Medical notes from underground

“Theodore Dalrymple”, anatomist of modernity (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
MARK GULLICK profiles the cultural commentator THEODORE DALRYMPLE

The English writer Theodore Dalrymple, whose real name is Dr. Anthony Daniels, spent much of his professional career as a hospital and prison psychiatrist. He has also written many books on a variety of subjects, and travelled the world extensively.

But, even given the breadth of Dr. Daniels’s voracious reading and the length of his journeying, his most memorable books report back from a place far bleaker than the many and often pitiful countries he has visited. These are the books and essays which deal with his experiences among Britain’s ‘underclass’, and his ruminations as to why these unfortunates are kept in their place by a society which is, by global standards, extremely wealthy. These are the writings I will concentrate on here.

To read Dalrymple’s accounts of the inhabitants of the prisons, hospitals and sink estates where he ministered to them is to enter a type of hell, but what is most frightening is not any inscription above the gate reading ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’, but the simple four numerals at the end of many of the most appalling essays. For example, ‘1995’ and earlier. Does anyone believe things have improved in the quarter century since the good doctor painted his Bosch-like visions of Britain?

One of the most apparent aspects of Dalrymple’s talent is his ability to take the pulse of his own culture, and he is never more accurate in his many observations than when writing about his fellow Britons:

Gradually, but overwhelmingly, the culture and character of British restraint have changed into the exact opposite. Extravagance of gesture, vehemence of expression, vainglorious boastfulness, self-exposure, and absence of inhibition are what we tend to admire now – and the old modesty is scorned

Anything Goes

Although it is Dr. Daniels’s literary avatar Theodore Dalrymple (a pen-name which puts me in mind of some Dickensian notary public) who publishes these diagnoses of country, people, political regime, or seismic cultural shift, it is the doctor who really does know best. He is a hyper-realist and draws on professional experience, not on social theories that happen to be de rigueur, and he has the ability to bring analytical forensic skills as much to a society, culture or woeful institution as he would be to the body or mind of a patient.

The National Health Service (NHS) in particular presents unfavourable symptoms. There are many hustlers and grifters who have exploited Britain’s much-lauded health service for their own advancement and comfort, and at whom Dalrymple often takes aim:

Britain now has more educational bureaucrats than teachers, as well as more health-service administrators than hospital beds

Not with a Bang but with a Whimper

This in itself is a scandal and, having worked for the NHS in four different capacities myself, I can vouch for Dalrymple’s depiction of “a British bureaucratic zombie, for whom work is a painful interruption of entertainment” (If Symptoms Persist).

Dr. Daniels clearly sports the livery of old-fashioned Conservatism, which naturally earns him sneers and smears from the bien pensant class, displaying as they must their ‘woke’ insignia with misplaced pride. Dr. Daniels is everything ‘woke’ is not. He clearly feels for the British ‘underclass’, but is able both to state plainly that “I delighted in what my patients said” (Not with a Bang but with a Whimper), and to render them in miniature with merciless accuracy:

More flagrant injustices by far, worse physical conditions, greater exposure to violence, were of course to be encountered elsewhere: But for sheer apathy, for spiritual, emotional, educational and cultural nihilism and vacuity, you must go to an English slum

If Symptoms Persist

Anthony Malcolm Daniels was born in 1949 in London’s fashionable Kensington. Thus, he began his life in a recently bombed city in a district of which, the last time I visited it five years ago, seemed still to be a building site in perpetuity, but for more modern reasons of appreciating the value of property rather than rebuilding one of civilisation’s great conurbations.

His father, we are informed in an essay on the poverty of English post-war architecture, was a communist (and Dalrymple will have much to say on the subject of communism) and despised Victorian art and architecture, to the extent of destroying some quite valuable paintings from that era which he felt were taking up loft space. This may or may not be a Freudian moment which directed the course of Daniels Junior’s future beliefs. We will never know; Daniels is scathingly dismissive of Freud.

In 1980, Daniels, writing as ‘Theodore Dalrymple’, so impressed the editor of The Spectator, Charles Moore, that he began a regular column in that magazine on the strength of unsolicited submissions, a breaking of precedent by Mr. Moore. There followed a string of books – as well as regular writings in various periodicals online and off – which were mostly received with discreet critical approval without the usual attendant razzmatazz of press and television appearances. Dalrymple has always swum against the stream of what is now called the ‘narrative’, a sort of media-instituted and pre-fabricated substitute for the truth, and his profile in the mainstream media is concomitantly rather sparse.

For the British, at least, one of the most staggering allegations Dalrymple makes is that social services have absolutely no intention of helping those under their care. The NHS – at least at the level of management – are not overly interested in sick and injured people or their recovery, teachers are actively opposed to well-tried educational methods on ideological grounds, and the police would look askance at anyone suggesting they went out preventing crime by their presence as they used to do.

An example – from many candidates – concerns the British police. The ‘TICs’ mentioned here are ‘Taken into Considerations’, or crimes the defendant admits to in order to lessen the likely sentence for his present misdemeanour. A defence counsel will use these playing cards blatantly and the police will be all the more grateful for that, and for the following reason;

TICs are the means, roughly speaking, by which known criminals admit to offences they didn’t do, in order for the police to clear up crimes they can’t solve

Life at the Bottom

Criminals in one area tend to know each other, and these TICs serve as a kind of barter system. Added to this, the criminal serves less time for his act, and possibly none at all, while the police delight their masters by delivering improved statistics. Everyone, as they used to say at British fairgrounds, is a winner.

This wholly twisted version of policing is typical of Dalrymple’s dealings with the public sector in Britain, although many of his interactions provoke laughter as much as despair. Dalrymple is a comic writer in that he presents a lacklustre reality and invites the reader to find it grimly funny – Alan Bennett does something similar – while always gently reminding us that if we do find ourselves sniggering at this shabby round-dance of foolishness and ignorance, our laughter is very much in the dark, and we, like him, are whistling past the graveyard.

Although Dalrymple is an intellectual by definition, and one who indeed finds much compensatory delight in his studies of literature, we are fully aware of his ingrained attitude toward the intellectual class, “whose livelihood depends on ceaseless carping”. We recall Thomas Sowell, among others, when Dalrymple writes that:

[M]ost of the social pathology exhibited by the underclass has its origin in ideas that have filtered down from the intelligentsia

Life at the Bottom

It is no longer government that threatens social cohesion and culture, he writes, but “the universities and the intellectuals, or semi-intellectuals, that they turn out” (ibid).

