Posted by: ralphmexico | September 24, 2012

SHOOTING PINK ELEPHANTS IN THE SAHARA

Bill, Bed, Books, Bye
 
 
Bill
 
The person I would most like to meet in the entire world is Bill Drummond.  Precisely because Bill Drummond is the person I would most like to meet in the entire world, I really, really hope I never meet Bill Drummond. 
 
Here’s a crash course for the ravers who are unaware of the “who-when-why-what-how much have you got” regarding Bill Drummond:- A proud Scot; re-located to Liverpool in the 70’s; managed The Teardrop Explodes and Echo & The Bunnymen to the brink of global domination; formed The KLF; sold millions of records; achieved global domination; burned a million quid in the name of art; befuddled Gay Byrne on “The Late Late Show” in the name of art; wrote some books; made some soup in the name of art; swept some streets in the name of art; still living; still kicking against the pricks; still Bill. 
 
Bed
 
On July 8th this year, when the world and his wife was watching Roger Federer do the world and his mother a favour by beating Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final, I spent fourteen hours listening to Bill make a bed on the radio.  Fourteen hours of bliss.  Oh, yes.
 
The premise of the broadcast on Resonance FM was that Bill would play his favourite record from each of the 59 years he had been alive.  He would talk about the music, talk about his life, talk about music, talk about life.  All of that while making a bed live in the studio. 
 
The finished bed would then be raffled off.  There would be a thousand raffle tickets sold.  Bill would personally deliver the bed to the winner.  If the lucky sod lived within the M25 around London they’d have the bed within 24 hours.  If they lived in Britain they’d have it within the week.  If they lived anywhere else in the world they’d have the bed delivered to their door by Bill within 12 months.  Bill repeated “Anywhere” a good few times and you knew he was hoping that a KLF fan from downtown Bairiki would be the winner.
 
I bought a ticket.  A “situation” on the funds front prevented me purchasing all one thousand, but… (please refer to paragraph one).
 
So, Bill played his song choices such as “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”, “Marquee Moon”, “Strings Of Life” and “Common People”.  Sweetly, he adored some songs so much he spun them a few times while he continued whittling, sanding, crocheting, embroidering – whatever one does when making a bed.  We heard “Push The Button” by The Sugababes (his 2001 choice) four times.  Which was nice.
 
When he needed a break he’d go out, leaving the studio mic on, and tell us to listen to the (almost) silence.  The distant sound of traffic and everyday people could be faintly heard, but this was what silence looked like.  The rest was noise.
 
After midnight the bed was ready.  There was no live studio-cam thingy, so we were taking Honest Bill’s word for it that there was a bed.  The winning raffle ticket was drawn.  Some chancer named Sally Joffe won.  No address was mentioned; however it’s safe to speculate that Bill didn’t have to travel to Kiribati to find lucky little Sally-girl.  So it goes.
 
Books
 
Brill Bill has authored a few books in his lifetime… 
 
The best parts of “Bad Wisdom” (the story of Bill and a couple of friends’ road trip to the arctic circle involving zen sticks, Voice Of The Beehive, and the lost chord) is the quote from Jarvis Cocker on the front cover and Bill’s own description of the book on the back.  Jarvis: “The truth, no matter how uncomfortable, cannot help but be beautiful – this is a very beautiful book”.  Bill: “We had a plan: we were going to save the world – the whales, the dolphins, the rainforests, Bambi, the whole damn Walt Disney bunch, babe; we were gonna free Willy, f*** chicks and slay dragons.  We are Zen masters and know what the f*** we are talking about”.  Savage.  The book itself is tripe.   
 
Being a music freak Bill had released a solo album, “The Man”, in 1986 when he was 33 and a third years old (my keyboard doesn’t do fractions).  When he was 45 he wrote a series of stories about his life.  The resultant “45” is probably his best book.  In the book’s introduction he says “I will read them (the stories) again if I get to the age of 78”.  The back cover declares “At the age of 45, Bill Drummond is less concerned with setting the record straight as making sure it revolves at the correct speed”.
 
33 and a third, 45, and 78 have special (here’s that word again) resonance for music lovers of a certain age.  Ask your weird uncle Sylvie who has a record player and a Filipino mail order bride.
 
The outstanding piece in “45” is about Bill buying a large black and white photo of a stone circle in the vast empty wilderness of central Iceland.  The photo, by Richard Long, was called “A Smell Of Sulphur In The Wind”.  Bill paid $20,000 for it.  He hung it on his bedroom wall.
 
The story ends with Bill saying he intended to re-sell the photo for $20,000.  He will then travel to Iceland with the money and bury the cash under the stone circle (if he can find it).  He’ll take a photo of the enriched stone circle; blow it up big; frame it; and hang it on a wall.  He’ll name the new piece: “A Smell Of Money Underground”.  Quite.
 
