Podium of the Gods (Part II)

In Part 1 I shared recollections of my days as a DJ. I’m delighted that so many of you enjoyed my intrepid sojourn into unfamiliar waters. Writing my memoirs catapults me out of my comfort zone; they are relics of a life that almost was. The culmination of years spent on the threshold of a dream. It almost was. And to this day, it feels like harbouring an angry fugitive within me that gnaws at the nib of every joy and every accomplishment. The hurt is ever present, ever persistent, no matter how successful I am in other areas of my life. Anyway, the Electric Ballroom. This is where I left off.

I’d hit one of those rare moments where time stops, and for a split second you can see your life swerving into an unfamiliar path before it actually happens. It was clear to me that in twelve months I would not be with this man, or live in our home, or hold my current job, or have any of these friends.

Camden is filled with rock and roll dropouts, rejects and wannabes. Very few make a success of it, and I can’t tell you how many times I saw a great band play live and wondered why the hell they hadn’t been snapped up by a major label yet. The publish-your-own trend was in its infancy and bands were still trying to make it the old fashioned way – through A&R, those denizens of the devil who at this point were sucking the life out of the music industry by signing poncy, overly sentimental bed-wetting indie. Rock ‘n’ roll was dead. The real stuff. The gutsy, hip-gyrating, soul-soaring, fist-in-the-air happy to be alive deal. And when I say dead, I mean the hunger for new blood and the drive to invest time and capital in plugging raw talent was dead. People will always love Led Zeppelin and Hendrix but there hasn’t been a worthy champion for the genre since the 1990s. And not for a want of talent – I’m sure there are plenty of Jaggers and Lynotts out there but the industry is shot to hell. And so were we, the last generation of bands who held on to the dream. I sometimes overhear bright young things chatting about trying to make it in the music business and it’s like they are a different species. They are shrewd and cynical and promoting themselves, whereas we were bright-eyed and gullible, waiting for Andrew Loog Oldham. But the sad thing is, that in spite of all their initiative, they are never going to really make it. That bird has flown.

Indeed that bird was the only thing that Izzy, club manager at the Electric Ballroom, and I had in common. We were both old school rockers that had dropped out of the game. He was about fifteen years older though, and it showed in his bitterness. I remember watching him from a corner barstool one evening; I was there with my boyfriend and Izzy was chatting up my boyfriend’s best friend’s girlfriend. It was all very incestuous. They were talking about work and music and I remember saying to my man, “Izzy’s dead. Look in his eyes, they’re like big black boreholes.” My boyfriend thought it was funny and tried to say ‘big black boreholes’ really fast and in unison with the cutthroat, deep-root basslines of whatever thrash metal was blaring in the background. I looked at my boyfriend, and at Izzy, and at my boyfriend’s best friend’s girlfriend. Everything was changing. I’d hit one of those rare moments where time stops, and for a split second you can see your life swerving into an unfamiliar path before it actually happens. It was clear to me that in twelve months I would not be with this man, or live in our home, or hold my current job, or have any of these friends. I was seeing the death of a life that had stopped living. The dream had expired. It was time to bury the hatchet and wake up to a new one. So I did what any sensible, well-adjusted person would do.

I got shitfaced drunk. Unfortunately, that was the night of my big gig at the Electric Ballroom.

Two hours later, mid-set, I was kneading a record while studying the studs on the nether region of Izzy’s leather slacks. He mistook my gape as an invitation, which to be fair to the chap wasn’t totally unreasonable. As soon as he approached me I started fiddling with a pointy toggle on the mixing console. It could have been the launch pad of a napalm bomb for all I knew. He handed me a drink. I nodded and waved it in the general direction of two other drinks that were waiting for me by the  deck. I fiddled with the toggle some more. Izzy grinned.

– Heh, that’s quite a statement honey.
– What?
– (shouting) I said that’s quite a statement, giving Het more treble like that.
– Giving head to a tribble?
– (laughing) The control you’re tweaking, the high frequency? Metallica?

I had no idea what I was doing, let alone tweaking.

– Oh yeah, it’s just something I’m trying…
– It’s working out for ya! Drink?
– No thanks I’ve just had one.
– Smoke?
– Geez Iz, what’s next? Rohypnol?
– (chuckling) Not my style honey.
– No, you’re too vain for that. You’d want me to remember.
– Damn straight. Why would you want to forget the best night of your life?
– Cause it’ll be the night I get the clap!

We ended up kissing in the cloakroom.

I was having it off with my boyfriend’s best friend’s girlfriend’s shag. Not my finest hour. Eventually I tore myself away and walked out of the club. I haven’t set foot in the Electric Ballroom since. This was the only gig I never got paid for. Izzy left me several messages suggesting we meet up so that he could pay me, but the last thing I wanted was to hook up with the sultan of sleaze and “get paid”. I was happy to write this one off.

