My Pop Life #233 : Big Science – Laurie Anderson

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Big Science   –   Laurie Anderson

Ooo coo ooo coo coo it’s cold outside
Ooo coo ooo coo coo. Don’t forget your mittens

Hey pal! How do I get to town from here?
And he said:
Well just take a right where they’re going to build that new shopping mall
Go straight past where they’re going to put in the freeway
Take a left at what’s going to be the new sports center
And keep going until you hit the place where
They’re thinking of building that drive-in bank

You can’t miss it. And I said: This must be the place

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March 24th 2020.  Brooklyn, New York.  Covid-19 shutdown.  I receive an email from Town Hall, a public treasure, a concert hall in midtown with a storied history of suffragettes and civil rights where we’ve seen Ry Cooder, Utopia, Taylor Mac and others and where I was due to see The Chieftains last week before we all got sent to our rooms.   Lovely venue.

The email announced – like so many these days – that we could now watch STUFF online.  There aren’t enough hours in the day believe me, but this one caught myne eyne.  It was a premiere of a Laurie Anderson show there from 2018 called ‘Things I Lost In The Flood‘.  I fancied it and checked with Jen – so did she.   Then as 7pm started to roll around her two sisters Mandy and Lucy Face-Timed and since they are each other’s sanity and joy I donned the headphones and watched alone, at a social distance 😉

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Golden cities. Golden towns
And long cars, in long lines and great big signs
And they all say: Hallelujah. Yodelayheehoo
Every man for himself. Ooo coo coo
Golden cities. Golden towns. Thanks for the ride

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It was astounding of course.  She always is.  She told us a true story of the Hurricane Sandy event in New York 2012 when Laurie’s basement in downtown Manhattan was flooded by seawater and when she went to examine the damage a few days later as the water subsided, pretty much everything down there – projectors, slides, film, photographs, paintings, screens, books, instruments, tapes, technology of various kinds, ways of producing electronic noise including changing the sound of the human voice, files, sculptures, notes, ideas, operas, plays, computers and printers – were destroyed.  Salt water will do that.  After a couple of days she realised that having a list of everything that was there – which she had in another location – was actually better than having the things in the basement.  So she read the list and made a show.  It covered her entire career pretty much, from O Superman which she discussed as being permanently prescient

This is the hand, the hand that takes
Here come the planes
They’re American planes. Made in America
Smoking or non-smoking?

through to Habeus Corpus, a project at The Armoury in 2016 in collaboration with British human rights charity Reprieve.  I’m a member and supporter of Reprieve and meet occasionally with the founder Clive Stafford-Smith when he comes through New York on his way to Guantanamo to meet clients.  He and Reprieve have been responsible for the release of more than 80 Gitmo detainees to date, one of which was Mohammed el Gharani who featured in Habeus Corpus. As he sat in his house in Africa a camera recorded him and the image was beamed back to The Armoury where it was projected onto a huge, Lincoln Memorial-sized statue.  Laurie described how people who visited the exhibit would realise that there was a camera in the ceiling looking down at the statue so that Mohammed would be able to tell if he should move a hand slightly and so on.  They would stand in the light at the feet of the statue and look up at where they felt he could see them and they all mouthed the same thing

I’m sorry

Laurie told us it was the most moving moment of her artistic life so far.  She also talked a little about her husband Lou Reed (who died in October 2013 while Jenny was doing Julius Caesar at St Anne’s Warehouse in Dumbo) and how he would name her male characters.

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Lou Reed & Laurie Anderson in New York 2008

For example,  ‘Fenway Bergamot‘, one of Laurie’s signature male alter-ego creations who told us in a deep bass voice that a woman’s name is her first name, because she is liable to lose her second name and get it lopped off if she gets married.  Or divorced.  And your mother’s maiden name is so forgotten and hidden that it becomes a password to all of your information.

Is this Fenway Bergamot ?

Then Laurie told of how she worked in Greece on the opening ceremony of the Olympics there trying to find meaning from the ceiling and pieces of the Parthenon.  How she did a performance of Mister Heartbreak in Tokyo and learned phonetically her entire performance in Japanese, then discovered after the first show that the guy she had learned it from had a stutter.

