Tag Archives: 2000

SHORT STORIES // A New Page Turns (2006)

New Year’s Eve 1999 was a moment in time that had assumed mythic status during the latter part of the 20th Century. Being now on the other side of it and living in a post-911 and post-Iraq War world, it almost seems like an innocent blip on history’s brief timesheet. After all, people still hadn’t even really started taking global warming that seriously then either! I guess that, like with myself, it was another New Year, another party, another moment in a lifetime of many, without many of the massive significances that it was previously endowed with.

This story was pulled and edited down from a section of a novel-in-progress. Novels can be written in a matter of months (to the experienced) or can be strung out over years and years – particularly for first time novelists. Mine falls more into the ‘years and years’ category. Sometimes, a story comes out in its own time and will not be rushed. Hopefully, this results in a better tale, but it can also be a little frustrating to have such a hefty piece of work just languishing around in one’s consciousness for so long.

The protagonist of the novel, and thus this story, is a young man named Will Evans. Perhaps an easy way out for a first time novelist, but it falls pretty squarely into the ‘semi-autobiographical’ camp, although the good thing about the ‘semi’ part is that you can play a little fast and loose with your own history. Still, this tale does follow my own New Year 1999 pretty closely.

I put the story together as a submission to caféDiverso, a multi-media travel publisher based in Barcelona, who were running a book competition called ‘Everyone Has A Good Story: Voices of the UK’. As it happened, after submitting the story I never heard back from them and have no idea whether my yarn made it into their book. Having written it however, I was determined to get it published somewhere, and got it up at a website called ‘The Deckchair‘, a site for Brighton writers. It can be seen here.

How was your 1999 > 2000 moment?

A New Page

The day that people the world over had been waiting for so long for finally came to pass. The new millennium. New Year’s Eve, 1999. The closing of an old chapter and the opening of another new one.

Was it a seismic shift in mankind’s history? Not really. It was mostly just another day.

It had been a moment in time that for many had assumed mythic status. By the year 2000, everybody would be wearing silver suits, eating food pills and living in moon colonies. Despite the promises though, by the time it came around the personal jetpacks promised for the kids of the future were still some way off. Essentially, most of the world used the passing of the new millennium as an excuse to party for a couple of days. Fireworks manufacturers the planet over rubbed their hands with glee.

When younger, Will Evans’d had grand plans and schemes for the moment. He wanted to be somewhere very cool, to be able to pass a memory and a half on to the grandchildren.

‘Where were you at the turn of the millennium, Grandpa?’

‘I was drinking tea at the Great Pyramids, my child’

He was due to turn 29 in the summer of 2000 and there were a number of personal milestones that he’d hoped to pass by then. Of course, life and fortunes are rarely as easy as that. In the end, the attainable had to be settled on and he decided to simply have a good time on the night that everyone had been waiting for. Like on so many other nights, Will was to find himself going out to a pub in Brighton with friends and getting royally pissed.

So, for him and his pals, the evening of the last day of the 20th Century began at someone’s flat. The girls were all largely decked out in something sparkly or glittering. The boys were mostly all smartly dressed too, with even some ties on show. Once everybody was inside, coats off, music on, cigarettes lit, a couple of bottles of champagne were pulled out, the corks popped and the merriment began.

Snacks, drinks, joints, jokes, laughs, a little dancing, the group of friends bonded quickly on a night such as it was and generally got themselves in the mood for what could be the party of parties in a town that was generally reputed to party hard as it was.

Once the evening had worn on a little, they decided to commence the trek into the town centre, where much of the rest of Brighton was likely to be moving and shaking their things. The streets were thronged with eager revellers, which made a brisk pace tough. Everywhere, people were drinking at bus stops, cramming into pubs, singing at the top of their voices or shouting salutations at strangers.

