Archives for category: Psychadelic

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It was a temptation for me to get off the plane at Tangiers and join Robert Fraser who was to spend a weekend with a group that would include Mick Jagger. I thought at last an opportunity to photograph one of the most elusive people, whom I admire and am fascinated by, not determined whether he is beautiful or hideous.

But my exodus from the photographic excitements at home was dictated by my run-down state of health, so on I went to Marrakesh, where I knew nobody (except Ira Belline) and for four days was quite by myself. I overslept and became introspective, extremely displeased with myself and hating all that I saw of myself in the nude. On the Tuesday evening I came down to dinner very late, and to my surprise, sitting in the hall, discovered Mick Jagger and a sleepy-looking band of gypsies. “Where is my friend the art dealer?” I asked. Robert F., wearing a huge black felt hat and a bright emerald brocade coat, was coughing by the swimming pool. He had swallowed something the wrong way. He recovered and invited me to join the others for a drink and then, by degrees, for an evening out.

It was a strange group, three “Stones,” Brian Jones and his girlfriend, beatnik-dressed Anita Pallenberg,‘ dirty white face, dirty blackened eyes, dirty canary-yellow wisps of hair, barbaric jewellery. The drummer, Keith of the Stones, an eighteenth-century suit, black long velvet coat and the tightest pants, and a group of hangers-on. chauffeurs, an American man with Renaissance-type hair a “Moroccan” expert (also American) from Tangiers etc. l was intent not to give the impression that I was only interested in Mick. but it happened that we sat next to one another. as he drank a Vodka Collins, and smoked with pointed fingers held high. His skin is chicken breast white, and of a fine quality. He has enormous inborn elegance. He talked of the native music, how the American had played him records of a Turk from near here, which music included the use of pipes that were the same as those that were heard in Hungary and were also the same that were used in Scotland. He liked Indian music. He would like to go to Kashmir, Afghanistan, would like to get away. England had become a police state, with police and journalists prying into your lives. Recently so policemen had invaded the house of the drummer in the country to search it for dope (no charges have been made). The papers had written completely false accounts. He was going to sue the News of the World. He’d done nothing to deprave the youth of the country. He liked to get away from the autograph hunters. Here people weren’t curious or badly mannered. l noticed he used quite old words, he liked people who were permissive. By degrees the shy aloofness of the hopped-up gang broke down. We got into two cars (the Bentley I was in had driven from Brian Jones’s house in Swiss Cottage to here, and the driver was a bit tired and soon got very drunk. The car was filled with Pop Art cushions. scarlet fur rugs. sex magazines).

Immediately the most tremendous volume of pop music was relayed at the back of my neck. Mick and Brian responded rhythmically. and the girlfriend screamed in whispers that she had just played a murderess in a film that was to be shown at the Cannes Festival.

We went to a Moroccan restaurant, tiles, glasses, banquettes, women dancers. Mick preferred to be away from the other tourists. He is very gentle, with perfect manners. He commented the usual style of decoration give little opportunity for understanding to the artist. He indicated that I should follow his example and eat the chicken in my fingers. It was so tender and good. He has much appreciation and his small albino-fringed eyes notice everything. “How different and more real this place is to Tangiers, the women more rustic, heavy, lumpy, but their music very Spanish and their dancing too.“ He has an analytical slant and compares what he is now seeing with earlier impressions and with other countries.

We talked of mutual acquaintances. David Bailey had been too busy being married to take any good photographs during the past year. His film was not erotic. he wished it had been, it was merely black and while, and obviously avant-garde. He liked the new ballet, Paradise Lost. but [was] bored by Stravinsky’s Les Noces. (Tchaikovsky he called the composer. but he showed he hates US chorales as much as I do, and is limited in his field of music to that which he had studied since he was 11 years old, and which he is never tired of absorbing.)

