Monday, June 07, 2010

Getting It by Andrew Laws

This is the first chapter of a romantic novel I have written. Samples were sent off to a handful of agents last week, and while I wait to hear back from them I thought you (my blog readers) might enjoy a taster. I may take this chapter off the blog in a few days time so don't hang around if you want to read it!

The first three chapters can be downloaded from my writing site here -

Getting it.
By Andrew Laws

Chapter 1
If tonight has taught me anything it’s that the cosmos has a sick sense of humour. What are you trying to tell me oh great cosmos? Are you trying to tell me if I see a fellow human in need I should look away and hope someone else steps in to salve the sorrow? If I see someone being mocked should I not offer them the healing force of my fellowship? Am I right in thinking you don’t want me to lend support to those in need? Because based on tonight’s events if that’s the message you’re broadcasting then I’m not ready to receive it.

Okay, I should probably explain: Earlier tonight I went to the city with a bunch of friends on one of those super saver train deals to see a certain well known political punk band at what could charitably be described as an ‘intimate venue’. I won’t trouble you with details of every member of the party (you may already know them anyway), but it’s worth noting that the whole event was organised by one of the more smug couples I know (Victoria and Sid). It’s worth noting their hand in planning because they seem unable to invite me along to any event without carting along at least one of their single friends ‘just in case’. They’ve been pulling this trick for so long (without success in hooking me up) they’ve moved on from exclusively inviting female friends - occasionally they’ll invite an eligible man, just in case I’m curious. Why are smug couples so intent on coupling up singletons?

Tonight’s exhibit was a very loud dreadlocked Australian girl called Beth. Considering how long I’ve known aforementioned smug couple it amazes me that they no longer seem to have any idea what sort of women I’m attracted to. Mind you, I’ve been single so long I’m not sure I know myself. For a while now I’ve considered myself sort of asexual, a bit like a snail, only with (marginally) better dance moves. I may only have distant memories of dating, but I can say with some certainty that Beth isn’t my type.

Some people believe in love at first sight, so bearing in mind this fascination karma has with maintaining balance there must be such a concept as hate at first sight. Actually I can’t go that far, I believe hate is an entirely negative force that will eventually tear apart fragile humanity by its tear-sodden seams. Of course I don’t go about actually making statements like that. Not all of the time. So I can’t say I hated Beth the first time I saw her, but I certainly didn’t fall in love. It wasn’t hate at first sight; it was mild (but restrained) revulsion. No, revulsion is too strong a word; if we allow revulsion into our lives we’ll never be able to cross the force field of distain and worship in the cleansing light of understanding brotherly love. Let’s just say when we got on the train at the start of the night I fell back and found a seat away from my party.

By the time we had been rattled and screeched to our destination (courtesy of a surprisingly expensive fare on the Underground) our initial euphoria at hitting the town had waned somewhat; I dare say we were a bit jaded. We wallowed in a disgruntlement nurtured by some rather personal and intimately investigative searches carried out by the security staff at the venue. I shouldn’t complain too much; barring a recent medical at the sexual health clinic being checked for guns and knives was the nearest I’m come to sexual contact in a long time.

I’m not sure why I went to the clinic; it’s not like I’ve had the opportunity to pick up anything contagious recently. Maybe I just wanted reassurance I am still properly equipped and capable of sex ‘just in case’?

Whilst I may have enjoyed being personally violated (on some level) the edgy mood in the venue made it clear I was in a desperately small minority. There was an air of restlessness – couples clung to each other to reassure themselves the probing hands of the security staff didn’t amount to being unfaithful. A crowd at a packed gig will gladly dance with their faces glancing off the sweaty armpits of fellow audience members, but the carefree groping of a bouncer at the start of the evening is considered unacceptable.

The angry political punk band we were all there to see saw fit to have some chap armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar (and songs about feelings) open up for them. As I’m sure you can imagine his musings missed the mark. The crowd was a constant tidal surge to and from the bar, colliding with a large number of people pushing through them in search of the fresh air of the smoking pen outside. The mood was restless and the support act was struggling to hold more than a handful of eyes, and fewer ears.

The performance took a sharp nosedive for the heartfelt minstrel when mid warble something went horribly wrong with his guitar. After a few valiant attempts to take up where the song broke down he admitted temporary defeat, and did what anyone in his position would – he frantically gestured at his guitar while making pleading faces at the nearest sound engineer. Eventually a member of the stage crew took pity and joined him on stage to resurrect his failing axe. While the roadie did everything he could to resolve the situation (unplugging the guitar and then plugging it back in again) the number of faces watching increased. Mediocrity breeds ambivalence but failure inspires fascination. A few heckles started to ring out and in desperation the singer decided to take charge of the situation and attempted to fix his guitar himself. After a few minutes of frantically pulling the jack lead out of this guitar, blowing on it, and plugging it back in the jeering from the audience became more demanding. A few half-arsed shouts of ‘get on with it’ and ‘come on then’ visibly stung the guy and he stopped and slowly surveyed the crowd. Then things got weird.