Dalrymple is less an intellectual than a professional with both the life experience and the depth of reading to make him a perfectly capable philosopher. Indeed, he gives one of the finest mission statements for philosophy (my own subject) that I have come across:

The philosopher is an archaeologist of knowledge, rather than a builder of it: he strips away the misconceptions that have accreted since birth

In Praise of Prejudice

This definition is in bold contradistinction to the destructive, moth-like work of the intellectual, and bad ideas, when their time comes, can only lead to what modern sociologists term ‘bad outcomes’. One more than others.

Outside of the mainstream media, the dread realisation is taking place that the West is undergoing what I call ‘Sovietisation’ (although I am sure I am not the first to coin the phrase). It can scarcely be said that Britain, as one of the most egregious examples, is moving away from rather than towards the type of societal control around which the communist apparatus was constructed.

Writing from experience, Dalrymple has made many points concerning communism, but they have as their centre of gravity the same essential statement; the point of lying to the people, a practice inherent in the communist system, is not to persuade the populace of the truth of what is being said, but to humiliate them in the realisation that they must believe or, in many cases, die. This summation comes from The Wilder Shores of Marx:

Apart from the massacres, deaths and famines for which communism was responsible, the worst thing about the system was the official lying: that is to say the lying in which everyone was forced to take part, by repetition, assent or failure to contradict

Dalrymple still writes for several online magazines, and the closest he has to a mantra follows him there:

In my study of Communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate…

Interview with FrontPage Magazine

And, along the same lines: “[T]he purpose of political correctness is not to enunciate truth but to exercise power” (‘Rigid Diversity’, Taki’s Magazine).

A modern refusenik, then, but if Dalrymple is a contrarian, that should be placed in context. The British media has a rather cunning way of appearing to be in touch by occasionally feinting a blow at the clumsily named cultural phenomenon known as ‘political correctness’ (a chrysalis whose emerging creature is ‘woke’). But this is mere nose-thumbing for effect, and there is another aspect of modern cultural dysfunction that is sacred for the media – victimhood.

It is axiomatic for the British media class that, in a dreary revival of Marx’s misplaced dictum in The Communist Manifesto, everything must be viewed through the (distorting) lens of class conflict, and that battle to be further parsed into the constant war of oppressor and oppressed. This now has its new identity as racial/social justice. This is succinctly summed up by Dalrymple in his collection Farewell Fear. The author is describing the appeal of conversion to Islam to a woman named Lauren Booth, half-sister-in-law to ex-British Prime minister Tony Blair. Ms. Booth displayed, writes Dalrymple,

…the very characteristic thirst of modern people who have lived privileged lives for the safe psychological haven of victim status

Just as Dr. Johnson was of the opinion that patriotism (or the pretense of patriotism) was the last refuge of the scoundrel, now another doctor indicates that victimhood is the first refuge of scoundrels we must now call ‘woke’.

Here we are at the heart of cultural darkness, the blind spot that seems to affect Western governments. If whole generations of the ‘underclass’, along with ethnic minorities, and those of one non-heterosexual persuasion or another, are constantly told that they are neither culpable for their actions or, perhaps, in need of psychological care, and also that they are and have been somehow repressed by a supposedly dominant ethnic group, they will gladly accept the nomination.

And as victimhood is offered freely and for free, courtesy of the state in Britain, so too its status seems to absolve the victims of responsibility. Dalrymple makes a comparison between African countries (specifically Tanzania and Nigeria) and Great Britain:

Yet nothing I saw [in Africa] – neither the poverty nor the overt oppression – ever had the same devastating effect on the human personality as the undiscriminating welfare state. I never saw the loss of dignity, the self-centredness, the spiritual and emotional vacuity, or the sheer ignorance of how to live that I see daily in England

Life at the Bottom

You will emerge from the writings of Theodore Dalrymple enlightened and entertained, but also disgusted and with a stain on your soul, which admittedly doesn’t sound like an endorsement. It is a stain no soap could ever wash away – disgust with the weakness of people who could be helped by even a small show of strength on their part, disgust with the frankly wicked waste of money spent in the callow belief that it is a god who will answer the petition of prayer and provide for the meek and lowly, and disgust for the level to which British culture has been allowed, and even intentionally manipulated – to sink. Above all, you will feel a searing disgust with those ‘in charge’, those in well-remunerated positions of power who believe they are doing good when what they are in fact doing is misusing money to salve their negligible consciences and inflated egos, as well as adhere to political dogma which would disgrace a poor African nation, what Dalrymple calls “the baleful influence of mistaken ideas”.

The collected works of Theodore Dalrymple, advised as he is by his éminence grise, Dr. Anthony Daniels, should be read by every social worker and politician, every police officer and NHS manager, every journalist and every teacher in Great Britain, but of course they will not. Quite the opposite. They will be cast into the fire so that those people – many of whom Dalrymple describes as performing “makework” jobs – can return to the state-funded, well-sucked thumb of Critical Race Theory, or whatever name it has this month. As the good doctor himself quotes more than once from T S Eliot, “mankind cannot bear very much reality”.


Dr. Daniels was kind enough to answer a few brief questions for The Brazen Head…

BH: Is there any hope for the British public sector?

AD:  There are three main problems, it seems to me. First is centralisation. Second is the size and the number of the tasks it is expected to perform. The third is its corruption – moral, intellectual and increasingly financial. They are interconnected. In most cases, people have little idea what the purpose of their organisation is, and goals have been obscured by ideology and political entrepreneurs. As far as financial corruption, I am afraid it was Mrs. Thatcher who started the ball rolling. It is much worse than the offering of money under the table. Financial corruption has been legalised. 

BH: Do you see in the response of Western governments to the COVID pandemic reason and measure, or have they used it for a more sinister accumulation of power?

AD: I have some sympathy with governments that clearly had to do something. It is rarely, however, that governments relinquish powers willingly that they have taken in emergencies. Therefore, the return to the status quo ante will be difficult – and it wasn’t so very splendid to begin with.

BH: Do you see what I have called a ‘Sovietisation’ of the UK?

