Among those who appeared in the Richard Cottrell production of “A Midsummer Night's Dream” at the Bristol Old Vic in early 1980 were legendary method genius and future Hollywood superstar Daniel Day Lewis, and superb character actor, Nickolas Grace, still perhaps best known for playing Anthony Blanche - allegedly based in part on the poet and aesthete Brian Howard - in the 1981 TV production of “Brideshead Revisited”.
However, the cast as a whole was incredibly gifted and charismatic, and on what I think was the eve of the first night, I was lucky enough to see a BOV production of one of my favourite ever musicals, Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls” featuring Clive Wood as Sky Masterson and Pete Postlethwaite as Nathan Detroit. And it may have provided me with more unalloyed pleasure than any other show I've seen, before or since.
After resuming my role as Mustardeed in the summer at the London Old Vic, my next acting job came early the following year courtesy of an old family friend, Howell Jones.
Howell had been at both RADA and the Royal Academy of Music with my dad, and he just happened to be the Company Stage Manager at the famous Phoenix Theatre in Charing X Road at the time. As I recall, a production of “Satyricon” was already under way and they wanted me as a last minute Assistant Stage Manager, in charge of preparing the cast’s costumes. I'd also be the show's percussionist, and my primal thrumming rhythms would open the show, and punctuate the action throughout, although in time the director kindly offered me a small non-speaking role.
“Satyricon”, one of only two surviving examples of a novel from the early part of the Roman Empire, is believed to have been written during the reign of the emperor Nero by one Petronius, an imperial courtier specialising in fashion, known as an arbiter elegantarium.
According to its testimony, as well as Petronius' own accounts of Nero's depravity written shortly before his death in 66AD, imperial Rome's infamous decadence was already firmly in place long before her final fall in the third century. Not that she ever died in a spiritual sense according to many Christians holding to the pre-millennial view of prophecy. They believe she'll be fully revived in the last days before the Second Coming, with the Antichrist at her head.
Also in '81, I became a kind of part-time member of an initially nameless youth movement whose origins lay in the late 1970s, largely among discontented ex-Punks, but who were eventually dubbed Futurists; although it was the New Romantic tag that stuck. Their music of preference included the kind of synthesized Art Rock pioneered by German collectives such as Kraftwerk and Can, as well as the highbrow Glam of David Bowie and Roxy Music. All of these elements went on to inform the music of Spandau Ballet and Visage, who emerged from the original scene at the Blitz Club in Covent Garden, and Ultravox, a former New Wave band of some renown whose fortunes revived with the coming of the New Romantics.
The name probably arose as a result of their impassioned devotion to past eras perceived to be romantic, whether relatively recent ones such as the '20s or '40s, or more distant historical ones such as the Medieval or Elizabethan. Ruffs, veils, frills, kilts and so on were common among them, but then so I think it's fair to say were forties-style suits.
Several of the cult's more outlandish trendsetters went on to become famous names within the worlds of art and fashion. They stood in some contrast to more harder-edged young dandies such as the Kemp Brothers from working class Islington. Their Spandau Ballet began life as the hippest band in London, famously introduced as such at the Scala cinema by writer and broadcaster Robert Elms in May 1980. In time, though, they mutated into a chart-friendly band with a penchant for soulful Pop songs such as the international smash hit, “True”.
I attended New Romantic nights at Le Kilt and Le Beat Route among other swishy night spots, and was even snapped at one of these by the legendary London photographer David Bailey, but I was never a true New Romantic so much as a lone fellow traveller keen to experience first hand the last truly original London music and fashion cult before it imploded as all others had done before it.
Yet, despite its florid decadence, it was always far more mainstream than several other musical movements which arose at the same time in the wake of Punk, such as Post-Punk and Goth. For this reason, several of its keys acts went on to become part of the New Wave, whose mixture of complex tunes and telegenic Glam image partly inspired the Second British Invasion of the American charts. This occurred thanks largely to a desperate need on the part of the newly arrived Music Television for striking videos, and went on to exert a colossal influence on the development of music and fashion throughout the eighties.