I pushed forward through the crowd to get nearer the stage. I don’t know what I thought I could do to help, but in my experience you have to be in close proximity to a disaster to fix it. Someone shouted ‘play a song faggot’ and I saw my chance to get involved. The voice in the crowed rang out again,
“Play a song you ‘kin faggot.”
I have no tolerance for homophobia and made my feelings known at a volume that was a little louder than I intended. The low steady voice of the singer came booming over the speakers,
“What did you just say?”
“Play a song you ‘kin faggot!”
“No, not you; you’ve already made it clear you’re an idiot. Before tonight it was just you and your mom knew that, now everybody knows.”
There was an eerie silence in the room while people looked at each other and wondered who the man with the failed guitar was addressing.
“I want to know who thinks I need sticking up for? Who dared defend me?”
My stomach dropped through the floor and I made a pantomime show of looking over each shoulder, hoping the anonymity of the dark crowd would hide me.
“I want to know who thinks I need a self righteous guardian angel to look after me while I’m up here dying on my ass?”
Then it happened: I felt someone thump into my back, spill some beer down my spine and then forcefully shove my hand up in the air. It was Beth. The attack continued from the stage,
“I think you’re jealous - I’ve played in front of hard crowds all around the world, and the last thing I need when things are going wrong up here is some self righteous fuck for brains waving his little politically correct flag in the air and sticking up for me. Listen - you know nothing about me; you don’t know where I park my dick at night any better than this other moron who was yelling at me. If you dare try and belittle me by standing up for me again I’ll climb down there and remove your balls.”

I tried to back out of the crowd but with surprising strength Beth made sure I stayed exactly where I was. The angry face on stage started gesturing to the back of the room,
“Phil, find the spotlight, then find this great defender of the downtrodden here near the front.”
Thanks to Beth’s raised and pointing hands the blinding white of the spotlight found me soon enough; I froze rigid and awaited my fate.
“I want everyone in the crowd to take a good look at this guy, drink him in, go on. Remember that face, and each time you see him tonight I want you to point and laugh.”
There are times in ones life when a chant can really buoy the spirit, and then there are times like tonight. Just as the crowd’s chant of ‘point and laugh’ was reaching a crescendo the man on stage took off his guitar, threw it at the backline and stormed off. And the crowd went wild.

I turned to confront Beth and found her sat on the floor clutching her knees. She was laughing so hard it took several of her new found fans to help her to her feet. I pushed past her, past the mocking hordes and made my escape. I’m not ashamed to admit I was close to tears, in much the same way as when I was at school and a teacher mocked me for asking a stupid question in class. I didn’t get to see the main act; I spent the rest of the evening in the darkened corner of a nearby pub nursing a pint and taking deep breaths to hold back a ridiculous child like urge to burst into tears.

I met up with my friends when the show was over, and after a few well meant pats on the back and several appreciated hugs we made for the underground station. Just before we left I was relieved to see Beth wasn’t with us, but because I’m a nice guy I asked someone where she was. A finger was pointed to an alley beside the venue where Beth was exchanging cash for a small bag of god knows what with someone tall dark and gruesome. Still, it’s not my place to judge is it?

On the tube I scowled at Beth as she joined in with the enthusiastic reviews my friends were giving the band’s performance. It was a futile scowl; this woman clearly had no interest in how I was feeling after the large scale humiliation I suffered at her hands.

I turned away from Beth and noticed a woman sitting opposite me. This poor creature was looking pretty green around the gills and with each jolt of the carriage she gently burped and frowned. Sensing this may be someone that needed my support I moved across the carriage and sat down next to her, ready to offer words of comfort and wisdom. I guess I may have sat down a bit hard; she shot me a glance with wide eyes then opened up her handbag, emptied her stomach into it, then calmly closed it and elected to look the other way. A gargantuan roar of drunken laughter came thundering down the carriage and I turned to see Beth holding her knees again. She offered me her entirely unwanted appraisal of events.
“You just don’t learn do you? Point and laugh, point and laugh.”

As much as she made my buttocks clench with quiet rage I have to confess I was smiling a little on the inside – it was kinda nice (albeit in a confusing, seething and maddening way) to get some attention from a woman that wasn’t based entirely on pity or concern.

The first three chapters can be downloaded from my writing site here -

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Prolapse (the band).

This prolapse article originally appeared in Beat Motel issue #6 (October 2006).

This article about Prolapse wasn’t originally written to be an article for Beat Motel, it was in fact an email I was sending to Jason from Squad 69 that kinda got out of hand and ended up being huge, so I thought I’d reprint it here! The images are all scanned from an old newsletter I found down the back of my filing cabinet, if anyone knows the current whereabouts of this band please let me know!