AD: I definitely see a Sovietisation of Britain – but not only of Britain. People are now afraid not only to voice opinions in public but (what is worse) not to subscribe publicly to opinions that they do not hold. They thereby lose their probity and therefore their locus standi to oppose the grossest absurdity and violation of common sense. As for Soviet-style langue de bois, it is everywhere: you can hear it uttered even in private. 

BH: I gather that you spend most if not all of your time in France. Do you ever feel a prophet without honour in your own land?

AD: I do not feel a prophet without honour because I do not feel a prophet. I often wonder whether I’m exaggerating things, whether I am too gloomy because of my personal experience, because gloom is easier to write about, at least interestingly, than success. I often ask myself how seriously people should take me, and I have no definitive answer, and certainly no tablets of stone to bring down from any mountain.

American piety: meet the new Boss

SHUTTERSTOCK
MARK GULLICK sees wrinkles on the Free World’s senior stuffed-shirt

“I confess that in America I saw more than America; I sought the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions, in order to learn what we have to fear or to hope from its progress”           

President Biden is already being granted the status of a deity. Roman Emperors nominated themselves as gods. Biden outsources that troublesome administrative business to the media. The New York Times has claimed the incoming administration is “the return of the adults”. One can only, as Bertie Wooster said, shake one’s head and pass on.

Joe Biden shares one political attribute with Donald Trump; his own party neither like him nor do they want him as president.

Just as many Republicans held their noses when Trump attained the presidency in 2016, so too Biden is not wanted by his own supposed fellow partisans, and he may well be a Trojan horse containing Kamala Harris and her people. Biden looks mentally and, frankly, morally frail, a man both bereft of any real intelligence save that of the rat-like, push-button, food-pellet cunning on which the political class rely, and the possible onset of a condition causing him to stumble through sentences in a way that makes George W. Bush look like Stephen Fry.

After yet another dirty and disputed election (they actually go back to JFK), a question really has to be asked of the USA. In a country acknowledged as the world’s superpower, and containing well over 300 million people, if the best of the best are a pugnacious boor and an old man clearly in the early stages of dementia, what does this say about that country? As the psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men asks of a man he is about to kill: if the rule you followed led you to this, of what use was the rule?

Biden’s appeal, of course, is that he is not Donald Trump, in much the same way that Trump’s USP was that he was not Hillary Clinton. Trump appalled the political and media class with his 2016 victory, coming as he did from outside the ideological training camps of the establishment, or ‘the swamp’ as Trump’s (few genuine) people dubbed it. The legacy of Trump’s presidency will be more or less meaningless on the ground in 2021, as Biden’s people will have the incoming president repeal anything of worth Trump might have done. Trump has, however, distilled a strain of conservatism from a good many Americans, and his next political move will be watched with interest. The formation of the ‘Patriot Party’ is being more than whispered in the corridors of power, although he may end up just throwing rocks over the perimeter wall of Fortress Biden.

This is no mere metaphor. The implication of Biden’s absurd inauguration, which saw more troops in Washington DC than were at that time serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (and who later had to bed down in a car park) was that some redneck army was about to storm Capitol Hill, and this because – to give the media’s supposedly unbiased tone – a gaggle of trailer-trash, tornado-bait, white supremacist wastrels pranced about in the Senate House and sat in Nancy Pelosi’s chair. The Soviet-style optics of Biden’s swearing-in show what the next four years will be like for America. This could well be the power grab, and all under the false flag of healing division and the supposed social unrest ‘caused’ by Trump and his non-existent far-Right Wehrmacht. Watch for the politicisation of the American military. A lot hangs on it. Biden has already ordered that troops serving in Washington DC have their social media backgrounds checked.

As much of a failure as it seems to genuine conservatives, however, The Trump presidency did have its uses. It served to bring the deep state out of the shadows and into the light. The citizenry, the real people, are aware now that there is something going on backstage, and that something is rotten in the state of Washington DC. And, following from this revelation, it finally became obvious that the political divisions in America are genuinely partisan, although not along party lines. These are a mere mummer’s play, to distract and entertain. The significant divide is between the deep state and its operatives – from Nancy Pelosi through CNN Thunderbirds-puppet Anderson Cooper right down to the most raggle-taggle Antifa street-fighter – and ordinary people who want no part in what is taking shape.

One of the marked effects of Trump’s reign was that one part of the USA got to see just how much the other part hates them. It is axiomatic now that while creatures of the political Right may not agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it, the Left will defend their right to be hurt by it and to do their utmost to see that you go to jail for saying it. Biden will do nothing to discourage this Leninist cultural mood music during his regime.

The hippies were fond of saying that whoever you vote for, the government always gets in. So, meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Hardly. Obama quietly advised Trump to go easy on the executive orders in 2016 but, it goes without saying, no such restriction applies to the incoming President, at least one of whose strings Obama may be pulling, and Biden had his pen out and was signing executive orders on Day 1 (I wonder which of the White House’s many rooms has a few suits of Obama’s in the wardrobe for advisory stopovers).

Obama had set a record for recent presidents – a president precedent, if you will ­– with five executive orders in his first week, trumping Trump’s four, Clinton’s one, and Bush’s zero although, in all fairness, Bush may not have worked out the click function on his biro. Well before the end of Biden’s first week in the Oval Office, he had signed 21 executive orders, with 12 subsidiaries having more or less the same effect. At the time of writing, like a cricketer enjoying his innings, he has passed the half-century mark to 52. America, welcome to Papal governance, by bull and edict, circa the Middle Ages. My apologies for the lapse into Latin, but if you don’t know what a statement ex cathedra is, you had better learn.

This snow-flurry of immediate legislation has seen Biden lead with race and its subsidiary industries, and the course of his term can be seen with clarity right from what Americans call the ‘get-go.’ Like an expert bridge player, Biden (by which I will always mean those who prop him up politically) has led with the only suit guaranteed to win any game just at the moment: immigration.

Immigrants and their corporate and moralistic lobbyists will see many things to please them in the new White House team, such as including illegal immigrants in the census, protecting the same from deportation, whatever they might do, and, notably, the possibility of a much-touted amnesty. This remains to be seen as it is a bigger ask than the usual tinkering with green cards, and the potential for problems for the regime lie in wait in the form of a possible crime wave. Always remember, it is far easier for an MS-13 gang member to move to America than it is for you to move to Japan. On a related subject, Biden will be ending what the Regime Media called the ‘Muslim ban’. It was no such thing, of course, and again this is not the best time for a wave of immigrants whose COVID status it will cost you money you don’t have to ascertain.