The journey to the centre took them past the pubs, estate agents, convenience stores and kebab houses that lined the way. Charity shops had people slumped in doorways, too wasted already to make it as far as midnight. Drivers who were still sober enough to drive were parping their horns in harmony with each other. Gaggles of young girls dressed for considerably warmer weather roamed in packs past Woolies and Argos, their glittered heels clacking in group rhythms. At Churchill Square, sullen teenagers hung around in gangs in front of the shopping centre, some mucking about with skateboards, others furtively smoking cigarettes.

They approached the Clock Tower to find a large volume of human traffic moving across their path, heading towards West Street. This townie mecca of cheap drinks, cheap pulls, dodgy music in large clubs, kebabs, student nights and fights that led straight down to the sea was the last place in town Will could see himself wanting to be that night.

They crossed the river and moved on. Halfway down North Street and Will’s crew cut a right into the bird’s nest of streets and bohemian hangouts that made up The Laines, heading for the pub where advance tickets had been bought. Almost everywhere was tickets only that night, with many venues getting away with charging astronomical entry fees.

The atmosphere and the events of the night were not that different from that of an average Saturday night. The pub was heaving and the music was very loud. Getting served at the bar required a lot of patience, often taking up to half an hour to get served. Seats and tables were largely all taken. The air was thick with smoke. But at least they’d managed to get in somewhere. The casualties of the night were piled up on the streets on their way in to town. Everybody else who couldn’t get in anywhere and were destined to wander the streets waiting for the clock to strike could be watched through windows steamed with condensation.

Eventually, the conditions in the pub wore our plucky partygoers down to the point where they decided that it was time to leave. 11.30pm had already passed, later than most British pubs were usually open. They’d had a good night and were in high spirits but it was time to take some air and join the crowds wending their way down to the beach.

It was only fitting, having been born in the town in the first place, then lived there again for the preceding eight years and mostly within spitting distance from the sea, that Will should be seeing in the new millennium on Brighton Beach. It was a stretch of land, sea and sky rich with memories and laden with symbolism for him. He’d played there as a child, getting his first taste of swimming in the ocean and taken long walks along it with his family. With friends he’d got pissed, stoned or partied there. With girlfriends he’d frolicked and kissed on the stony shoreline. It was a place too for silent contemplation and escape, a soothing environment of expansive emptiness, summer crowds aside, where a young man could sit and think to calm the raging torrents of his mind at times of trouble. And it was also where seemingly half of Brighton had chosen to spend their time waiting for midnight.

The whole seafront was shrouded in mist, a seasonal fug that could have only rolled in from the sea. The lights from the pier diffused in the haze of the night sky, offering a kaleidoscope of beautiful colours for the delectation of the inebriated crowds but making viewing of Brighton’s pending firework display a little veiled.

The moment drew closer. People shuffled around, clutching their bottles or cans, smoking cigarettes or joints, chatting with friends or neighbouring strangers, all looking at their wrists and waiting, wondering, hoping…

…10, 9, 8, 7… 10, 9, 8… 5, 4, 3… 6, 5, 4… 2, 1… 2, 1… 3, 2, 1. Pockets of cheers went up as midnight struck for some. With no Big Ben to unify the reactions it was more like a Mexican Wave than an explosion. Others joined in as more watches struck twelve. Eventually, the whole seafront gathering was united in breathing in the first gasps of fresh air of the twenty first century. The fireworks were launched from the pier with bangs and awed cries. Thousands of mobile phones went off simultaneously, each signal jostling for space amidst the crowded airwaves. Friends hugged and kissed each other, wishing a happy New Year and good luck with the next one. Strangers did too. Shouts and cheers rang out along the beach.

After about half an hour of kissing, congratulating, cheering and greeting the new dawn, and with little left to keep them on the beach, people began to drift away to the TVs they’d left behind, the beds that were waiting for them or the parties they had to join that would carry on until daylight or when the last person dropped. The trickle of departees soon became a stream, which in turn mutated into a river. Soon, a sea of people filled the streets, all trudging away from the beach and off to somewhere else.

