The Sixth Beatle, Part Two

By the time I got to London, new sounds were taking over from punk and post-punk. A group of twenty-somethings calling themselves the ‘Blitz Kids’ had infiltrated a number of London clubs. These clubs were soon attracting crowds of kids dressed as pirates, spacemen and processed meats. The actual music was ordinary, and sounded like it belonged on the soundtrack to some sleazy sci-fi flick. I spent an afternoon with Duran Duran, but they were only interested in snorting eye shadow and smoking lace underwear.

I spent some time in Manchester in 83/84. Johnny Marr found out that I was in town and asked me to come along to a recording session. Of course, I had to take some of my mother’s baked goodies for the band, although Morrissey complained that the biscuits were shaped like animals and refused to eat them.

Morrissey has the reputation of being a bit of a grump, but during those sessions he proved to be a practical joker. One morning, Mike Joyce woke to find his feet stapled to a pig. Another day, the moody singer poured warthog semen into Andy Rourke’s beer.

I was still in Manchester when the whole ‘baggy’ movement started. In fact, Shaun Ryder and I came up with the name for the movement. It had nothing to do with ‘baggy’ clothes, but referred to the ‘baggies’ we used to keep our drugs in. Pills and powders were plentiful, and there was so much of them that we could afford to remain stoned for most of the day. This was fun until it came time to do anything sensible, and we discovered that we were unable to do anything but make a low farting rumble.

In the early 90s, I worked with My Bloody Valentine, and was handsomely paid to impersonate one of Kevin’s guitars. It was some time before he realised that his guitar was a balding middle-aged man.

During the Britpop furore, I had both Noel and Damon calling me up for scone recipes. They seemed to think it was a ‘bake-off’ situation, and were equally determined to win any prize cheesecake. I invited both bands to my house for a simple baking session, but we’d only been at it for ten minutes before the Oasis mob began stuffing great wads of flour into their nostrils.

As the century drew to a close, I found myself in New York, putting together an instrumental album with Moby, featuring the sounds of various foods. The album was never officially released, but remains a ‘must have’ underground hit, if only for the 20-min opening track “A is for Artichoke”, which was a dancefloor favourite across Europe in 1999.

The new century has been quiet for me so far. There has been little demand for my mother’s cakes and biscuits, and my own skills seem to have become redundant.

I am, however, putting together my own musical group, in which we play rock ‘n’ roll standards on toy instruments. 

We’re keeping details of the project under wraps for the time being, although I can tell you that Annie Lennox, Adam Ant and Midge Ure have contributed. 

The band is tentatively called Madeleine’s Goitre.

 

Guitars

Kevin Shields did not realise that one of his guitars
was a middle-aged man.

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HELP STOP CRUELTY IN CHINESE ZOOS

CLOSE FUZHOU ZOO NOW
e8c5d9055b61ec0474407924bf3640f4

I believe that this is the sort of action that needs to happen to prevent such incidents occurring in future:
(full story below)
1) CLOSE FUZHOU ZOO NOW.
2) REGULAR STRINGENT INSPECTIONS AT OTHER CHINESE ZOOS (BY INTERNATIONAL BODY).
3) HARSH PENALTIES FOR CHINESE ZOO VISITORS CAUGHT
HARMING (OR ATTEMPTING TO HARM) ANIMALS.
4) HARSH PENALTIES FOR THOSE CHINESE KEEPERS AND ZOO
OFFICIALS THAT DO NOT TAKE ADEQUATE ACTION TO PREVENT
SUCH CRUELTY.
5) SUSPENSION OF TRANSPORT OF ANY AUSTRALIAN ANIMALS
INTO CHINA UNTIL THE ANIMALS’ SAFETY CAN BE ASSURED (BY
AN INDEPENDENT BODY).

According to the Sydney Morning Herald on 21st April 2018, a kangaroo at Fuzhou Zoo in China, was stoned to death because it wasn’t hopping enough to amuse spectators. According to the report, someone picked up a rock, a brick or slab of concrete. In any case, it wasn’t unusual for visitors to this zoo in south-east China to provoke the animals with projectiles. “Some adults see the kangaroos sleeping and then pick up rocks to throw at them,” a zookeeper told the Haixia Metropolis News, as reported by the Times. Employees tried to dissuade the crowd, the worker said, but “after we cleared the display area of rocks, they went to find them elsewhere.”By the time zookeepers rescued the kangaroo from the crowd, AFP reported, her foot was nearly severed. Details of the attack were first made public this week, when Chinese television stations broadcast images of the kangaroo lying battered in its enclosure, and then hooked to an intravenous drip, on which she survived for several days before succumbing to internal bleeding. One of the stones had ruptured the animal’s kidney, veterinarians discovered after the autopsy, the ABC wrote.