Now, it would seem obvious that in a time of a pandemic governments across the world have been accused of over-reacting to, accelerated immigration would not be a priority. But that axiom would assume a guiding logic, with the result being favourable for the host country. Biden – and the Democrat Party as a whole – has made it clear that the opposite is the intention. Crippling and wounding America has been the ulterior motive of every move that party has made since Obama (very much America’s Tony Blair) came to power and proceeded to double the national debt, champion Islam, play more race card aces than a saloon-bar card-cheat, and target his enemies (like the Tea Party) with a weaponised tax-auditing system.

Along with an influx of Muslim immigrants – which cannot reduce a country’s chance of terrorist attacks – there are already new ‘refugee caravans’ forming from Honduras and elsewhere. If they make it to the promised land, they will drain that land of resources by virtue of being negative social capital. Trump was right, for all his boorishness, when he pointed out that Latin American countries do not always dispatch their best and brightest to America, and also that some of the countries they are understandably escaping from are indeed, as Trump so eloquently portrayed them, “shitholes”.

Culturally, one of the most meaningful things Trump did was cut out the rot of critical race theory – a non-subject invented for political and cultural power and control – from America’s public sector. Despite occasional muttering to placate the UK’s few remaining Conservatives, Boris Johnson would never do that in the UK because it would spook the horses at The Guardian which, for reasons unknown, Johnson believes most British people read rather than an ever-dwindling number of snub-nosed readers who eat artisan bread and have children called Pandora and Oberon. If Russia carpet-bombed the London boroughs of Islington, Hampstead and Crouch End, it would halve the readership of The Guardian. I digress.

Biden will, of course, reinstate the chippy, joke-woke curriculum that has become the fad, because it does him no harm to do so. It must always be remembered that the credo of every modern politician is almost the same as the first line of the Hippocratic Oath. First do no harm. To myself.

To his credit, Biden (or rather that of his people; he is a stuffed shirt) has distanced himself from the ‘defund the police’ crazies, and would do well to steer clear of Black Lives Matter, who will demand more and more in terms of reparations, affirmative action, lighter sentencing for blacks and so on. I don’t imagine Biden can pronounce ‘anarcho-tyranny’, but I hope his team know what it is, and are against it rather than for it.

Biden has an immediate problem here, or his optics people do. The list of pressure groups and plain-old fashioned ‘political activists’ (aka ‘community organisers’. Obama was one) who will be queuing at the White House door for their quid pro quo in return for their bloc vote will be a long one. Biden had better hope that the media sides with him and not with the crazies and zanies of the hard American Left.

In terms of infrastructure, some of the Biden moves will be yawn-inducingly obvious. He has already started by pulling the plug on the K1 pipeline, and halting fracking. This will make America’s spurious ally Saudi Arabia happy as they had no desire to see an energy-independent North America. Biden will set about dismantling Trump’s wall immediately, shedding American jobs but pleasing the open borders brigade. America has just announced it will return to the jamboree of the Paris Climate Accord, which is bound to cost the taxpayer money. Trump’s tax cuts for the middle class will, it goes without saying, be annulled.

Money. As The O’Jays memorably sang, you can do bad, do bad, do bad things with it. Inflation will be the next problem for the new administration, although the media will be working with all hands on deck to claim that any financial problems encountered by the Biden White House was because of the scoundrel, Hitler-tribute-act Trump, memory-holing the fact that the pre-COVID economy was buoyant under the 45th President. No matter how confident the technocrats are, economics continues to elude them. I have never found a definitive provenance for this gemlike phrase, although noted Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis has been suggested:

Astrology became astronomy. Alchemy became chemistry. I wonder what economics will become

America is playing a dangerous game. ‘Quantitative easing’ may sound technocratically efficient and soothing, but it just effectively means printing money, which tends to mean inflation blooming into hyperinflation, as with Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. In three months in 2020, ostensibly to ease the economy through the somewhat exaggerated melodrama of COVID-19, the Federal Reserve ‘created’ $3 trillion. It does not, of course, literally print money (ordinary people might be able to get hold of actual cash, and that would never do) but buys what are essentially junk bonds and creates an artificial financial ecosystem in a fiscal hothouse many believe is unsustainable.

Add to this the fact that Biden has already effectively signed off another household stimulus check, and that he has a pack of rabid socialists – such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an extraordinary fudge-brained bimbo who inexplicably has slunk in to the corridors of power – baying at him to shake the magic money tree even harder and increase the amount – and even make it a regular, monthly payment, sounding very close to the universal basic income which is in the minds of many on the Left – and the full nature of history’s biggest-ever financial gamble begins to become worryingly clear.

And it won’t just be the money supply that is at issue. It is what happens to the money that already ‘exists’. Cronyism certainly won’t be going anywhere. There is already evidence that Biden wants to reintroduce the so-called ‘Settlement Slush Funds’, an Obama monstrosity whereby corporate offenders pay not the victims of their misdemeanours, nor even the government, but a coterie of Left-wing pressure groups, including as just one example La Raza – ‘the race’ (imagine a Caucasian equivalent!) – the openly racist Latin American hybrid pressure-group of lobbyists and thugs currently attempting a reconquista. This reverses the dedicated and specific – and surely morally upstanding – work against this extraordinary funding hack by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of several Trump hires currently pulling a knife out of his back.

A priority of the Biden administration will be control of the media, particularly online. They don’t need to bother with the MSM who, if they acted any more like cheerleaders for Uncle Joe (where have I heard that name before?), would have ra-ra skirts and pom-poms and a college song. One of the most alarming events of 2020 – an alarming year all round – was the way in which government avoided accusations of censorship, de-platforming and banning various conservative voices by effectively outsourcing the dirty work at the crossroads to big tech in the same way a British bank has its call centre in Delhi. Biden won’t touch any of that. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. (With the economy, on the other hand, it will be more a case of, if it ain’t broke, fix it till it is.)