He awoke the next day to find out that it again gone dark outside and he had slept through the first day of the new millennium. ‘Oh well’, he thought, ‘a night of such binging and frivolities needs to be followed by some serious recuperation’. He’d made it. They’d all made it. Broken on through to the other side.

He went into the kitchen and put the kettle on for his first cup of tea of the day, month, year, decade, century, millennium. Will had the flat to himself. He took his tea into the lounge. Some soft lighting and a little music were in order – it had to be The Beatles. He began to skin up.

…I read the news today, oh boy…

‘What does the future hold?’ he wondered. ‘What happens next? What happens next?’

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Filed under 2006, Fiction, Short Stories

LYRICS // Torch Song Singer (2000)

This was probably the last song that the band wrote together and was one of those tracks that formed in the rehearsal studio. We often ended a live set with it, as it was a song that picked up speed towards the end with all the members of the band going full throttle until they were utterly spent. A ‘blisters on fingers and gasping for breath’ kinda thing.

Wikipedia describes a torch song as ‘a sentimental love song, typically one in which the singer laments an unrequited or lost love’. The song itself is more a full-on rock ‘n’ roll blast than a sentimental journey, so is certainly not an attempt at writing a torch song. As some of the original torch song singers would include people such as Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich and Billie Holiday, I don’t think my vocals could quite reach those lofty heights anyway!

The studio we used to rehearse in was in an old underground arch near the sea in the Kemp Town area of Brighton. It’s well known as Brighton’s gay quarter and perhaps rehearsing in such salubrious surroundings led my lyrical aerials to pick up on what was in the area, as many of the original torch song singers are big gay icons nowadays.

As for the rest of the lyrics, they flowed from the title. ‘Itchy trigger finger’ rhymed well and I seemed to describe a character whose tragic life led to a loose gun hand. From there, it becomes some character from a mythical American past – wearing alligator shoes and holding up banks – some kind of mid-West outlaw.

It’s also got a certain hint of my return to political interests in my writing, with talk of revolutionaries and bringing systems to their knees. I’d read Naomi Klein‘s ‘No Logo‘ at the time and was beginning to feel radical again. The ‘battle lines are drawn’ line was a reference to the anti-capitalist movement that has picked up a lot of steam by then, culminating in the Seattle WTO riots (that led to the development of Indymedia). Looking back on that period from the perspective of 7 or 8 years later and post-invasion of Iraq, the losses of civil liberties that have accompanied the ‘War on Terror‘ may well appear to be a reaction to that kind of street violence and opposition to untrammelled globalisation and profit grabbing by governments and corporations in recent years.

The song was only recorded as a rough demo and can be downloaded here.

Pigeon Souvenirs’ sleeve design by Dom Pates.


Torch Song Singer

I’ll be your torch song singer,
With the itchy trigger finger,
And I’ll take you on a white knuckle ride.
With your alligator shoes and your rhythm and your blues,
I’m holding up the bank where you’re paying all your dues.

I’ll be your touchstone sinner,
With a point to my finger,
To take the arguement outside.
Follow your caterpillar tracks,
And your trail of greenbacks,
You’d better learn to run before we make contact.

I’ll be your revolutionary,
With my heart sown on my sleeve,
And trigger a reaction, bring the system to it’s knees.
I’ll look right through your public eye,
Find another alibi,
And check out that I haven’t caught your last disease.

Take a look outside,
As the battle lines are drawn.
And we line them up against the wall.

Watch your back,
For the corporate apologists,
As they lose teeth to our fists.

Torch song singer with the itchy trigger finger,
And I’ll take you on a white knuckle ride.

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Filed under 2000, Lyrics, The Zamora

LYRICS // Jaded (2000)

Justin, the lead guitarist, came up with the first two lines (‘I know my future’s blown…’) and the melody for the chorus. I built the rest of the lyrics from there. It was a song that was written mostly in the studio and pretty quickly at that.

Although it has a certain negativity to it (‘I’m jaded…’), it’s also got plenty of positivity to it as well. The lines about having a broken home (yet there still being a key to the door) refer to forgiving one’s parents and keeping up good relationships with them even after they break up and divorce.

