HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Mott’s CD review

Book Review: A Long Way Down

by Lang Reid

Another book from Nick Hornby, which might be put in the basket of ‘black humor’. Published by Penguin, (ISBN 0-141-02577-8, 2006) it is a small novel, but according to the plaudits, large on content.

The book is centered on four people with a common aim. Suicide. And a common method – jumping off a city building. And a further commonality is the fact that they have all decided on the same building, and for their final act to be on New Year’s Eve. With that wry twist of his, author Hornby calls the building they had chosen to jump from, “Toppers’ House”, a most suitable venue from which to top oneself!

The raison d’etre is somewhat contrived, but as the plot unfolds, you find you are being given some very fine character descriptions of the disparate four, all of whom have a different mental make-up, ranging from teenage immaturity, through neuroticism, self recrimination and dissolute regrets. How each remaining three deal with each of the four’s mental problems provides the insight into all of their characters.

The second part of the book reveals more about the four, and shows the development of co-dependency holding them together, and off the parapet of the tall building, but not one of them was really over his or her depression that had driven them there in the first place.

Part three for me was a repeat of part two. More endless attempts at insight, with the group hanging together by the same co-dependency, while they continue with their self examinations/recriminations. You get the feeling that there is nothing in the world that will help this quartet. They have reached their nadir, but are now living it.

For a book which has received some very positive reviews, I kept reading to see just what it was, and when or where it was, that was going to show me the light, but I never found it. It finally seemed like reading a bunch of psychologist’s case notes, that had no conclusion. To be frank, I was disappointed. I even got to the stage of hoping that at least one of them would commit the suicide that they were all afraid of, but was the central theme. It would have given the book some point, or a finality, which it lacks.

The black humor is all through the book. One of the would-be jumpers waited patiently to get to the ledge, but became impatient at the delay. “I just went up to him and put my hand through the wire and tapped him on the shoulder. I only wanted to ask him if he was going to be long.” However, it is sporadic, and I did not judge it to be “frequently hilarious” as the Washington Post apparently did.

At B. 350 from my local Bookazine store, it is a most inexpensive read, but eventually one that left me dissatisfied. The writing is superb, the character sketches likewise, but it takes you nowhere. Perhaps I am too old fashioned to expect an introduction, development of a plot and a conclusion. This book did not deliver it.

Mott's CD Reviews:  Kevin Ayers

The Confessions Of Dr Dream and Other Stories

Mott the Dog

5 Stars *****

In the early Sixties a very young Kevin Ayers was drawn to the Canterbury, Kent social whirl from his birth town Herne Bay by the happening scene in the Cathedral City. Mostly this involved copious amounts of drinking and girls which the young Ayers found much to his liking. Out of this disarray a band was formed, which has always been accredited with what became known as the Canterbury sound ‘The Wilde Flowers’ (The ‘e’ to Wilde was not out of misspelling like ‘The Beatles’ or ‘The Byrds’, but as a tribute to Kevin Ayers hero Oscar Wilde.)

At the time Kevin Ayers had no musical knowledge at all. Not letting this get in the way Ayers became the vocalist whilst he learnt rudimentary guitar (which he was later to become more than proficient at). After being replaced from the Wilde Flowers when Robert Wyatt was moved up front of the stage to sing instead of sitting behind the drum kit, Kevin Ayers took an extended vacation to his beloved Spain, which was to become a recurring theme, where he practiced his guitar and started to write his own songs. Upon his return, he ventured out to form a new band.

They were to be called ‘Soft Machine’ after the William Burroughs’s novel (in the book the soft machines were the humanoids). Finding the aforementioned Robert Wyatt had also taken his leave of ‘The Wilde Flowers’ he was quickly roped in behind the drum kit, like minded guitarist David Allen was brought in on guitar, and the line up was completed by the rather sinister keyboards player Mike Ratledge.

According to legend the initial finances came from one Wes, a spectacle manufacturer/millionaire from Oklahoma who came across Allen and Ayers on the beach in Majorca. Without asking anything in return, he gave them enough money to buy top of the range equipment and more importantly food to eat! By the time the band had made some money and went to look for their mysterious benefactor, he had joined some religious sect and no longer had need of material things. Oh well, hope he liked the music.