All of this is presented deadpan, with electronic interludes and accompaniment.  I always find it mesmerising, funny, and intriguing.

The concert is here on YouTube in the Town Hall Archive.  Even long-time fans like me can’t keep up with her output so impossibly fecund is she, so there’s always more to discover. It is two hours long, no interval, but she explains why, and there is a pause button.

Oh and here is Laurie talking about her relationship with Lou Reed published in Rolling Stone just after he died:

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/laurie-andersons-farewell-to-lou-reed-a-rolling-stone-exclusive-243792/ 

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My first exposure to Laurie Anderson was the alarming single O Superman which was championed by DJ John Peel (see My Pop Life #205) and astoundingly reached number 2 in the UK Charts in 1981.  Inspired by the Iran hostage events in 1979-80, the over-arching theme of the piece and much of her work is violence.  American violence.

‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice
And when justice is gone, there’s always force
And when force is gone, there’s always Mom. Hi Mom!

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I bought Laurie Anderson’s LP Big Science in 1982 and played it a great deal.  That year I was still with Moving Parts Theatre Company about whom I wrote in My Pop Life #18 but who certainly deserve another chapter or two in this blog.  I’d been working with them since autumn of 1981 and already done two tours.  The company was formed by Ruth McKenzie & Rachel Feldberg as a radical idealistic vehicle to reach the young.  The summer of ’81 remember there had been riots in Brixton, Liverpool, Southall, Birmingham.  Margaret Thatcher milk-snatcher was waging war on the workers and after her actual war in Las Malvinas won her a second term she would take on the Miner’s Union (see My Pop Life #185).  It was a violent time.   A time for taking sides.

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I shaved my head and bought braces for the racism show. Of course I did.  But see the tell-tale Roxy Music tee

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You know, I think we should put some mountains here
Otherwise, what are the characters going to fall off of?
And what about stairs? Yodellayheehoo. Ooo coo coo ooo

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Saffron Myers and Anita Lewton summer 82

That summertime I was on a tour of the drop-in centres and youth clubs of the UK (once the World Cup in Spain had finished he emphasised in italics) with a musical play about racism in our country called The Empire Strikes Back co-written by myself and Anita Lewton, a broad-brush-stroke punchy slapstick history of the United Kingdom in the style of 7:84 Theatre Company or one of those early 80s angry gangs.  We drove to Leicester one day in our white Transit van, did the show in a school in the morning, had lunch then did it again at a drop-in centre in the afternoon.  From being a white socialist-feminist theatre company run by women, we had become a multi-racial socialist-feminist theatre company run by women by drafting in two black actors.  Fodder.  Tokenism.  Genuine attempt to do the right thing.  We all had a vote because it was, like Joint Stock a few years later, a genuine Collective, but like all collective activity some voices carry more authority than others.

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In Yorkshire on tour, with Courtney the drumming accountant

Courtney wasn’t even an actor.  He could do it all right.  No, he was an accountant who could play the drums who’d answered the ad.  Big Chas’N’ Dave fan.  He had a really sweet temperament and he needed one.  We got a pretty hot reception in some towns, and our reaction was always the same :

let’s sit down and talk…

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Ken, Saffron, Rachel, me in rehearsal 1982

Ken was a rasta african Londoner, and was also phlegmatic about other people’s ignorance.  But how did these fellas feel inside?  I can guess.  Scarred.  My wife Jenny toured a few years later with Red Ladder (then run by Rachel Feldberg!) and Theatre Centre and got chased out of clubs in Newcastle and other areas because of the multi-racial nature of their company.  It goes deep.  And there’s no excuse for racism.  And I do not forgive it.  It is a choice in the end.