“What marvellous authority she has,” listening to a coloured singer. “She follows through.” He sent his arms flying about him. I was fascinated with the thin concave lines of his body, legs, arms. Mouth almost too large, but he is beautiful and ugly, feminine and masculine, a “sport,” a rare phenomenon. I was not disappointed. and as the evening wore on, found him easier to talk with. He was sorry he’d not been able to converse when we met at that fancy dress party (Christie’s). How could he remember? He asked. ‘Have you ever taken LSD?” – “Oh, I should.” lt would mean so much to me. I’d never forget the colours. For a painter it was a great experience. Instead of one’s brain working on four cylinders. it would be 4,000. You saw everything glow. The colours of his red velvet trousers, the black shiny satin, the maroon scarf. You saw yourself beautiful and ugly, and saw other people as if for the first time. “Oh. you should take it in the country, surrounded by all the green, all those flowers. You’d have no bad effects. It’s only people who hate themselves who suffer.”

He had great assurance about himself, and I have too. ‘No, believe me if you enjoyed the bhang in India, this is a thousand times better, so much stronger.” He’d let me have a pill: ‘Oh, good stuff. Oh no, they can’t stamp it out. It’s like the atom bomb. Once it’s been discovered. it can never be forgotten, and it’s too easy to make LSD.‘

He didn’t take it often, but when he was in a congenial setting, and with people he liked. Otherwise it didn’t work so pleasantly. Maybe he took it about once a month. We walked through the decorated midnight souks. He admired the Giacometti-like drawings, loved the old town, was sad at the sleeping bundles of humanity. Brian Jones said he had not seen such poverty since Singapore. Mick was full of appreciation for the good things we saw, the archways. the mysterious alleyways.

THE SKY SPANGLED WITH STARS

Again we bundled in the cars. Again the gramophone records, turned on at volume. By now the Moroccan chauffeur in front was quite drunk and driving on the wrong side of the road. When we shouted in warning. Brian said, “There’s no traffic!” I was quite alarmed as to whether we would get home safely. We all trooped up to our bedrooms on this floor. Gramophone records turned on, but by now it was 3 o‘clock and my bedtime. They seem to have no magnetic call from their beds. They are happy to hang about. “Where do we go now? To a nightclub?”-“lt’s closed“-“Well, let’s go somewhere and have a drink.” Never a yawn and the group had been up since five o’clock this morning, for they motored throughout the day through the desert from Tangiers with the record players blaring, It is a very different way of living front mine. particularly from that of the last four days. It did me good to be jerked out of myself. Mick listened to pop records for a couple of hours and was then so tired that he went to sleep without taking off his clothes. Only at 8, when he woke, did he undress and get into bed and sleep for another couple of hours.

At 11 o’clock he appeared at the swimming pool, I could not believe this was the same person walking towards us, and yet I knew it was an aspect of him. The sun, very strong, was reflected from the white ground and made his face a white, podgy, shapeless mess, eyes very small, nose very pink and spreading, hair sandy dark. He wore Chanel Bois de Rose. His figure. his hands and arms were incredibly feminine. He looked like a self-conscious suburban young lady.

All morning he looked awful. The reflected light is very bad for him and he isn’t good at the beginning of a day. The others were willing only to talk in spasms. No one could make up their minds what to do or when.

A lot of good humour. I took Mick through the trees to an open space to photograph him in the midday sun, thus giving his face the shadows it needs. He was a Tarzan of Piero di Cosimo. Lips of a fantastic roundness. body white and almost hairless. He is sexy, yet completely sexless. He could nearly be a eunuch. As a model he is a natural.

Ira Belline came to lunch. Mick left the others to join us. In a sweet, natural, subtle way, he showed we were friends. Ira was charmed. gave him compliments. said how imaginatively he and his friends were dressed. He reminded her of Nijinsky upon whose lap she sat as a child. Mick talked of the struggles to success. It had seemed slow, those four years, and now it had come, he didn’t want anything more than a good car. He didn’t want possessions. He would like a house somewhere with 30 acres. He wanted to work less. They’d worked so hard. He’d arranged for his money to be paid over the next 30 years. He didn’t want vast sums. but he had recently had fantastic offers to make films. One was intriguing. He’d be a Mexican with dark skin and curly hair, but he wouldn’t appear as a pop singer.