It was late 2006, the days were growing darker and I was growing restless. I stopped eating around November. I remember it clearly; it was my company’s Christmas lunch (typically weeks before Christmas) and everyone around me was eating, imbibing and stuffing their faces. I looked at the pieces of steak on my colleague’s plate and the bright, broken capillaries on his ruddy cheeks and decided to opt out. I could live off soup, it was no biggy. But then I lost too much weight and was signed off work. I remember my friend picking me up at the airport that December, all agape, “Wow! You look fab!”. I was at the darkest point in my life but as long as my self-destruction was making me fabulous it was all good. I took a hiatus from DJing after that. The novelty had worn off and I needed some time to evaluate shit.

2007 dawned with a promise of a new beginning and it was a momentous year in my life, for four reasons. First, I ended my relationship. After 5 years together we grew apart and it was time to move on. The second reason is that I moved into my own place. I was the only one among my friends who lived alone and this was not an obvious choice. I know people in their thirties who are still house-sharing. The financial implications were significant and I had to learn how to budget. I remember sitting on a cushion in the lounge – MY lounge – listening to the Rolling Stones and tallying bills and receipts on a piece of paper. Mick Jagger, a former economics student, would have been proud. The third reason was a life-changing visit to the States that summer. I spent some time with the Pueblos and Navajo, took in the incredible sights of the Rocky Mountain National Park. It was an incredible trip that that fuelled a lifelong passion for all things Americana. The fourth reason for the momentousness of that year is because I went back to university.

I didn’t know Gill very well but I heard a lot about his bandmate, the mythological ex-bandmate of my ex-bandmate, David. You’ve got to laugh about it. The bonds you develop with your bandmates can be just as epic and intimate as romantic relationships, and the jealousy just as bitter.

By the autumn of 2007 I was the happiest I’d been in years and felt a familiar hankering for the decks. So I called an old contact, who was only too happy to hear that I was back on the market and looking for some action (that sounds wrong). I’ll call this promoter Gill. He was a suited blond beanpole and happened to play in a band with my ex-bandmate’s ex-bandmate. I didn’t know Gill very well but I heard a lot about his bandmate, the mythological ex-bandmate of my ex-bandmate, David. You’ve got to laugh about it. The bonds you develop with your bandmates can be just as epic and intimate as romantic relationships, and the jealousy just as bitter. Gill offered me a slot at his legendary club night, where his band were due to play. I invited David along. I’m not sure whether he realised that his ex-bandmate’s new band were playing or if I even made the connection at that point. David and I had recently picked up where we left off in 2005 after we both quit the same band and went our separate ways. Typically, we hadn’t seen each other in 18 months and the first time we hooked up after that we got wankered on absinthe. Not much has changed since. He remains the rock to my roll.

I can’t explain it, but entering the club that night, I knew it was going to be my last DJ gig. And with this knowledge any ghost of a flame I still nurtured about going back to the music business was extinguished. Back on the podium, I played my usual mélange of obscure garage rock peppered with the odd familiar turn by Hendrix and the Stones, and with each song my steadfastness towards a new life born out of the ashes of adolescence became more resolute. One of the bands commenced their set; the singer was a washed-out thirtysomething Iggy Pop imitator who served to cement the motion I had made in my heart. “I will never be as pathetic as that,” I thought, and the relief coursed through my limbs. I looked around for David and couldn’t see him anywhere. But as I edged a corner into the second bar I spotted Gill, who motioned me over. He shoved something into my hand and told me to lick it. A white tab flashed in the gloom. And why not, acid seemed like the appropriate send off. I was about to pop it into my mouth, when a dust of white crystals powdered onto my bra and down my cleavage. Gill shrieked like a girl.

– What are you doing!?
– Wait, this is coke? You told me to lick it!
– I told you to HIT IT!

I left the club at 3am and emerged into the streets of Bloomsbury, the place of my birth. I squinted at the shadowy figures around me, night people about their nightly business. It was the advent of new life. My own. Then I found myself on Rugby Street, where I grew up. I sat on the metal bench at the entrance to French’s Dairy, the place I had known so well as a child, and took a deep breath. I was comforted to learn it was still there. And just like that, I knew I was going to be okay. In spite of my failures. I may have failed in my foresight and got a little lost, but how else are we to find the path less travelled and relish in our reinvention? I was charting the way to a greater ascension of my true will.

I have no regrets.

How much self-loathing is buried within our notions of failure? What powers do we surrender in the pursuit of old dreams? But power is given to those who dare to lower themselves to pick it up. We are ever challenged to pursue that which brings us immortality. This is our curse, and the source of all greatness. If we hold true to that, and to ourselves, and have some fun in the process, we can achieve absolutely anything.

