Pale Fountains – From Across The Kitchen Table - LP
Once upon a time I was accused of disappearing into my world of books and films where darkness came too soon. Total nonsense of course. There was music too. But the suggestion was that I was missing out. Total nonsense too. Products have so much to teach us. So many stories to tell …
Yeah, it was a bit of a funny day as it happens. I think it might have been the heat. Got to me. Or just things did. I did something really uncharacteristic. I was on the Northern line. Suddenly. Rachel Roberts, I screamed out loud. Just like that. Involuntarily. Not the thing to do on a crowded tube. But the prompts were all there.
The kid in the Arctic Monkeys t-shirt. The newspaper headline in the Metro. The Shack song in my ear. Whatever you say I am, that’s what I’m not. Girl still missing. “And all the papers say they vanished in the night. And no one heard a sound”. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Picnic At Hanging Rock. Rachel Roberts! I couldn’t stop myself.
I hadn’t thought about Rachel in ages. I used to think about her all the time. I don’t think I was the only one. I bet Michael Head did. I can’t prove it. It’s just a feeling. I thought he’d dedicated something to her somewhere. I can’t find any reference to that today, but what does that prove?
He was a real film buff Michael. Was? Is? “Remember Arthur Seaton said he won’t be beaten”. The Bicycle Thieves. Ah the Bicycle Thieves. Always the Bicycle Thieves. “Well I ain’t got much but you can take my future”. That song makes me cry. Still. That film makes me cry. Still. I’ve got the DVD now. That ending. Sheesh. Desperation takes hold. Takes different forms desperation does.
I was desperate. Remember? After the people at Radio 4 rejected my initial treatments? Remember the ones for my series on actresses? Oh it wasn’t just about actresses, as I kept saying. It was about everything. Life. Films. Death. Books. Love.
Another line that. Kept going round in my head today. “Bring me back the days when you bought me books for my birthday”. That book. Rachel’s memoirs. No Bells On Sunday. That as much as any of her films made me want to do the series. The series. It was about the effect films have. The impact of the film industry on individuals. The impact films have on the viewer. I was thinking of Rachel struggling with her demons. We all have our demons one way or another. I was thinking of Michael Head, sat there soaking up the power and glory of the old films. Channel 4. BBC 2. Foreign films. Forgotten films. Magic beamed in from a different world.
Remember this? The guy doing the commissioning at Radio 4 really seemed to go for the idea at first. The series. Especially the opening. That caught him. Incredibly powerful, he said. That passage from No Bells On Sunday. I have it pinned up. Still.
“You soon learn to please. You soon learn to efface yourself. You soon learn to bottle up your anger. You then start to die, or try to. You close up your bronchial passages, so you can’t breathe. They’ve called it asthma. You close up your fallopian passages. So you can’t accept life. They call it spasm contraction. Then you get so stifled, so completely closed up, that you take a little drink, do a little dance, take all your clothes off, scream, and laugh and vomit and the fear grows, and you’re still closed tight”. Rachel. The hellion. Her word. Hellion. A disorderly, troublesome, mischievous person.
When I was writing then I didn’t listen to much music did I? When I did listen to music it tended to be the Pale Fountains, or Shack, or The Strands. Michael Head. I thought he’d understand. Know what I was trying to write about. I thought of him when I wrote the second part of the series. The part about Gloria Grahame. The Suicide Blonde. Well, more about that book. Again. Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool. There was something about that book. Peter Turner. Gloria Grahame. Life and death. I thought the story fitted neatly with Rachel’s. Not classic beauties. Not obvious beauties. But nevertheless. Another line that. “The way you bucked up when I said you were incredibly beautiful”.
Gloria. The queen of film noir. The femme fatale. Gloria in The Big Heat. The Bad and the Beautiful. Odds Against Tomorrow. The Good Die Young. And especially In A Lonely Place. Nicholas Ray. Her husband. The ensuing scandal. In A Lonely Place. That New Order song. The Dorothy B Hughes book. Women write pulp. Better than men. And back to Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool. The note Gloria sent from New York. “Both Sartre and Camus said when they died that in this world there is only love that is important.” Gloria. Trust in me. The things you do. The things you care for. Where did that come from all of a sudden?
The guy doing the commissioning at Radio 4 really grew not to care about the series didn’t he? Never even returned my ‘phone calls. Never wrote. Prevarication. Obfuscation. I got the idea. By then I had no idea what to do with the notes. The pages and pages filled with strands to be connected. The old typewriter. What to do? Go watch some old films while you were out. Listen to some old records while you were at work.
“Remember Arthur Seaton said he won’t be beaten”. I knew all those films. More than Morrissey. Michael Head was big on that kitchen sink school. Grainy glamour. Leslie Caron in the L-Shaped Room. June Ritchie in A Kind of Loving. The 1982 TV remake. Remade with Joanne Whalley. 1982. The year the Pale Fountains first. First what? 1982. A long time ago now. Michael Head. Joanne Whalley. Just kids then. 1982. The year Channel 4 started. You don’t see Jean Luc Godard films on 4 now. We’re watching Big Brother. Then it was The Tube. Now it’s You Tube. And Michael Head’s singing about Jean not happening, and is that Marina Van Rooy dancing? A vision. “She’s like the pouring rain.” I was thinking. Maybe I should dust off those old notes.
© 2007 John Carney