Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys

Having been without any form of www access over the past few days, I’ve resorted to listening to more and more music to while away my suitcase-hours.

Over the years, I’ve manage to collect quite a few versions of this – a song that has been mooted by many commentators as one of the very finest hybrids of jazz-tinged-rock – tho’ putting absurd labels to creativity of this order seems (to me) senseless.

Let’s just say then, by pretty much any criterion, it’s a piece that is widely regarded as one of the truly great songs of the last thirty years.

The, by now instantly recognisable opening two piano chords, underpinned by a very-much slowed-down four-four snare-drum whiplash with David Hood’s original scrunching-bass-line locking everything together… as tight as a duck’s arse. And, that’s watertight.

The studio version recorded at Muscle Shoals in Alabama was extraordinary enough in itself but, it’s the live renditions that I’ve always preferred. And, while this isn’t the absolute best – the definitive I reckon being the one which was recorded somewhere in America and only ever appeared at the tail-end of a re-formed Traffic cd-single that barely sold – the one I’ve recently discovered and loaded onto the silver-machine is pretty bloody amazing.

Actually, I can’t even remember the name of the title-track of that cd-single ‘cos it is only really worth having for the sublime variant of this song that’s tagged on at the end. Something like fourteen minutes long and always but always worth playing as loud as one dares.

Those beautiful piano chords… the howling crowd immediately baying in eager anticipation as they recognise – as one – the intro to what’s being played… that cracked-down-upon snare… the tinkled ivories with their mysterious chord progression… the exquisite way-off-stage-left saxophone… that delicately swirling organ… and then… that entirely magical voice…

The percentage you’re paying is too high priced
While you’re living beyond all your means

This morning – or was it yesterday – the Council of Mortgage Lenders predicted that the recession we’re all now experiencing and suffering under will lead to a monumental rise in arrears being endured by their borrowers.

They reckon that the number of people who’ll fall behind in making their payments will rise to over half-a-million. And what have the CML said..? They’re telling us that 2009 is going to be really tough and that the recession will drive up unemployment and lead to – they reckon – between 75 and 100 thousand repossessions.

Comforting isn’t it..? In the good times the mortgage brokers bend over backwards to sell you a mortgage that, in anyone’s reality (and they’re the one’s who should know), you can’t really afford and then, when the going gets tough, what do they do..? Obviously it isn’t their fault so… they just take your home away. Why..? Because they can.

The large print giveth… the small print taketh away.

And, it is happening right now. For example… how do you think this particular couple feel? I gleaned the following facts from a paper I looked at yesterday and tomorrow is… Christmas Eve. So… have a little ponder on this if you will.

Marian and Peter Addyam – he’s a pharmacist and she’s a mental health worker, who live in St Leonards on Sea in Sussex – were sent a letter last September by NatWest that told them they had thirty days to pay back their loan (ie the mortgage that NatWest had given them only seven months earlier that, in turn, replaced an earlier same-company mortgage) in full. Why..? According to NatWest, this was due to a ‘review of the banking arrangements you have with us’.

Clearly it didn’t matter to NatWest that the couple had never in their lives missed a payment. Anyhow… the Addyam’s did the dutiful thing and tried to find another lender. In this ‘ere current market – a hopeless task. But, they gave it their best shot.

This, almost needless to say, wasn’t good enough for the NatWest bullies – absolutely not. Two weeks ago, they fired off yet another letter which stated that unless they received the full payment within a calendar week, the couple’s home would be repossessed.

And the sum that the Addyams were supposed to conjure up..? £226,000 – like… that’s not too hard to find, in these recessionary times… is it?

So… what has Peter Addyam got to say about the predicament he and his family are being forced to square up to – We face Christmas with the prospect of being made homeless and they (the NatWest) won’t even tell us why.

And, NatWest (which we shouldn’t forget is part of The Royal Bank Of Scotland and thus part-owned by the Government) – what have they said..? They’ve justified their actions, by saying that the ‘loan’ is being recalled because of ‘very limited and exceptional circumstances’

That may well be the case… but, don’t the NatWest – and remember who actually part-owns it – have a moral duty here? Or am I just thinking the bleedin’ obvious?

Because… isn’t it their duty to work with these people and try to find a solution to the predicament that they, unwittingly and through no fault of their own, find themselves in?

Secondly, hasn’t one of the bullying-bankers thought about or considered the kind of stress this puts a family with small children under?

Or, are they – the banking-bullies only concerned about making the figures stack up – the numbers they’ve fxxxxd up so magnificently over the last however long – so as to all become due their bonuses…

And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
From the profit he’s made off your dreams

How long ago was it when Morgan Stanley was bailed out by the US Government?

In the last two, maybe three months… something like that. They’re a global entity and they’re in just as much as we’re in (or, in my view at the start of) a global depression – perhaps not quite so bad as the 1929 crash but, 2009 will inform us all better on that I think.

So… given all of that… how will the 5,000 London-based employees of this up-standing firm fare this Christmas? Its festive-frolic-bonus-time as usual with reports telling us – the mere mortals on this planet – that their staff will all be taking home around about £53,000… extra... each. That, I’d imagine, is more than most people earn in a year.

Rather responsible of the bank’s board, wouldn’t you say? Clearly looking to set an example.

And Goldman Sachs – what about them..? They too have over 5,000 UK employees and will they get their mince pies and stuffing as well..? Of course they will… an average of about £142,500 will pop up in their January pay-packets. It seems somehow irrelevant that not that long ago Goldmine Sachs was forced to accept a £6.5billion lifeline from the U.S. government after not just falling prey to the current crisis but to stop it actually going under.

Is this truly mad or is it just a maddening way to end the year?