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28 comments

  1. Eme

    I really wanted to wait till I read both parts to comment on this story so I could share my collective feelings. I know I’ve told you this before but you have such a way of telling the most amazing stories about your life.Your words surround me, weave through me and pull me into your world and I can just imagine everything that’s going on so clearly in my head like I’m there. I wish I was there. I know it wasn’t exactly an easy time for you considering what you went through and how you were feeling emotionally. You were trying to find yourself in something that you love after losing something that was so important to you, also doing something you love…..but I kind of wish I had experiences like that in my own life. Not saying it was fabulous or glamorous by any means, I can clearly see that. I’ll be honest, I live vicariously through you and your experiences sometimes. I don’t exactly lead the most exciting life and I don’t have so many exciting stories to tell like you do. I guess that’s where this thought process comes from. I hope it’s no offensive in any way and that you understand what I mean… I also admire you greatly for how you rose from the ashes and now here you are, achieving a different kind of success in life and you’ve overcome what was once lost. Even in the darkest places, flowers can grow and bloom into something beautiful. Love you my dear heart. ❤

    • D'arcy

      Ahhh! *Squish!* “You were trying to find yourself in something that you love after losing something that was so important to you,” this is absolutely key. Spot on. Offended? I’m delighted that you find my stories entertaining–as a reader of my fiction you have a unique perspective here and sometimes the lines blur.

      Take “Izzy” for instance, I had completely forgotten that I used his pseudonym in this blog post! You can imagine my amusement when I reread these entries. Love you! ❤

  2. billyrosegarden

    Yes my dear. The power of ‘almost been’, the seductive yet destructive lure of self pity and and our inability to see what’s in front of us. I almost was, but I have no regrets. And that is in the end how we redefine ourselves. Letting go and getting on. But we talked on the matter already, you know my unpopular opinions and my utter adoration of your persona.

    • D’arcy

      I agree that that what we do with ourselves after the storm and deluge of disappointments is what defines us. Some hurts are hard to metabolise though and you carry them with you all your life. They become part of the little good in you and part of the evil. Letting go and getting on is the secret which once mastered can change your life. It is the hardest thing to do but as long as we keep trying our efforts will be rewarded.

  3. Sofia

    Always late to the party, always the shadow; a distant whisper in your life. Always silent and far away. But you are always in my thoughts, Belle Dame Sans Merci. Thank you for yet another enjoyable read. Much love from Nicush and …Izzy. Hah. There’s some irony for you.

  4. Classified

    I remember you writing me about this stuff back in the day. Sounds like a lot of lives of people who feel so passionate about music and the ups and downs and how we all deal with it. I wish when you did the American leg of your story you may have stopped to see Niagara Falls. Glad to see you writing about it to everyone

    Love,
    Your Brother from Across the Pond

    • D’arcy

      Took me a moment to realise who you were! My bro from across the pond could be anyone from Jim Morrison to Dave Navarro (hahaha, let’s not go there). Yeah, I also remember chatting to you about it all back in the day. A life lived in song. It still is, only nowadays the song is more of a backstreet symphony.

      Love,
      me xo

      • Brian

        Dave Navarro???? I want an e-mail explaining this :-). Speaking of songs I still think I have one of yours on my hard drive. I Kept it for all these years. Also as long as your happy with the symphony of your life its always going to be a good one.
        xoxo
        ~Brian, Your brother across the pond~

        Mr BroShowRisin lol

  5. I can echo everyone’s sentiments about your writing, thoughts, and how well you convey them in cyber-sphere. Well done…very well done Lady Atreyu!

    “…any eligible cowboys read this and fancy themselves a feisty British wife, apply within.” Really!? And then of all places Americana: the Deep South. How strange. How very perplexing. Funny…

    Though Texas is not technically considered part of the Deep South, our American history — though many many Texans would argue we’ve never quite been ‘unionized’…ever — does have deep roots in southern plantation-like slavery and its many forms of “prejudices” both blatant and subtle. Yet, I can very much relate to your feelings and attachment to “home”.

    Again, wonderful post Atreyu.

    • D’arcy

      My dear Taboo, I can’t explain the longing I feel for the USA and the Deep South in particular; but it is there, snugly ensconced in the mystifying realm of dreams. I’m sure you are aware that our real lives are often not the lives that we lead. I pay no quarter to rationale when it comes to these things. It is what it is.

      Thank you for the lovely things you say about my prose; I hold your writing in a similarly high esteem and to receive such praise from a colleague and equal is tremendous feedback.

      • I am honored and grateful that you consider my unconventional (basic even?) sometimes abstract or overly thought-provoking, time-intensive posts worthy of praise. *bows humbly*

        Now see, our banter has not devolved so rapidly! I have a few threads of proper etiquette in my fingers don’t I? 😉

  6. “I was seeing the death of a life that had stopped living.” Yes.

    I’m fairly well confident that I’ve used up every written expression I’m capable of in relaying my thoughts and feelings about you, and your writing.

