A section of the first chapter from a forthcoming book, by Ian Hartley
Time waits, but only just for so long… In a whirlwind of life, filled with movement, color, intrigue and debatable achievement, time not only waits, but appears to actually stand still.
That’s what time has done for me… Early on, I hit the ground, wide eyed and running. I ran and I couldn’t stop. No obstacle was too great. A couple of years back I stopped. Not through any scheme or thought of my own. No grand plan. I wasn’t tired, nor was I sick, I had just ran myself into a corner… I could see no way out. I would just have to sit and wait, for the paint to dry.
I am working all the time, my mind is always racing. My head is divided, dissected, into units, there is the me that is talking to you now, but at the same time there are several other versions of me, especially the one that is hovering, high above the situation close to the ceiling, watching silently , always taking notes.
I am not necessarily going to start at the beginning, It may shift in time, and most of it will be true. Some of it though, will be downright false information, but all of it, in one way or another, has at some time or another, happened to me.
There is a cultural myth… a quote…“If you remember what happened in the sixties then you weren’t there.” Implying, that if you had lived during that decade and took all the drugs, then you couldn’t possibly remember. I had. I did. And I remember.
Bouncing down Broadway, with battered luggage,a hip nose, and a head full of Kerouac. Attacked by a pimp, forced to defend myself, just 16 years out of the womb, with memories of British Rural Harvests mixed with migration and country schooling. Reading Sartre and Orwell at 13, because I thought it was science fiction. No explanation necessary. Left home, short pants, romance…
Hitch hiking through enemy territory. Sipping coffee at the Purple Onion Cafe, while watching a pair of Leslie Caron drag queens, apache dancing, with drunken sailors who have blood on their shirts. Begging for coins from office girls, to buy a meagre meal.Cheese, bread and cheap wine, while sleeping on a small single mattress, under the stairs in the witches house.
Geometric haircuts and girls all called Hayley, with huge target earrings that floated like lost dreams, holy grails. Being first. Being history. Knowing that unlike James Dean you actually had a cause. You were going somewhere. Even television, via Star Trek, was boldly going, where no man had gone before. Everything was telling you to go further. You had to be part of that revolution.
Everything was tight then. I had gone through childhood, standing on the threshold of the new tomorrow. I was a prodigy, I could not shut down my mind. I was dynamite. Like a nightclub act, I could work to all kinds, I knew all the answers.“I dig Jews, Italians , musicians, even musicians. I can talk to musicians about marijuana. I can talk to intellectuals. Beans are nothingness.” Just like Sartre.
Now I’m off stage, in the wings. Hunched. bent and swaying. Staring, treading imaginary water. Brain slipping down the back of my neck, like an oyster. People got no idea… hey i’m lookin’, I’ve got dirty fingernails. Wake up. Eyes travel like steady cams along carpet, clean except for some crazy, crocodile Blahnik, lying on it’s side, stained with wine. Eyes continue searching, carpet high, like a low flying stealth bomber,over the white shag pile. A reel to reel tape box lies open on the carpet, tape spooling in a tangled mess onto the carpet. All is quiet, silent, but for a faint white noise. The stealth eye travels horizon wise to the television. It is on station, but at the same time off station. All we see is “snow”. The eye that is you turns up, and over, full circle, rolling onto your back, so that the television is upside down. Suddenly the screen comes to life, with extreme, sharp focus. Although no words are spoken, there is the revelation, the unseen knowledge, that someone has woken up. The television channel changes. CLICK! It’s big bird and she’s upside down .
Message from big bird, straight to the camera and to you…“STANDING STILL IS SO HARD, HOW DO THOSE STATUES
DO IT.?” Yes, you have read all the biggies, Tolstoy, Kafka, Huxley, all of ‘em. But who gets to you? Who gets through? The Big Yellow Bird. I’m sitting. No, I’m walking down a night street. Faces are blurred. Heck, I am severely blurred. All these sixties memories in just 30 seconds, while I am lying on a remote control. Every time that I move, the channel changes.This is affecting me, especially my mind. Can we get back to this later?