The Biden administration will be a disaster to everyone save the media, who will be campaigning as though they were the captain of the Titanic saying that the ship hadn’t sunk at all, he was just inventing the submarine. To say that America is becoming a banana republic that can’t even run a free and fair election may be to be unfair to banana republics. After all, they at least have cheap bananas, and what happens next to America is anybody’s guess. May you live in interesting times, said the Chinese sage.

After the headrush

Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-1984

Simon Reynolds, Faber & Faber, 2019, 608 pages

MARK GULLICK savours an appreciation of an excitingly original music scene

Punk rock in both its British and American incarnations is probably as thoroughly documented as any musical genre. Punk seen as a transition, stage or catalyst, however, and the loose, disparate and inspired genre it gave rise to, is relatively uncharted territory, which makes Simon Reynolds’ Rip it Up and Start Again necessary reading for those interested in some of the most innovative rock music to emerge from the Western world in the last century or this.

Post-punk had something which punk had only in larval form – variety. Punk simply could not pluck cards randomly from its deck and come up with a hand as musically diverse as Joy Division, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, XTC, Throbbing Gristle and Devo. The sheer range of styles is breath-taking when it is presented in the accurate and mannered style of Reynolds’s book, and this is a thrilling account of a time of invention and music as genuine art, one which I bemoaned the lack of until a music journalist friend alerted me to Rip It Up.

Punk did not simply stop, of course, allowing post-punk to clock in for its shift, although Reynolds does follow convention by marking the territorial division in the traditional way.  Thus, punk ends with the final Sex Pistols gig in America, and the post-punk period commences with John Lydon’s formation of Public Image Ltd. But, as Reynolds shows, there is another dividing line, not temporal but conceptual. Where punk was mostly visceral, post-punk was in large part cerebral.

Although the title of Reynolds’s book – the name of a song by Scottish band Orange Juice – suggests a year-zero reset for alternative music in Britain, there was of course a shading of one ‘movement’ into its successor. Punk had liberated rock music in two main ways, financial and formal. Pre-punk, you needed record company backing or well-off parents to buy equipment (undoubtedly one reason so many British rock bands of the 1960s and 1970s were so posh). APE (after the punk era), you could emulate The Cure’s Robert Smith, who recorded the band’s first albums with a £17 electric guitar from Woolworth. I saw the guitar played on several occasions, having known The Cure when they were starting out, and it always sounded good to me, becoming a trademark sound for Smith.

Robert Smith, with his Woolworth’s guitar

The formal liberation is less obvious, but punk stripped down the concept of the song to its bare components, and this demystification of music carried on into all the major post-punk bands. The Gang of Four’s Damaged Goods is about as far from Yes as it is possible to get. But this was not the denial of rock history, far from it. Among post-punk bands there was also an awareness of what went before them that had evolved from the semi-nihilist ramalama of punk rock into a type of working manifesto.

Gang of Four – not like Yes

Punk bands had their lineage in 60s garage rock, rockabilly, The Stooges, MC5 and more, and some were more rock-literate and aware of the provenance of their sound than others. But where punks had a vague inkling of what birthed them, post-punks knew to antiquarian detail which bands were their progenitors. And they were not just aware of musical artistic tradition. You were more likely to hear Sheffield industrial-synth duo Cabaret Voltaire (as their name would suggest) talking about Dada as The Damned.

Put simply, the musicians who followed the punks were several leagues more intelligent. Magazine’s Howard Devoto, all of Wire, XTC, even The Fall’s Mark E. Smith – given bouts of incoherence – were all thinkers. There is a delightful snippet in which Reynolds tells of The Ramones’ dumb amazement, while touring with Talking Heads, that David Byrne et al read books in their down time instead of raising hell. Rather sadly, the abiding iconic figure from punk ended up being Sid Vicious, as inarticulate and destructive a clod as you could find. Compare and contrast with Gareth Sager of visionary post-punk band The Pop Group;

In an NME feature, Gareth Sager argued that Western civilisations, being “based on cities”, were sick because they were cut off from “natural cycles”, unlike African tribes where repression simply didn’t exist

Whereas with punk there was a riot going on, post-punk sometimes felt like there was a seminar going on.

My own favourites from the period – Joy Division, Wire, The Fall, The Slits, Magazine and Killing Joke – receive the treatment you would expect as post-punk luminaries. I have a particular affection for Joy Division and Killing Joke, which stems from a wonderful 45-minute conversation about music with Joy Division’s tragic singer Ian Curtis a year before his suicide, and a drunken evening with Geordie Walker, Killing Joke’s phenomenal guitarist. He wouldn’t let me pay for any drinks, claiming that we were drinking the royalties from Love Like Blood, the band’s biggest hit.

Killing Joke

Reynolds is not Britcentric, however, but rather transatlantically exhaustive. He ranges across the herring pond with the ease of a practiced music journalist, showing an appreciation of sub-genre as well as genre.

Musically, punk is familiar territory. The Ramones, 1234, rolling eighths on the bass, total 4/4 drumming and what was habitually described in the music press of the time as ‘buzz-saw guitar’ (the go-to adjective for post-punk guitar sounds being ‘angular’). Post-punk was both more experimental and far more knowledgeable and expansive concerning its ancestry than punk. Its effects were also not limited to the music. Graphic design also benefitted from post-punk, and Rip It Up has occasional sleeve art which shows a much more advanced visual and graphic awareness about packaging – perfected by Scritti Politti’s use of famous branding to adorn their sleeves – doubtless a result of the link between post-punk and art college.

Much of the post-punk conversation tends back towards art and art rock, and various players have their say on the subject. Deciding what is art and what is not, of course, is akin to playing rock-scissors-paper in that the winner has not displayed any particular skill in the subject. But at the same time even the culturally tone-deaf can tell that there is a difference between Wire and Magazine on the one hand, and The Damned and Slaughter and the Dogs on the other. That said, the more trying aspects of the art-school approach are highlighted by a Wire gig at which, onstage,

…someone attacked a gas stove, while Zegk Hoop featured twelve people with newspaper head-dresses on playing percussion

Art, quite possibly, for art’s sake.

Any review of a cultural movement is now habitually viewed through the prism of the present, given the interesting times in which we live. To use the contemporary vernacular, Reynolds is pleasingly non-woke. It is a simple fact that, while punk took inspiration from black music, post-punk was almost entirely a white phenomenon. Then, of course, this might draw the occasional disinterested observation. Given that the one Reynolds includes, bemoaning the whiteness of the post-punk scene, comes from Lester Bangs, we would do well to remember that Bangs was a drunken drug addict best known for being Lou Reed’s court jester.

