Psychomachia, an excerpt
and the Hackney Visionaries tour...
Hello dear readers, I’m writing shyly, because I’m sharing with you the thing that means most - my novel.
"You're either on the bus, or off the bus…” Ken Kesey
"…the compensation of a very early success is a conviction that life is a romantic matter. In the best sense one stays young” F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Die young, stay pretty” Blondie
*(the story begins here, before moving onto Chapter Zero. These are the pages an agent suggested I ditch as they may put people off their breakfast - so put down your muesli, and be aware, there are swear words ahead)
HMP Holloway, February 1998
I suck on the shit-stained bristles of the toothbrush I found rammed behind the cold iron radiator. It looks as fucked up as I got in Shoreditch: from snow white plastic to the broken virginity of Nightclub-Floor-In-The-Morning Black. The handle's snapped away, lost forever, and I chew the remains. Tonight, again, the water's off - it's like a bad rave. The screws think we'd flood the place. They're right.
[TO INTERRUPT MYSELF, AS I DO THE FINEST OF OTHERS - I’d like to thank all you good people for talking about the book, sharing it, sending me love - it’s made it a trip. To the people who have styled the cover with lines of cocaine, and leather jackets - that’s been a special extra. And my celebrity friends, Irvine Welsh, Jim Sclavunos, Gail Porter, Graham Bendel, David Erdos et al - please don’t ever stop endorsing my fragile ego…]
In London, everything looks good, sounds good. The piss-yellow glow of gold. It’s all fiction, right? Like my admission to murdering Malachi Wright, of Wright States International Touring. I had every reason to kill him, dear, dear reader, I am sure you will agree.
I look at my old diaries brought in by Harry the lawyer, a posh wide-boy with more anarchy than the Sex Pistols¹. [nb. the book details the protagonists’ deities of the era, as footnotes, the dead rockstars - and the stories around their strange conspiracy deaths create a sub-book of their own. See below…]
Telling me to go through them, and get a grip on what was really going on. I find a note from when I first met Ruby Moon. She was sheathed in a silver catsuit and leant over her mirror ball shop counter in Portobello. Her advice: "London is a game. It's full of people in disguises. It's all a look. Use these streets like they're supposed to be walked on, don't let them use you.” I didn’t get what she was saying. It never made sense, but the words chip at me like I’m white bathroom enamel. I was so distracted, thinking her mouth was bigger than her face, I squirm in my grey prison tracksuit.
The memory blends with WPC Pizza Face, on my way here:
“Who do you think you are, taking someone's life?”
Her chip-fat hair splattering around the vaults of the police station in Covent Garden after the party to end all parties. Even she knew I should have been more neutral. More Calvin Klein. I threw my head back ninety degrees, as if my neck snapped, rocking back on the metal legs of the black PVC seat at the cop shop - sliding down deeper, my eyes on the glass bricks flashing in the ceiling, to the pavement above, each little window going light and dark with people walking on top, reminiscent of a recording studio desk - bumping up and down with levels. I wanted to know what shoes they were wearing. I should know, I thought, working in fashion. But like my admission to murder, fashion is all a great game of pretence, manufacturing illusions of perfection. That's why I was so bored, and made the detour into porn. I was only pretending to be crazy, ma’am. I giggled, sheltering in the colour of the night, the glorious noise of fried-neon pain, dripping in sequin smithereens across a blood-splattered canvas. Darling reader, the patina of our experience was SHRIEKING. After, I compared myself to a hyena, finding this hilarious. The only mangy flea-bitten bitch on the hill. “You're high, alright, Scarlet.”
This is a mess. I’m a mess. These flashback loops are enough to strangle a girl. Every time, I laugh less. Plus, Malachi’s ghost’s been fucking me all night. The dark lord enters as I hover above the metal toilet to pee, I know it's him. I spasm three levels inside: pussy; spunk tunnel; womb. My heart stops, I burst atomically, wild sexual energy ratchets me into the dark corners of this cell, his vibes sling lightning through the iron bars. I wouldn't water the vinous-faced cunt's grave by squatting on it; and still, he takes the piss, my piss, my power, from this perch in Hell. Mainlining me to the black, male cord of rock n roll which roots across the astral planes.
