Gone the Way of Cain
"Gone the Way of Cain" consists of pieces from formerly published writings:
"First Night of the Dream" and "The End of the Century Young" were taken from "Ice Spoke of the Spells of Calm" MK. 1, first published at the Blogster.com website on the 25th January 2007, while "Like Some New Romantic" was originally part of an early draft of "West of the Fields Long Gone" published at Blogster on August 20th 2006. All sections were subjected to considerable modification before being published in definitive form at Blog.co.uk in March 2008, with an entirely new final piece, which is the title piece. It takes up where the previous story, "Gilded Youth" left off, which is to say my arrival in Bristol in the winter of 1980 to appear in Richard Cottrell's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the city's Old Vic Theatre. Moving into '81, it goes into some details about my tenuous links with the New Romantic movement, and ends with my becoming an aging student at the University of London.
First Night of the Dream
My time in the city of Bristol as an actor with the Britol Old Vic theatre company in early 1980 was restless and unsettled. Initially, I stayed in an elegant little dwelling in the affluent Clifton area to the west of the city centre, much of which was built from profits from tobacco and the slave trade, that is until I was asked to leave by my landlady due to my room being urgently required by a relative or something. At this point, a friend from the Vic who also happened to be the wardrobe assistant generously asked me if I’d like to stay with her for a while. I said yes, but it wasn't long before I'd relocated to a boarding house, also in Clifton I think. There I stayed until it was time for me to return to London.
Among those who appeared in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Vic in early '80 were future Hollywood superstar Daniel Day Lewis, son of the former poet laureate Sir Cecil and actress Jill Balcon, and one of the world's most gifted actors, legendary for the assiduity of his preparation for the roles he's undertaken. Also appearing (as Puck) was Nickolas Grace, perhaps best known for his portrayals of flamboyant British eccentrics both real and fictional, and most especially that of of Anthony Blanche in the 1981 television production of Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited". But the cast as a whole was incredibly gifted and charismatic. Prior to the Dream's first night, I'd been fortunate enough to witness a BOV production of one of my favourite ever musicals, Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls”, with Clive Wood as Sky Masterson, and another future screen legend Pete Postethwaite as Nathan Detroit. I can honestly say that this single show provided me with more pleasure than any other theatre production I've seen before or since. It left me breathless.
The Cottrell "Dream" was lavishly praised, and there was even some talk of its going on to become as renowned as the 1971 production by Peter Brook, whom I actually met in 1979. So much so that it relocated to the London Old Vic in the summer, where it was no less successful than at Bristol. Towards the end of its Bristol run, I undertook a small role in an obscure play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder called “The Freedom of Bremen” together with several other actors who didn’t have overly demanding parts. It was directed in the Studio theatre by Michael Batz, currently the artistic director of Hamburg’s Theater in der Speicherstadt in the city’s historic Warehouse district.
Following my modest triumph in "The Dream", I applied for and was offered the position of sales assistant in Bentall's china department in Kingston-on-Thames, remaining there until just after Christmas. Then, early in the new year I found work as part of the cast and crew of “Satyricon”, based on the original by Petronius, and directed by Peter Benedict. This was thanks to the kindness of an actor friend of my father's, Haydn Davies. Initially an Assistant Stage Manager and percussionist, I was eventually offered a non-speaking role. Soon after this, I contributed to an audio project of Haydn's known as “The Poetry People” with, in addition to Haydn, John Pine, Kay Clayton, and Maria Perry, who went on to become a successful historical writer and broadcaster.
