Thursday, 13 September 2007

That time of year...



In October, 1987, I’d started driving to my work in Tonbridge, Kent, UK, 20 odd miles away from our house.

I had started a new career, it was difficult, I was unhappy, I didn’t like what I was doing very much, and needed some new energy to make the thing work. I used to hire cassettes from my local library to listen to, and, as an old friend had played some early Pat Metheny, I obtained a whole bunch of titles to play at home and in the car.

‘Wichita Falls’ leapt out as a stunning, magical piece. It was immediately memorable, with moody keyboards, skilful guitar, symbolic Oriental tangents, but, the music had a real feeling of something deep and fearful – even a premonition of a disaster. I’m sure Viet Nam was there, and many other troubled spots. It hurt to listen to, and troubled me somewhat. I really couldn’t fathom what he was trying to do.

On the night of Thursday, 16th Ocober, 1987, the southern half of the UK experienced a huge storm – some say a hurricane, but it was very noisy and we were very worried for our property. My car was flattened by a falling wall, everywhere was disrupted, and I couldn’t get to work.

Trees were down everywhere. Some roads were totally impassable, and, buildings had collapsed with awful consequences. Electricity was lost in many places, and we had to rely on good neighbours for power where we could. We ate our meals in the green house, using a makeshift barbecue!

The next week, I started going back to work in Tonbridge. My new hire car had a cassette player, and I started to listen regularly to this track again, while driving through roads, which, frankly, I hardly recognised.

One particular stretch, which was normally bordered by several hundred yards of majestic Scotch pines, was unrecognisable, because the trees were nearly all lying on their sides, just like a row of pencils. It was an incredibly sad sight. The general buzz of chainsaws was everywhere and our intimate family of old trees, on our comfortable driving routes, had gone forever.

But, the music from this recording is etched in me like nothing else. I still cannot go by certain stretches of road without remembering the fallen oaks and Scotch pines, the disaster of the other supporting trees, the sawdust, the chaos of driving round the huge tree trunks in the roads. ‘Wichita’s’ sad mysticism follows every bend.

Of course, that was nearly twenty years ago. Things have moved on, but this music, with its haunting difference of style, will always be right up there when I have to point out things I’ve listened to, which are so deeply emotional.

I still cannot fathom what Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays were thinking about on the track, but the shining comment on the composition is that the music has an enchanting finale with the best instrument ever invented.

Children’s laughter!

20 comments:

Lilith said...

I don't know the music Scrobs, but I remember a quote from a movie watched in my childhood "They'll never believe this back in Wichita Falls"...

God that was devastation wasn't it Scrobs. Ex came from near Sevenoaks (or Zero Oaks as it became in the hurricane) and it looked like a post holocaust scene. Their road was blocked for 6 weeks with fallen trees. It made me cry when I saw it. I was living in a squat in Stepney at the time. That night was the end of that, as the roof came off. Only three of us made it into the office in Temple that day.

Ed said...

My school was open the next day unlike most of the others locally and my teacher was very worried about the roof slates flying about so we weren't allowed out at playtime.

Eventually the school relented and we were sent home.

True Blue said...

What a delightful story Scrobs. I too love the sound of chidrens laughter !

electro-kevin said...

I'm scared of children's laughter - nowadays it means someone's just had their head 'kicked like a football.'

electro-kevin said...

I was on duty the night of the storms in London. I saw trees being uprooted, scaffolds collapsing and damn near got sliced in two by a sheet of corrugated iron spinning down the street at about 60 mph.

Very exciting.

Lilith said...

That must have been wild Kev. I thought the couple upstairs were having a row and throwing paperweights at the windows, on the few occasions in the night that I surfaced..but no, it was the roof falling off.

idle said...

This was a new one on me, Scrobs. I can only hear a 22sec sample on the great AllMusicGuide, who say this about it:

"And while this side-long number has some dreamy moments, it also bogs down in a trite climax or two; one gets the sense of a jazz fusion and prog rock marriage Metheny luckily never fully explored. Minor flaws, really, since the piece holds together in spite of the worrisome lapses of taste."

Scroblene said...

You're right Lilith! Sevenoaks was a terrible place to lose trees - the golf course nearby lost hundreds, and the whole landscape was altered!

You must have been scared out of your wits if the roof fell off...but there you go, you still got in to work, which then seemed to be a requirement against all odds, and something to be proud of; especially as everyone's stories were worse than the others!

Check this link on the title: -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ice_Harvest

Scroblene said...

Ed and E-K, lots of problems with roofs then!

Elder Daught came about in 4.00am to tell me that the greenhouse had blown out, and when I went out to see what had happened, there were sheets of glass flying everywhere!

So I went in again...

Funnily enough, they were blown across the garden and half of them were'nt broken!

Scroblene said...

Idle; good description, there are some weird connections.

Check out Pat Metheny 'Are you going with me' on Youtube, and pick the longest (I think). That is different, but works incredibly well! Still a favourite.

Scroblene said...

Trubes and E-K

It's more like kids mucking about, but exqusite in the context of the rest of the piece.

A. A. Ayscoughe~Hussey said...

Have at you, you old spud! Have you fallen so soon into sentimentalism?

Hercules said...

I don't mind admitting I really enjoyed reading this post Scroblene. It's nice to read other peoples memories on events such as those in 1987.

It jogged my memory to when I was a kid, I received a letter from my grand-mother who lived in Mitchum at the time, and she described what was going on in a very similar fashion to you.

Hope all is well???

Lilith said...

Looks like a movie to catch, Scrobs. I have discovere where the quote came from: Pillow Talk!

Lilith said...

Well, the roof was on the third floor and I slept on the first so I can't say I noticed, apart from the noise, until I got home...too bleary when I left the house and too taken with the scene of devastation all around...

Scroblene said...

Lilith,

Try the music if you can. From what I've seen of the films, there's not much in common.

I'm glad you were on the first floor though, much easier for having a wee at 2.30am...;0)

Scroblene said...

Hercs,

Seems a long time ago now, but there are still some of the trees in the same places, nobody moved them!

They were heavy though...

Scroblene said...

Ascers!

You old vandal you...

Good to have you back in the bear-pit!

Everyone's doing everything right at the moment, but not being sentimental, as you presume...

Now you are considering comments on the occasional occasion, I will be delighted to show you round...

How was Morocco? (Have I spelt that write)?

A. A. Ayscoughe~Hussey said...

Gosling and Modo go off to Morocco no I. Are you trying to vex me? It's difficult enough with the voices telling me to take the Durs Egg 14 Bore single barrel flintlock up to the bell tower, without you confusing my poor head to boot.

Did have a charming week in Edinburgh though.

Tuscan Tony said...

Recall the storm well - I got up at 5am as usual to leave parents' house in Reigate and head up to "see" the then GF in Wimbledon and then head in to work with her from her flat afterwards. Incredulity and bemusement from various policemen at the bottom of Reigate Hill as I, sole non-emergency vehicle on the road, was spotted was gently nosing my Spitfire slowly around huge fallen oaks. Was sent home forthwith.