I am not yet quite over it.
I am lying down on top of it.
Surveying behind me a wasteland
of dried-up promise.
While the lights below twinkle
with dull mocking uncertainty.
There isn’t much left to look forward to,
and the looking forward of the past has been belied.
I am not yet quite over it.
These notes adorn the recently reissued Blissed Out Fatalists record – a ‘forgotten classic’ – on the Body Double label.
Let me bore you to death with tales of the pure old days.
The 1980s were a wretched time, musically (if music counts for anything) and otherwise. Maybe that’s because I was obliged to squander the bloom of my youth on that dreary decade, but all these years later that period still seems to mark the final descent into sickly homogeneity, after which everything that makes life fun and interesting – wine, crime, song, etc – was devitalized or revitalized in an unbecoming manner. Nothing seems to have improved since then – and if it had, I probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Musically (if music means anything), the great experiments of the post-punk era had been successfully washed away in massive waves of blow-dried tedium. It was a time when sex and death were inextricably linked – and not in a good way – although the threat of deadly social diseases never really put the kibosh on one’s amorous activities or drug consumption.
In the perverse interest of getting as far away as possible from the idyllic surroundings in which I was raised, I moved from Old Lady London to the City of Loose Angels in the mid-80s, exchanging grim reality for feckless heliolatry. Upon arrival, I was lucky enough to fall in with a bad crowd, being granted entree to some of the most rarefied young bohemian circles in town. Jeff and Nic were two of my closest friends at the time, and oh, the fun we had: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very Heaven,” simply because we were of the age when pleasure came first.
In those days, taxi dancing joints still flourished in downtown LA: dancehalls where lonely men paid relatively attractive women a per-song rate for the human contact afforded by a dance partner. Nic resided above one of these establishments in a charmingly desolate neighborhood of residential hotels and cheap rooming houses that has subsequently been transformed into a massive generic entertainment zone. Downtown was still down: people pushed drugs, not baby carriages, on the corner of 5th and Main, and a so-called dive bar was not a young man’s reinvention of an old man’s bar but a place where today’s hipster elitists in short pants would fear to tread. Los Angeles, 1987: It was in this dull lull that the Blissed Out Fatalists burned hard and faded fast – in the death rattle of more culturally vibrant decades, preceding the takeover of the internet and its resulting transformation of almost everything into a vapid, self-conscious version of its former self.
Musically (for what that’s worth), the margins have now been opened up, the frontier expanded: what were once wide-open spaces are now subdivisions, planned communities, and retirement communities – living the assisted rock and roll dream. Rock and roll – as an art form (if you insist) – is now dead. Like jazz and blues that went before, its years of evolution – before it stopped mutating and started exclusively cannibalizing itself – have been meticulously catalogued, but it is kept on a respirator thanks to the insatiable musical appetites of an ever-increasing audience perpetually athirst for whatever dilution is allowed to trickle down to them. And still, the cream seldom rises to the top.
What all this has to do with BOF, I don’t really know. I knew them at the time. Jeffrey drove around in a rusted jeep convertible, Nic drove a rusted ‘55 Chevy. They both moved on: they now drive new model vehicles – while, much to my discredit, I’m still here, sinking in LA-lienation, navigating my way around by using Lost Architecture as guideposts, as everything relevant and real speeds backwards into the past, turning into flashbacks. I don’t remember having seen BOF perform. In the interest of self-immolation, they deliberately rejected the advances of major record companies and blew other golden opportunities. They could have been big, but they couldn’t be bothered. And for that reason, if no other, they were probably great.
Out of perversity, idleness, cowardice, fatalism and integrity,
I have chosen to shun my true path.
Despite it all, I have developed, in my time,
a certain unavoidable attachment to my life
and my ways: the chronic circlings between frustration
and inertia somehow comfort me – and, in the end,
I would rather be myself than anybody else.
Still, I suppose most people feel that way.
Daunted by the energy that might be unleashed
were I to concentrate on the supposed task –
of what it might subtract, exact and adulterate; and of
the gagging staleness that could issue forth, if finally
penetrated, from something so long suppressed.
Succumbing instead to these afternoons of claustrophobic
wandering and restless prostration. Committed, only
to non-commitment. Driven, only to distraction.
For years on end I have been sitting here,
impatiently awaiting potency: some explosive revelatory surge
that will carry me away and permit no looking back.
But this moment of deliverance has not arrived,
and I have done nothing to hasten it.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
Perhaps I wasn’t meant to do anything.
In which case, I have succeeded admirably.
Is there any point in sitting here at all:
courting luck without design; stretching out
a dry spell; groggily awaiting the occasional spark;
comforting myself in the knowledge
of what I might be capable of,
while watching my capabilities slipping by;
satisfying myself that I can’t sink any lower.
Then, sinking lower.