Though Are the Wonders of This Brief Life 16 The Spawn of the Swinging Sixties Chapter Nine West of the Fields Long Gone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
From Though Are the Wonders of This Brief Life Book Two.

Submitted: November 23, 2014

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Submitted: November 23, 2014

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Introduction

 

West of the Fields Long Gone has been composed of pieces from formerly published writings, including Ice Spoke of the Spells of Calm mark one, which was first published at Blogster on the 25th January 2007.

First Night of the Dream and The End of the Century Young* were taken from this piece.

Like Some New Romantic was originally part of an early draft of West of the Fields Long Gone published at Blogster on August 20th 2006. All sections were subjected to considerable modification before being published in “definitive” form at FaithWriters in August/December '07.

It takes up where the previous story, Gilded Youth at the Silverhill School, left off, which is to say my arrival in Bristol in South West England to appear in Richard Cottrell's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the city's Old Vic theatre in the winter of 1980. Moving into '81, it goes into some details about my tenuous links with the New Romantic movement, and ends with my becoming an ageing student at the University of London. *Omitted (2013)

 

First Night of the Dream

 

My time in the city of Bristol as an actor with the Bristol Old Vic theatre company in early 1980 was restless and unsettled. Initially, I stayed in an elegant little dwelling in the affluent Clifton area to the west of the city centre. Then, a friend from the Vic who also happened to be the wardrobe assistant, generously asked me if I'd like to stay with her for a while. I said yes, but it wasn't long before I'd relocated to a boarding house, also in leafy Clifton I think. There I stayed until it was time for me to return to London.

Appearing alongside me in Richard Cottrell's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream among other members of an incredibly gifted generation of actors at the Vic were Daniel Day Lewis, future Oscar-winning character actor of legendary perfectionist genius; and the brilliant Nickolas Grace, perhaps best known for his screen portrayals of flamboyant dandies both real and fictional; such as Anthony Blanche in the 1981 television version of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, directed by Charles Sturridge and Michael Lindsay-Hogg. And prior to the first night, I'd been fortunate enough to witness a BOV production of one of my favourite ever musicals, Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls, with Clive Wood as Sky Masterson, and another future screen legend Pete Postethwaite as Nathan Detroit, and which may have provided me with more pleasure than any other theatre production I'd seen up to that point.

The Dream was greatly praised; and there was even some talk of its going on to become as renowned as the 1971 production by Peter Brook, whom I actually met ca. 1979. So much so that it relocated to the London Old Vic in the summer, where it was no less successful than at Bristol.

 

Like Some New Romantic

 

1981 was the year in which I was most active as an enthusiast of the New Romantic movement which had been originated in the late 1970s largely among discontented ex-punks who were reacting to Punk's increasingly drab uniformity. The New Romantics embraced a hyper-nostalgic devotion to diverse ages past which they interpreted as romantic, whether recent times such as the twenties or forties, after the fashion of such possible pioneers of the movement as Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music, and Ron Mael of Sparks, a startlingly inventive avant-pop outfit of American origin, or more distant historical epochs, which inspired such accessories as ruffs, veils, frills, kilts and so on. Its soundtrack was not guitar rock, but an electronic dance music influenced by German art rock collectives such as Kraftwerk and Can, as well as electro-disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder. To some degree, it set the tone, musically speaking for the entire decade, after having been brought into the pop charts by acts as diverse as Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Ultravox. By the end of '81, the movement was no longer cutting edge as I recall it, partly perhaps because of the scarcity of bands clearly identifiable as New Romantic. That said, it went on to exert an immense influence on the development of music and fashion throughout the eighties, not just in London but other cities throughout Britain, Europe, and beyond. I attended New Romantic club nights at Le Kilt and Le Beat Route among others, and was even snapped at one of these by the legendary London photographer David Bailey, but I was never a true New Romantic, so much as a fellow traveller keen to experience first hand the final truly provocative London music and fashion cult before it imploded as all others had done before it.

As '81 progressed, my acting career faltered, and so a family decision was reached to the effect that I should become a mature student at the age of 25. Accordingly, I passed interviews for both the University of Exeter, and the University of London and specifically, Leftfield College, situated on the Finchley Road in Hampstead, north London.

To cut a long story short, I opted for Leftfield; and so in the autumn of that year found myself embarking on a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Drama mainly at Leftfield, but also partly at the nearby Central Academy of Speech and Dramatic Art, while being resident in a small room on campus.

My dissatisfaction with my situation was initially so strong that at one point in an attempt to escape it I auditioned for work as an assistant stage manager, or acting ASM, for my one-time agent Harry Creasey. However, I was not successful. Soon after this fiasco, while ambling at night in what I think was the Swiss Cottage area close by to the Central, I was ambushed by a group of my fellow drama students, who were clearly thrilled to see me. It felt wonderful to be accepted so unconditionally by them. Perhaps they appeared to my 26 year old eyes to incarnate the sheer carefree rapturous vitality and joy of life of youth.

Before long I settled down at Leftfield, in fact came to love my time there, coinciding as it did with the first half of the crazy eighties...last of a triad of decades in the West of unceasing artistic and societal change and experimentation. For me the very early '80s was a time of ceaseless exhilarated hedonism, the poisons fuelling me back then being not primarily, or even significantly, narcotic. Rather they constituted a furious desire for strong sensation within a diversity of fields, the intellectual, the social and the amatory among them, reinforced by industrial strength doses of self-obsession. Furthermore, from around the turn of the eighties or earlier, I began to be motivated by an adoration of early death, as well as those artists who, both gifted beyond measure and exquisite of face and form, had gone in search of it.

I aspired to be an enfant terrible myself during those first two golden years at Leftfield, ever seeking the centre of attention, driven by a desire to be loved by everyone almost as if my sanity depended on it. To a significant extent then I was a genuinely joyful and carefree spirit back then despite sporadic depressive spells, in fact perhaps even too much so; so it could be said I was driven to seek out the kind of mysterious intensity I felt I lacked; and so coveted.

I exhibited a frenzied and insolent cerebrality in my academic writing at least partly influenced by my favourite avant-garde artists but also reflecting my own tendency to mental causticity. How close this love of scandalising by way of the written word brought me to a seared conscience I can't say. So, why didn't I cross the line beyond which a person can no longer respond to the Holy Spirit? Perhaps it was something to do with the prayers of believing friends and relatives. Or perhaps something precious was kept alive within me during those dark years. Certainly, I never fully stopped being a caring person, and I can recall being outraged by those avant-gardists who advocated actual cruelty or the harming of innocents. How then did I square this with my adoration of certain favoured artists who thrived on verbal violence and scenes of madness and destruction? The fact is I couldn't, hypocrite that I was.

The piece below has its origins in that time, perhaps earlier, and may provide some indication of my mind set in the early to mid 1980s; while the artistic torment it conveys should be taken with a colossal pinch of salt.

 

Some Perverse Will

 

I’m a restless man

I am never

Still

I’m always spurred on

By some perverse

Will

The grass is never

Green

No peace here

To find

Some demon

Of motion’s

At work within my

Mind

No bed is too soft

That I won’t

Abandon

Its sweet calm

And comfort

For a softer

One

I’m a restless man

I am never

Still

I’m always spurred on

By some perverse

Will. 


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