So there was a show, followed by a discussion -“Thank you very much, now, don’t move, because, er, we’d like to come and talk to you about what you’ve just seen and what you feel about it so if you’d just get yourselves into six small groups and we’ll go one to a group“….and this way the social workers and teachers LOVED US and we got booked up and down the country, and we all got our Equity Cards.  Earned our stripes.  So anyway, that evening we all (?) went to see an experience (a play) by the local youth.  Who were we?  Saffron, Ken,  Courtney, me and Rachel probably.  And Ruth?  We had to get on a mini bus in the centre of town and were driven to a dark street where we were hustled by masked security past barbed wire down into a basement.  A small ‘theatre’ with rows of seats – we were given a wrapped sweet as we entered and found on unwrapping it that it was raw meat.  Then ‘Born, Never Asked’ (track 5 on Big Science) pumped out of the speakers

It was a large room. Full of people. All kinds
And they had all arrived at the same building
At more or less the same time
And they were all free. And they were all
Asking themselves the same question:
What.     Is Behind.     That Curtain?

*

Cue electronica

and the show began.  I think it was The People Show number 78.  Pretty mad, pretty great.  The folks who’d done it were memorialised in my diary so impressed was I with this event.  Brendan, Liam and Robert “etc”.

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The name Mike Figgis at the top there, who went on to be a top film director after working with The People Show, the diary written in my childish 25-year old hand

I was particularly obsessed with Laurie Anderson at this time and had a chance to exercise that obsession when she came to London later in 1982 (or was it 1983?) and performed live at Hammersmith Odeon – a show called United States I-IV which was simply astounding and remains one of the top live musical live experiences of my life.  The original multi-media experience, it includes all of Big Science in slightly different forms.

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Laurie showcased her vocal effects box on O Superman and other songs like From The Air and Let X = X.   Also unforgettably a she played a glowing violin with a bow made of tape on which was recorded a phrase.  She could play it fast or slow, pitch high or low.  It was both funny and astoundingly good at the same time.  Was that Blue Lagoon?  Can’t remember.  I must have gone with dear Mumtaz.  Laurie is a genius raconteur – part of her multi-media brilliance – and she also told a story in her matter-of-fact-yet-faintly-amused voice about how Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States.  At the time the English colonial army were headquartered in Philadelphia, but in the British Empire at that time, soldier’s pay was according to lines of Latitude.  The officers realised that if they moved their base camp 125 miles south into the marshes of the Potomac River, their wages would increase.

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Here’s a man who lives a life of danger
Everywhere he goes, he stays – a stranger
Howdy stranger, mind if I smoke? And he said:
Every man, every man for himself
Every man, every man for himself
All in favour say aye

Big Science. Hallelujah. Big Science. Yodelayheehoo

As a result of this mind-bending, hilarious show I stayed faithful to Laurie across the years, but never managed to catch another live show.   At some point in the 80s I made an ansaphone message on a cassette (oh those cassettes were so cool!) which would click on with Laurie’s pre-computerised semi-automatic delivery :

Hi. I’m not home right now
But if you want to leave a message
Just start talking at the sound of the tone 

which cut into Fats Domino singing Ain’t That A Shame.  Yes, I bothered to do that.

The follow-up LP to Big Science was called Mister Heartbreak and had songs like Sharkey’s Day and Blue Lagoon (which I A-listed for Songs Which Quote Shakespeare on the Song Bar a few weeks ago), then United States I-IV was released unbeknown to me, then Home Of The Brave which I did know about and bought.  Homeland with the Kronos Quartet is the most recent work that I’m aware of. Never disappointing.

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I was invited, via Reprieve, to see Habeus Corpus at the Armoury in 2016.  Dagnabbit turns out I was working in Virginia on ‘Turn’ that day.  So Jenny took our nephew Thomas the singer and they met Laurie afterwards.  Apparently she is really lovely.   I knew she was.  She inspired Tom to write a song.  Before I forget, here is a link to Reprieve’s website on their work getting folk out of Guantanamo.  Most of them have been there over 18 years without charge, taxi drivers, kitchen workers, all sold to the US Govt by agents of darkness.  None of them terrorists.

https://reprieve.org.uk/topic/guantanamo-bay/

I keep going back to this Big Science LP though.  It was played up the wazoo in 1982 and beyond, especially the title track.  Yodelayheehoo.  But live Laurie is the thing.  If you ever get the chance, buy the ticket.  And hey.  Look after yourselves out there.

