My Pop Life #202 : O Caroline – Matching Mole


LicheinsteinintheskywithDiamonds

O Caroline – Matching Mole

David’s on piano, and I may play on a drum
And we’ll try to make the music work, we’ll try to have some fun
But I just can’t help thinking that if you were here with me
I’d get all my thoughts in focus and play more excitingly

I love you still, Caroline
I want you still, Caroline
I need you still, Caroline

*

Tuesday 27th March 2018

This song broke me today.  Random shuffle brought Peter Gabriel, Coleman Hawkins, ELO and then suddenly – what’s this?  Through the years it came, I knew the chorus before it got there, not the words.  It is always the music that I remember.  Almost always.  I didn’t remember it, still don’t really.  But I knew it.

I’ve been doing my tax for a week now, searching through receipts from 2017 – UK bank account, US credit Union, Amex, little faded pieces of paper from Virginia, South Carolina, Guadeloupe, Prague, New York, London, Brighton, Liverpool, my entire year in spending and then all the W2s from the various people I worked for, residuals, royalties, rent from Brighton, everything.  Working on Excel a spreadsheet software.  Going cross-eyed.  Feeding the cats.  Feeding myself.  Face-Timing Jenny once a day in London, rehearsing for The Way of the World at the Donmar.  Helping Johanna with her electricity cut-off.  Going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with Cush Jumbo Sean Griffin and Rose Leslie on Saturday as a break from the numbers.  Meeting the cast afterwards, including friend Noma Dumesweni whom Jenny and I had dinner with earlier in the year.  Marvelling at all the magic in the show.  Going bonkers trying to access my new bank account online, a tedious crink in the matrix which has been unfurling for over a month now, since Johanna and I were down in Savannah shooting an Ang Lee movie with Will Smith called Gemini Man.  I have two scenes left to shoot.  Waiting for the sub-zero temperatures to finally leave us and spring to appear.  Dealing with one of my hard drives crashing and losing all my music, again.  Slowly rebuilding the music library, again.  Losing the W2 forms, again.  A cycle of concentration at the computer screen. Sleeping for hours every night, waking up exhausted.

Then this song signalled a break.  It gently announced hope, spring, memory, sadness, love.

Matching_Mole_1972

It’s a lovely song.  The voice is Robert Wyatt. The band is Matching Mole.  When did I hear it ?  1972 probably when it came out.  1973 maybe. Where?  No idea.  I was at school then, 15/16 years old.  The vocal is remarkably delicate, plaintive, unique.  Wyatt was previously in Canterbury band Soft Machine a kind of jazz/rock combo whom I never really got into, where he played drums with Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen.

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Matching Mole, 1971

Then he formed this band using the French for Soft Machine – Machine Molle – as the band’s name.  They made 2 LPs, and while recording their third album he fell out of a 4th floor window drunk and lost the use of his legs.  Various friends – Jean Shrimpton, Nick Mason, John Peel, Julie Christie – supported Wyatt through this period.  He abandoned Matching Mole and made solo records Rock Bottom (a stunning record which was written before the fall and recorded after it) and Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard and then had a hit single : a strange wistful cover of  I’m A Believer – the Monkees song – appearing on Top of the Pops in a wheelchair despite the BBC’s objections.  Another single Yesterday Man got some radio play too. He played & still plays with many friends & collaborators including Brian Eno, Ivor Cutler, Henry Cow, Phil Manzanera, Carla Bley, Mike Oldfield, although Cutler passed in 2006.

Front

Later Wyatt became, like most of us in the late 70s, a more political animal as perfectly illustrated by his lead vocal on Shipbuilding, Elvis Costello’s emotional and angry reaction to the Falklands/Malvinas war of 1981.  He was by now a member of the Communist Party, and made more committed songs like Venceremos with Working Week, and the communist anthem Red Flag on his compilation album Nothing Can Stop Us which also included a remarkable cover of Chic’s At Last I Am Free, perhaps his signature song.  He is now a national treasure, guest editing Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, curating the Meltdown Festival and recording with Björk, David Gilmour and Max Richter among others.

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Robert Wyatt in 2015

This song is impossible to categorise for me, or match to any particular memory and thus hovers as a pure emotional response to music.  I’ve listened to it half a dozen times since that first beam of sunshine through the mist, each time the notes weave their magic through the air, making me feel indefinable things from my past and lift me up in the present, the voice both delicate and yet persistent, open and exposed, vulnerable but clear, reminding me that music heals, lifts, soothes, and is ultimately inexplicable and mystifying.

Sometimes that is enough

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chandra BHATIA
    Mar 28, 2018 @ 08:05:21

    Donegal. Wednesday.

    Thank you Ralph geezer.

    I’m gonna read this and Listen to the song at the weekend. It’s my happy hour I look forward to. Hope you and J are well. Me and Milli hope to see her her Donmar show. I’m back in nyc on sat 27 April and again following weekend. In between LA. Be good to catch you.

    Love.

    Shekhar

    s.bhatia@mailonline.com

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. Unearthing Music - Fabian Desmicht
    Mar 28, 2018 @ 08:55:25

    Hey thanks for following me ay Unearthing Music! Love the My Pop Life format and your taste range (next one is Costello’s Beyond Belief, another amazing song!) . Have you read Wyatt’s biography? I did a little review on that a while ago: https://unearthingmusic.com/2015/05/25/robert_wyatt_biography/ Highly recommended! Let’s keep in touch. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Trackback: My Pop Life #128 : Bad ‘N’ Ruin – The Faces | Magicmenagerie's Blog

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