Scottish Author Mark Rice's Stream of Consciousness

Before I poke fun at any song titles, I should stress that I have vast respect for the artists in question.  They, and thousands of other metallists like them, have enriched my existence immeasurably and continue to do so.  Below is a list of metal songs with titles so unmetallic that they beggar belief.  In true metal form, the list goes up to 11…

1. Saxon – Standing in a Queue

No one likes standing in a queue.  If the folk in front have juicy-looking arses it lifts the dullness somewhat, but there are always more productive things one could be doing.  My guess is that Biff Byford, he of the vocal chords that must surely be polished silver, was stuck in a particularly slow-moving queue one day, probably behind a bunch of folk with skinny backsides.  With a long wait looming and the usual arsegazing pastime out of the question, Biff snapped.  Raging at the time lost standing in line, Saxon’s helmsman thought, Eh oop, I’m goin’ t’ put a stop t’ queues…by writin’ a song about t’ futility of queuing.  Whether he did so with tongue in cheek is anyone’s guess.

I’m standing in a queue.

I don’t know what to do.

I haven’t got a clue

Why I’m standing in a queue.

2. The Darkness – English Country Garden

A metal variation of a traditional folk song I learned in primary one (and soon bastardised in the playground).  Here’s the first verse of the original song.

How many kinds of sweet flowers grow

In an English country garden?

We’ll tell you now of some that we know.

Those that we miss you’ll surely pardon.

Daffodils, heart’s ease and phlox,

Meadowsweet and lady smocks,

Gentian, lupin and tall hollyhocks,

Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, forget-me-nots

In an English country garden.

In the school playground, my friends and I were soon singing an adapted version with rather different lyrics.

What do ye do when ye cannae find the loo in an English country garden?

Pull doon yer pants and fertilise the plants in an English country garden.

Then ye take a leaf and wipe it underneath in an English country garden.

Keeching is fun underneath a blazing sun in an English country garden.

We added countless rhyming lines to that song: some crude, some awful, some genius.

Now to The Darkness’s adaptation.  The title has no metal credibility whatsoever.  The Darkness don’t care about that, though.  They balance humour, poignance and excellent delivery, ever playful but never quite parody.  Their lyrics in this track are – at points – classic.  Check out this for an example.

When I saw her pushing that wheelbarrow,

She said, “Have you got a match?”

And I said, “Yes – my cock and Farmer Giles’s prize marrow!”

Full of fun and frolics.  To be a true metal version, however, it’d need to tweak the title to something like Carpathian Ruin at Dusk.

3. AC/DC – House of Jazz

Jazz has no place in metal (with the possible exception of Spinal Tap’s Jazz Odyssey, but that’s another story).  AC/DC would have been better to call a spade a spade: House of Whores.  Or, if they wanted to put a Scottish slant on that and boost its metallic quotient, Hoose of Hoochies (They’ll Suck You Dry for the Price of a Pie).

4. Rainbow – The Shed

I like my sheds, both of them.  The larger one contains an ever-present supply of Polyfilla and other invaluable substances, all of which are guarded by a large ginger cat who sprawls on the roof during daylight hours.  Although I might write a track called Guardian of the Polyfilla or Orange Hairy Gargoyle about this situation, I wouldn’t consider titling a metal song The Shed.  No matter how impressive Ritchie Blackmore’s shed was circa 1980, he must have been having one of his wired-to-the-Moon days (does he have any other type?) when he named a song after it.  And if his shed really was that special, why isn’t it mentioned in the song?  Doubly puzzling, but – as with all things Blackmore – earthly logic needn’t apply.

5. Hardcore Superstar – Why Don’t You Love Me like Before

Do I need to explain?  Really?  It isn’t the missing question mark that offends me most (although I’m not happy about it).  Why Don’t You Love Me like Before is a synonym for I’m a Self-pitying Whiner Who’s Feeling Sorry for Himself – an unacceptable attitude for a metallist.  If she doesn’t love you like before, instead of moaning about it in a ballad, ditch the bitch.  Then find a better, filthier woman and write a song about her prowess as a fellatress.  That’d be the metal thing to do.

6. Motörhead – Joy of Labour

The song’s lyrics are dark and devilish, its title ironic.  Nonetheless, the title makes me think of Mother Mary giving birth to the baby Jesus in a manger, smile on her face, halo glowing around her head, while a baffled Joseph looks on wondering, ‘How did he get in there?’