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms
In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms
In your arms
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms
Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms
In your electronic arms

My Pop Life #215 : Top Cat – Hoyt Curtin

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Top Cat  –  Hoyt Curtin

“The indisputable leader of the gang”

*Warning : Cat Porn*

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Yes, that Top Cat.  The wise guy cartoon alleycat from New York City with his gang always trying to get one over on Officer Dibble.  It was a staple of my childhood in the 1960s and certainly contributed to my impression of the city where I now live.  As did the music.  Like many of Hanna Barbara’s cartoons – Huckleberry Hound, The Flintstones, The Jetsons – the music was composed and recorded by Hoyt Curtin, a Californian specialist in the punchy joyful bright slices of cartoon sound.  Top Cat the Theme Music is only 42 seconds long and is thus the shortest piece of music in My Pop Life to date.

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From the funky horn fanfare to the stuttering trumpet intro to the glamorous celebratory vocal shout (which reminds me somehow of Isaac Hayes’ Shaft (see My Pop Life #60)) and the crisp xylophone punctuation, this mini cartoon symphony is a marvel of crushed sound & misheard lyrics.

Top Cat ! whose intellectual close friends get to call him T.C.

Strode right in, it’s whipping to see…Top Cat !

Hmmm.  Well that is what I’ve always sung, from the age of five.  Nonsense.  Wait. OK according to the lyrics bible Genius.com (which is highly recommended by the way…) it is :

Top Cat ! whose intellectual close friends get to call him T.C.

Providing it’s with dignity…Top Cat !

I genuinely just found that out.  Prefer my five year old version somehow.  Anyway.  The  music always made me feel that it had been played on a single that jumped – we had some of these – a scratched record – where a groove was missed and the tune would jump forward 15 seconds.  Somehow Top Cat does this in its second 20 seconds.  Check it out – it is completely wild, and probably quite hard to play.  It is a masterpiece theme tune to a masterpiece cartoon that ran from 1961 for only 30 episodes.  Which were endlessly repeated.

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Top Cat, Benny the Ball, Fancy Fancy, Choo Choo, Brain & Spook

The format was as follows – a street gang of cats living in dustbins by a fence eating fish-heads, and thrown-away fast food.  Led by smart status symbol Top Cat – T.C. –  Benny the Ball, Choo Choo, Brain, Fancy Fancy and Spook were all expertly delineated characters in bright colours and working-class NYC accents.  Their enemy was Officer Dibble who was a human, constantly trying to foil their get-rich-quick schemes.  I suppose there was a strong symbolic element here – a representation of the poor underclass, finding ways legal or usually otherwise to make ends meet.  The voices were all superb.  Arnold Stang voiced T.C.

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Mimi, Roxy and Boy in Brighton : a very rare picture of them together

Cats.  Sacred scavengers.  Furry babies.  Highly evolved to be cute and employ human servants.   Back there in Sussex where I grew up we always had cats – indeed apart from a brief spell at the LSE and a handful of years in Los Angeles, I have always had a cat, or two, or three.  I believe them to be superior to dogs.  They clean themselves.  They bury their toilet. They give themselves their own status. They are spirit animals who give your home life and soul.  When they die, I am bereft for a long long time.

My first cat was called Caesar, a big male tabby given to me when I was one year old.  I remember burying him in the garden of our house in Selmeston when Dad was still at home, so I would’ve been seven or eight, and so would Caesar. Then we got white tortoiseshell Sheba and black & white Kitty Little.  I have no definitive recall of these animals apart from their names and colours.  We also had dogs during this period of my youth – Corgis Raq and Bessie, and then Welsh Sheepdog Brutus who used to chase cars.  When we became homeless in 1970 (see My Pop Life #84 ) I don’t know what happened to the animals.  After nine months the family were re-united in Hailsham and I think Sheba and Kitty Little were still with us but this may be a feline hallucination.  I’ll ask Mum.  I have a memory of finding Sheba dead under the kitchen tap one school morning in Hailsham because she had eaten string and was trying to drink water to lubricate herself.  Pets give you these horrific moments and even if they live long lives, they will inevitably die before you do.  Certainly by the time Rebecca was born we had grey/white Lucy who lived a very long life and eventually died as Becky turned 18.   Once I moved to London for university in 1976 there were no pets allowed in Halls of Residence beneath the Post Office Tower, however when I lived in Finsbury Park with Mumtaz in the early 80s we had Monty, another tabby.  Montgomery was named after Mr Clift the actor whom I had discovered as a young man.  We called the cat Montgomery Keshani Brown LLB., MCC & Bar with full English pomposity and when I left, in 1985, he stayed.  Or did he? I think maybe he moved in with me for a bit, then went back to Mumtaz…yes evidence has been discovered of Monty in Archway Road…

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This must be around 1987 – Kinnock is Labour Leader and I was wearing questionable garms.  Dear Monty. 