The group lying around the swimming pool, eating a lot. Then we went sightseeing in the town, to the market square, and the souks. and to see the new young Getty‘ house (very sensible beautiful 1830 Moroccan house with just the right garden). While watching the native dancers, Mick was convulsed by the rhythm. every fibre of his body responding to the intricacies. Likewise Brian who, with microphone, was recording the music. Then in a quiet moment he blared it forth. Each of these “Stones” is utterly dedicated to the music they love; they are never tired of learning, of listening. of enjoying (they are furious at the phrase “background music”).

Unfortunately they seemed to have got into bad hash habits. Brian, at one point. dozed off. “Are you asleep?”  -“l just tripped off.” Before dinner, a long spell in Robert Fraser’s room when cookies were eaten and pipes were smoked. This meant that they did not arrive in the restaurant by 10 o’clock. The chef had left. Awful row. Embarrassing scenes. Mick came down at 10:15 p.m., to be told there was nothing but cold food. (The sideboard looked very appetising to me.) Oh, he was furious. He couldn’t stomach that stuff. It turned him off. He told the maitre d’hotel he was “very silly”! He was quite angry, and chef d’hotel too. I must say a scruffier-looking gang could never be imagined. The photographer, Michael Cooper,’ Keith, with green velvet blouse open to his navel. in a red coat with tarnished silver fringes round the sleeve, absolutely gone. Robert, wild and unshaven. I tried to calm the scene. Mick told of an occasion when they had such a row that the food was thrown about, and of course it got into the papers.

I was determined, having waited so long, to eat my dinner. I chewed my way through rouget, and cold turkey. The others, meanwhile, having found a sort of restaurant that would be open until 2 o’clock, were content to sit without any idea of hunger or impatience. Brian went into a drugged sleep.

Mick intended to leave alone tomorrow (he finds travelling unpleasant, fills up on pills and becomes incredibly offhand). He said he’d like to see me in London and was pleased we’d been able to meet each other here.

There are moments when little is said but a few grunts. tough banalities, but much is sensed. I feel he is his real self. I watched him walk through the series of glass front doors of the hotel and look back for the driver, his hand on one side, the picture of grace, and something very touching, tender and appealing about him.

I wonder what the future can bring to someone so incredibly successful at such an early stage? Will the hash wreck his life, or will it go up in the smoke of the atom bomb with all the rest of us?

PS They never seem important, never in a hurry. Their beds can wait. their meals too. They do not mind if the drink ordered arrives or not. The hash settles everything. Their wardrobe is extensive. Mick showed me the rows of brightly shining brocade coats. Everything is shoddy, poorly made. The seams burst. Keith himself had sewn his trousers, lavender, dull rose with a band of badly stitched leather dividing the two colours. Brian at the pool appears in white pants with a huge black square applied on to the back. It is very smart in spite of the fact that the seams are giving way, but with such marvellously flat, tight. compact figures as they have, with no buttocks or stomach, almost everything looks well with them.

Not one book in their rooms. A lot of crumbs from the hash cookies or the kif pipes. The most obvious defect of drug taking is to make the addict oblivious to the diet and general slothfulness that he conveys. The photographer. Michael Cooper, is really dirty, with his shirt open and trousers to below the navel. Unshaven, he spends a lot of time scratching his long hair. No group make more of a mess at the table. The aftermath of their breakfast with eggs, jam, honey everywhere, is quite exceptional. They give a new meaning to the word untidiness.

We must reconsider our ideas on drugs. It seems these boys live off them, yet they seem extremely healthy and strong. We will see.

The party, minus Mick, loses all its glamour. Brian Jones seemed in a more communicative condition and smiled a lot. His voice is quite affected, unlike the rawness of the others, and he makes attempts at politeness. He even apologised for falling asleep at table last night, “It was very bad-mannered,” he drawled with a bit of a lisp. I asked him about their work. They’d started off playing blues, by degrees developed their present style. altering their instruments, and now they spend much more time than before experimenting, playing back tapes, and now, for example, the sitar holds a more prominent role. They continue the tapes, more alterations, play back another tape. Elvis Presley, now a back liner, was very important in the history of modern music, and Ray Charles. Ray, who still went on doing what he believed in and it was good, unlike the tuxedo Las Vegas gang, in their tweeds (Sinatra and Crosby). Keith and Mick generally write their own words and music. They thought the best of “pop” came from the US.