    This is absolutely exquisite. May be my favourite, so far. Your writing, like you, is blossoming with phenomenal beauty and grace. It’s my great fortune, for our friendship. Know the door will always be open, in the Deep South. And wherever I happen to be. xox

    • D’arcy

      Fortuna lies in waiting for us both, Vic. One day when things have regained a little stability and equilibrium on your end we’ll talk about my coming to visit you. Until then we shall continue to share prose, and poetry, and art, and camaraderie. xoxo

  7. Vippy

    Sigh, the bane of the ‘What If’s…

    I hope we can get rid of this weight stone for good and soon. Your tale moves brilliantly from the entertaining to the heart-rendering to the insightful and so forth. Can hardly wait to read more of your fantasticalicious writing.

    • D’arcy

      The ‘what ifs’ are bad enough to drive you to drink and distraction. But they’re inevitable. What we can do is to try and divert some of that obsessive energy into activity and hope that it yields a positive outcome. It’s the brooding that leads us to despair, but not necessarily the tangent that behests it. I know that sounds complicated at first, but give it some thought.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it darling, one of these days I’m going to have to write about our famous Marquee/absinthe/eggs experience…

  8. Keef

    This is a cathartic masterpiece, and in my opinion, your best work to date. I mean, this piece is comparable to the writing of one of my personal favourites, Hunter S. Thompson. From start to finish, it’s an emotional, gut wrenching journey, but thankfully peppered with your razor sharp wit. You really took me a journey with this piece, perhaps because it resonated so much with me, it was close to the bone. “…it feels like harbouring an angry fugitive within me that gnaws at the nib of every joy and every accomplishment.” That is exactly it. And what makes great writing great? Drawing from personal experience, exorcising one’s own demons on the page, letting it hang out for all to see, brutal therapeutic honesty.

    Having a part in the story, and knowing some of the other “characters” was bound to draw me deeply into it. I remember some of the anecdotes from the night of your Djing gig at the Bloomsbury Bowls, and the ageing Iggy-wannabe half-heartedly strutting his topless body around the stage, backed up by a band of indifferent looking 20-somethings who seemed to be thinking more about whether McDonalds would be still be open once they’d finished and gotten their gear off stage. The lowest ebb of rock ‘n’ roll apathy.

    It really feels like it came from the depths of a dark hole, wretching up and spewing forth the demons within. Pure alchemy, producing pure gold from base metal.

    In other words, I fucking love it. xxx

    • D’arcy

      Darling, thank you so much. Your feedback has moved me very much. I feel like I’ve told (some of) the story for both of us, or it wouldn’t have felt cathartic. I don’t know, I’m becoming a little cynical about that word, CATHARSIS. I don’t know if there’s much else to “cathart” without the blood pooling into a continent.

      It’s been a healing exercise, but as we’ve been discussing elsewhere, some things are still too raw and painful to be deconstructed. It’s the inevitable book we’ll have to write when we’re fifty. Then it’ll be cathartic. Now, it would be deadly.

      Glimmer twin, you are ever a force in my life, for good and for evil, mostly for rock ‘n’ roll, where our souls draw strength and nourishment. There is no greater ending to that song, or a truer witness to that testament. Yours in all good things, Mick xxx

  9. Die Todesrune

    It’s interesting how the mirror image of ourselves differs when viewed thru another lens. You speak of “failure” yet all I see is success. I don’t mean to undermine the heartache you feel (felt?) about giving up music, but do you know how many people can actually say they followed a dream and gave it their all? There’s the success IMO and it has nothing to do with record sales.

    You have more guts in your pinky than anyone I know and accumulated some extraordinary experiences along the way. I’m still hoping you’ll write about recording in Abbey Road though I know it’s a longshot. Yeah, I echo what the others have said about your writing as well, incredible. I really want you to finish that novel already. Come on Crimmins get to it. Chop chop.

    • D’arcy

      Ah, the old dilemma of having loved and lost, or never loved at all. The jury’s still out on that one, for me. Ish. I’m undecided. But the bottom line (not the one that fell into my bra!) is that it’s all over and done with now. The time for reflection and analysis is over. I’m happy to let it all wash over me in peace. That’s the operative word – PEACE. I’ll see what I can do about the novel…

  10. What can I say? What comment could suitably adorn this oeuvre?

    Despite my life in the 60’s, and also having no regrets, I wish I had done some of what you had done, and been some of the things you have been, in your much shorter life.

    Most of all, I wish I could write like you, I really do.

    Staggered into silence. Your Pete. x

    • D’arcy

      I’m sure you have seen, done and been many things that I could only dream of, Pete! And you have the authenticity of that period on your side of experience, something that I am very much hoping you will explore in prose. Thank you, as always, for the fantastic reception. I hold you very dear to my heart. xx

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