Like Some New Romantic
1981 was also the year in which I became a kind of hanger-on of a youth movement originally dubbed "The Cult with no Name", and whose origins lay in the late 1970s largely among discontented ex-Punks reacting to the increasingly drab uniformity of Punk Johnny Come Latelys. The New Romantics embraced a hyper-nostalgic devotion to various ages which they interpreted as romantic, whether recent times such as the Roaring Twenties, or more distant historical eras, the latter inspiring such stock New Romantic accessories as ruffs, veils, frills, kilts and so on. Several of the cult's pioneers went on to become famous names within the worlds of art, fashion and popular music. They tended be among the most foppish or flamboyant of the earliest adherents, and so stood in stark contrast to the those council estate dandies for whom it could be said that New Romanticism was simply a passing fashion in much the same way as Punk was before it. Its soundtrack was a largely synthesized dance music influenced by German Art Rock collectives such as Kraftwerk and Can, as well as Glam, Funk and Disco. While it was arguably no longer cutting edge by the end of '81, it went on to exert a colossal influence on the development of music and fashion throughout the eighties, and partly inspired what became known as the Second British Invasion thanks to a desperate need for striking videos on the part of the newly arrived MTV (Music Television).
I attended New Romantic club nights at Le Kilt and Le Beat Route among others, 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, New Romanticism was far more mainstream than other musical trends which came in the wake of Punk such as Post-Punk and Goth, which plunged Rock Music into unprecedented darkness. For this reason, it eventually evolved in Britain into what has become known as New Pop, and which combined often complex if accessible tunes with a telegenic Glam image. During the '80s I myself inclined to New Pop rather than more esoteric styles ranging from Goth to Indie, and this was reflected by a colourful image so redolent of the decade's infamous frivolity. But this was not the whole story. While I eschewed Goth Rock, I was passionate about many of its primary influences such as the dark side of Romanticism and there was a duality about me which was true of the eighties as a whole.
As '81 progressed, my acting career faltered, and so a family decision was reached to the effect that I should become a mature student at the age of 25. Accordingly, I passed interviews for both the University of Exeter, and the University of London and specifically, Westfield College, situated on the Finchley Road in Hampstead, north London. Founded in 1882 and going on to serve as the model for the University for Women parodied in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic "Princess Ida", Westfield was an all-woman college for more than 80 years, finally becoming co-educational in 1968. She officially merged with east London's Queen Mary College in 1989 to become Queen Mary and Westfield College, until the turn of the century when she was renamed Queen Mary, University of London, while legally retaining the original title of QMWC.
To cut a long story short, I opted for Westfield, and so in the autumn of that year found myself embarking on a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Drama mainly at Westfield, but also partly at the nearby Central School of Speech and Drama, while resident in a small room on campus. My dissatisfaction with my situation was initially so strong that at one point in an attempt to escape it I auditioned for work as an assistant stage manager, or acting ASM, for my old friend and agent Barrie Stacey. However, I was not succesful. Soon after this fiasco, while ambling at night in what I think was the Swiss Cottage area close by to the Central School, I was ambushed by a group of my fellow drama students, who were clearly thrilled to see me. It felt wonderful to be accepted so unconditionally by them. Perhaps they appeared to my jaded 26 year old eyes to incarnate the sheer carefree rapturous vitality and joy of life of youth.
Before long I settled down at Westfield, in fact came to love my time there, coinciding as it did with the first half of the crazy eighties...last of a triad of decades in the West of unceasing artistic and societal change and experimentation. For me the very early '80s was a time of ceaseless exhilerated hedonism, the poisons fuelling me back then being not primarily, or even significantly, narcotic. Rather they constituted a furious desire for strong sensation within a diversity of fields, the intellectual, the social and the amatory among them, reinforced by industrial strength doses of self-obsession. Furthermore, from around the turn of the eighties or earlier, I began to be motivated by an adoration of early death, as well as those artists who, both gifted beyond measure and exquisite of face and form had gone in search of it. It was my desire to be ultimately numbered among such bedevilled individuals myself, to know such blissful delinquency...
The piece below has its origins I believe in that time, and the "artistic torment" it conveys should be taken with a colossal pinch of salt. The truth is that I was a genuinely joyful and carefree spirit back then, in fact perhaps too much so, with the the result being that I felt moved to seek out the kind of mysterious intensity I felt I sorely lacked and so coveted. It's a cliche I know...but we should all be careful for what we wish for, for when it comes to us as it so very often does, it tends to do so at a terrible price...