Eyes left, then right. Everyone in my immediate vicinity is wearing Hawaiian Shirts. I am a prisoner in my own memory land, holding onto a remote control that is jammed. Channel surfing rapidly with a mind of it’s own. Channel surfing through my mind, my life. I remember.
I am there again, in that past life, in that lost city of the past. Big and sprawling, a certain town, not unlike any other. So very similar, in a literary sense, to the town described in Oliver Twist. A town that Dickens, decided, would be prudent to refrain from even mentioning. But no matter. This town, my town, like that town, was and still is, “Every town”.
Breakfast was a ritual. We’d all go to same tiny restaurant for breakfast. I wasn’t working in a normal job situation, I’d played harmonica on several records, a session musician. I had learnt to do this when I was around 13 years old, listening to early blues records, collected by pilots who lived on a nearby air force base.
Even though my harmonica playing supplied me with cash, it seemed to lack dignity. The idea of standing on stage, moving a little silver object in my mouth drooling into it didn’t really appeal, so I underplayed that side of my life.
I tried painting abstracts and working on being an artist, even a writer. I kept a diary. but lacked the discipline. Read veraciously, mostly the existentialists. My big obsession was clothes. I would scour the thrift stores, looking for clothes to modify. I can remember wearing lots of velvet.
My clothing was very Carnaby Street, In fact my whole social set was… We’d see foreign films, the older ones shown for free at University theaters. Jean Paul Belmondo was big, but visually the look was Terence Stamp through to the Kinks, with the meticulousness of John Steed. Trouser bottoms were cut at an angle, over highly polished boots. You’d dress up for breakfast, or any other public appearance for that matter. It would be all verbal thrust and parry. A pseudo sophisticated romp, which actually somehow infected you and moulded your personality. A social virus, in which you method acted yourself, into a new you, recreating yourself.
And the cigarettes, everyone smoked without guilt. In fact, there was no guilt. Sometime later, the smartest woman I ever met, said to me “guilt is a useless emotion. It has absolutely no benefit..”
I said all the girls were called Hayley, that was not quite right. There was Shelly, “the Queen”. Wherever she was she would hold court. She didn’t do anything, she didn’t have to. She was sophisticated. Tall and lean, with raven black hair and the air and appearance of a New York folk singer. She’d sit at a table smoking. She was older, in her late twenties, but in a way ageless. The guys who hung around her would all try to impress her in a way that became theatre in itself, like a film script in the making. There was Clive, a kind of beaky nosed Londoner, who tended to dress like a lean Oscar Wilde, fingers full of rings. I’d be at the table with him and Shelly, eating a cold croissant with my coffee. “I was married at your age and had already, fathered over 13 children.” Clive would whisper this sort of rubbish to her, like he’d heard it in some movie. She’d just stare back at him with those huge, Cleopatra eyes and yawn like Nico. Her long legs, stretching out in front of her, all slender. Her feet, in beaten, paint spattered, ballet pumps.
Everybody had an angle. Clive’s was that he was supposed to be worldly, he liked to give the impression that he was far older than everyone else. The effect was to the contrary, he just appeared younger than the rest. When I left home it was like entering a Hitchcock tunnel. When I came out the other side I was different.
When I first hit the city, it was everything that I had expected it to be. Wet, fim noir streets at night. By day, Raymond Chandler Los Angeles.. But after a few days that wore off. The reality being that I was living in a small cube in a rooming house, with a suitcase and some kind of torture job. Friendless, except that I knew a guy who lived near the red light district. I had just arrived, and he was the only other soul I knew.
One night as I was walking back to my rooming house I found this stray girl. She was all wet with rain and didn’t seem to own anything, wasn’t even carrying any thing. It was like I said, she was wet, all wet. I couldn’t leave her out in the rain, she was wearing a wet jumper. She had that wet wool smell. I took her back to my room and let her dry herself off.
