift home with Justin, with a stop off at Alfred’s kitchen on the way.

It was a great night, but in the end there was a little touch of melancholy. For one evening we were again those bright, brilliant, amazing kids of twenty years ago with our whole lives ahead of us. I think that’s why the night went on so long – if our 37 year old bodies would have held out and the Rose and Crown stayed open I think we would have stayed till the sun came up, just to try and hold on to who we used to be. But reality calls and we had to go back to our lives and on our separate ways. I suppose that’s always the way it is with reunions. You can’t go back, and – in the clear light of day – would you really want to? One night is enough.

That said, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Roll on 2023!

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