At about 3 o’clock they were joined by the others, who had been house hunting. “I’d like to buy a house” – “l’d like to have a good car” – “Put a call through to London, will you?” and again there was another row with the waiters. The chauffeur, Tom, returned from Casablanca and was furious to be told there was no more hot food. The kitchen empty. Likewise the photographer-where had he been to be so late? Just waiting. He of all people to complain. Little wonder that the elderly waiter became furious. “You’re a lot of pigs. You should go to the market square, the Medina, and eat your food there. That’s where you belong! I am not going to serve any of you again.”

Robert F. rushed out to complain to the manager. Gosh, they are a messy group. No good getting annoyed. One can only wonder as to their future. If their talent isn’t undermined by drugs etc. They are successful rebels, all power, but no sympathy and none asked.

The sound element uses the short story Allal by Paul Bowles, read by Paul Bowles. The image is from the image archive of Marco Grassi, painting restorer. All other parts were created from samples made for the post by the Frank Minoprio project Green Relm, edited and produced with field recordings by A Moment of Eternal Noise. The text is from Beaton In The Sixties, The Cecil Beaton Diaries as he wrote them, 1965-1969.

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“The heat was so intense that (the hot sun shining all day on deck) they were all naked, which also served the well to get rid of vermin, but the sick were eaten up alive. Their sickly countenances, and ghastly looks were truly horrible; some swearing and blaspheming; others crying, praying, and wringing their hands; and stalking about like ghosts; others delirious, raving and storming,–all panting for breath; some dead, and corrupting. The air was so foul that at times a lamp could not be kept burning, by reason of which the bodies were not missed until they had been dead ten days.”[12]

 §49 As may be surmised from the preceding material, for a boat to be successful in the West Indies it must somehow be in favor with the other world, and it is not surprising to learn that it is popularly believed that a boat must have a soul, a human one, in order to function properly. I was first made aware of this one day when I overheard two seamen discussing a vessel hove down for repairs. “Maybe now she be good vessel,” one said. Thinking that perhaps she had been damaged, I inquired why and learned that while she was hove down one of her crew had drowned, so the vessel now had a soul-something she had lacked formerly.

§110 Although the following belief, which was popular until recent times, could not be called witchcraft exactly, it certainly borders on it. When a vessel had been overlong at sea or the neighbors had special reason for communicating with it, a very strong girl was induced to fall into a deep sleep. While sleeping, her spirit would away to the vessel and return with the desired information. However, it was thought a dangerous practice, for should the wind change before the job had been completed the girl would go mad.

§101-102 Far older than telephone wires is the belief in underwater bells in certain places in the sea. Three such places are off the coast of Brittany off the coast of Cornwall, and in Kingston Harbor, Jamaica. In each case the story concerning these bells is quite similar. The inhabitants of Portobello (in Kingston Harbor) were a miserable lot, being composed mostly of buccaneers, whores and slaves. They spent most of their time drinking, wenching or gambling in this great pirate port until God gave them a taste of what he gave Sodom and Gomorrah. One day an earthquake and a tidal wave struck the place and it sank into the sea and along with the town went the church. For many years the Place was visible beneath the waves, and to this day mariners say that they can hear the church bell ring before a hurricane.

§111 Should the weather fall calm, two ways of many to raise a breeze were either to “scratch the mast and whistle” or to “stick the knife into the mast and whistle.” So great was the power of whistling believed to be that it was forbidden on board ship except in times of flat calm. In fact, there is a saying in Newfoundland about whistling “Whistle to your plough boys, sing to your ship.” Sometimes in Scotland if the wind didn’t blow, a male goat was hauled alive to the masthead to induce a breeze while at Petit Martinique a more humane and less odorous method was employed, namely to hang a wooden cross in the fore rigging.

§360 As a matter of interest, excrement has long been used medicinally by the sailor. Hen and cow manure are thought to make excellent poultices, and I was informed in Maine that “nanny-plum tea is the best kind of thing to straighten you out.”