I let her sleep in my bed, while I sat on the broad windowsill watching the rain filigree down the windowpane. I was thinking about how I had decided to get out of my parents house at 16… how I felt so driven, alien, so out of place. A new world was dawning… and I wanted to be part of it. I had to get out.
I must have fallen asleep, I was woken suddenly by a loud knocking at my door. I went to the door, but as I opened it, I was thrown back savagely against the wall, my arm forced behind my back, pushed to the floor. Out of one eye I saw the wet jumper girl being unceremoniously escorted out of the room by a female police officer. The guy holding me down decides to let me up. He totally has control, I figure he’s around twenty two years old. He’s dressed in a television cop outfit from the early sixties. It is the early sixties. He’s in period, I didn’t realise at the time that I will never see this again, someone dressed this way for no other reason than that it’s what everyone wore. The fashion. He has a short cream crumpled trench coat a black mohair suit and a pork pie hat, thin black tie, almond toe shoes, and he’s serious. He is for real. Myself, on the other hand, well, I’m all green velvet, with long hair and frilly white cuffs.
He implies that they are going to examine the girl for sexual activity… Sure he knows who I am. Offers a suggestion that I return home to my parents or suffer a fate worse than death, in the prison of his choice. He would return in the morning and if I were still remaining here, he would be almost as angry as he’d be disappointed.
He leaves. My fate appears sealed , the girl is forgotten. I had learnt one of my first lessons. Do not trust desk clerks in rooming houses. Almost everything else I’d do again. I figured I had till morning.
In those days no one had a telephone, so I set off across town to Sharkey’s house. He was living somewhere I can’t remember. Michael’s a famous poet now, but back then he was just a guy who had an apartment that I hoped to share. If only I could wake him up. Michael took me in, unconditionally. Even walking me back to the rooming house and helping me to get my suitcases. Michael drank Guinness. and was far more worldly than anyone I knew at the time. He was going to University and studying to be a Clam.
The cops had eaten my forwarding address.
By: Ian Hartley.
In the mid seventies to very early eighties I wrote, published and edited a Punk magazine called Spurt!! ( named after the Richard Hell track “Love comes on Spurts”..)
Quite a few famous people were interviewed by the magazine …one was Lou Reed … this is an encounter I said I would never publish … because it was of no beneﬁt to anyone, except for one very quotable quote, that involved a celebrity who was very much alive at the time.
Ian Hartley 2013.
Situated near Kings Cross ( Sydneyʼs SoHo ) The Sebel Townhouse is a kind of strange historical glitch in the evolution of architecture… a cross between a Times Square Strip Club and a crazed suburban brothel. One of those curious Hotels that are rock tour friendly, with a badly stocked bar, except for Jack Daniels , Gordonʼs Gin and little else, the promoters, or record company choice, rather than the musicians.
It is here, in the carpeted splendor , this truly contemporary structure… untouched by style or nostalgia, amongst ﬂocked wallpaper and musky, dusty thai silk drapes that I arrive at noon, walking towards the press room, past wooden framed photographs of luminaries, such as Wayne Newton and Fig Newton.
Lou Reed sits in a beige cloth arm chair.. next a bowl of browning lilies.
Fortuitously, I am late, having no real knowledge of what had transpired before my arrival…
To my left, I can see Rachel, Louʼs constant companion…pacing in an area that looks very much like a small dining room.
Itʼs the tour coinciding with the release of the album “Street Hassleʼ recorded live and binaurally in Germany… which, if one is to believe the advance publicity, is to be the worldʼs ﬁrst binaural recording. Next to Lou on the table, is a proud, grey foam head wearing a pair of binaural headphones.
I am told by a large man with a Tom Selleck mustache, that I can now ask Lou questions… that I am late , adding “make it quick”.