7. Eternal Tears of Sorrow – Tar of Chaos

Conjures up images of demons dressed in high-visibility yellow jackets and hardhats drinking tea from flasks by a roadside while a steamroller flattens glutinous tar next to a sign that reads Chaos 1 Mile.  Not a bad vision, just not a metal one.

8. Bigelf – Counting Sheep

Shagging Sheep would be a metallic title, as would Throwing Sheep at Satan.  ‘Nuff said.

9. Halford – The Mower

The Metal God has created some enduring characters: The Metallion; The Painkiller; The Ripper; The Sentinel; The Hellion.  Those visceral beasts are mythic and magical to metallists.  The Mower, on the other hand, makes me think of an orange Flymo trimming my wee ma’s lawn on a summer’s dayA quaint image but not a metal one.

10. Ozzy Osbourne – Civilize the Universe

As if the world needed any more evidence that Oz has become Americanised, he removes all doubt by using the ‘z’ spelling (civilize) rather than the English ‘s’ one (civilise).  That’s his prerogative, but stop a moment to reflect on the song title and its intention.  Keep in mind that this is the same Ozzy who bit the head off live doves (a stunt for which I’d have snapped him in two); he was supposed to set the doves free from their cage after signing a solo record deal with Jet Records: a symbolic celebration of his freedom from Black Sabbath.  This is the same man who bit the head off a bat thrown onstage by a fan (although, admittedly, Oz thought that one was a rubber toy).  It’s also the same man whose drunken, drug-fuelled debauchery has become legend.  I have immense admiration for Oz as a musical artist, even though he’s a compassionless mentaloid where animals are involved.  Were I to list the least civilised folk who spring to mind, he’d be near the top.  There’s unintentional irony in the lyrics of Civilize the Universe, which plead for peace (an admirable sentiment) but also lambast hypocrisy and implore us to be civilised (this from the man who, in his recent autobiography, claimed that he enjoyed his job at a slaughterhouse).  So an individual who gained pleasure from killing beautiful sentient beings then wrote a song begging folk to be more civilised.  That’s like a porn actress writing an anti-fucking anthem.  Put the hypocrisy to one side, though, and consider the title; heavy metal was never meant to be civilised.  Desecrate the Universe would be a good death-metal title.  Defecate a Universe would make an excellent black-metal title.  Diary of a Madman – that was a perfect metal title from Oz, and one without a glimmer of hypocrisy.

11. UFO – Dance Your Life Away

Strange left-field subject matter for a UFO song: a man and woman who take part in foxtrot competitions.  I put the whole thing down to the gargantuan amounts of drugs Moggy and co were doing at the time.  The idea probably felt like an epiphany.  I’d love to have witnessed the conversation that led to this track’s creation.  It must have been more Spinal Tap than Spinal Tap.

That’s it for now.  Watch this space for my next all-the-way-to-eleven list: Album Covers That Changed My Life (complete with lovely full-colour pictures).

Don’t say I’m not good to you.

Until then, keep your heads in the clouds and your feet on the ground.

MD Front Jacket

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I met English author Maria Savva a couple of years ago.  Since then I’ve read two of her books: Fusion, a collection of short stories, and The Dream, a novel.  Maria’s new book, titled Delusion and Dreams, is a collection of twelve short stories.  She decided to hijack my blog for a day in order to promote her new collection.  Who am I to argue?

So without any further ado, not that there’s been much ado thus far, some might say no ado at all (I don’t do ado well, or do I?), here’s a wee excerpt from Happy New Year, one of the book’s tales.

‘Did you kill Mary Bentley?’

There was an echo in the room so that the “ley” at the end of “Bentley” resounded and joined with the reverberation of Jonathan’s cough, which followed almost immediately after the policeman asked the question. Jonathan’s cheeks coloured a deep red. Would they assume he was guilty now?

‘No,’ he said, almost too loudly, trying to make up for what could have been wrongly inferred from his cough.

His answer repeated as an echo. Mocking him.

This was the third time DC Briggs had asked him that particular question: Did you kill Mary Bentley? The answer remained the same.

‘Mr. Graves, we have three witnesses who saw you leave the Great Gull pub on the night of Mary Bentley’s disappearance. We have CCTV evidence of you walking along the high street with her, towards the forest where her body was discovered. It would save a lot of time if you confess now.’

‘But I didn’t kill her,’ said Jonathan, eyes wet with unshed tears. Would this detective continue to hound him until he broke down and confessed simply because he couldn’t breathe anymore under the weight of the persistent questioning? Was this a tried and tested torture method that had worked before on innocent men?