By 1973, after band breakups and regrouping, Kevin Ayers had become the Canterbury sound equivalent of what John Mayall was to the blues, with lots of musicians going through his band to go on to relatively better things, including, David Bedford (big time producer), Mike Oldfield (as if you need to ask), Andy Summers (The Police), Lol Coxhill (saxophone everybody), Archie Leggit (everybody else), Steve Hillage (Gong and an illustrious solo career) , and Rabbit Bunrick (The Who).

But it was perhaps during the making of Kevin Ayers’ next solo album, the wonderful ‘The Confessions of Dr Dream and other stories’, that Kevin Ayers met his musical soul buddy, the great guitarist Ollie Halsall. (It was perhaps after Ollie Halsall was taken away from us to the great gig in the sky that Kevin Ayers gave up his music, apart from the odd dabble here and there).

But the first time that Halsall and Ayers got together on ‘Dr Dream and Other Stories’ they produced the best collection of music to come out under the Ayers banner.

‘Day by Day’ is a lovely little song to get us underway, telling the story of each day insisting upon going its own separate way, and there really isn’t very much you can do about it all, so you may just as well let fate take its course.

Second track in is where Ollie Halsall first makes his presence felt with some attention grabbing guitar. Although Kevin Ayers had no regular band at the time of this recording, Ollie Halsall being the only musician to play on every track, all the rest being session musicians, you would never know from listening, as it all sounds very tight and inventive.

‘See You Later’ is a song about saying seeing you later, but not exactly meaning it, a sin far too many of us are guilty of. ‘Didn’t feel lonely till I thought of you’ is self explanatory, with some wonderful guitar picking from Ollie Halsall, whilst Kevin Ayers gives out his most melancholy vocals.

From here on out Kevin Ayers turns into a storyteller - the Vincent Price of progressive rock, as he keeps you balanced on the edge of your seat waiting for either each spoken word, or knocked over the back of the settee with a sudden rousing chorus, lulled into a totally false sense of security by a lilting piano lyric, or with Ayers’ whispering over the top of some quiet Hammond organ chords,

‘’It begins with a blessing, once I awakened, but it ends with a curse. My head is a nightclub, making life easy waiting for something already there, tomorrow they will find it if they don’t drown in their dreams, with glasses of wine, but the customers are always dancing, and as you turn to your partners she screams ‘Get Out Of My Dreams’.”

In the middle of all this you get a quick burst of some old blues style acoustic guitar with ‘Ballbearing Blues’, which just softens you up for the main course: the multi structured guitar riff of the title song which comes to you in four parts, but always with that incessant riff bludgeoning into your self conscious. Kevin Ayers is at his most menacing as he warns you of the perils of falling asleep, and what lies waiting for you there. Without doubt this is the most haunting piece of music ever listened to by these ears, fair makes the blood run cold. The vocals are all fed to you through echo chambers as if from beyond the grave, dragging you further and further into the mind of Mr Ayers. In the middle section Ollie Halsall leads the musicians into the gloom like a burning torch to show you the way home, and some lovely piano work gives you some respite, whilst Kevin Ayers sings words of hope as if by way of apology. Of course for the finale the dirty riffs come storming back as they drag Ayers, and you, screaming back into his nightmare. If you are a Stephen King fan you will enjoy Kevin Ayers and his alias Dr Dream.

Surprisingly the album ends with an almost Beatlish song, even Kopping (sic) some of the Fab four’s lyrics to finish off the album.

I was never sure why Kevin Ayers never became a huge star, maybe people were just to scared.


Kevin Ayers: Vocals, Guitar
Ollie Halsall: Guitars

Songs of Dr Dream

Day By Day
See You Later
Didn’t Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You
Everybody’s Sometime And Some People’s All The Time Blues
It Begins With A Blessing/Once I Awakened/ But It Ends In A Curse
Ball Bearing Blues
The Confessions Of Dr Dream
(a) Irreversible Neural Damage (b) Invitation (c) The One Chance (d) Dr Dream Theme
Two Goes Into Four

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]