My attitude is that of a peculiar stage fright, that one is afﬂicted with, when meeting a “legend” for the ﬁrst time. (mixed with with the same trepidation that Louʼs last few creative offerings have not been critically acclaimed, how to talk about a project that doesnʼt inspire… but the man does.)
Then if you have totally neglected research, as I have, but feel arrogantly, that you can scrape through on your wits…dive right in.
I introduce myself.. surprisingly Lou actually gets up and shakes my hand, I lean in closer brieﬂy, then sit.
SPURT: This is embarrassing ..my photographer isnʼt with me ..he is stoned,I mean really stoned, when heʼs like that he can be a nightmare , a useless nightmare… Look I think that the binaural thing is great … I actually collect the COOK studios binaural recordings, made by sound engineer Emory Cook… the record record player with the 2 cartridges… the whole bit…
LOU: You know about him..? ( takes a sip of either water , vodka, or gin .)
SPURT: Yes he is fascinating ..so little written about him…. the ﬁeld recordings the..
LOU: Itʼs Great …This isnʼt the ﬁrst binaural recording thats obvious..
SPURT: Who cares?
LOU: Laughs, lighting cigarette .. “ whats your paper ?”
SPURT: My own called “Spurt!! “ ..you know, the Richard Hell and the Voidoids song…. itʼs a punk magazine like “Punk” on New York and “Search and Destroy” in San Francisco..we share and swap articles…
LOU: Robert Quine from the Voidoids is in my band…. whatʼs happening?
SPURT: In what way ?
LOU: You know…happening ?
SPURT: Give me your room number …I..
LOU: ( interrupts ) Cool, but it has to be cool.
SPURT: I wanted to get an interview, but not about binaural….
LOU: There arenʼt any bands that I should see right?
SPURT: There are some drag bars ..There is one, a strange one.. this guy called Keith has 2 apartments ..heʼs joined them together , knocked down a wall, joined them , turned them into an underground club.. on the sixth ﬂoor of a block of 40 , Itʼs like domestic , It has 2 piece bands in the tradition of suicide there and cynical drag…
SPURT: He calls it the “Hideaway” Itʼs about as secret as you can get.
Like a secret Maxʼs Kansas City… I guess..
LOU: Tonight? ..(sips orange juice )
LOU: What can I say that hasnʼt already been said?
Lou inhales cigarette smoke…I put a cigarette in my mouth and fumble for my lighter , Lou beats me to it, with a match from a Sebel Townhouse matchbook .
LOU: Ouch!!! (shaking his ﬁngers ….burnt by the phosphorous ﬂash)
SPURT: (Looking at his ﬁngers) These matches, this place is a dump.
LOU: It ainʼt the Savoy ..(grinning)
SPURT: And Iʼm not P.G. Wodehouse…
LOU: I love him..he just died.. a year or 2 back.
SPURT: This is a …. ( feels embarrassed ).. I didnʼt really want to interview you just talk ..there is nothing I feel that anyone hasnʼt already asked you.. all we are going to do is talk about things….
LOU: Hereʼs something , seeing as we arenʼt going anywhere with this…. a quote…. “Andy Warhol is not a sexual being..” but you canʼt quote me “laughs”
SPURT: (holds hands up as if to frame Louʼs face like a ﬁlm student) Exclusive “Andy is not sexual .. he is Andysexual..”
LOU: No thank God , everyone knows everything that there is… to know about me.
I turn off the cassette recorder .. Rachel walks over to Lou, putting her arm around his neck ….
Later, after his last Sydney Show, someone stole Lou Reedʼs guitar ..we got it back for him .
I spent 2 nights with Lou and Rachel, they were charming and I promised I wouldnʼt write a thing.
-Ian Hartley transcribed 2013 (for Red Door Magazine)
About Ian: Consultant. Strategist. Designer, Nightclubs. Entertainment industry. Popular cultural theorist and analyst. Writer, Journalist.