Friday, March 27, 2009

Clare Island (Will You Meet Me On...)

I was running a tiny bit late… what can I say but admit it… not too late as to be hugely rude but… just enough to bring about that level of self-annoyance with which one berates oneself from time to time.

Left bang on time but kyboshed by that law unto itself – public transport… hey, what can you say..? Doubtless the same the world over.

Added to which, while the address to which I’d been bidden had been carefully written down in my diary that, in turn nestled deep within the bowels of my trusty basket-weave shopping bag – I still managed to bowl up at the wrong place.

Shopping basket is actually more appropriate for trawling around the markets at Brantome or Thiviers as I did in days of yore; eager to meet up with Asparagus-bloke in early-April – one kilo of his very finest, a baguette from sing-song lady’s Boulangerie just opposite the Puy Joli café together with a bottle of nicely-chilled out of the fridge and Luncheon used to be well and truly sorted.

Nowadays, shopping basket serves as my de-facto briefcase; the proper one has been gathering dust down in the dungeon at Merle Hq for many months now.

In any event, coat-tails flapping bat-like behind me, I stride purposefully into the building to which I believe I’m due to arrive; clickety-clacking my way across the anticipated marble floor and… brilliant… there’s a sign saying ‘information desk’.

Shopping bag, sexy sexy boots and self then encounter the first missing-link of the day.

Blokey-bloke who manfully mans this haven of knowledge is bent over, stuffing leaflets and other frightfully important things into pigeon-holes; he’s clearly intent on his task as a polite cough to attract his attention fails miserably.

I opt for the more direct approach… Hello..? Again… no response as the bent-over figure in his lair stuffs more and more leaflets into their respective pens. Hmmm…

Excuse me… could you help me, please?

Que…? He stands upright, massaging his back… Que..?

Oh shit, I’ve met Manuel.

Hello… I grin somewhat foolishly… I’m looking for the offices of… and could you direct me please?


Drat… he’s a Mexican-Russian… I know… I’ll speak v e r y s l o w l y.

I ask again for directions, pronouncing the words ever so carefully… single syllable stuff; my mouth making shapes like a landed Salmon gasping for air.

He grins… nods… shrugs his shoulders… grins again and points… Que..? Niet… Police… there…

Damn… I’ve no chance. Glancing over my shoulder in the direction in which Manuel has pointed I can’t help but notice an enormous Policeman wandering in the distance, flanked by a squatter colleague who is talking confidentially into a hidden microphone attached to his jacket; one is as tall as the other is wide and both are carrying sub-machine guns. Maybe they're staking out Manuel?

I wander over… Do you think you could help me, I’m looking for..?

Out the door, turn left… left again… straight in front of you… ok? His colleague is eyeing me up and down, caressing his carbine with more than due attention as I thank Police-bloke # 1.

Time to about-face, retrace steps, head through the revolving door and out into the outside world again. Three minutes later, I’ve dodged the rushing traffic and made it to the sunny side of the street and finally found where I should have been a few minutes ago. The Security Guard here has been trained at the school of nonchalance. He has no gun (that I can see) and is reading his newspaper. He glances up and merely nods as I walk by – destination the sixth floor.

A little over seventy minutes later and the tall-bloke in the black drainpipe jeans with whom I’ve been discussing Project-X is walking with me as I leave. We’re still discussing all the possibilities of X but pause in their secondary reception area; the walls are festooned with posters… images from my own past… that black-drainpipe-jeans-chap has collected over the years.

Pride of place are given to three, two of which I know really well – the first has become one of the most iconic images of Jimi Hendrix ever shot; Gered Mankowitz’s original 1967 black and white of Jimi wearing his trademark military coat staring straight into Gered's camera at his Mason's Yard studio.

Some years back, this became the image that was used as the front cover for the uber-selling compilation, The Ultimate Experience as well as the flagship image for the exhibition that toured the world… The exhibition that began with not one but two preview nights in a skinny little Notting Hill Gallery in London… the crowds so vast that the entire street had to be closed off by the Police and people queued to get in… the day that Q Magazine published their one and only retrospective Hendrix cover story.

Rob and I framed two copies of that cover… both blown up to 30x40 size – his hangs just outside his old – soon to close down – office at Coalition, mine hangs on one of the back walls of the barn at Merle Hq.