The part about the chromosome refers to male inability to function well without women in their life. Women have two XX sex chromosomes (which determine their sex) and men have XY sex chromosomes, suggesting that there’s a bit of woman in every man, and without that men are nothing.

Jaded was the first name of the group, which all five members took a very long time to settle on. The first attempt at building a web presence for the band turned up another American group who were already called Jaded. So instead, we switched to the name that we gave to the first demo EP we recorded, ‘The Zamora EP’. Bobby Zamora was a rising star for Brighton & Hove Albion and it seemed not only a good tribute to a local hero, but also a great name for a rock band. So The Zamora it became.

The song was only ever recorded as a rough demo, which can be downloaded here.

Photo of Dom by Jayne Routley.


Jaded

I know my future’s blown,
I just want to tell someone else about it.
Although I’ve a broken home,
I’ve still got a key to the door.

I know my future’s blown,
I had to knock it down, just couldn’t resist.
Without your chromosome,
I’m still learning to crawl.

I’m jaded.
I’m so jaded.

I know my future’s grown,
I just want to find another way around it.
Although we’re far from home,
We’re already half way there.

You’ve seen my head explode,
But I didn’t want to make a mess on your carpet.
You tried to soak it up,
Only using one hand.

I’ve made it.
I’ve just made it.

I know my future’s blown,
I just want to tell someone else about it.
Although I’ve a broken home,
I’ve still got a key to the door.

I know my future’s blown,
I just want to tell someone else about it.
Although I’ve a broken home,
I’ve still got a key to the door.

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LYRICS // Harry J (Gunslinger) (2000)

Harry J. Anslinger was first Commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) for 32 years, and is widely considered to be America’s first ‘drug czar‘. He is best known for his extreme campaign against cannabis, which followed in the wake of the collapse of prohibition. He is a very significant figure in the history of the development of not only America’s domestic and international drug policies, but also on the drug policies of many other nations.

His position on illicit narcotics and its users often reflected the endemic racism prevalent across the US at the time. Key quotes from him include “[Marijuana is taken by] musicians. And I’m not speaking about good musicians, but the jazz type…”, “Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing” and “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

During the nineties, as my reading lists grew in scope and scale, I became interested in what’s generally termed as ‘drug literature‘. I regarded writers such as William Burroughs (see also here) and Aldous Huxley as literary outlaws and explorers, pioneering across the wild frontiers of human consciousness. Naturally, I also came across Anslinger’s name a number of times during this period.

This song contains a number of allusions to the contradictions of a prohibition-inclined America which was founded on the principles of liberty and the freedom of the individual and which was also had a history of travelling medicine shows and a hemp-growing president (George Washington). It also links these themes with a childhood true story of mine about witnessing the evacuation of a local circus during a Christmas-time flood (the idea coming from the similarites between medicine shows and circuses).

‘Homing stool pigeon’ was another pun that I’d been waiting to use for ages and it seemed to fit in this song. Harry catching ‘it all on video’ refers to surveillance culture, more developed nowadays than in Anslinger’s time, but not exactly something new. The chorus paraphrases the chants that were used by the anti-Vietnam War protesters against President Johnson, originally being ‘Hey, hey LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?’

This is my favourite of all the songs that were written and recorded by The Zamora. It was one where all the musicians made a significant contribution to the creation of the song, I was proud of the lyrics and also had an interesting effect put on my voice during the recording which made it sound a little ‘not of its time’. I’ve always been most impressed with Steve and Justin’s guitar work on this track too.

In the version that was put on the ‘Pigeon Souvenirs‘ anthology, I also included a number of samples from Alfred Hitchcock‘s ‘North By Northwest‘, which fitted well with the slightly paranoid noir feel of the song. ‘Pigeon Souvenirs’ can be listened to in full when the site for The Zamora is redeveloped to include an online jukebox. In the meantime, the original version can be downloaded here.