As '81 wore on, my acting career lost momentum, with the result that some kind of family decision was reached to the effect that I should return to my studies with a view to eventually qualifying as a teacher. Thence, I went on to pass interviews for both the University of Exeter, and Leftfield College, London, scraping in with two very average A-level passes at B and C, thanks to the infinite generosity of my interviewers, both of whom, the brilliant and charming Dr Mia Pastor of Leftfield's French Department, and the enigmatic Michael, would go on to be among my tutors.
I wanted to stay in London, so as to keep the possibility of picking up some acting work in my spare time open, so in the autumn I started a four-year BA degree course in French and Drama mainly at Leftfield - but also partly at the nearby Central London Academy of Speech and Dramatic Art (where the previously mentioned Michael worked as a teacher) - while staying in a small room on campus.
At first, I was so discontented at finding myself a student again at 25 that in an attempt to escape my situation, I auditioned for work as an acting Assistant Stage Manager, but I wasn't taken on…so I simply resigned myself to Leftfield.
A short time later, though, while sauntering around at night close by to the Central, I was ambushed by a group of my fellow drama students who may have seemed to me to incarnate the sheer carefree rapturous vitality and joy of life of youth, and because of them and those like them, I came to love my time at Leftfield, which just happened to coincide with the first half of the last of a triad of decades in the West of unceasing artistic and social change and experimentation…
Indeed, the adversary culture which exploded in the 1960s and persisted into the '70s could be said to have reached its full flowering in the crazy eighties, even if the vast majority of people whose salad days fell within its boundaries ultimately forged respectable lives following a brief season as outsiders.
For my part, though, I profoundly regret the shallow narcissism that once caused me to scorn the trappings of status, security and respectability and for which I now find myself pining like some long abandoned lover.
As to the kind of short-sighted sensation-seeking that's been tirelessly promoted in the West for over half a century now, not least through the medium of Rock culture, I've come to oppose it all with all the fervour of a former acolyte. And when I think of the society it’s created, I’m reminded of the workings of the flesh that corrupted the antediluvian world, and which survived the Flood to be disseminated throughout the nations to spell the end of one empire after the other, the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greek, the Roman…
I had no excuse to embrace it myself, having been blessed by every great gift a young man could possibly hope for, but did so anyway, which points to an appalling want of character on my part.
Our most treasured qualities…such as wealth, intelligence, beauty, charm, talent, are uniquely lethal unless submitted in toto to Christ; for the gifted are phenomenally visible…and therefore susceptible to more temptations than most. Thence, they all too likely to fall prey to Luciferian pride and Luciferian rebellion, like David's favourite son Absalom, who was physically flawless yet morally bankrupt. Little wonder, then, that so many of them are drawn to the power offered by artistic renown. And in terms of the post-war years, it can perhaps be said that the greatest glory has come through music - the writer of the first song Lamech having been in the line of Cain - and specifically Rock Music.
Indeed, there are those Christians who believe that the Cainites were the first pagan people, and that they corrupted the Godly line of Seth through a sensual and wicked music not unlike much of the contemporary music known as Rock. Although of course not all Rock music is flagrantly wicked, far from it.
Moreover, much of it is melodically lovely; while in terms of its lyrics, it's capable of the most delicate poetic sensibility.
It could be averred, nonetheless, that for all its wonders, no art form in history has been quite so associated as Rock with rebellion, transgression, licentiousness, intoxication and death-worship, nor been so influential as such.
I once desperately sought fame as a Rock and Roll star myself, and if not as Rock artist, then actor, or writer, and it was possibly a good thing I never gained this secular form of immortality because had I done so, I'd almost certainly have been used for the furtherance of the kingdom of darkness. Once I'd served my purpose I may well have died a solitary premature death as an addict. As has been the fate of so many men and women all too briefly inspirited by the magnetic charisma of the superstar.
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