DECLINE AND FALL

or

MEMORY OF A FREE FESTIVAL

In the opening chapter of
Evelyn! Rhapsody for an Obsessive Love, I recall my adolescence as being dominated by the music of David Bowie and the novels of Evelyn Waugh. Though it was the images associated with both artists - album and book covers in particular - that contributed to the mystique.

As a memorial to the time I spent listening to LPs and reading Penguin paperbacks while lying in the carpeted lounge of 1 Bulbourne Close, Hemel Hempstead, in the mid-70s, here is a Bowie take on
Decline and Fall. Or, if you like, 'Memory of a Free Festival' by Evelyn Waugh.

"Should I announce it?" says Bowie as the squeeze-box starts up. Really, it's the seductive wheezing of the melodeon that makes this track so compelling.

He decides he should, and announces slightly portentously - as if he knows something special is coming up: "
The Memory of a Free Festival by Evelyn Waugh."

Right, let's get things rolling with Grimes telling Pennyfeather about a dream he had about the forthcoming sports day at the school in Wales they teach at:

"The Children of the summer's end
Gathered in the dampened grass.
We played our songs and felt the Llanabba sky
Resting on our hands
It was God's land.
It was ragged and naive
It was Heaven."

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Grimes goes on about the sports day:

"Touch, We touched the very soul
Of holding each and every life.
We claimed the very source of joy ran through.
It didn't, but it seemed that way.
I kissed a lot of people that day."


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Bowie's lyrics. Grimes's point of view. Funny how it works so well:

"Oh, to capture just one drop of all the ecstasy that swept that afternoon.
To paint that love upon a white balloon.
And fly it from the toppest top of all the tops
That man has pushed beyond his brain.
Satori must be something just the same."

d&F

Bowie's lyrics, Paul Pennyfeather's point of view? That works too. Here is Paul drinking champagne at the Ritz on the morning of his wedding to Margot:

"We scanned the skies with rainbow eyes and saw machines of every shape and size.
We talked with tall Venusians passing through.
And Peter tried to climb aboard but the Captain shook his head,
And away they soared.
Climbing through the ivory vibrant cloud.
Someone passed some bliss among the crowd.
And we walked back to the road, unchained."

Alas, it doesn't work out that way for Paul, he was getting ahead of himself. Things fall apart.

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A week before the wedding, Margot had sent Paul to Paris to deal with a problem in her 'business'.

"The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We're Gonna Have a Party."

Paul is as clueless about Margot's dealings in sex as he is about those of Grimes. An innocent abroad.

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Poor Paul Pennyfeather. Off to prison for trafficking prostitutes. Or as the judge says:

"The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We're Gonna Have a Party."

In prison, Paul has a vision of Grimes:

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Quite a positive vision, it has to be said, given that the guy was a paedophile.

Talking of positive visions, there's only one way to finish this. When Evelyn Waugh married Evelyn Gardner, Paul and Margot effectively got hitched as well. And how does Bowie feel about that? I mean today, in June 2015, with my book Evelyn! proving to be an unparalleled success among the lower orders?

"The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We're Gonna Have a Party. Uh-huh-huh."

I'll settle for that.

Now here's the link which I think is probably needed to really connect with this page.

Memory of a Free Festival.




Note
My first and best take on
Decline and Fall, which involves a trip to the Barley Mow where the second half of the novel was written, can be read in Evelyn! Rhapsody for an Obsessive Love.