He glanced at the police officer who sat next to DC Briggs. That man had not asked any questions, but took notes throughout the interrogation.

How much longer would they keep him here? Looking down at his hands he saw they were pale, almost taking on the greyness of the cold stone walls, as if he were slowly disappearing, fading into the surroundings. It had been hours since they’d brought him in for questioning. He dearly wished he had asked to have a solicitor present, but he hadn’t thought he would need one; thought there would only be a few questions. How much longer were they allowed to keep him here without charging him? Surely there must be a time limit.

His throat felt dry and hunger pangs assailed him, yet with the ever-present nausea he felt sure he would vomit if any food passed his lips.

He began to feel paranoid, lightheaded, and worried he would end up confessing because that was expected of him. As he faced the continual barrage of questions, he wondered if he might be losing his mind.

‘How long had you known Mary?’

‘I’ve already told you.’ He sighed. ‘Two years. We met at a New Year’s party two years ago.’

The detective asked the same questions over and over, seemingly on a loop. Would this continue for ever? Perhaps he was stuck in a kind of time warp or a lucid dream.

Jonathan became aware of a closed-in sensation, bordering on claustrophobia. The air felt almost unbreathable—devoid of oxygen. Inhaling deeply, he felt a panic like he could choke on his attempt to breathe. The strip lighting strained his eyes. He wanted to close them, but if he did, he feared he would drift away into a deep sleep; the sleep of the weary and dejected, one in which he would only face nightmares of a different kind. 

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Blurb: Twelve stories of betrayal, greed, revenge, deception, dreams, and courage. We all struggle to find our way. What you see isn’t necessarily all there is. This collection takes you into the grey area, because the world is never just black and white. Life is all about perspective. One person’s delusion is another person’s dream. Includes five bonus stories.

Maria

Author Bio:

Maria Savva lives and works in London. She studied Law at Middlesex University and The College of Law. She is a lawyer, although not currently practising law. She writes novels and short stories in different genres, including drama, psychological thriller, and family saga. Many of her books and stories are inspired by her years working as a lawyer, although she has not written a courtroom drama to date. Her most recent novel is Haunted, a crime fiction/psychological thriller.

Author links:

Website: www.mariasavva.com

Blog: www.goodreads.com/author/show/1418272.Maria_Savva/blog

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Maria-Savva/171466979781

Twitter: Twitter.com/Maria_Savva

Buy links for Delusion and Dreams:

Amazon.com: www.amazon.com/Delusion-and-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00D0EHJHA/

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Delusion-and-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00D0EHJHA/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1369585340&sr=8-6&keywords=delusion+and+dreams

Forensic experts at the University of Dundee created an accurate 3D depiction of Robert Burns’s head by using casts of his skull and contemporary portraits. I was lucky enough to look into his eyes, which seemed to look back with sentience. It was a profound experience.

A week before Burns night in 2013 I watched a documentary that told the head’s story, from the forensic team’s painstaking reconstruction through to the unveiling ceremony in Alloway, where Burns had set his supernatural Magnum Opus Tam O’ Shanter. Scottish actor David Hayman narrated the documentary, excitement audible in his voice as he waited for the head to be revealed. Something else was present in his speech too: awe. Would Burns look like the burly ploughman history tells us he was or would his appearance have an effeminate quality, as per some of the painted portraits? Would his face convey the Scottishness of his written work? Hayman was relieved upon seeing the results. Burns’s countenance – fleshed out using facial-reconstruction technology – had the characteristic look of a man o’ the land. More farmer than fop, he was beautiful in a hardy way.

MR and RB

Photo by Sammy Psittacosaurus

As I gazed into the eyes of Burns, recognition bubbled to the surface: I know you. Perhaps the ubiquitous nature of Robert Burns in Scotland results in many Scots feeling that way. The Bard’s poems and their imagery became part of me as a child when I first experienced their magic. Standing face to face with the source of that magic, I recognised it as surely as I would my own reflection. Since my earliest memories, Burns’s words had been shaping my perception for the better. He and I share some characteristics: ancestry, culture and history; love of animals and countryside; refusal to accept hypocrisy; disdain for cruelty; an appreciation of short tartan skirts (“Weel done, Cutty-sark!”); a love of wild hochmagandy. Is it an accident that I grew up to embody many of the qualities that burned so passionately in Burns? Or did his ideas filter into the childhood me and find solace there, distilling until my soul – ever the stickler for truth – had weighed them up and invited the worthy ones to become part of my being? If I were a betting man I’d put my money on the latter.