Two more things about “45” before I skip daintily to another of Bill’s books.  When I re-read it recently I was reminded of Bill’s love for The Residents, a group from San Francisco who made pretty dodgy records, but could very well be the greatest band in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.  Again, ask your weird uncle Sylvie who’ll tell you everything if you bring him some methylated spirits and a curling thongs.
 
Anyway, after reading Bill’s story about The Residents (“Now That’s What I Call Disillusionment, 1”) I logged onto the official Residents web-site and bought three Residents coasters for $20.  I shall never put a glass or cup on these coasters.  I did however put them on my turntable and the noise they made was better than six or seven of the albums by The Residents.  Ho-hum.
 
“45” also contains what is today my favourite line to ever feature in a book.  Bill was managing The Teardrop Explodes.  He believed that if he could get them to play a gig in Papua New Guinea at the same time as Echo & The Bunnymen played a gig in Iceland, while Bill himself stood on a particular man-hole cover on Matthew Street in Liverpool, he would be “able to harness the powers of the interstellar ley-line for my personal gratification”.  As you do.
 
Convincing Teardrops’ singer Julian Cope to go along with the idea was proving a trifle awkward.  Cope was taking mondo quantities of acid at the time and believing he was the reincarnation of Pan or something.  Cue Bill’s immortal zinger of a line: “Great stuff, and I loved it all, but how was I to persuade him he should do a concert in the highland jungles of New Guinea when I couldn’t even tell him to take a bath?”  Don’t ever change, Bill.
 
“The Manual” is a small book Bill wrote about how to get a number one single in the UK charts.  Remember “Doctorin’ The Tardis” by The Timelords, listeners?  That was Bill, that was.  “The Manual” is a step-by-step guide to following “The Tardis” to the top of the charts.  If you do everything Bill says in the book and fail to score a number one, you’ll “get your money back”.
 
“The Manual” was the second book I read in 2005.  Soon afterwards I lent my copy to a friend who was just starting out in the business they call “music”.  I don’t know if he ever worked his way through the book, but here’s where his music is at in 2012: http://danieljones.bandcamp.com/ 
 
“The Manual” has never been returned to me by said musician.  No big deal in the greater scheme of things except that copies of the rare, little gem are fetching upwards of $400 on e-bay at present.  $400 – I sure could buy a lot of coasters with that…
 
If you’re still wide awake and dreaming, let me take you down the corridors of my mind as I tell you about “17”, the most important Bill Drummond book I’ve read.  And maybe the most important book I’ve read.  It certainly is the only book to confirm that I’m making the right decision by ending this blog forever next Sunday, September 30th.
 
I bought “17” in Liverpool in February 2009 when I was there for a weekend with a girl who I subsequently hurt.  She hurt me back in return, and I spitefully re-hurt her just to prove I’m always capable of being a prat.
 
I only got around to reading “17” this year.  Somehow the book told me that making stupid mistakes, as with the girl described above, is what happens in life.  You can continue to cut yourself up over needless cruelty displayed in a fit of pique, or you can apologise and aim not to be such a plug in the future.
 
I don’t suppose too many other people got a similar message from what is essentially a book about Bill’s efforts to wage war on recorded music armed with only dreams, seventeen strangers singing in a choir, and made-up Finnish heavy metal bands.
 
“17” is Bill’s most humane book.  He talks about his fears, weaknesses, mistakes.  He also wrote a sentence that I copied to the inside cover of the notebook I’m writing this on right now: “Getting wasted seemed so boring compared to getting up early in the morning and doing something that had never been done before”.
 
What a line; perhaps “As beautiful as the chance encounter between a sewing-machine and an umbrella on an operating table”.
 
I have made my mistakes.  I have made my apologies.
 
Bye
 
Bye.
 
 
An Act Of Thought Is An Act Of Art!!
Ralph Mexico
 
ps.  Bill eventually cut up “A Smell Of Sulphur In The Wind” into 20,000 pieces, and is presently attempting to sell each fragment on his website.  The next sentence writes itself…  I bought a fragment.
 
Bill is aiming to raise $20,000 with a view to burying the cash in Iceland as described earlier.  When shipping, administration and currency exchange were factored in, my itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny shard (1/20,000th fraction of the artwork) cost me 10euro.  Hmmm.
 
My purchase arrived with a warranty signed by Bill Drummond giving his “Bury cash at stone circle” spiel.  There is also an accompanying grid reference so buyers can track the exact location of their fragment on the www.penkiln-burn.com website.  My all-white fragment is not even from the main picture – it’s from the white border surrounding “A Smell Of Sulphur In The Wind”.  
 
There remains a “situation” on the funds front.  Coughing up ten euro for a tiny splinter of an artwork felt good though, like taking a razor to my mind’s eye.  “A Smell Of Sticking It To The Man”, indeed.
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