Headline February 16, 2017/ ''' *DECADENT AGE *CRUMBLES* '''


EVERY DETAIL REGISTERED. The year 1976 was  a breakpoint  in time, between the old world and the new.

Out of the air fell a man in a duffel coat, stumbling down a scree in New Mexico. Pale faced, flame-haired an angel translated to Seventies America; an Ambassador from a planet-

Come to warn us of the consequences of our behaviour.

As a suburban schoolboy growing up in Southampton, I felt I was falling through the cracks between  worlds. Into that space stopped  the  sombre shape of  Thomas Jerome Newton: ostensibly respectable, bespectacled, in an anodyne black suit.  

But beneath that shell lay another creature. bursting to get out like a butterfly from a chrysalis. 

The person who played him [or was it the other way around] was lodged in my mind as the epitome of decadent, crumbling age

He'd reached out through our  black and white  television screen offering Technicolor salvation, and I'd recognised the message. 

Now, as he morphed into his latest guise, he spoke to me from the widescreen; an alien summoned to Earth by the images he had seen to his own interplanetary receiver.

In the May of that year, I'd stood on a railway platform, waiting to be taken to a London district where, beyond all expectation. The Thin White Duke appeared on stage.

Blindingly back-lit with banks of florescent lights, prefaced by Banuel's Un Chien Andalou and Kraftwerk's bleeping  Radio-Activity  album, he wore a similarly austere, monotone costume; only now he had become a cabaret singer out of some dystopian future, via Man Ray.

The Velvet Underground and William Burroughs. It was hard to imagine, through the opening of  ''Station to Station'' , that both he, and I, had arrived by rail [although in his case, by a specially chartered train which drew into Victoria].

A few months later, now at college in another London suburb, I went to the local cinema, a tiles art deco emporium to see:
The Man Who Fell To Earth.

The film stayed with me, fetishistically, psychically; more seance than movie; a continually replaying communion, seen through celluloid, back-lit again.

Every detail registered. And just as I studied the typography of an album cover for aesthetic clues. nothing escaped me about Newton's wardrobe.
The duffel coat, its hood transforming the alien into a kind of monk as he looms out of the dark to surprise the scientist, Doctor Bryce, on a pontoon in the lake; later, he stands in low profile, looking out over the water like Jay Gatsby.

It was the sense of ordinariness on the body o an extraordinary person which spoke to disconnected time. 

The shirt buttoned at the neck without a tie. The wool overcoat. The padded, high-waisted culottes and plastic sandals. The tennis visor and white short and shorts as he plays in a surreal room with autumn leaves on an artificial grass carpet.

The grey underwear and  corset he wears as he watches a multibank of TV screens transmitting cut-up samples of Earth culture. The trilby hat that falls over his face in the final scene, with its symbolic admission of defeat.

All these seemed to announce a fragmented, overloaded future, post Kubric's-2001 : A Space Odyssey; the real future that we faced, rather than an imaginary one.

Indeed, time itself bends in the film when Newton, being chauffeured through the countryside, suddenly enters a sepia scene of 19th century sharecroppers, to a burst of a mutated banjo on the soundtrack.

And where Kubricks's costumes were provided by Hardy Amies, the costumes worn by Newton in Nicolas Roeg's film [his costume was designed by Ola Hudson; The Thin White Duke's white shirt was by Paul Smith] looked like they could have come from a jumble sale.

Which were the source of my own wardrobe in those pre-retro, pre-vintage, cut-up days: out of the thirties, in the Seventies, and into the 23rd century.

I went back again to that cinema. In an analogue era, I even took my cassette recorder and surreptitiously taped the soundtrack, the results to be replayed in the privacy of my own room, allowing my head to fill in the visuals. 

I felt haunted by Newton, possessed. As if he were leading me into a dangerous territory. But I knew I had to follow.

Then came my third transition. The slam-door train rattled along the river, a brown god by day, a black serpent by night. 

I walked out of the station and over the bridge. The sodium lights glittered on the sulphurous water, turning the river into a reflection of itself, an incomprehensible conduit, an immemorial witness.

The city was sucking me in. The streets ahead were dark, too, full of blank-eyed warehouses. The market's cellars stood empty, caverns undermining the piazza.  

None of this offered a retail opportunity:   there were no street performers or pavement cafes by day,   and by night,    Convent Garden seemed a perilous place, with its own sense of dystopian theatre.

Down a dark street, I queued outside a doorway. 

As I stood there, a boy with peroxide hair in a black leather-biker's jacket asked for a light. In that moment  -in the flaming flare from a  match,  the sheen on his jacket, his affected drawl  -everything changed again.

I descended into the cellar, and watched my first punk band play; they,too, were the children of my idol. 

The following year, in the greatest pop song ever written, we would all be proclaimed  ''Heroes'', even as we knew that were nothing, and that nothing would help us.   

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of Creation Writing of the world.. See Ya all on !WOW!   -the World Students Society and Twitter-!E-WOW!  -the Ecosystem 2011:

''' Essay '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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