Thursday, 10 October 2013

Luke Haines vs Imaginary Newsprint-Era Jazz Nazis

The truth was self-evident to all who cared to open their eyes and embrace it, as one might embrace an estranged uncle who has been cleared of embezzlement charges, or a bedraggled, wild-eyed cat who has finally returned home, having been missing, presumed dead, for several days:

In 1945, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, high-ranking Nazi officers who had been reluctant to submit to the wrath of the encroaching Russian forces, and who were similarly unwilling to surrender to the Americans, had assumed false identities and fled to Britain in their thousands. Here they concealed themselves en-masse among the oikish ranks of junior music journalists – a workforce over 100,000 strong, which had been mobilised by Churchill to meet the insatiable public demand for record reviews and opinion pieces concerning the latest hot youth trends.

By 2010 many of these individuals had risen to the slightly less junior position of staff writer at their respective publications. It was in this role that, with methodical Germanic precision, they had conspired to undermine the strength of Great Britain's mighty pop navy, penning divisive rhetoric against the nation's best and brightest bands, to whom they would mete-out disdainful 3 star / 6 out of 10 reviews. It was these same writers who had turned a blind eye as a rag-tag parade of shiftless tossers ambled onto the front covers of The NME and Melody Maker while, inside these journals, their plodding deviations into lumpen glam rock were routinely awarded 9 out of 10.

Luke Haines had once shared his conspiracy theory with a man who he had assumed to be a kindred spirit. After a few minutes the target of his monologue (an indifferent Matt 'the hat' James, who played the drums in a band called Gene) had managed to break free from the hypno-coin-induced trance that Haines had placed him under, and had sloped away in search of lager.

At the time Haines was riding high in the UK hit parade as the denim-clad front man of a pub rock combo called The Auteurs. The heads-down, three-chord, bar-room boogie of the band's debut album - Good Times All The Time - had literally set the UK album charts on fire, resulting in the destruction of a mediocre Eric Clapton record, while many other albums had to be evacuated to music charts in France and Luxembourg.

The Auteur's creative spark had proven bright enough to rise above the smouldering ashes of Britpop where it was carried on the winds of change to set fire to a new music scene and enthuse a new generation of bands: The Stereophonics were duly hailed as “the welsh Auteurs,” while the arena-straddling post-modern, pop colossus, U2 ,were retrospectively dubbed “the Irish Auteurs.” A candidate for the title of “the Scottish Auteurs” had yet to emerge. Although he could prove nothing Haines suspected that the machinations of the former Undertones lead singer and solo artist - Feargal Sharkey - had played some part in this oversight. After all, this was a land where members of one of the few contemporary bands of note – Mogwai – had been forcibly branded on the buttocks as “the punk Runrig.”

18 years after Haines' disastrous attempt to recruit Matt 'the hat' James to his crusade, his wife, Sian Pattenden, had arrived home and, not for the first time, discovered their front parlour resembling an exhibit from the Imperial War Museum, with the chesterfield pushed up against the far wall, and the carpet barricaded with sandbags and loosely-coiled razor wire.

“Is it the Imaginary Jazz Nazis again?” she asked him, not unreasonably.

Haines regarded her with an expression as fixed as the bayonet attached to the business end of his Lee-Enfield Rifle.

“They have taken Antwerp,” he said dryly, as if the awful reality of his words had yet to fully sink in.

Pattenden allowed herself a few seconds to process this new information and consider the effect of the news on her husband. Antwerp was the main producer of liver sausage – a comestible that, when combined with sliced white bread in the form of sandwiches, imbued Haines with his formidable song writing talent, as well as the more recent power to communicate with ferrets.

“They shouldn't have done that.”

She picked her way through the razor wire to where her paints were set up in the corner of the room. Mounted on the easel was the preliminary sketch for a new artwork depicting Jimmy Pursey from the punk band Sham 69, re-cast as Chas Mcgill from Robert Westall's novel The Machine Gunners, attempting to bring down a Messerschmitt in a hail of automatic gunfire. In the background Lt Jim Morrison from The Doors looked on in approval.

“Do you think that Jim Morrison's father is proud of him?” enquired Haines.

“I should think so. Look, he's supervising a counter attack against a German fighter plane. He is obviously a very brave young man.” 

The prospect of a reduction in axis air power appeared to molify Haines.

“We will crush them,” he said.

Sian nodded. She squeezed a pale grey worm from one of the paint tubes. It was to form the base colour for both the German fighter plane and the machine gun that was in the process of attempting to shoot it down.

From behind the wall of sandbags her husband had more questions for her:

“When we win will we make them sign a non-aggression treaty?”

Briefly she pondered her answer. As she did her eyes were drawn to the tip of the brush as it sloppily blended red and grey paint together mixing tray.

“This time there will be no treaty. This time they must learn the true cost of their aggression.”

With the prospect of brutal vengeance assured, the colour began to return to Haines' face. In his mind he was already formulating a new concept album. This one would consist of ten songs. It would be based around a bare-knuckle boxing match between Oswald Mosley and Paddington Bear, who would be revealed as the reincarnation of the writer George Orwell.

“We will paint the world that we want live in...” said Pattenden “...Then we make our enemies live in it.”

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