Book of the Week: In Search Of Captain Beefheart – Pt. 18 – Lost in the smoke of ages

Lost in the smoke of ages

It’s probably true what they say about the 60s. I was there and there is so little that I remember clearly. What I have is the tip of the iceberg.

I am so envious of all those organised dudes who wrote things down. When I see stuff like Bob Dylan’s Chronicles and read the incredible detail and recollections I am humbled. I used to have a good memory. When I was in primary school we had to memorise a poem each week. If you failed to learn it you were made to sit out the PE session and relearn it. Now PE in my crap school mainly involved standing in a circle and throwing a beach-ball around or doing those silly athletic exercises that were so popular in the Second World War – hands on shoulders, reach up, shoulders, down, star-jumps etc. But even so that was heaps better than sitting in doors and learning bloody Wordsworth (It took me the discovery of Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ to get me back into poetry after school had successfully destroyed it for me). However, despite this draconian punishment I rarely found time in my crowded life to actually learn the buggering poetry. The teacher called us out to recite the next few lines and somehow my quick glance before the session was usually sufficient to get me through. Later, in secondary school, I rarely did any revision for tests or exams but got through because I could remember the lessons. Seemingly my brain has shed a few brain cells and my sixty four year old cortex is not as biochemically nimble as it once was – probably clogged up with plaques and various residues.

However, thanks to the joy of the internet I have been over the various festivals and marvelled at the incredible line-ups I enjoyed so much. It is a shame I can’t remember a damn bit of it! I know I was there but not a single recollection comes to the surface. This is strange as some of the bands and sets are still as clear as if it were last week (though, as I’ve learnt with Captain Beefheart, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was accurate).

Some of the performances remain as faint memories – I do get a tantalising whiff of Quintessence, for instance – but other, really great stuff is lost forever – no longer does it spin round in my neuronal circuits! It has gone ahead into the great void!

At that amazing gig where me Hat and Booker got into the Press enclosure to see Cream there was also John Mayall, Chicken Shack, and Fleetwood Mac making their debut. I saw them all. I know I saw them all. I can remember the excitement of it but unlike the clarity of Cream all I get is vague hazy memories! I guess I was so high on anticipation that it pushed the other memories out!

There was a cartoon I saw of Homer Simpson where he was trying to remember something by pushing it into one ear and displacing another fact from the other ear. My head’s like that! I’ve only so much room! I need an upgrade!

The other weird thing is one of perspective! I can remember Cream quite clearly. I remember Clapton with his long curly hair standing right in front of me. I can see Ginger, open mouthed, close eyed, playing those drums like a crazy man and Jack plucking his bass, eyes tightly shut and singing his heart out. It was brilliant! Except it is as if I am looking down at it from above! It is as if my sixty four year old self is looking down at my eighteen year old self nodding and jigging away with face aglow and wide eyes gazing up as Clapton and co. stormed away. My big grinning face was in heaven. It looks to me as if it was pretty far out!

The memory of this must have filled up my memory stick or reformatted the rest of my cortex so that the other bands performances were wiped out of existence.

Sadly this is not the only instance. In concert after concert, festival after festival, there are the stand out gigs that are remembered as clear as daylight and the rest that are vague memories at best.

Perhaps there is a drug they will develop that will make all those forgotten memories crystal clear. Wouldn’t that be something? This book would be a thousand times as big!


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