SO THERE IT IS - the intro pages to my novel which is having good things said about it - thank you, after taking the best part of 15 years, a marriage, a few brushes with sanity - and more drafts than hot dinners (I’m a woman of salads], one trait that has followed it around has been how writing imitates the prophecy of art and reflects back into it - I’d write something, and then it would happen, and now, as the story is about a band, in Shoreditch - I find myself on a tour of Hackney this week…
Tomorrow the Vagrant Lovers play The Victoria in Dalston. Our debut physical release is out now with Das Wasteland (listen to it in that lil video clip above. Available in all good record shops. I get compared to Patti Smith in ****MOJO. Thank you, universe. We’re supporting Made, one of the members is from Fat White Family. It’s a free show from Sean McLusky’s 1234, we’ll be on stage by 9pm, so you can get home in time for a cocoa. And maybe, so will I.
On Friday - I’m honoured to play alongside the great Jonny Halifax Invocation. If you’ve never seen one of the most bearded slide guitar shronk raag blues in the history of musical brilliance - come along, it’s a fiver, at Grow London. There will be visuals. It’ll get increasingly rave through the night. We are on at 8.30pm.
November 5th saw the release of Gil De Ray’s new Yellow Eyes album. Made with Parisian, Benjamin Floor Trauma in Helsinki, and Mikey Buckley from Desertships - there are some beautiful tracks on it - and I made a limited edition lil lyric book to accompany. Listen good.
And last week, the first Ambit magazine where my name appears as editor, dropped at London Fields Brewery (although the rest of the print run will be sent out this week). Ambit 245 is an 80-pager celebrating the winners of the Annual Ambit Competitions for Art, Story and Poems taking the theme of Metamorphosis. We’ve published all the winners and commended entrants selected by the brilliant judges, Kim Addonizio and Michael Salu (his show is open in Berlin till Jan). It’s a good read, and beautifully designed by Stephen Barrett who did the covers and inners for my book. Ambit’s taken my life in the past year. I’m feeling my way as I go, and have had to teach undergrads in the past year too (Music Industry, which has been quite interesting - thanks to Geoff Travis of Rough Trade for the guest lecture) but do Support, Subscribe, Submit - if you’re interested. The poetry submissions open tomorrow for the February issue. Come poets, druids, ravers. x
¹ John was a lonesome punk growing up in Ibiza, but found friends in a gang of Johns in London. Born John Simon Ritchie (10 May 1957) he became John Beverley when his mother remarried in 1965. The Johns prowled the King’s Road and most of them shared a Finsbury Park flat. The leader was John Lydon* who became Johnny Rotten, joined by John Wardle AKA Jah Wobble, John Gray, and John 'Rambo' Stevens (Lydon’s left-hand). There was also John ‘Boogie’ Tiberi, who later became tour manager. All being called John was confusing, so adopting nicknames was essential for the sense of self they championed. John Beverley became Sid Vicious when, apparently, Lydon's hamster, Sid, bit him: 'Oi, Sid's vicious!’. Before joining the Sex Pistols as bassist, John Beverley was frontman in Flowers of Romance with Viv Albertine (who was later in The Slits). Sid learned to play from a Ramones record, although Lemmy, for one, debated how much that taught him. Either way, he oozed style and attitude, and was undoubtedly smart, playing drums for Siouxsie and the Banshees at their first 100 Club gig.
The Sex Pistols split on 14th January 1978. Sid stayed in the States (despite he and the Pistols' criminal records). He was with Nancy Spungeon, a former sex worker who was more than kicked by the boot of punk's patriarchy. After the Pistols split, Sid performed in a one-off band with Johnny Thunders, and another with Mick Jones of The Clash. Nancy once appeared as a backing singer but apparently was so strung out that both her and Sid's amps were turned off. Vicious died in New York after his mother ordered him some heroin following a compulsory detox and a fifty-five day prison sentence having glassed Patti Smith's brother, Todd, in a New York disco. Sid fell cold on 2nd February 1979. Undoubtedly stressed, awaiting trial for murdering Nancy. She was found dead in a room at the Chelsea Hotel with a stab wound in her stomach on 12th October 1978 (the blade was Sid's. He'd bought one like his hero's, Dee Dee Ramone, which in turn had been given to Dee Dee by Stiv Bators of The Dead Boys). Various Chelsea residents suggested a drug dealer had been present when Nancy died, and it's likely that Sid expected drugs on tick, as he had received them in London, but New York rules are different. Sid was 21 when he died.
*John Lydon escaped death by missing the 1988 Lockerbie Pan Am flight with his wife, Nora Forster (whose grandfather owned Der Spiegel newspaper, her former lovers including Chris Spedding and Hendrix, also mother to The Slits' frontwoman, Ari Up). The Four Tops were also due on the plane.