If post-punk had happened now, the whole movement, if such it was, would be under the Klieg lights of woke. Music is strictly patrolled by the commissars now, as is the whole entertainment industry. Post-punk took a studied view of politics rather than a coerced one. Reynolds makes an astute observation about post-punk bands and their rather more guarded approach than their forebears, not to race but to anti-racism, which feels very familiar today;

[W]hile most British post-punk groups participated in the Rock Against Racism tours and festivals of the era, they were wary of both RAR itself and its sister organisation, the Anti-Nazi League, suspecting them of being thinly disguised fronts for the militant, left-wing Socialist Workers Party (who valued music purely as a tool for radicalising and mobilising youth).

Today it is of course mandatory for musicians to keep their CV up to date concerning race. It is difficult to imagine XTC’s debut album, White Music, having a problem-free release just at the moment.

XTC

If you already enjoy the music of any of the bands covered by Reynolds, Rip It Up is a schoolroom of apocrypha. Personally, Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures remains very close to my heart and not least because of sound effects on two tracks, Insight and I Remember Nothing. They sounded, respectively, as though someone had recorded an old lift for the first song, and smashed bottles in the second. I had never heard music like it. How did they do that? The answer, of course, was hidden in plain sight, like Edgar Allan Poe’s purloined letter. The producer of Unknown Pleasures, Martin Hannett;

…loved the occasional extreme effect: On the debut Unknown Pleasures, he miked up the clanking of an antique lift for Insight and incorporated smashing glass on I Remember Nothing.

Reynolds achieves two pleasing results for a rock music writer in that he does not assume the role of central arbiter who decides what is good and what is not (he limits himself discreetly to assessing cultural value) while simultaneously being unable to disguise his favourite artists (he has an obvious soft spot for PiL and Scritti Politti). So it is as the enchanting hybrid of fan and researcher that he traces the many tributaries of the post-punk river, and the many cultural effects, not least in the media.

Punk did post-punk a great service by creating a highly significant, high-circulation, rock-literate music press. Reynolds estimates that, including the ‘knock-on’ rate of readership, where copies are read and passed on, the combined readership of the four big titles was around two million a week, figures the MSM would kill or die for now. And so post-punk was not left floundering around wasting its sweetness on the desert air because of mass media’s lack of interest. They had a dedicated press from the start.

They also had a figure who is sainted in any music biography covering the period he was alive, and rightly so: John Peel. Having championed punk and taken enthusiastically to its descendants (before an attack of musical malaise in the mid-1980s led him to claim that “I don’t even like the records I like”), Peel was as crucial as he had been and was to be in the promotion of what Reynolds calls “dissident music”, music produced outside the establishment industry channels:

Peel’s support of the marginal and maverick was all the more crucial because Radio One, before deregulation of the airwaves, enjoyed a near monopoly over pop music in the UK.

The production side of the music industry also underwent change due to post-punk. It is a common perception that while punk was about DIY records and musical autonomy, its demise represented the end of independence and the return of the big record companies and promoters. In fact – and Reynolds devotes a painstakingly researched chapter to this – the punk bands couldn’t wait to get famous and get on a major label, while the period covered in Rip It Up was notable for the fierce autonomy of some of the bands and labels. Of course, as The Clash’s Joe Strummer (somewhat hypocritically) had noted, record labels were always going to be “turning rebellion into money” and, as Mark E. Smith wryly noted, “all the English groups act like peasants with free milk, on a route to the loot”, but the post-punk era saw more determination about retaining creative and financial control.

But any movement is only what its defenders say it is. Post-punk, as Reynolds makes beautifully and caringly clear, was very far from monolithic. Ska, Goth, New Pop, synthpop, Industrial, post-punk’s territory is expansive and divulgent. Some was complete news to me, and I was what Mark E. Smith called a “printhead” at the time when it came to the New Musical Express and Melody Maker. I had never heard of (with the exception of The Residents) the subject bands of the chapter ‘Freak Scene: Cabaret Noir and Theatre of Cruelty in Post-punk San Francisco’. Reynolds is encyclopaedic.

He is also a good music writer. Elvis Costello once quipped that “writing about music is like dancing about writing”, which contains a point but does not tell the full tale. Many rock writers use the experience as a rite of passage to the ‘proper papers’, whereas with Reynolds, his love of his subject matter keeps the prose buoyant and the descriptions of the music – which can unseat music writers prone to exuberance – are concise and evocative. It feels as though, had you not heard one note produced by one band in Rip It Up, you would still find it an enjoyable read.

Rip it Up and Start Again is a wonderful book about an exciting and artistically fresh few years. Reynolds counts himself fortunate – after having been a slow starter with punk – to have been involved in the wonderful flat-pack Renaissance that was post-punk:

Young people have a biological right to be excited about the times in which they’re living. If you are very lucky, that hormonal urgency is matched by the insurgency of the era – your innate adolescent need for amazement and belief coincides with a period of objective abundance. The prime years of post punk… were like that: a fortune.

His good fortune is also ours.

Gimme shelter – the fall and rise of the 60s

Rites of Dionysus, by Tim Shaw

MARK GULLICK says the hyperbolised decade turned naivety into nastiness

“They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworths, man. We’re at the end of the greatest decade in the history of mankind, and as Presumin’ Ed has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black.” Withnail and I

“At first sight, the whole period, the whole state of the world, seems to offer no more secure footing to an historical adventurer than the chaos of Milton – to be in a state of irreclaimable disorder…” Editorial introduction to Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

If you can remember the Sixties, runs the rusted old adage, you weren’t there. For today’s political Left, most of whom weren’t there, it was the blessed decade, a time of liberation, sticking it to The Man, and sex and drugs and rock and roll. For those few Conservatives who remain, it was the fons et origo of the chaotic times in which we find ourselves.

The world-historical events of the 1960s centred around America. JFK’s assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights Act and King’s killing, Vietnam, the Apollo moon landing – all these shook, rattled and rolled the country where, as de Tocqueville had claimed in 1835, the world’s first great experiment in democracy had begun. And if the Sixties were remade as a movie, for good or ill, then it would feature an Anglo-American soundtrack – rock music.