Had the attacks ended then, they might be no more sadistic than any other to occur at a Chinese zoo, which AFP reports are lightly regulated and therefore especially prone to abuse. Last summer, for example, investors involved in a dispute with a zoo in Jiangsu province released a donkey into the tiger pen, with predictable results.But the Fuzhou stonings didn’t end with that death.

Just a few weeks later, the agency wrote, visitors attacked and injured a five-year-old kangaroo for similar reasons. It survived.In nearly every media interview, zoo workers stressed that it’s against the rules to bludgeon the animals, but people keep doing it anyway. Having apparently given up on the prospect of voluntary civility, AFP wrote, the zoo now plans to install more security cameras.The zoo also plans to stuff and display the dead kangaroo – as a sort of memorial to whatever it might now symbolise.

As the report explains: “it wasn’t unusual for visitors to this zoo in south-east China to provoke the animals with projectiles.” AND “had the attacks ended then, they might be no more sadistic than any other to occur at a Chinese zoo, which AFP reports are lightly regulated and therefore especially prone to abuse.” AND “but the Fuzhou stonings didn’t end with that death. Just a few weeks later, the agency wrote, visitors attacked and injured a five-year-old kangaroo for similar reasons.

“The report acknowledges, with examples, that the stoning death of this kangaroo is not the first or last incident of this type. According to the ‘zookeepers’ they have given up trying to stop the public exhibiting this cruel behaviour.

To sign the petition follow this link.

 

The Sixth Beatle, Part One

Not many people know this, but I was actually the sixth Beatle!

I’d known Paul for years. We’d hung around the streets of Liverpool trying to pick up birds. It was hard work, as some of those girls were really heavy. Anyway, when it came time for the boys to record their second album (at this stage it was going to be called “The Beatles Wow”), Paul called me up to see if I could bring along any cakes or sandwiches, as he knew my Mum was the best cook in the street.

So, I went along to the session at Abbey Road with a few biscuits and a big chocolate cake, and George Martin flew into a rage. “Is this all you could come up with? Some biscuits and a silly cake?” He really was a greedy, bad-tempered bastard, and after complaining all morning, ate as much of the cake as he could during the break. I bought him a couple of extra doughnuts, which seemed to calm him down, and he ended up letting me add some handclaps to “I Wanna Be Your Man”.

Years later, I went along to the “Sergeant Pepper” sessions, but that’s a whole other story. George Martin spent more time sleeping then eating in those sessions.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself, because my first contact with the music scene was when I got to know Bobby Zimmerman. I’d just finished my Kerouac phase, after hitch-hiking from Chicago to Los Angeles. On the way back to the East Coast I found myself at the University of Minnesota. I bumped into Bobby pretty soon – everyone seemed to know him. He was always trying to come up with a new angle on how to be a pop star. I suggested the surname ‘Dylan’ – he wanted to go with ‘Dolly’ or ‘Dolphin’, which didn’t quite have the same feel. Then there were the instruments themselves. Bobby was trying to play the guitar and the trumpet at the same time. I told him it wouldn’t work, but he was a pretty stubborn guy. Months later, he tried out the harmonica, and things started to fall into place. I went with him to New York in ’61, but he soon left me behind once his career started to take off.

There was one night just before we separated, both of us high on weed, and Bobby dragged his guitar out and began strumming a few random chords. I was singing along, and, as it’d been a wild, wintry day, and kept repeating the phrase “Blowin’ in the wind”. Now I wouldn’t begin to take credit for the song, but imagine my surprise when it was a big hit. I think I was living under the tram line in Brooklyn at the time.

I hung around Greenwich Village and the protest scene for a couple of years, but soon grew bored when singers began protesting about the colour of cardigans and the inability of whales to speak Greek.

I went to England in mid-63, and as I’ve already explained, helped The Beatles with their second album. I’d just finished with them, when Mick and Keith from The Stones called me up. They’d heard about my Mum’s cakes and biscuits and wanted a taste while recording their new album “Afterdinner” (later known as “Aftermath”). Unfortunately, I was with them during the “peeing incident”. We were on our way back from Brighton, when Keith and the lads decided to stop for a piss. We all got out of the limousine and each found our own private hedge. But Keith was in a mischievous mood and began peeing all over Mick and Bill, then he pulled the cakes out of the car and peed on them. As you can imagine I was very annoyed.

The police arrived in the middle of all this and arrested everyone on ‘public indecency’. After the original cakes got peed on, I refused to arrange more, even though Mick begged me. “Those cakes and cookies could mean the difference between a hit and a flop.” I refused, and apparently Mick and Keith were so angry they wrote “Sympathy for the Devil” about the incident. Originally, the song had references to cream buns and marzipan.