The Bard

Photo by Mark Rice

Three days after sharing space with the head of Burns and spending time in the bedroom where he and Jean Armour conceived and birthed their ill-fated twins, I dreamed that I met the Bard walking across a meadow. We sat in the shade of a leafless oak tree. Burns pulled a silver hip flask from his pocket. After taking a few gulps, he offered me the container. I shook my head. The Bard shrugged then guzzled the remainder of the usquabae. His ponytail flapped in a rogue gust of wind. Gazing at the umber sunset, he said, “What do you think o’ humans?”

“The most destructive, despicable species on the planet,” I replied. “Ah’ve always known where Ah stand wi’ beasts. Not so wi’ folk. Horses relax in ma company and I in theirs. The same is true o’ camels, dogs, goats, wolves, pigs, cats, rabbits, coos, guinea pigs, hamsters…the list goes on. And for some reason moths come tae me as if Ah were a flame. A few years ago a friend’s eight-year-old daughter looked intae ma eyes and said, ‘You’re an animal soul in a human body.’ There was nae uncertainty in her voice. Maybe she was right. That would explain a lot. Ah love the company o’ wild things.”

“Aye,” said Burns, nodding. “Many a Clydesdale horse an’ moose an’ louse Ah looked in the eyes, an’ there Ah saw nowt but truth. In humans Ah e’er saw agendas.”

“Dear Bard, Ah learned much aboot honesty, integrity and compassion from you. Ah wish everyone had, but far too many folk are vessels o’ chaos, causin’ sufferin’ wherever they go. They’re strangers tae integrity.”

“Sounds like no’ much has changed,” mused the Bard.

“You’re right. Cowardice, cruelty and hypocrisy are as prevalent noo as when you were pennin’ poems that changed the literary landscape forever.”

“Are people treatin’ creatures better?”

“Some are, but idiotic humans still hunt and kill animals in the name o’ so-called sport. That’s murder, not sport. Something’s only a sport if both sides take part voluntarily and agree on the rules. Pullin’ a trigger and blowin’ a deer’s heid apart isnae sport – it’s deliberate murder of a gorgeous wild beast. Fishing’s no better. A human dunks a lure intae water as a Trojan-horse gift intended tae coax a poor fish tae its death. The one who’s unlucky enough tae bite has its mooth pierced by barbed metal, then the pain worsens as the creature’s yanked oot o’ water intae air, where the wee beauty begins tae asphyxiate. Overcome by panic and excruciatin’ agony, the beautiful bein’ flops aroon’ in a desperate attempt tae find its way back home tae the water. Then the creature’s gills collapse and it dies. Tae me, treatin’ any creature that way is unthinkable, compassionless, murderous, psychopathic. Fish are sentient beings wi’ feelings, instincts, families, social groups, intelligence, and a drive tae survive. Yet commercial trawlers net them in tens o’ thoosands, haulin’ them oot o’ the water tae an agonisin’ death.”

A tear trickled from the Bard’s left eye, catching the day’s last light. “Ah never thought much aboot the sufferin’ o’ sea creatures when Ah was tuckin’ intae them wi’ tatties and salt,” he said, his voice a breeze loaded with regret.

“Imagine other animals started treatin’ humans that way,” I said. “You’re walkin’ doon the street and a delicious-lookin’ scone wi’ jam and clotted cream materialises in front o’ your face. You take a bite, only tae find your cheek impaled by a hook. You’re pulled towards a river where a grizzly bear stands waist deep in water, reelin’ you in wi’ a fishin’ rod. When you’re within reach the beast grabs your heid and dunks it intae the river. You try tae free yoursel’ but it’s in vain – the grizzly’s strength is too much for you. Panickin’, you inhale. Water floods your lungs. Your body is starved of oxygen. Lactic acid burns intae your muscles. Above your heid the river explodes in a froth o’ bubbles then is still. You’re deid. If that were tae occur, you and I know that newspapers would run headlines like Bastard Bear Kills Bard. The media would shout, ‘Get a Gun, Gut a Grizzly.’ Oor ursine brothers and sisters would be hunted tae extinction. That has almost happened across the globe anyway. Back when you were writin’, bears, wolves and lynx roamed Scotland, but they were wiped oot by sociopathic numbskulls who disrupted the natural order. Too many humans are blind tae their own cruelty and tae that o’ their fellow man. Unawakened. Unenlightened. Unsentient. Unconscious. Not for all the money in the world would Ah cause sufferin’ tae a sentient creature. That’s ma way. Fuck it – that’s the way! You know it and Ah know it. What profiteth a man if he gaineth the whole world and forfeiteth his soul?