 

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London 1990 – Honey, Hardy & me

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In the mid-80s I got a flat in in Archway Road N6 and when Jenny moved in we got two beautiful Siamese kittens, siblings Hardy and Honey.  It was our first try at having two cats, and we’ve stuck with the plan ever since.  It was also our first try at pedigree animals.  Large ears and inquisitive natures.  Proper child substitutes.

Hardy and Honey, about six months old

Such beautiful animals, they both talked a great deal and were sweet companions.  One night when we came in from a theatre show they were missing – then a small miaow led us to the top of the wardrobe where they were hunched, nervously looking down.  Then a movement under the bed – and a Ginger Tom ran out through the cat door into the back garden.  He had entered the sanctum.  Bullied them.  Eaten their food.  Ginger Toms apparently.  Or is that cattist?   Anyway a few weeks later the same thing happened.  There Hardy and Honey were again, on top of the wardrobe.  We had discussed what we would do if it happened again.  Plan A.  Jenny walked down to the cat door and locked it.  Then the Ginger Tom (for it was he!) ran back there and got trapped in the bathroom (which was the back room due to the weird Housing Association conversion we were in).  I ran a tap and filled a jug. Ginger Tom was hissing and growling and Honey had come down for a ringside seat and got trapped in the room too, but safely on the towel shelf.  I tipped water onto the Ginger Tom’s head until he submitted with a final hiss, then finally opened the catflap and out he went.  We never saw him again. Nor did Honey or Hardy.

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Hardy in Highgate, 1992

When we went to Scotland on holiday once a year – a 12-hour drive up to the West Coast & the islands – we would take the Siamese with us.  They would be locked in the cottage when we went for walks.  I remember Hardy growling at the sheep one morning.  They were good travellers.  When we were in Los Angeles early 90s Jenny’s school friend darling Betty would stay in our flat and look after them.  We would go back and forth.  Then when we returned from Los Angeles in 1995 we knew we wanted to move out of Highgate.

Honey got out the front door on the day we packed up the van to move temporarily to Kilburn and sometime that night got run over on that busy road.  Heartbreaking doesn’t begin to describe it.  I had to scrape her body off the road with a shovel and bury her strangely heavy body, heavier than she had ever been when alive, in the back garden, under the horse chestnut tree.  I felt sick.  We felt for Hardy who was now solo and missing his sister, so a little later we got another strange Siamese called Tia who never quite fitted in, never liked Jenny but used to swoon at me.  Hardy and Tia came to Brighton with us but we were away so much during that period – in LA and elsewhere that we eventually gave them away to a lovely old lady who had just lost her two Siamese and needed some grown ones because she couldn’t bear raising another kitten.  She would write to us about them every now and again which was lovely.  They died there in the Sussex countryside about ten years ago.

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Marvin aged 20 weeks

At some point in 2004 we visited Stockholm with Amanda Ooms and met her sister Sara who had helped Andy Baybutt and I with The Murmuration (see My Pop Life #87) and met her new kitten Otis.  What a great animal!  He was a Devon Rex breed, with only one type of fur (most cats have three : down, fur & guard fur) and he was super-intelligent and friendly.  Bless Otis he passed away last week (Feb 2019) aged 15.  Anyway we were ready to re-cat ourselves and decided to get a Devon Rex, then found Marvin from a breeder.  Such a beautiful little boy he was, who would climb up from the ground up my legs, my body up to my shoulder and sit there.  He lasted a mere 9 weeks before cutting his mouth on a wicker basket and getting very weak. We took him to the vet who did a blood test and told us he had a factor 8 deficiency which meant his blood couldn’t clot and a transfusion wouldn’t work so that he would never live a long life.  That was simply awful.   I held Marvin’s little body to my chest through the night listening as his breathing got shallower and shallower, stroking him and whispering love into his absurdly large ears until he gave a big sigh, a final tiny rattle and passed over.  Jeez that was sad.