An artist’s proof – of which I believe only two were manufactured – of the David Costa / Gered Mankowitz colourised and manipulated black and white original used to hang at the top of the stairs at every home I’ve owned since. A positioning that used to annoy the hell out of my (aged) Mother who complained bitterly every time she came to stay… I wish you’d move Jimi… it scares the life out of me every time I go up to bed. That now lays face to the wall in the attic at Merle Hq.

The other is a hand-coloured Adrian Boot image of a Bob Marley black and white; Bob sitting with a half-smoked spliff hanging from his lips strumming an acoustic guitar. It’s early Bob – probably from the mid-seventies… dating his pictures is usually pretty simple as they’re always governed by the length of his locks. In this instance, they’re pretty short so, it’s probably from around the time that the Burnin’ album was recorded. And, another that we used in the globally touring Marley Exhibition.

The Irish quartet are represented (a picture that I erroneously first identify as being by David Corio) but almost immediately realise is, actually, an image that looks suspiciously like an outtake from a Paul Slattery shoot that, I suspect, would have originally been commissioned for the now defunct Sounds – one of the UK weekly inkies that long since bit the dust… the days of Melody Maker selling hundreds of thousands of copies each and every week being long long past.

Indeed… one would have thought that periodicals as crucial as the likes of Melody Maker would have been properly archived. Curiously enough… not so.

A number of weeks ago and a flurry of back and forth e-mails between the production company that are putting together the forthcoming Island50 tv programme and self started up again. Did I have any idea where old pictures could be found of 22 St Peters Square since Island, themselves, had nothing on file. Oddly enough – yes. In fact, two places…

Steve Taylor’s article in an early-eighties edition of The Face and Rob’s own early-seventies Melody Maker article (referred to here in an earlier Voltaire); the former I have – the latter I’ve lost along the way. No matter… maybe a chance to get hold of it all over again.

Spot of research and… everywhere I looked drew blanks. Hmmm, bollox. I can’t access my own copies of The Face so… surely I can get a hold of a copy of the Melody Maker from… shit, I can’t exactly recall when… this is the kind of research that needs one to be a bit more precise than vague.

Ultimately, I hit paydirt… Melody Maker do have a sort of archive and finally I find someone who’s prepared to trawl through old bound editions and… locate what I’m after and… email over photostats turned into .jpegs.

It was quite curious re-reading that article after so long… the style of writing for instance very much in the seventies vein… but yes, the images were there and the photographer was easily identified and… contacted by the production company and… even better, it appeared that he still had the original negatives. Jobs a good ‘un.

Not only that but… Rob’s being posthumously awarded with the hugely prestigious Strat Award at the forthcoming Music Week awards in a couple of week’s time… and, the headline in that article – Island Of Dreams – came out sufficiently well to be sent over to the editorial bods there for them to add it (or not as the case may be) to the images that’ll be used in amongst the talking heads waxing lyrical about Rob for when Tina steps up onto the dais to receive his award.

Which is what all these pieces to camera that I’ve been doing have all been about… and, while its been a bit fraught getting files of the size they came out at FTP’d over… job’s now done.

Actually… no… Its not quite safe to head out of these particular woods just yet because… just back from my Project-X meeting, brimming with positivity and what am I greeted with? An e-mail in-bound from the ever-so-patient lady who runs the production company who are putting all these talking head interviews together that tells me:

Hi Neil, I’m so sorry, but the saga continues! It would appear that 3 of your files have been created at 8frames/second:
Chris Blackwell G
Rob A B C
Rob & the Chicken
Would it be at all possible to have them re-supplied selecting 29.9 frames/seconds. Otherwise we will have the Benny Hill affect on all the footage from those three sections. I’m so terribly sorry about this, hope I don’t make you want to through the computer out the window!!

Oh dear… its her incredibly courteous way of informing me I’ve fxxxxd up; I’d not re-set the bit-rate gadget within Final Cut Pro – plus, her adjectival use of Benny and Hill makes me wince. Darn… the chances of my looking even more foolish than usual have shot up like an over-excited priest’s robe stumbling across a gaggle of skimpy-sunbathing-behind-the-high-walls-of-the-convent novice nuns.

Time to get to grips with technology. Firstly, Fetch – which is the software that I’ve been using – appears to crash horribly with any attempt at overloading it past the 100Mb rate… hmmm… time for a spot of Googling… there has to be a FTP thingie out there that’ll take and transmit and not trash all this work… surely to goodness there is.

And, sure enough there are, dozens of the blighters. But… while certain ones download terribly easily, they don’t always open as applications. And, when others do, one finds the interface about as user-friendly as Jenson Button’s steering wheel – not to be approached by the faint-hearted or clinically incompetent, the latter category in which I currently reside.