Photo of Steve by Dan Paton.

Harry J (Gunslinger)

When I was just a boy, I looked out of my window during floodtime.
And watched the animals pass, down the street past my house, in a straight line.
Although I’m older now, I still look out with the same eyes,
If they evacuate the circus again, I won’t be surprised.

Hey hey, Harry J, how many guys d’you bust today?
Hey hey, Harry J, you’re living on in us today.

The other day Sonny got his hands on a homing stool pigeon.
Turned out to be the wrong king of place to hide his pills in.
He got it off the back of a travelling medicine show,
And Harry stuck around to catch it all on video.

Hey hey, Harry J, how many guys d’you bust today?
Hey hey, Harry J, you’re living on with us today, so come on.

The other day Sonny got his hands on a homing stool pigeon.
Turned out to be the wrong king of place to hide his pills in.
He got it off the back of a travelling medicine show,
And Harry stuck around to catch it all on video.

Hey hey, Harry J, how many guys d’you bust today?
Hey hey, Harry J, you’re living on with us today, so come on.

When I was just a boy, I looked out of my window during floodtime,
And watched the animals pass, down the street past my house, in a straight line.
Although I’m older now, I still look out with the same eyes,
So if they evacuate the circus again, I won’t be surprised.

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Filed under 2000, Lyrics, The Zamora

LYRICS // The Shadowboxer (2000)

This was a song that was written for The Zamora, about a party that I attended back in the summer of 2000. The band was fully formed by then, with a set of material and a gig or two under our belts already. I was riding pretty high on it all, relishing the ‘rock ‘n’ roll frontman’ role to the hilt.

It seemed like the kind of party that a rock star should be attending – a flight attendant’s 30th birthday bash, and in full fancy dress too. Most of the women there would also be flight attendants and ‘I’m a singer in a rock band’ ought to be a pretty good ice-breaker in such a situation!

I went for the 70’s look in my outfit; fully clad in leather, with a garishly bright and large collared yellow shirt, plus an afro wig. Unfortunately, I did have a little bit of a habit of drinking myself into somewhat of a stupor at parties and sometimes making a bit of a fool of myself too.

At some point in the evening, I got chatting to a young lady named Caroline, who worked for Virgin Atlantic and spent the earliest parts of her life in Nigeria. After a while, she took a trip to the bathroom and we carried on our conversation through the closed door as she took off her dress. We were both quite smashed and she must have wandered off somewhere after emerging. I must have followed.

The next thing I knew, it was about 5AM and I was waking up on the pavement of some respectable Surrey neighbourhood, still clad in my pimp gear. I somehow ambled back to the house where the party had been held and tried to piece the rest of the night together. She’d gone already by then, but had woken up in somebody’s hedge a block or two away.

Later on that day, I had a recording session with the band and a hell of a rock ‘n’ roll tale to tell them!

The recording of the song can be downloaded here.

Photo of drummer Pete by Dan Paton


The Shadowboxer

At five in the morning, I awoke on the pavement,
In an afro and pimp shirt, no idea how I got there.
Cordelia’s perfume slipped out through her fur,
Sweet Caroline talked of Nigeria.

With a drink in my hand I made my way through the crowd,
To the girl in pink rubber and the air hostesses.
Got stopped at the gate by a man with a gun,
Who asked me for their names and addresses.

I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.
I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.
I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.
I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.

She took off her dress behind the bathroom door,
And fuelled my imagination.
But the words that fell and slipped from my lips,
Just ruined my good reputation.

At five in the morning, I awoke on the pavement,
In an afro and pimp shirt, no idea how I got there.
Cordelia’s perfume slipped out through her fur,
Sweet Caroline talked of Nigeria.

I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.
I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.
I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.
I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.

Nigeria, Nigeria, Nigeria.

Nigeria, Nigeria, Nigeria.

I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.
I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.
I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.
I’m just doing fine watching shadows doing time.

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Filed under 2000, Lyrics, The Zamora