I dearly love Prolapse, they were the first ‘big’ band I met as a teen that was keen to chat with us after the show and prove they were ordinary folk that liked to share their rider! Their first album ‘Pointless Walks to Dismal Places’ is one of my all time favourite albums, but their later album ‘The Italian Flag’ is in my opinion a work of pure genius, it’s very poppy but retains fantastic originality and the unusual rhythms that made me love their first album (pointless walks) so much.

There was so much about this band that made a massive impression on the 16yr old me, like each copy of their debut album having a hand painted cover made by one of the two singers. Since then I’ve always tried to write songs that owe more to rhythms than wanky guitar playing, it’s so tribal and base, perfect punk in my opinion! When you saw the band live you were never quite sure whether the fighting between the two singers (Linda and Mick) was real or just for show, there were several times a pint glass destined for Mick would whistle past our heads and smash on the floor behind us during a vaguely terrifying rendition of the album closer/ vicious but hilarious argument ‘Tina, This Is Matthew Stone’.

This was a band who (like Jesus and Mary Chain) played with such a ferocity crowds would be split in two, half the room would stand dead still, jaw open and agog at the sheer simplicity of the volumous guitar rituals they were witnessing while the other have of the room would be looking bored, checking their watches and moaning at how ‘Prolapse can’t even play properly’.

After they released their first album the band got dumped by their label Cherry Red records, in fact we saw them play in Norwich a few days after they got the news (supported by a very young and drunk Gorky’s Zygotic Mynki) and they were stunned to find out that Cherry Red had dumped ALL their active bands that week to concentrate on their back catalogue. Bassist Scottish Mick (there were two Micks) was gutted as he explained that they were overjoyed at getting signed to the same label that had put out albums by most of their heroes, including The Dead Kennedys.

Prolapse existed in an age before internet was accepted by the common man, which had one very great upside for us fans. Instead of the stagnant and septic email newsletters that we are subjected to by ands these days we used to get sent real newsletters, on paper and everything. They were written with fantastic humour and you always had to take them with a pinch of salt. One issue declared the news that singer Mick had left the band to start sniffing glue. I’m gutted that I’ve lost them all, but I have found one copy, and that’s where the images you see come from.

There was quite a buzz surrounding Prolapse when their lost their record deal with Cherry Red and it wasn’t long before interesting offers started flooding in. The first release the band put out was the utterly bizarre ‘Back Saturday EP’ in 1996. What made this release really special in an age of over polished turgid shitepop is that the label insisted that Prolapse enter the studio without any songs pre-written. Bearing in mind that ‘Back Saturday’ must have been recorded on a tiny budget the time constraints would surely have suffocated most bands, Prolapse carried it off with style. By the bands own admittance they did cheat a little and bring the ten minute long track ‘Flex’ with them to the sessions. Flex was (in their own words) ‘a proper long song, not just a wee one that’s been stretched’. Whilst the album is probably their weakest it still shows how much creativity this band had at their disposal.

Soon afterwards Prolapse released their most accessible work, an album called ‘The Italian Flag’ which propelled the band to worldwide recognition and helped secure some very tasty USA tours with the likes of Sonic Youth. Around this time sadly the newsletters stopped, although to be fair I can’t remember if they stopped or I stopped getting them as a result of moving out of my parent’s house!
This was never meant to be an exhaustive history and my tea is nearly ready so I’m going to leap straight to their final album (that I know of). ‘Ghosts of Dead Airplanes’ released in 1999 contains two very strong singles that showed Prolapse still had the power to punch with pop really hard. More use was made of Linda’s vocals and this shows the band experimenting more with what was at their disposal in the studio. I wouldn’t dare say this album shows the band losing their way a bit, but there are moments in the album that seem a little lost in comparison with earlier works.

I haven’t got a clue what Prolapse are up to now, I’d like to think that they have released another couple of albums and I just haven’t found out yet. I didn’t find out about ‘Ghosts of Dead Airplanes’ until a couple of years after it had been released. I have spent hours trying to hunt the band down online but Google searches for ‘Prolapse’ bring up a lot of very wrong results, don’t even try an image search! If anyone out there does know any more than me about what they are up to now please for the love of gravy let me know!

To summarise: Prolapse probably had a stronger influence on the way I write than any other band I’ve (yet) heard. Like Dylan, Velvet Underground, and Punk showed previous generations, Prolapse showed me that ideas and creativity is always more important than how fancy your playing ability is. You’ll notice that I haven’t actually made much of an effort to describe what Prolapse sound like, this is partly due to my laziness but more importantly because I want you to discover Prolapse for yourselves with as few preconceptions as possible. Oh, and ‘Beat Motel’ zine is named after the second track on the first Prolapse album, just in case you were wondering!

Andrew Culture
October 2006