Dammit, its enough trying to figure out the latest Facebook interface without having to learn an entirely new computer language. Talking of which, what on earth were the boffins behind that doing when they chopped and changed something perfectly usable into… total shite.

Anyway, eventually one FTP thingie both downloads and launches. Cape Canavaral… here I come.

The application that promises to do all I require of it (other than make me a bacon sandwich) is called… CyberDuck… I feel better already.

The icon that appears on the desk-top is a rather good imitation of a Rubber Duck… gloriously yellow with a little red beak; more properly suited to aqua-pursuits for a young child than computing for adults. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into this little blighter.

Double-click – as one does… and it sparks into life. So far, so OK.

Next step… find the up-load gadget… that’s easy enough… transfer file from one folder to another… easy-peasy… and depress play. It starts to transmit – in just under an hour it’ll hit the magic marker of 100Mb so, nothing much to do until then… time to cook a spot of Red Cooked Pork.

Rubber Duck doesn’t just get to the 100Mb marker, it passes Go like a machine fed on Emu oil and collects its 200 squiddlys. This is all looking really rather promising and… ultimately the first file – the one which is marked up as Rob and The Chicken – heads off into the ether and… so far as I can work out, lands the other end.

Whether this is a usable bit of Storey-waffle for the Music Week Awards, I’ve no idea but… they (patient-lady at the production house and her gang) now have the tale of Rob and self attempting to hail cabs in the middle of a bleak midwinter somewhere along the Goldhawk Road, destination St Peters Square, W6.

We'd had a couple of preparatory bracers chez Rob & Tina Hq... and... Rob had decided he'd hide in the bushes while I’d been dispatched kerb-side to hail the cab.

None stopped although quite a few slowed down.

Proof positive that its not that simple a job getting a cab to stop and actually pick one up while dressed as a Chicken as Rob adjusted his Darth Vadar outfit… the one with the close fitting helmet that meant that his glasses as well as the visor steamed up every time he breathed out.

It was a bit better the next year… we tried the same trick… Carmen Miranda hid in the undergrowth, the Nun hailed the cab… they began queuing up when I started flashing a be-stockinged leg.

Next up… the missing Blackwell file. Follow the same procedure and… bollox…

Rubber Duck refuses to get its feathers wet.

Try again… same result. Try for the next two hours… same again and again and again; I’m turning into a TeleTubbie.

Right, you yellow-bellied swine… I’ll download you all over again and try it that way. Another hour later and I’ve got Rubber bloody Duck’s breeding all over the screen… One little yellow bxxxxxr is there and there’s another down at the bottom of the screen and yet another hiding under that application over there. And, none of them are prepared to play. Start to delete them but… the bloody things keep breeding and won’t go away. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh.

Time for an excessively large vodka that comes perilously close to the bottle of tonic that I’m waving at it. This does the trick because, within a few moments, one of the cousins of the original Rubber Duck, sparks into life, accepts the connection and the second transfer starts up. Phew.

I delete all the other Rubber Ducks and, as the transfer wobbles away, hit the hay. Magically, Rubber Duck – first cousin, almost removed – behaves in the morning and the third transfer heads off into the ether with barely a backward glance.

All of which, of course, has little to do with Project-X.

So, come on Storey… what happened… its all very well being entertaining with stories about Chickens, stockinged Nuns, Darth Vadar getting all steamed up, Carmen Miranda and Rubber Ducks but… can we get to the meat and potatoes… please?

Oh… very well then.

It was a very positive step forward overall; it was great meeting with someone who – unlike the Education Strategist – got the plot from the off and didn’t seek to unravel it with a fistful of ‘wouldn’t it be better if you approached it this way, that way or any other way’. Someone who cut to the chase from the opening salvoes and who saw all the inherent possibilities and wanted to explore them further by sharing with his colleagues on a near-as-dammit immediate basis.

All to the extent (though without revealing too much that occurred behind closed doors), that I’m cautiously optimistic that it won’t be the last time we meet by any stretch of the imagination.

He’s a thoroughly good bloke too – music courses through his veins like the elixir of life; he knows his stuff… and… yeah… I'd say a great step forward.

Added to which, next Tuesday’s noon-time meeting has also just been confirmed – which means that the sexy sexy boots will probably come out to play all over again.

I pretty much know where I’m heading to and… baring further encounters with Mexican-Russian illegal émigrés, aim to be there at the appointed this time around.

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