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Chester

Eventually in April 2008 we decided to brave another Devon Rex and Chester arrived.  What a cat he was.  Like an old chinese man.  Very communicative.  Very funny.  He would crawl under the duvet every night.  He had at least fifteen distinct expressions. After a year we decided to find him a mate.  By then we’d found a breeder that we liked, Michelle on the outskirts of Sheffield, whom we’d dropped in on one day while visiting my dad who lives in West Yorkshire.  Her house was full to the brim with cats, all friendly and smiling, purring and relaxed, draped over the furniture, window ledges, feeding kittens, greeting us.  She had all the queens inside – about twenty five females, plus the kittens, and all the males outside in the yard and a back shed.

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some of Michelle’s queen Orientals

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Devon Rex mum and smigel kittens at Michelle’s

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Mimi’s mum, and, possibly, a very young Mimi

It is an extraordinary house.  We saw the new brood upstairs of tiny little pieces of Russian Blue Cornish Rex fur and said we’d be back in 10 weeks for a girl.  Mimi came back with us in the Jeep on the 200 mile journey and Chester fell in lust as soon as he laid eyes on her.  He became a rape cat. We had to separate them for a few nights, then it was obvious (from the howling) that we would have to spey dear Chester. After that they got on famously….most of the time….

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Chester, me, Mimi – late 2008

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Mimi kitten with Chester aged 15 months

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Despite this clear blow to the head, Chester was not very good at fighting

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A very special animal, Chester also had a congenital problem, this time with arrhythmia – an uneven heartbeat.  He died aged four while I was filming in Nashville and Jenny and I weren’t getting on.  I flew back and we buried him in the back garden in floods of tears, his early death re-uniting us as a kind of awful sacrifice.  He was an incredibly special, wise animal.

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Mimi we felt was lonely then.  We worried about her.  Michelle heard about Chester dying young and offered us another Cornish Rex so I drove up to Sheffield again and came back with the most affectionate cat I’ve ever met – Roxy, a bonkers tortoiseshell female.  Mimi hated her.

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Roxy is a one-off weirdo.  I would actually say she has special needs.  In the nicest possible way of course.  She loves to sit on a shoulder.  Feels safe up there. Then she will purr and push her face into my beard, squirming with joy.

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She would get out of the garden and wander down the road shouting at the top of her voice as if she was lost.  People would pick her up and say hi where do you live?  I could hear them over the garden trellis. We put a collar on her with the address and my mobile phone number engraved on it. One day, sitting in the Peace Statue cafe in Hove with Andy Baybutt my phone went…

“Hello, do you have a cat called Roxy?”

“Yes I do”

“She’s in the hospital”

“OK thanks I’ll come and get her”.

Luckily I was on my bike and when I got home there was a nurse on my doorstep with Roxy and her winking eye, like butter wouldn’t melt.  After three months, Mimi still hated her. Roxy tried to make friends but no.  What to do?

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Boy’s first night in Brighton – oh god, there’s two other cats here…

Get another cat!  This time it was to Basingstoke and the last of a litter, a beautiful black Oriental.  I met his father who was a Siamese and his mother who was a mushroom Oriental softie.  Roxy swooned for the Boy as soon as she saw him.  She licked him, chased him and bit his throat which was rather alarming.  But that is what cats do when they play.  She was teaching him how to fight.

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She has taught him everything since.  They sleep together, wash each other, play and fight together. Mimi kept her disdainful character intact, and when it was that we came to move to New York City, we brought Roxy & Boy with us and left Mimi in Brighton.  Mimi is an outside cat, she was the queen of that hill in Kemp Town.

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Mimi & Delilah-Rose, Brighton 2008

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Eventually we found her a home with a lovely family in Norfolk and later received some  photos of her looking very pleased with herself as a nine-year old girl’s pet and the only cat in the house (her one true desire).

