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.
Advertisements

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

d8bbc58d1ee1f0b69c27947242be5839

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.

IMG_0425

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.

 

Thinking can kill you

The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.

John Milton

 

I am always baffled by reactions of anger to news of a suicide. I can recall a work colleague once hurling books and papers around her desk when she’d heard that a friend’s friend’s uncle had killed himself. She didn’t even know him.

As someone who has experienced such desperation, my own reaction is one of deep sadness and empathy. It’s not hard for me to imagine what the person might have been going through, and why he or she might have taken such steps.

To be trapped in your own negative thoughts and emotions is indescribably painful. Unlike a bad physical experience, you can’t walk out of your own mind. The bad experience is happening inside you, and there doesn’t seem to be a way out.

Not that long ago, I found myself awake at 3.00am worrying about a mysterious stomach ailment I’ve acquired and its affect upon my life. After an hour or so of hideous, grinding ‘thought’ I suddenly ‘came to’, as if from a dream, and realised that my thoughts had been dragging me deeper and deeper into a mental, and physical, quagmire.

‘You’re no good, you’re pathetic, you’re weak, you’re not normal…etc’

This cycle of ugly self-criticism was like a coil, pulling my mind and body tighter into itself. I could feel the negative emotional energy in my chest, my neck, my limbs – a heavy, dark static.

Becoming aware of these thoughts and sensations is the key to overcoming them, but it isn’t always so easy to do – and it’s certainly not easy to remove yourself from them when they have become your ‘reality’.

The origins of depressive thoughts are many and varied – rejection, divorce, death of a ‘loved one’, disablement, sickness, losing a job, financial mismanagement, an accident. Sometimes there may not even seem to be a specific reason for being depressed.

Over time, these depressive thoughts acquire an emotional force, and together they form a bundle of negativity that lives inside you, and emerges as though a dark cloud when triggered by the ‘right’ situation or sensation. This ‘trigger’ could be anything – a memory, the actions of a partner or work colleague, or something you saw on television.

This negative force can even seem to arise without provocation – suddenly, you’re overcome by feelings of self-loathing or anger or deep sadness! Where did it come from?

During my 3.00am ordeal, I’d started worrying about a stomach sickness, and within an hour, had turned the situation into a fully-fledged assault on my self-worth. What sort of day would I have had if I hadn’t realised what was going on?

Realising that you can step back and observe your own thoughts is a revelation, but it’s only the first step to finding your way out of the void of negative body-mind experiences.

 

 

Single Men of a Certain Age

There was this suspicious looking guy at the beach last weekend.

He was middle-aged, balding, a bit flabby, and alone. And he was dressed for winter – jeans, shirt with collar, boots – when it was warm day.

I saw him lingering awkwardly around the café, sipping on a bottle of water, and decided to keep an eye on him. There was something about him that was not quite right.

Eventually he found a patch of grass and squatted with crossed legs as though about to meditate. He took a notebook from his backpack and started scribbling in it, while watching the parade of joggers, bikini girls, surfers, kids and families that filled the promenade. Then he pulled out a camera and took a few pictures – of the beach, the sky, the clouds. At least, that what it seemed like from where I was sitting – they might have been sneaky pics of kids!

What was he up to? Was he a pervert? On drugs? Was he dangerous? Or just deranged?

Well, he was me! I was taking a rest after walking several kilometres from a nearby beach.

And the above observations are the thoughts I imagine pass through the minds of those not in the same demographic – i.e. male, single, middle-aged. For I’ve noticed in recent years, that the unmarried or unattached S.N.A.G. (sensitive new age guy), while acceptable in the twenty-to-thirty age group, somehow morphs into the S.M.A.C. (sleazy middle-aged creep) when he hits his late forties and fifties, at least in the eyes of many people.

My daughters, both in their mid-twenties, first alerted me to the phenomenon, when they pointed out that my habit of talking to little kids and babies at the supermarket was probably scaring the parents. A young father might be able to get away with it, or a hobbling, silver-haired octogenarian, but not a balding, spectacle-wearing middle-aged male like myself.

I have since kept well away from playgrounds, toy stores or any such places, lest I be nabbed as an undesirable, my repulsive visage flashed across the pages of the Sunday Mail.

But the phenomenon is not confined to the ‘relationship’ between the single S.M.A.C. and children. For example, I’ve noticed that younger women react differently to single middle-aged men, as though the man’s marital status might represent a serious threat to their physical wellbeing.

This is well illustrated by a story my daughter told me. She once worked in a small office in which there worked many young women. There were also a couple of married guys, a few older married women, and a fifty-year old guy who lived alone. He collected jazz records, liked to travel and go to the opera. My daughter befriended him – after all, he seemed nice enough and talked about interesting things.

Unfortunately, my daughter was unaware that this man – due to age, gender and marital status – was ‘untouchable’. Her female colleagues ridiculed her – and the poor S.M.A.C. – until she desisted from talking to him again.

In John Irving’s book, The World According to Garp, Garp’s mother, Jenny – a single mother by choice – refers to herself as a ‘sexual suspect’.

I think this term sums up the S.M.A.C phenomenon. ‘Normal’ men do not reach middle age alone. There must be something wrong with them. They are diseased, damaged, deranged or dangerous. They are sexual suspects!

Of course, without hard evidence, such a hypothesis is bound to make huge generalisations, reach faulty conclusions, and be warped by personal experience. I can only say in my defence that I hope these are an unconnected collection of observations.