Some Perverse Will
I’m a restless man
I am never
I’m always spurred on
By some perverse
The grass is never
No peace here
At work within my
No bed is too soft
That I won’t
It’s sweet calm
For a softer
I’m a restless man
I am never
I’m always spurred on
By some perverse
Gone The Way of Cain
The Playboy Philosophy which exploded in the 1960s could be said to have reached its full flowering in the crazy eighties. That's not to say, however, that the vast majority of people who came to maturity in this hyper-hedonistic decade didn't ultimately forge respectable family lives and careers following a brief season spent as flamboyant outsiders because of course they did. Few embraced these neo-libertine values with a the same kind of blind fervour as me...and yet of course there were a good many who took them far further than I ever did. Still, I can't deny that I now suffer from a cruel nostalgia for the trappings of status, security, respectability, things I once scorned, preferring instead to push to the limit as if under some enchantment my notion of myself as a poète maudit like my heroes, a notion somewhat at odds it has to be said with a certain lingering suburban ordinariness. I believed in the role of the artist as a dissolute provoker existent at all times on the verge of ecstasy or despair, of illumination or madness or death and worshipped those who had pursued this wretched anti-existence to the limit. This made me the worst kind of sinner in my eyes, a true prodigal in defiance of everything that makes society tolerable, such as personal restraint and respect for parents and authority. Such violent narcissism as I once displayed has been worshipped by the West for close on to half a decade especially as expressed through such popular arts as Rock'n'Roll and the cinema. A universal obsession with rebellion and sensual abandon is a sign as I see it of a West increasingly given over to neo-pagan values. These are surely the same God-rejecting values that corrupted the antedeluvian world, and which survived the Flood to be disseminated throughout the nations. They spelled the end of one empire after the other, including the Egyptian, the Greek, the Roman. They are epidemic today through the West and beyond, where once they were marginalised as aberrant.
I'd been blessed at birth by every good gift but the most desired qualities such as talent and beauty are among the most dangerous unless submitted in their entirety to God, not least to those who possess them. They are eminently visible and therefore vulnerable, and with more more temptations than most all too often fall prey to Luciferian pride and vanity like David's favourite son Absalom who was physically flawless but morally bereft. Little wonder therefore that so many of them are drawn to the power offered by art, and especially music, the writer of the first song Lamech having been in the line of Cain. 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 contemporary Rock. Of course not all Rock music is flagrantly wicked, far from it. Much of it is melodically lovely. While in terms of its lyrics, its finest songs display the most delicate poetic sensibility. The fact remains, however, that no art form has been quite so associated as Rock with rebellion, transgression, licentiousness, intoxication and thanatophilia (an undue fascination with death) nor been so influential as such. To think I once desperately sought fame as a Rock artist myself, and if not as Rock'n'Roll superstar then as actor, or writer, and it was surely a blessing I never gained this pagan 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 briefly briefly animated by the charismatic superstar spirit before being cruelly discarded by the Enemy of Souls...
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Thanks for the critique, Don. This piece is probably best read within the context of all the others I've posted. It's not my best, but somehow fits in with the others, at least I think/hope so. I'd be interested in your opinion of them in fact. I do see your point to some degree: I sometimes feel that these pieces ramble, and a Canadian cousin of mine actually said soemthing to that effect. As for "zerrissenheit", it means "disintegration". It was a little pretentious of me to include it granted, well OK very pretentious. But it looks good...;o) The names may be excessive, you are right, but I didn't want to leave anyone out!!! However, I may well edit them. Thanks again. Carl
First of all, as I've said at FW before (and likely will say again), whenever I see an article that is this long but is only a very few paragraphs; I usually don't read them. I read this, but not necessarily to "see" where it was you were going, rather, mine was a "I don't know where they are going with this and I don't see how they could get 'there' from here" attitude. I don't see the connection between the mention of all those names subsequent to the title and try as I might, I still don't. (social barriers, I suppose)(different genre). Still, the reason for this critique is simply because it was requested and to sum all this up: I don't have any idea what I just read and I sure don't know what "zerrissenheit" means!