Defining musical genres is a mug’s game. With rock music, it defines itself on listening. As with the famous American judicial case requiring a judge’s clerk to define hard-core pornography, with rock music you will know it when you see it. And, in this case, hear it. The first band I saw, at the age of 14 in 1975 and for £2.50, was Led Zeppelin, themselves a product of the Sixties and its bequest of rock music. The man I was watching transfixedly, Jimmy Page, was inspired to pick up the guitar after hearing Presley’s Come On Baby, Let’s Play House. Zeppelin were shatteringly loud. This was a while before The Who forced legislation to reduce the volume at concerts following their 1977 gig at Charlton Football Stadium in south London. The band could be heard in Brighton. I couldn’t really hear anything, not with any clarity, for two days after Led Zeppelin. Quite simply, in Nietzschean terms, here was Dionysus.

But rock music grew not out of its father’s thigh, as did the mythical Dionysus, but out of electric pop and R&B. The details are unimportant, but The Stones began the Sixties as a Chuck Berry tribute band and ended it as Their Satanic Majesties. The Sixties – something happened out there. A number of tributaries flowed into one river, and the counter-culture got the music it required.

I’ll return to the schism which eventually separated rock music from rock and roll, R&B and pop music, but a mixture of youth rebellion, drugs hard and soft, and economic affluence produced a coat of arms for a culture-changing musical crusade which began at El Paso, the Marty Robbins single which was the first January Billboard number one of the Sixties, and ended at Altamont Speedway Stadium in December 1969.

Rock music itself took a broad base of blues, R&B and rock and roll and used it to weave the bands’ own designs, all amplified beyond old-school levels. Rock music is primal and it is Dionysiac. The Sixties’ alchemical mixture which became rock music was bubbling away before synthesisers, sequencers and computers (some experiments aside), and so was visceral, sweat-soaked and animalistic.

Certainly the electric guitar was the weapon of choice for the cultural skirmishes ahead, the staff adorned with pine-cones held aloft by the followers of Dionysus. Coming from the back row of the swing bands of the 40s and 50s, the electric version of the instrument became more prominent when people like Louis Jordan began cutting band numbers to save money on the road. It was Charlie Christian who first made the electric guitar talk through amplification (his famous original guitar was bought by Steve Howe of Yes), and the thread would wind through the guitarists of the Sixties – Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Pete Townshend – the last included as possibly the greatest rhythm guitarist of a crew best known for their solos.

It was the way in which the instrument was played rather than innovation in guitars themselves, with vintage guitars being prized as the age of mass-production began. The riff was born in the Sixties. When Townshend got back from an American tour in 1964 and turned on the radio, he heard the famous staccato barre chords of You Really Got Me by The Kinks. It certainly got Townshend. He sat down and wrote the equally famous chopped riff for I Can’t Explain.

John Entwistle of The Who

The Sixties also saw the rebirth of the often-forgotten bass guitar in rock music. As a bass player myself, I can say that the decade energised and freed the instrument. McCartney’s melodic scales on his iconic Hofner Violin bass, Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones’s rhythmic work in tandem with the mighty John Bonham, the blues scales of Free’s Andy Frazer, The Faces’ Ronnie Lane and Cream’s Jack Bruce set the instrument free, away from the straight rock ‘n’ roll runs and country plod of the Fifties, and no one more so that The Who’s legendary John “Thunderfingers” Entwistle, who brought the bass to forefront of the band’s tumultuous sound.

Rock music was banned in Yugoslavia in the Sixties as subversive, which was precisely its appeal to bored and affluent Western youth who were experiencing a relaxation of authority and discipline after the strait-laced Fifties. Todd Gitlin called rock music incoherent and primitively regressive, while Gerard Howard dubbed it the “Pied Piper’s tune of the new freedoms”. The children led by the Piper in the fairy-tale, of course, were free right up until they were slaughtered in the wood.

Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix nut-shelled the Sixties in one performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. He played the electric guitar in a way no one had ever seen or heard. Then he set light to it and smashed it to pieces. This was a sign, a pointer to where the American dream was heading. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud famously writes that dreams are “the royal road to the unconscious”. The dream-work becomes a text to be read off, and the signifiers relate to a signified which is never fully present (Derrida had much to say about this). What type of unconscious can be read off from, and thus lurks beneath, the American dream? In terms of rock music, the dream was interrupted.

Just as the first British invasion of the 18th century led to the Declaration of Independence, American pragmatism built on British conceptual guidelines (Locke and so on), so too it could be argued that the British invasion of the 1960s led to rock music as a progression of electric pop and rock and roll. Arguably, The Beatles began the metamorphosis, moving from covering R&B and Motown songs to writing their own, influenced by both but with something British layered on top. The list of British bands desperate to ‘crack America’ grew quickly. The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Kinks, The Dave Clark Five, The Who, Herman’s Hermits… When The Stones recorded at blues HQ Chess Records, significant ground had been ceded by American forces.

There were, of course, two main offensives from Blighty, two very different bands who were attracted to America under different pretences. And, just as Coleridge claimed every man was born a Platonist or an Aristotelean, so too the Sixties had an ontological choice of its own: The Beatles or The Stones?

The Beatles had the shop-store mannequin look A&R men had been looking for, while The Stones always looked to be up to no good in publicity photos. After the amphetamine-crazed early Hamburg scene, The Beatles settled into a life, viewed in terms of narcotics, of marijuana and LSD, mostly. The Fab Four were not known for their live work, which were mostly exercises in young girls screaming themselves hoarse at a slightly animated version of Kraftwerk. The Stones were becoming notorious for their live transformation. Jagger had stopped hopping about like a small variety of garden bird and was now part-turkeycock, part infernal drag queen. Richards was becoming the troubadour. It has to be The Stones, for me, but debate is welcomed. In the end, The Stones couldn’t write Blackbird, but The Beatles certainly couldn’t have performed Midnight Rambler.

In the end, the British took coals to Newcastle (home of The Animals). American rhythm and blues made it to the record shops of the home counties, bands began emulating them, realised that with minor alterations they could cut the suit to fit them, and sold the result back to a willing American public. Perhaps America could have come up with rock music unaided, but then maybe it was too affluent, too shiftless, too relaxed in its hedonistic consumerism. It wasn’t getting over the effects of the worst war the world had even seen, it wasn’t rationed, it wasn’t austere and economically fragile. The British invasion added urban grit to rock music in its infancy, some gin in the baby’s bottle. For this tonic, we have the institution of the British Art College to thank, partly, for bringing Townshend and Clapton and others out from their artistic shells.