§364 Almost every item mentioned can fall into one or more of three categories. Most important are the things detrimental to the ship in some way: cards, dice and women can only lead to trouble at sea. Another category includes things that do not normally frequent the sea – for example, crows, pigeons, bluebirds, starlings – and therefore may bring some kind of warning. Some items are connected with the world of the supernatural. Foxes, hares and cats are shapes in which witches can appear. They do unusual things. Hares go mad in March, Foxes are too clever to live, and cats carry static electricity in their fur and are familiar with the devil. Ministers, churches and bells all deal with Christianity (a ship’s bell is supposed to toll her end when the ship goes down). Since the sea is not Christian, it tries to do away with them. The more categories the item fits into, the more viable the belief.

§458-459 The fourth great strand, which is perhaps the oldest and most resistant to change, is found in the ancient belief in the ability of the dead to participate in the activities of the living. This, coupled to the almost universal belief that supernatural beings inhabit the turbulent waters about great headlands, completes the strand and hawser, for it is here, around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, that the greatest of all the spectre ships appears.

Our story appears in many forms and guises, but three seem to comprise the root of all the others. The first is the story of Dahul (an Arabic name meaning Forgotten One) who turns up sometimes off Cape Finisterre. This man was a pirate and had as his chief consort no less a personage than the Devil, who came aboard as a stowaway. One day he struck the Devil a terrible blow and threw him overboard. Shortly after this he captured a vessel and found aboard a Spanish family and a priest. Dahul ordered the priest to be crucified and cooked the Spaniard’s child. He then laughed at the priest’s final agony. Suddenly the sky darkened and a great voice was on the deep: “You shall wander, Dahul, at the will of the winds, at the mercy of the waves. Your crew shall exhaust itself in endless toil. You shall wander upon every sea until the end of the centuries. You shall receive aboard all the drowned of the world. You shall not die, nor shall you ever approach the shore, nor the ships which you will always see fleeing before you,”

Since that day the vessel has wandered. No one sleeps nor eats. She has no water and no hope. She is seen always before a storm and in the ominous quiet and half-light that precedes a great gale. She drives past under close reefs, her black hull half-buried in a smother of foam.

The second tale concerns a huge, powerful Dutch captain named Bernard Fokke, who drove his ships beyond the power of humans. To make sure his masts could stand the strain he encased them in iron bands. He was hard on his men and given to swearing great oaths. His ninety-day passages from Batavia to Holland were so fast and so regular that sailors believed he had made a compact with the Devil. However time means money even at sea, and his owners loved him. Eventually he failed to return and it was popularly thought the Devil had called him home. He may still be seen before an approaching gale driving his vessel around the Cape of Good Hope.

The final story has two versions The simpler one states that a Dutch sea captain, Vanderdecker (The Cloaked One), tried his best to beat round Cape Horn but made no progress. At last he made a vow that he would never stop trying until he doubled the Cape no matter how long it took. He would “be damned” if he did. This was, of course a direct affront to God and he has been battling for his westing ever since. The old windjammer hands used to see him before storms in the vicinity of Table Bay and when he appeared he knew that trouble was in the offing.

§22 There is an interesting sidelight to the distaste for changing names in Maine. Recently I was told by Ken Baker of Bowdoin that lobstermen name their boats for their girlfriends. When they married, if they did, they added the lady’s last name or its initial. For example, Scott Jones loves Linda Bridges. He names the lobster boat Linda. He marries her, and the boat becomes Linda B. This way, the name’s extended, not changed.

This post was inspired by the original track Trail Song given to A Moment of Eternal Noise by Georgina Starlington, the Jack Hines/Julie Hines duo formally of Brooklyn band K-Holes. The main text is from Folklore and the Sea by Horace Beck, 1972. The first quote is from Documents and Letters Intended to Illustrate the Revolutionary Incidents of Queens County, N.Y. by Henry Onderdonk, 1884. The image features a postcard of the ship Noisel wrecked on Praa Sands, Cornwall, 1905. The ship was bound from Cherbourg to Italy, but was caught in a south west gale.