I didn’t speak to Mick or Keith for years after that, in fact, things were so dull in London that I went back to New York, and caught up with Andy Warhol. He was stuck on an idea for his next project, so I suggested he photocopy baked bean cans. He really wasn’t keen on the idea and had this whole dog thing planned. But after an Afghan Hound tore up The Factory and peed on Twiggy, he reconsidered the baked bean idea.

It wasn’t long before The Factory became the New York ‘scene’ attracting poets, pop stars, pirates, and parakeets. Andy, Gerald and I went to this club one night and saw this crazy band that called themselves The Velvet Underground. They made me want to throw up, but Andy was somehow fascinated with them. Pretty soon, they were hanging around at The Factory too. And they practised every day, not that all the band were that enthusiastic. John, Moe and Sterling couldn’t give a shit. Nico was nowhere to be seen. Only Lou was dedicated, strumming away to his strange lyrics about toothpaste, parachutes, and coconuts.

When Andy did get them booked, it was often my job to make sure they all got to the venue on time. John Cale didn’t believe in time, having destroyed all his clocks. Moe was too busy bashing her toms to hear us calling her. Sterling hated the band and would deliberately bring the wrong instrument – a bassoon, bagpipes, a mouth organ. Nico had to be literally walked to her spot on the stage, which we marked with an “N” in chalk. She still didn’t get it right, and would often wander off stage as though visiting the powder room.

Whenever this happened, Andy got me up on stage with my kazoo or spoons. I didn’t get to play on any of the Velvet’s albums, but I did help Lou with some of the lyrics. “Waiting for the Man”, for example, used to be called “Waiting for the Mandarin”. And “Heroin” was originally called “Hairy Woman”.

By the late 60’s I was getting tired of life at The Factory – too many hangers-on, nobodies, cheesy celebrities. I did get to meet Jim Morrison though. We became good friends for a while. He even leant me a pair of his leather underpants. I was to blame for the strings on “The Soft Parade”, which pissed everyone off for months.

I was in the bath with Jim when he passed away. It wasn’t drink or drugs, but a dangerous bath toy.

I left Paris straight after the funeral and found myself in London for the first time in 8 years.  It wasn’t long before Davie Jones (or Bowie as he now called himself) called up. He was after ideas for a new stage show. He’d heard about my Mum’s cooking from Lennon, and was thinking of an entire evening of dancing baked goods. I suggested that the cakes and cookies could have been brought to life by an alien ray. David changed the central character’s name from Sprinkle Fairydust to Ziggy Stardust, and all of a sudden, his imagination caught fire. By the following morning, we’d written a couple of songs, designed the stage set and a couple of costumes. We celebrated by snorting an entire bag of ‘green’ coke. Something special David had acquired in South America.

As you would know “Ziggy Stardust” was a huge hit. As payment for my contribution, David arranged for several bags of the ‘green’ coke, which was fine until I discovered that the green tinge was a result of a type of mould.

Anyway, things were moving on in the music scene. A new sound calling itself ‘punk’ was suddenly popular. I was in Manchester at the same time as punk’s premiere band The Sex Pistols. They were playing at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. It’s been said that everyone who was anyone was at that first gig, but I can only recall seeing a young Morrissey and Mick Hucknall. The Hall was only about half full.

The band itself generated a great deal of energy, most which emanated from the ‘singer’ Johnny Rotten, whose main act of aggression involved spitting great globs of spittle at the front rows.

When the Pistols returned a few weeks later, the Hall was packed. I saw Tony Wilson, Peter Saville, Howard Devoto, the Warsaw boys. I’d met Steve and Bernard a few weeks earlier at a local fish and chippery. They were troubled over Ian’s ideas for a new band name. Ian wanted to call the band either Toy Division or Joy Sauce. When I suggested a compromise by adding Joy to Division, the boys seemed relieved. But when they approached Ian, the difficult front-man decided he liked Toy Sauce best of all…

When I saw them a year later, they were still bickering about the name. Ian is supposed to have said he wanted Fluffy Pop Twinkles “or else”. Some have even suggested that the name issue might have pushed Ian over the edge.

I moved back to London after that, and began thinking of my own band. A new variation on punk was taking over the scene – some called it post-punk – and I decided I wanted to be part of it.

END OF PART ONE

Paul and George Martin

Paul negotiates the number of sprinkles on George Martin’s doughnut
during a tense moment of recording the second Beatles album.

Music is the Medicine

Have you ever been a little discouraged or depressed – only to hear a familiar song on the radio which somehow lifts your spirits, if only for a few minutes? Have you ever been in the middle of an ordinary day – busy, frustrating, chaotic – and upon passing a boutique or cosmetic shop you hear a song that you’ve not heard for years. You feel a little shiver inside, and the hairs on your arms stand up. You might even go into the shop, if only to hear the whole song.