America tried to replicate the success of The Beatles with the manufactured Monkees, who actually went on to be a halfway-decent pop band. It is regrettable that the urban myth informing us that Charles Manson auditioned for the band proves to be untrue. Manson was in Rikers at the time, but how would the band have developed? Manson did actually write music; Guns ‘n’ Roses covered his Look at Your Game, Girl.

The rock music whose source lies in the Sixties would be a raging river in the 1970s, and one of its effects would be punk at the end of the decade. Psychedelic rock made its appearance in the 60s and was not confined to freakish one-offs like The Chocolate Watch band. The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, The Who all had their flirtation with psychedelia, as did – more tellingly – the early Pink Floyd, waiting for the Seventies for ultimate fame.

One of the tributaries from the 1960s was garage rock. Determinedly lo-fi, garage was cheaply recorded electric pop music, a dress rehearsal for punk, and a genre only really defined after it was gone. But it must have stirred the sediment of the rock mix. The FBI investigated Link Wray’s 1958 classic Rumble. What were they looking for? Seditious lyrics? (Rumble was famously an instrumental.) (1)

Link Wray

The most obvious and influential off-shoot of garage rock was The Velvet Underground. In the context of the 1960s, Andy Warhol’s ethos of combining consumerism with multimedia with business was visionary. It is said of the first Velvet Underground LP that not many bought it, but everyone who did formed a band. The band combined raw garage rattle and roll with a Euro-gothic, dilettante style. Rock would always have more than a trace element of poison, which is where Velvet Underground came in, to attempt to puncture the homely sureties of, say, Crosby, Still, Nash and Young.

CSN&Y were a sort of anti-Velvet Underground, rural in feel as opposed to urban, harmonic not dissonant, lyrically upbeat, not dabblers in despair. But both of these elements would combine in the best rock music. America had two sides of its rock ball mask, the Apollonian and the Dionysiac, perhaps, and they may as well be thought of as rural and urban. Rock music was far from being one monolithic creature as the Sixties ended. In the last two years of the Sixties, The Band released their debut studio album, Music From Big Pink,and Iggy and the Stooges released their eponymous debut album, featuring Now I Wanna be Your Dog.

CSN&Y also shared with The Velvet Underground a microcosmic tendency of America: internal rifts and splits, acrimony, self-induced problems, civil war. Rock music may have been formed by the coming together of many influences, both musical and cultural, but it was going to be its father’s son, part brilliance, part destructive self-hatred.

Warhol epitomised a big part of the Sixties’ cultural ethos: business. Further to this, rock music as business. This was the days of album and single sales and gigs, and that’s it. No brand association, no commercials in your videos, no many-headed hydra of internet hits and downloads. Now, everything is a hit record just like every book is a best-seller. You just tell people it is. Everyone’s a winner. Warhol famously said that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. But he went on to write in his autobiography From A to B and Back Again, “…in 15 minutes, everyone will be famous”.

The two sides to rock music in the 1960s shows the same rift, the same oscillation between genius (or vast success) and madness (or a vast amount of drugs) as existed throughout America, with a metaphorical shift or two. Rock music, like its Anglo-American parents, would be born schizophrenic, presenting both the Apollonian spectacle of live rock music and its ornamental imagery, and the Dionysiac back beat, a music which could be exhilarating for a time, then change into something mad, bad and dangerous to know.

In the end, rock music might be the consolation for what the 1960s did to us. This Janus-faced god has returned to the woodland, true, and there is no real rock music to be found today. Entertainment has become wholly Apollonian and rock was always the herald of the Dionysiac, even when the harbinger was a fairly witless stoner like Jim Morrison.

“There is no real rock music to be found today…”

Rock music in the Sixties wore the reversible mask of tragedy and comedy, or at least light-heartedness. It aimed at Woodstock but it ended up with Altamont. And so did we.

Woodstock was the very model of how capitalism works in that it set up a huge venture, lost money partly due to the concert being half attended by people who had no tickets, then made its money back selling the film rights. The performances were legendary, and the counter-culture had a focal point, a quasi-religious event.

But what could counter the counter-culture? The other face of the mask, perhaps, the one shown at Altamont, a few months after Woodstock and an attempt to cash in on the idea. Students of popular culture will be familiar with received opinion. Promoters were beginning to realise in post-Woodstock 1969 that there was an awful lot of money to be made from the potent combination of rock music and the kids who wanted to hear it live. Altamont Speedway in Indiana was duly selected for a gig headlined by The Stones.

Their Satanic Majesties hired Hell’s Angels to see to security, and provided them with $500 dollars’ worth of beer. As things became increasingly fractious in front of the stage, and while the band were playing Under my Thumb, not the diabolic anthem Sympathy for the Devil as legend would prefer, a young black man named Meredith Hunter was fatally stabbed by one of the bikers. It was December, 1969.

The Sixties strove for Woodstock but it ended up as Altamont. Remind you of anything? The contemporary Western world, for example, forever telling us we are on the road to Woodstock, only to find we had the Altamont tickets. Front row. And the Sixties was not only music. Rock and roll was also an attitude. Hunter S. Thompson, Warhol, Lennie Bruce, the Beat – all of these acts were riffing on the same centre of gravity.

Rock music was the answer to a lot of questions, musical, social, political, aesthetic, and it had the broadest sweep both of influences and by what it went on to create. In the UK, among other genres, glam rock and punk were both waiting to see what the seeds of the Sixties would grow in a darker part of the garden.

One of Baudelaire’s collection of poems, Les fleurs du mal, is entitled Music, and contains lines Dionysian enough to serve as an epitaph, if it is that time, for rock music:

I feel the tremblings of all passions known 
To ships before the breeze; 
Cradled by gentle winds, or tempest-blown 
I pass the abysmal seas 
That are, when calm, the mirror level and fairy-tale 
Of my despair!

Editor’s Note

  1. Link Wray is No. 45 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists, credited with inventing the much-copied distorted “power chord”. A live version of Rumble may be found here