 

We have heard a story, indeed, of a painter in France who, when he wanted to paint a sea-beach, carried realism from his ends to his means, and plastered real sand upon his canvas (writes Robert Louis Stevenson. He continues:) Thus his scene was less a depiction of a thing and rather was the thing in itself, not transmuted into any artistic convention; or at least was an extension of the thing, made up of the very stuff of real life. (Stevenson breaks off writing at this point, smiles to himself, runs his fingers through his beard.)

 

One suspects – writes John Gardner, almost a hundred years later – that Stevenson may simply have made him up, this unnamed French painter. Stevenson’s purpose – Gardner continues – was to point out that literature exists on a continuum between poles, which he called ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’; and in order to give an illustration from the visual arts, he compared the French painter’s beachscapes with the effect of early- and middle-period Turner, whose landscapes were like vivid scenes seen through a window. Stevenson himself, of course, like most nineteenth century authors, occupied the subjective end of the spectrum, what we would now call ordinary, “realistic” fiction, where the writer’s intent is that the reader fall through the printed page into the scene represented – and, at this sudden point in Gardner’s essay, you can sense the seductive power this idea holds for him, his longing to be able to fall in precisely this way, to move freely through a language that is weightless, pure, utterly transparent.

 

Not so for Raymond Carver. For him, words have weight, solidity. Building a sentence is like building a wall with stones, Carver says, paraphrasing Flaubert. The stones have to be the right shape, he continues, the right size and heft to be wedged into place tight against other stones – he is fond, certainly, of metaphors to do with outdoors. Fishing, famously, is his favourite hobby. That, and drinking – something which John Gardner, his writing teacher at Chico State and a similarly prolific drinker, warns him about. Carver listens, nods his head, takes account. He hangs on Gardner’s every utterance, at this stage in his career – before, really, he even has a career. Later, in ‘Fires’, he will describe Gardner’s influence on his writing: “Telling me over and over how important it was to have the right words saying what I wanted them to say. Nothing vague or blurred, no smoked-glass prose”. But one day, following Gardner’s lead, he reads Robert Louis Stevenson’s preface to the complete works of Victor Hugo: no mention, despite what Gardner has claimed, of middle or late period Turner; no theories of objective versus subjective art. The unnamed French painter throwing sand onto his canvas is there, yes. But that is the only point that Gardner seems to have got right. And though it is not really all that important, though it is only a small, niggling thing, it is disappointment that lingers. Not that Carver ever mentions it to his former mentor, instead letting him go on making the same arguments about Stevenson and Turner and subjectivity in various interviews and lectures, letting him make a fool of himself. Eventually, Carver thinks, he’ll get round to telling him – right up to the day Gardner is killed horribly in a motorcycle accident. And so the thought always remains, jabbing at Carver like a splinter: was Gardner simply mistaken, perhaps misremembering what Stevenson actually wrote, or mixing up various different essays; or did he just make it all up?

 

As for myself, I don’t particularly care either way. Or so I tell myself, sitting at my desk in my small, functional apartment in New York. All these hermeneutic concerns seem a world away – all this business of literary accuracy, of reputations waxing and waning, of writers writing about writers. It’s just a distraction. It’s decadent, in fact, when you consider what else is going on in the world today.

I push my chair back, swivel around to the window, put my feet up to rest on the lip of the frame. I like that my desk is by the window. I like leaning back and looking out, across the huddled rooftops, and taking a moment to think things over. Through the single glazing, the sounds of the city rise up to me – all the usual morning sounds. Some unusual ones too. Bagpipes. But mainly traffic, rush-hour crowds, the buzz and chatter of voices. I imagine it all taking place, far below me – a typical slice of New York life. The sound of yellow taxicabs – beeping, revving, yelling. You know what I mean, you’ve seen it all before – a scene straight from a movie. The yellow sound of taxicabs – bright and piercing in the cold morning. You don’t need me to describe it all.

There’s nothing left to say. I suppose I could put in an abrupt ending, some unexpected, oddly poignant event – like the legions of Carver copyists out there. A sudden crash, perhaps, out in the street. But in fact there’s no need to make anything up. It’s all right in front of me.