Roxy we wouldn’t allow outside because she got lost every time, and Boy could take it or leave it – and he liked to bring back worms and slow worms (legless lizards) from outside and leave them – alive – in the kitchen.  But we’d already decided not to let the cats out in Brooklyn because of

TOP CAT!

THE MOST EFFECTUAL TOP CAT !

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The local alley cats here have thick fur because they sleep outside in all weather. They slouch and have scars and behave like tough guys.  They are huge.  They are contemptuous. They probably have leukemia.  We imagined them meeting Roxy & Boy and speaking in Brooklynese :

Yo. What’s your name – puss-in-boots?  What you doin’ down here? Welcome to the hood.  You is European?! Don’t make me fuck you up kitty kitty.

Scarcely anyone in New York speaks like this anymore, they’ve all moved out to Long Island or Westchester, or Jersey.  I mean it’s noticeable when you hear that Top Cat twang on the streets, like an endangered species.  But I think the cats still talk like that even if the people don’t.  The cats haven’t been gentrified yet (although there are gangs of “cat lovers” who go out and spey them and give them injections for leukemia).   So Roxy and Boy stay in. They have space, pretend trees to climb, food, beds, water, toys, windows to look out of with sunshine coming in.  Now and again Boy demands go out out onto the stairs so he can scratch the stair carpet.  Actually he is very dog-like.  He plays fetch and guards the perimeters.  They are content.  I love them with all my heart as I have loved all my cats, but maybe a little bit more.  They are, of course, our little kids.

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Mimi & Chester in Brighton

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Boy & Roxy in Brooklyn

 

These are the two opening sequences I remember :

A sample of one episode ‘the maharajah of pookajee”

My Pop Life #27 : Concerto in F (allegro) – Gershwin

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Concerto In F  (Allegro)   –   Gershwin

Music has given me many perfect moments in my life.   At concerts, on trains, in cars, in rehearsal, even on stage.  Often through headphones.   I just had a perfect moment on my front door stoop in Brooklyn on ipod shuffle.   A positive rush of joy where the music – Gershwin’s Concerto in F – matched my thoughts and feelings precisely in a rush of connection.

We all know Rhapsody In Blue.   Manhattan.   Used as the soundtrack to Woody Allen’s film.   But had been the soundtrack of the city since 1924.   The brilliant use of jazz in a classical score has not been bettered, except perhaps by Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain.   It has an amazing section two thirds of the way through which Brian Wilson transposed into a vocal opening for his “Gershwin” LP a few years ago.  I’ve toyed with getting those four bars of music tattooed onto my left arm, below the butterfly, the Jenny symbol and Chester’s pawprint.   It’s an iconic piece of music.   I’ve seen it live in concert, at the Dome in Brighton, and seen that great musician Leonard Bernstein conduct it in New York, on youtube of course.   But this piece is less well-known, certainly by me.   Due diligence reveals that it was written a year after Rhapsody In Blue premiered, in 1925.   It’s more classical in form than the more famous piece, but has echoes of it nonetheless.   My “well-trained ear” (this is a joke) immediately finds astonishing beauty in it.

Today was a bit nothing.   Cold and rainy, I went out at five to try and make something happen – maybe buy a chest of drawers, get the dry cleaning delivered because it’s too heavy to carry down the road, buy some of Jenny’s favourite beer Negro Modela.   All failures.  I did manage to buy cheese eggs and milk at Trader Joe’s.   Jenny was on a long Facetime.   When she came off it she cooked us both an amazing stew.   We don’t cook much, so it was a treat.   I helped a couple of young people make a connection in “this business we call show”, and was rewarded by a Twitter follower explaining to me how I could embed videos onto this blog.   What goes around comes around said Leonard Kravitz.   I had some puff, went downstairs onto the stoop for a Benson & Hedges with my ipod on, and this slice of unknown New York music came on random shuffle.   It was beautiful.   Life is good suddenly.

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It wouldn’t be my pop life without random shuffle now would it?   As serenity flowed through me (mingling with the pleasant effects of marijuana) I felt lucky, satisfied and happy with myself.   It’s been a bad day but it can end well even so.   Fleeting moments of joy that I welcome and hold close for a second.   Then decide to write it down.  My Pop Life.   It’s almost live.