Friday, 27 July 2012


*For your enhanced listening and reading pleasure, download a copy of The Kinks' 'Twentieth Century Man'. Thank you Ray Davies for so very, very much.

The clock on the sports hall wall read seven twenty three. Disco lights blinked in the darkness, expectant of a tune. It was a good turn out. Blair's New Labour may have just swept to power, capturing the country’s attention, but for a precious couple of hours Kev and his fellow musicians were to hold an audience of over a hundred people enrapt. More of their uni mates filed through the double doors. Kev leant forward and pressed a couple of buttons. He gently strummed on the acoustic slung about his neck. Was she here yet? No. Where is she?

Never mind, have to start without her. Right, here we go. I fuckin’ love this bit. Wait for it. Now.
Kev hammered out the opening chords, the strings reverberating into the ether out of a Mesa Boogie stack. John twisted the slide on his finger and grinned at his fellow guitarist. The crowd was hushed. Ste adjusted the bass strap upon his naked shoulders. Does that boy ever wear a top? The drummer twirled a single stick in anticipation...

A drumbeat and crash of symbol and the rhythm section came in. As if on cue, a diminutive figure sauntered in stage left. There you are Jo, you little minx. Kev caught her eye and winked at her. She waved back, embarrassed. He stepped up to the mike. He sang:

“This is the age of machinery, a mechanical nightmare. The wonderful world of technology, napalm, hydrogen bomb, biological warfare.” Seems to be enjoying herself. I may win that bet with Sam yet.

”This is the twentieth century, but too much aggravation, it's the age of insanity.” A month she said. ”What has become of the green pleasant fields of Jerusalem
?” I bet you a tenner you two are together within a month.

A flicker of a smile rippled across his lips. He licked it clean with the tip of his tongue. Burned onto his retina a shock of bronze shone bright against a sea of monochrome.

”Ain't got no ambition.” He stared hard at her. “I'm just disillusioned.” Almost mocking in his icy glare. ”I'm a twentieth century man but I don't want, I don’t wanna be here.” But he couldn’t fake cool for long, he was enjoying himself too much. Her eyes were glued to him. John’s slide caressed the strings of his sunburst Les Paul. He shouted something only Kev heard. They laughed, like wolves howling at the moon.

”My mama said she can't understand me, she can't see my motivation.” She's the sweetest lab partner a boy could ask for. "Just give me some security, I'm a paranoid schizoid product of the twentieth century.” Gives me something pretty to look at while doing something tedious.

”You keep all your smart modern writers.” Like determining
the wavelength of a laser ”Give me William Shakespeare.”

”You keep have all your smart modern painters.” I could have just read it off ”I'll takethe Rembrandtside, Titianof, Da Vincithe andbloody Gainsboroughthing.” and saved everyone from four hours of tedium.

”Girl we gotta get out of here, we gotta find a solution.” Stop winking at her idiot. ”I'm a twentieth century man but I don't want, I don't wanna to die here.”

You know she’s a moody git at the best of times. Doesn’t like being the center of attention. But when she smiles...

”And we gotta get out of her, we gotta find a solution." Remember the scarf she left in the pub. "I'm a twentieth century man but I don't want, I don't wanna to be here.” You took it home and gorged on its odour all weekend and had withdrawal when you had to give it up Monday.

Well I'm sure we’ll be together this evening. And if not, the field trip’s coming up. Three days away on the Pembrokeshire coast. After all, she was only telling me the other day that she hasn’t got off with anyone since she transferred from Hope. Think that was meant as an invitation. Coming up to the slow, picking bit.

”I was born in a welfare state
Ruled by bureaucracy
Controlled by civil servants
And people dressed in grey.”

Oh what a surprise, look who's here.

“Got no privacy.” I knew he'd be somewhere around.
“Got no liberty.” He's always hanging around her.
“Cos the twentieth century people.” Can’t remember his name.
“Took it all away from me.”

I can see two months from now. In comes Denny on the organ. I leave it so long she gets off with him after everyone else has gone to bed. We all tell jokes on the coach back, until there's only him and me left going. She's spending all her spare time with him on our return, but still hangs out with us during lectures. His clique sits at the back. And I get bored and stop attending lectures and eventually drop out to go work for a vampire firm of solicitors who strip me of ambition and drain me of my joire de vie 'til I am just a husk, balding, fat and lifeless. No! Not again! Not this time!

”Don't wanna get myself shot down,“ God I could lose myself “by some trigger happy policeman.” in those big green eyes. “Gotta keep a hold on my sanity.” Suck for an eternity on those full lips. “I'm a twentieth century man but I don't wanna die here.” Bury my face in her ample breasts.

I used to stare at her from across the horseshoe of desks. Must have made her uncomfortable. But I was in awe. Out of a class of twenty odd girls and four guys, she seems to be permanently backlit, like a James T. Kirk love interest, a halo of gold shimmering. She’s so effervescent, the fizz is always  overflowing and everyone wants their audience with her. I still get tongue-tied just being near her. Fag breaks I stand silently in a corner, trying not to set off the automatic doors, while her lackeys hang on her every word. The one time we were alone every second seemed an eternity. Good job she always has plenty to say, I don’t think I could even have remembered my name at that point.

Be sure to let her see you flex your biceps. Nice little band we've got going here. How long have we been playing now? Years it seems.

He screamed: ”My mama says she can't understand me.” Love those long golden locks. “She can't see my motivation.” Want to run my fingers through them. “Ain't got no security.” Or rather grab on to them, if you know what I mean. “I'm a twentieth century man but I don't wanna die here.” Surprised she turned up actually, don’t remember inviting her.

I would’ve dropped out long ago if not for Louise. She’s the only decent thing about night school. Always wears such low cut tops. Like tonight. Have to concentrate so hard to maintain eye contact. Well she’ll have to lump it. Hard enough concentrating on two things at once. And it’s not like half the guys in this room aren’t doing the same.

“Don’t want twentieth century.” Is that Angelina Jolie?
“Don’t want twentieth century.” It is. What’s she doing here?
“Don’t want twentieth century.”  Can’t see her husband anywhere around, things are looking up.

“I don’t want twentieth century.” Wink at her. Hehe, she likes that. Who reminded me of her?
“Don’t want twentieth century.” Louise. She had bigger tits though.
“Don’t want twentieth century.” Haven’t seen her in years. Never did pluck up the courage to say more than half a dozen words to her.

”This is the twentieth century.“ I dropped out not long before exams. "But too much aggravation.” Why do I always do that? Drop out half way through. ”This is the edge of insanity.” Jesus, why didn’t I just ask her out? Was the same with Jo at uni. ”I'm a twentieth century man but I don't wanna be here.” I left it so long, she copped off with that guy on the field trip.

Oh well, tonight I'm sure me and Angelina will be one. And organ sustain. I really am getting too old to be doing this every week. Just me and Ste left playing, as always. I could actually learn to play the guitar for real. And fade out.

The clock on the bedside table read 21:59. Crushed cans of lager littered the floor. A Lara Croft poster hung by three corners. A fourth drooped down into the room. The man standing in the middle of the floor wore headphones. He used to have an extension lead but these days they were infrared. His receding hairline was coated with sweat. The television was up loud out to drown out the guttural sounds of his overenthusiastic mime. There was extensive coverage of Tony Bliar’s ten years in power on the portable. For the three hundred and twenty seventh consecutive time of listening he stepped forward and skipped to track eight. His left hand formed an imaginary chord. The pinched thumb and forefinger of his right strummed against his paunch.

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