There must be a building site nearby, some construction work a few blocks away, though I can’t see any cranes on the skyline, but how else do you explain it – because, there: carried by the wind, in little muddy heaps on the windowsill, and rain-etched swirls on the glass: sand.

I continue.

 

This post is based on the above sound work made by Seb Patane for A Moment of Eternal Noise from field recordings made in the Summer of 2011 in New York. Responding to the sound work Marc Hundley created the photograph and Gabriel Coxhead the text.

Image - 'Defeated by the mosquito and abandoned to the jungle' from The National Geographic Magazine, February 1922

 

This marble punch was a snowball,
And it starred his heart
And it starred the victor’s jacket,
Starred the black victor whom nothing protects.

Stupefied he stood
Barelegged in the lair of solitude,
Beneath the gilded walnuts, mistletoe and holly,
Starred over like the blackboard in the classroom.

Often this begins at school,
These punches that fill the mouth with blood
These hard snowball punches,
That beauty jabs at the heart in passing by.

Saint-Cloud, February, 1929.

When I hear one of these phrases I close my eyes, I see again the boys’ berths on board the X., one of the largest steamers on the Marseilles-Saigon line. The X was waiting to get under way. The purser, one of my opium-smoking friends, had suggested the escapade to me. At eleven o’clock at night we crossed the deserted docks and climbed up the ladder on to the deck. We had to follow our guide at full speed and avoid the watch. We climbed over cables, worked round columns and Greek temples, crossed public squares, labyrinths of machines, shadow and moonlight, we mixed up the companion ways and the corridors so much and so well that our poor guide began to lose his head, until, softly, that powerful strange smell put us on the right path.

Imagine enormous berths, four or five dormitories, where sixty ‘boys’ lay smoking on two tiers of planks. In each dormitory a long table filled up the empty space. Standing on these tables, and cut in two by a flat, unmoving cloud half-way up the room, the latecomers were undressing, tying up the cords where they liked to hang up their washing, and gently rubbing their shoulders.

The scene was lit by the dim lights pf the lamps, and on top of them burnt the spluttering drug. The bodies were wedged against each other and without causing the slightest surprise, or the slightest ungraciousness, we took our places where there was really no place left, with our legs doubled up and our heads resting on stools. The noise we made did not even disturb one of the boys who was sleeping with his head against mine. A nightmare convulsed him; he had sunk to the bottom of the sleep that stifled him, entering into him through his mouth, his large nostrils and the ears which stuck out from his head. His swollen face was closed like an angry fist, he sweated, turned over and tore at his silken rags. He looked as though a stroke of the lancet would deliver him and bring forth the nightmare. His grimaces formed an extraordinary contrast with the calm of the others, a vegetable calm, a calm which reminded me of something familiar. What was it? On those planks lay the twisted bodies in which the skeletons, visible through the pale skin, were no more than the delicate armatures of a dream . . . In fact, it was the olive trees of Provence which those young sleepers evoked in me, the twisted olive trees on the flat red earth, their silver clouds hanging in the air.

In that place I could almost believe that it was all this profound lightness that alone kept this most monumental ship floating on the water.

Jean Cocteau, “Opium, The Diary of his Cure,” 1930

Jim’s Intro : You, Appearing – M83 : Sunset (The Death of Thumbellina) – Current 93 : Girlfriend’s Interlude : Past, present and future – The Shangri-Las : We Ask You To Ride – Wooden Shjips : Yellow Elevator #2 – The Black Angels : Striking a match : Purple Haze – Dion : Vibrating Ruler : Can I get it from You – Dave Berry : Omens And Portents I, The Driver – Earth : Lauren at the beach : Prepare for the End – David Thomas and Two Pale Boys : Pammie’s On a Bummer – Sonny Bono : Alone, Jealous & Stoned – The Secret Machines : Car Chase terror! – M83 : Rain on 22nd July 06 : Orange Country Suite, a Paris bootleg – Jim Morrison – 71 Mins

Image – ‘Defeated by the mosquito and abandoned to the jungle‘ from The National Geographic Magazine, February 1922