A week in which Richard Branson – sorry, Sir Richard – came out live on TV saying, the economy if fxxxxd. Yes it is… absolutely… so why on earth does this lunacy of greed… and illogical spending… still exist?

Hasn’t anyone learned anything from what is going on around us, from what’s staring us straight in the face?

Clearly not, because yesterday shoppers in London alone credit-carded and cash-machined their way to a record sale-day by spending… £60 million… in one, single day. It’s their choice and I’m not suggesting otherwise… my voltaire, however, suggests that shoppers were very neatly provoked though.

The stores were and are discounting everything in sight – and, hungry shoppers eager for colossal bargains were taking advantage. Nothing wrong with that – we all love a good deal.

So… the much anticipated, much heralded pre-Christmas boost for the high street (doubtless reflected around the globe) has finally come. That’s good… or… is it?

I’m not so sure.

It is pretty obvious that some retailers are in real peril. Otherwise, why the insane level of discounts? What are they – the retailers – actually trying to achieve? Isn’t that blindingly obvious..?

They’re trying – by whatever means they can find – to raise cash.

They all have staff, rent and overheads to pay. So… how can they do that when there has been no trade to speak of during the last few months? Discount everything in sight – and raise the cash that way.

A short-term solution but, what will it mean for the longer term..? What will occur within the high street geography in the first or second quarter of 2009..?

From where I’m sitting, I’m thinking it could well be somewhat similar to the twin towers collapsing… leaving a vast mound of rubble, twisted steel and dismembered body-parts, the accumulated haze of dust hanging like a funeral pall over bereft cities and towns.

Town centres will become decimated as shops go under. The landscape is about to change forever.

Will this / could this really happen?

It’s like the bloke says in one of the Titanic films – the one in which Kenneth Moore nonchalantly saves everyone who hasn’t otherwise already drowned from the freezing waters of Ruislip Lido (where all of the sea-scape scenes were filmed). The one in which the bloke who designed the ship is asked by the bearded Captain if his ship is really going to sink. And is met with the reply, Captain, it’s a mathematical certainty… look, I’ll show you. And, he proceeds to explain it all-too graphically.

We’re in that time now.

High streets will resemble ghost-towns and we’ll be left to the tender mercies of the slightly-out-of-town megastores – life as we know it according to Tescos or Wallmart - its there now, with the smaller shops closing by the day… Because…

If shop or retail outlet A buy for X and sell for Y, then figure Y has to be more than figure X – if not, shopkeeper A is committing financial hari-kari.

Two questions arise…

Just how long can any store survive by this level of discounting..?

And…maybe… or, even perhaps… or…

Have we all been hoodwinked for overlong seeing as how most of the stuff that is now being so heavily-discounted is made for nuts-whole-hazelnuts in China?

If so, does that mean that prices are now realistic… whilst still be sold for a decent profit?

Whichever way it’s looked at, there’s been some criminal activity going on.

But today you just read that the man was shot dead
By a gun that didn’t make any noise

And, now I’m starting to rather wonder if a life of crime isn’t such a bad vocation after all since, in the last year alone, the UK Government have off-loaded £3.32 million – yes, that’s the stated figure – as compensation to convicted criminals who have (and I’m quoting here) either ‘slipped in the shower’ or have ‘fallen down the stairs’ whilst incarcerated. Within that figure are also claims (that have been met) for ‘breaches of human rights’ and ‘damage to property’.

Allright, being of criminal bent isn't really that clever (sic) so, perhaps we should all turn to the internet… but, maybe we already have since it is anticipated that on Christmas Day itself – there will be more people logged on in the search for bargains than will actually go to Church. Ahh, it must be 2008 – still... but what of 2009 and beyond?

My friendly computer guru, Steve – who has his ear far more to the ground than pretty much anyone I know – offered up some truly alarming thoughts the other evening on this subject over a stupendously good Rhone red; what better currency to indulge in for fixing nasty computer viruses.

He’s predicting the soon-come end of the internet as we know and love it – and, his reasoning is so logical that it’d be hard to disagree.

It cannot sustain itself.

We – all of us – cruise about and get chunks of this that and the next thing for nothing. Information by the country-mile, news in any shape and colour, music by the terabyte and anime pornography from Japan if that’s your kind of thing – crouching geisha, hidden cucumber anyone?

But, the reality of all of this is a bit like going in to see Mr Marks and Mr Spencer, eyeing up a particular cashmere sweater in an attractive shade of lime-green and walking off with it… without paying.

How so..? Because creativity costs… and, creators have just as many bills to pay as the rest of us. Equals – if their work isn’t or cannot be paid for, it cannot be sustained.

And it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest
It was the low spark of high heeled boys.

So… here’s my first festive resolution… after all, this is the season of goodwill to all men, is it not?

Part of me (ok, almost every little bit of me) would really like to share a shower with one of the NatWest people; those uncaring, over-bonused, insensitive bullies who’ve as near as dammit ruined the Addyam’s festive season.

And to then – slowly – anally force-feed them… a bar of old-fashioned carbolic soap; the bars with the square ends.

That said, I really am looking forward to 2009 – on the basis that it simply cannot be as lousy as the last 12 months have been.


Anonymous said...

that is a clever, witty piece of writing... agree with most if not all of what u say... an ingenious use of music and thought process. sally, southampton

Anonymous said...

Finger on the pulse as usual... have been awaiting a new post from you! And, you've not disapointed!

Really like the way you've used the Traffic song (one of my own favorites) within the whole piece, very clever.

Looking forward to more in the New Year.

Have a good holiday, JD.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Fantasy,

Play us a tune, something to make us all happy... do anything... take us out of this gloom.