“Ah never could thole the hypocrisy o’ religious folk,” said Burns, “but that wee chunk o’ Bible text is unco wise. If Ah’m no’ mistaken, your biblical namesake penned it.”

“Aye, he did. Marks make the best prophets. That’s scientifically proven.” As a tip o’ the hat to my favourite actor, Brendan Gleeson, I affected my best Irish (Oirish) accent and made fanny-tickling motions with my fingers. “Oi have the gift!”

“The jury’s oot on that one,” mumbled the Bard. “We’ll see.”

“We will, as you say, see.” A nod to Douglas Adams from me.

“You’ve soaked up ma compassion for creatures and filtered it through your cultural sieve,” observed Burns. “If Ah were aroon’ today Ah’d be a lot like you. Less quimthirsty, though.”

“What? Your shaggin’ exploits are legendary. And you didnae exactly dae it discreetly. You wrote poems and sonnets tae your lustiest lovethings then published them. At ma last count, you’d written odes tae eighty maidens! Ah figured if vagina-related recreation was the prime pastime o’ Scotland’s Bard, it must be worthy of exploration. In your words Ah found lucidity and on the Hochmagandy Highway Ah found carnal bliss. From Bard’s lips tae boy’s ears – joy can be found between the thighs of a warm, welcomin’ woman.”

“This is ma legacy?” moaned Burns. “Mount a lusty maiden and be happy?”

“Aye, but no’ just that. Your messages o’ brotherhood, compassion, wisdom and integrity are still resonatin’ across the land. You taught us it’s good tae feel, tae think, tae question, tae express. You also showed that fuckin’ can be fun.”

The Bard frowned. “You won’t find any mention o’ fuckin’ in ma written work. Ah wasnae uncouth in poetry or prose. Honest, raw and straight tae the point, but never coarse. Ah didnae just describe the mechanical aspects o’ fornication – Ah discovered that when carnality and love collide, the experience is greater than the sum of its parts.”

“Ah discovered the same thing, Rab. Pure, intimate love is the ultimate truth. Did you have a favourite lover? Jean, presumably? Was she your one?”

“Are folk still bletherin’ aboot the one? For me, there was always one. Then came another, followed by the one after that. And so on, ad infinitum, in gloria vaginis. Every woman Ah had true intimacy wi’ – and that’s a function o’ soul more than body – was ma one in that moment. Moments are ephemeral, though. Jean was one lover. Ah had many. Ah loved each o’ them wi’ unbridled passion. Tae declare any woman ma one would lessen the importance o’ the others. Most history tells lies. Mine cannae. Ah loved fiercely and widely. Each lover brought me revelations.”

My Oirish accent returns. “Are you sayin’ you’re a lover, not a foighter?”

“Somethin’ like that.”

Still Oirish. “Oi’m a lover, a foighter and a wroiter.”

“You’re an eejit.”

“You t’ink Oi’m not roight in the head?”

“Definitely no’ right in the heid.”

“That’s pretty much the consensus.”

Burns smiled. “An honest eejit wi’ a hertful o’ love and a soulful o’ compassion is worth more than all the gemstones and gold in the world.”

“Thank you, Rab. This eejit will e’er the truth speak, ne’er bowin’ tae fear or folly.”

“Good man,” said Burns. “Go forth and write, ma big hairy eejit friend. The world is your fertile furrow. Call on me if e’er you need advice.”

“Thanks but no thanks. As some rogue Scottish writer said in Revelation Was Wrong, ‘Those who ride through life on the coattails of others are not worthy of admiration.’ Forever Ah’ll admire your literary coattails, and the rest o’ your coat…and your troosers…and, och, you get my metaphor. Ah have tae plough ma own literary fields, though. Fresh ones.”

“Plough awa’, compatriot,” said the Bard. He stood up and offered me his right hand. I gripped it in mine. As Burns pulled me to my feet, I felt the strength of ages flow in an ancestral circuit. In that moment my roots felt deeper than those of the oak which sheltered us.

Burns's Head and Portrait

Photo by Mark Rice

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