But spare a thought for the single S.M.A.C next time you see a movie or TV show about a child molester, serial killer or random pervert. Is he a middle-aged male? Is he single? Balding? Does he wear glasses?

No wonder people run away from me!

 

by Max Funt 

A Fight To The Death

Like most phobias, arachnophobia makes no rational sense. But also like most phobias, the fear of spiders comes from some dark, hidden corner of the psyche. It’s primal. Just the suggestion of something hairy and eight-legged is enough to make the average arachnophobe gag, scream, or even leap out of a moving car. This is well before the rational part of the brain kicks in and tells us that ‘it’s a harmless little spider’. I can only speculate that somewhere in our prehistoric past, our ancestors ran from a now-extinct, man-eating species of cow-sized spider, and that this distant memory is locked away in our subconscious.

I’ve been aware of my arachnophobic impulses for many years now, and I’m proud to say that I can override the urge to hysteria in all but the scariest of spider sightings. A recent encounter, however, came when I was at a physical and emotional low, and I reacted a little badly. To put it bluntly, I was left shattered and highly embarrassed for days afterwards.

It was a Thursday night. All week, I’d been suffering from a nasty stomach pain. I felt sore and bloated. My appetite had all but disappeared. My head and back were aching and I was very tired. It was as though all my systems were falling apart.

I been visiting my daughter, but felt so sick, I decided to leave early. I didn’t feel like doing anything other than getting into bed.

That was when things started to go very wrong.

Upon getting home, I went straight to my bedroom, flicked on the light, and was about to throw myself onto the bed, when I caught sight of the largest, ugliest, hairiest huntsman spider I’d ever seen. It had arranged itself above my bed like a wall ornament. Like the severed hand of some alien creature now displayed as a trophy. I’d frozen – my mouth hanging open and my limbs stopped dead, like one frame of a moving picture – a runner caught mid-stride.

I did the right thing at first. I didn’t run out of the house screaming, or start waving my arms or rolling my eyes. I calmly thought things through. My plan was to brush it onto the floor with a magazine, then either catch it in a jar or, if I had no other choice, squash it with my shoe.

But as I took one step towards it, a magazine curled in my hand, the spider ran, with astonishing speed, down behind the head of the bed.

I gasped as a spasm of repulsion rippled through my body. ‘It’s on my bed,’ I whispered, swallowing the urge to hiccup violently.

I peered reluctantly into the crack between bed and wall, the creature’s hideous body a silhouette in the sliver of light. It was on the bed head, about level with the pillows. A terrifying chant echoed in my head. ‘There’s a spider on my pillow, my pillow, my pillow. There’s a spider on my pillow, my pillow…’

Again, I suppressed the inclination to panic. As calmly as I could, I attempted to lift the foot of the bed and swing it away from the wall. But the bed – queen-sized and solid wood – was so heavy I could only move it a few centimetres. Looking into the crack a second time, I could still see the spider, but it had crawled onto the mattress. There was no way I could even get close to it, forget about swinging a magazine.

Maybe I could lever the mattress from the bed? If the spider clung to the mattress, I’d be able to get to it. If it jumped onto the bed base, I’d also stand a better chance of getting to it without the mattress in the way. Either way, I’d get a shot at the monster.

By now, I was getting weary. The little energy I’d had was dribbling away, as were my feelings of compassion. All thoughts of rehabilitation had dissipated. It was now a fight to the death!

The mattress was no easier to move than the bed. It was big and heavy and awkward, and it was only after much swearing that I was able to get it on its side, standing like a wall across the middle of the room. But now that it was in that position, the spider was nowhere to be seen. I looked carefully around the bed head, and then, reluctantly, squatted on the floor and peered underneath. There it was – clinging upside-down to one of the slats forming the base of my bed.

The wooden slats were not nailed or bolted into position, but merely slotted into a groove in the base. I carefully manoeuvred the slat loose and lifted it, hoping to expose the beast. But as soon as it was visible, and my magazine poised to swat, the spider leapt with great skill onto the next. As I lifted the second slat, it did the same again, and kept on doing it until all the slats were loose and stacked in a ramshackle pile next to the bed.

By this time, I was white as a sheet and sweating profusely. I may have even been sobbing. The spider itself has clambered onto the foot of the bed and was making its way towards the great wall of mattress. Apart from the mess I’d created from dismantling the bed, I’d also stirred up a disgusting amount of dust that filled the air like a noxious fog.

I sneezed, sobbed and began to whine in the manner of a two-year old. I went in search of a glass of water and caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror. What this the face of a mature 50-year man, or a mentally defective infant?

Upon returning to the bedroom, I spotted the spider making itself comfortable on the upper reaches of my mattress. Suddenly, as though a fuse had blown in my brain, I slipped into a kind of hysterical madness, and lunged at the spider with a battered copy of Mojo magazine. I smashed at the mattress again and again, my blows random and careless, and as I did so I uttered a sort of primitive guttural shriek.

In the end, nothing remained of the spider or the magazine. Although, to my discomfort, I could only finds spider fragments scattered across the room – a leg here, a bit of body there. No complete confirmation of its demise.

I collapsed – exhausted and wrecked. There was no relief, just a sense of embarrassment and shame. Surrounding me was the remains of my bedroom – bits of bed, hastily moved furniture, disorganised piles of paper and magazines.

I found an uncontaminated pillow and slept on the lounge room sofa. Even then, as I closed my eyes, spider-shaped figures crawled across the inside of my eyelids.