Just recently, while shopping for Spam in the local Foodland, Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” crackled over store’s speakers. I was so taken aback that I dropped the tin of Spam. For many memories are wrapped up in this Joy Division song, and for ten minutes or so I felt inexplicably moved, as though the song had somehow released the past.

What is it about an arrangement of sound that has such a profound effect on us?

Well, like many things in life (sport, sex, Krispy Kreme doughnuts), it all comes down to chemicals. But while it’s understandable that sex, food, and drugs might trigger release of this pleasure chemical (dopamine), it is less clear why a sequence of sounds might produce the same reaction.

A Canadian study in 2001 used magnetic resonance imaging to study the brain areas activated by music. And in the limbic and paralimbic areas they found the same rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in pleasurable activities, as with food, sex, and addictive substances. It was a strange discovery because music is abstract, unlike sex or food.

The Canadian study also found that there were two releases of dopamine – responses to both anticipation and fulfillment. There is a rush of excitement simply over what the next sound might be.

Why is music such a powerful drug on its own? It’s possible that our brains just love predicting and decoding patterns. Early theories on emotion suggest that music sets up aural patterns that coax our mind into unconsciously predicting what comes next. If the prediction is correct we receive a little reward – a jolt of dopamine.

However, that doesn’t answer the question about our need for music to survive or propagate the species. Musicologist David Huron suggests that the practice of making mental predictions based on limited information has always been essential to our survival.

On the African plains, he suggests, our ancestors would not have waited to find out if a particular sound was a zebra, an aardvark, or a lion. Bypassing the ‘logical brain’, the mental processing of sound would prompt a rush of adrenalin that prepares us to get out of there, thus contributing to a good outcome. (No one was eaten by the aardvark!!)

Most of us have experienced the sudden swell of emotion when hearing a piece of music – whether Slipknot, Steely Dan or Sibelius – and it feels out of our control. Even though we realise it is ‘just a sound’ and there is nothing essential about the phenomenon, we can’t turn off this reaction, nor can we always predict it.

It seems we both need and enjoy this complex interplay of expectations, predictive logic, and emotions that music provides.

Adding another level of complexity to the musical enjoyment phenomenon is that our reaction to music will contain a cultural aspect. For example, waltz rhythms sound natural to Western Europeans, while Eastern Europeans are more accustomed to rhythms that may sound complicated to those outside their regions. We also have tastes regarding musical complexity, with some people stimulated by minimalism, and others bored by it.

So, what have we learnt? That our response to music is complex and multi-faceted? That there is some mysterious reason that the brain produces ‘pleasure chemicals’ when we anticipate and listen to music? That music is like a medicine – producing a drug that makes us feel good?

While scientists continue to investigate the phenomenon, I’ll forget all the above, slip on some Jimi Hendrix, some Heart, some Hayzi Fantayzee, and enjoy the dopamine….

Thanks to Psychology Today, BBC and Health Guidance.org

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Unemployable

Nearly five years ago I was made redundant. This was after 30 years working in Financial Services. I have experience in Retail and Business Lending, Insurance, Financial Planning, and Superannuation. Despite this experience – and about 1,200 job applications – I’ve found it impossible to find full time work.

I’ve lost count of the interviews and Assessment Centres I’ve attended – I can only say that nothing I do seems to improve my chances of getting work. The reasons for rejections are nearly always vague – ‘other clients more closely met the requirements of the position’, ‘our recruitment software deemed you unsuccessful in obtaining an interview’ or ‘management decided to go another way’.

I’ve had my resume reviewed by experts. I’ve had my interviewing technique examined. I’ve attended coaching clinics and workshops. Yet nothing has improved my ability to get a job.

So, what is the problem?

Friends and family have suggested that my age is an issue. While employers are unlikely to say that this is a drawback, I’ve attended Assessment Centres where I’m twice the age of everyone else. A potential employer is unlikely not to notice this, and perhaps doubt my ability to work at the same capacity as a younger person.

Could it be my weight? My thinning hair? My sexual orientation (at least one employer has asked me this question)? Could it be my interest in poetry, Bob Dylan, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Whatever the reason(s), after nearly five years of unemployment, I have reached a stage beyond desperation. I can imagine a future living in the wreck of my car.

Please note that I write this entry not in search of sympathy, but as an indication of the difficulty that older people face in obtaining regular work. Despite policies to the contrary, there is obviously discrimination when it comes to employing over 50’s.

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The end of NAUSEA

My blog NAUSEA was initiated in 2006 to contain music and movie reviews, poetry, comic articles and musings on the human condition.

I resurrected the blog in 2012, but due to health issues and changing personal concerns, the resurrection was short-lived.

This archive contains all the articles posted in 2006 and 2012. A new, more visually oriented blog will take NAUSEA’s place at the old address www.grahamcatt.com

Thank you for any interest or support you have shown in the past. I’m hoping the new blog will be a more colourful, interesting and stimulating experience.