NOCTURNE TO A JAZZ GUITAR.
( In memory of David Williams )
GUITAR OPENING: series of driving chords.
FIRST VOICE Dai Banjo, one of some celebrity, and
Nick named thus where sir names have no bearing.
Born in the guilt steeped valley near the sea,
Now man of no mean talent, and some learning.
We find on stage as darkness falls swiftly
On hills and tips and straggled streets uncaring,
Strumming out a melody in the old twelve bar
( Banjo they called him though he played guitar! )
GUITAR: Playing twelve bar blues.
FIRST VOICE: Snug in the bowels of a lust dimmed den
Phrases Jangoed through the clouded throng
Intended mainly for himself as now and then
He indulged the thought of jazzmen who died
An Orpheus who played beyond their ken:
Laments unheard and beauty left unsung
In endless litany ran through his mind
As fingers sought the future left behind.
GUITAR: Plaintive lament.
FIRST VOICE: With small, but sturdy frame, Byronic curls,
He weaves and bobs, his eyes take in the hall
To linger on the few, new fresh faced girls
Before they get the patina: pale luster of
Innocence destroyed like pearls
Opaqued in pools of alcohol.
Before the strobe lights blear the face of youth
He seeks the one that will reveal the truth!
GUITAR: single echoing chord.
FIRST VOICE : End to begin in Sartian division
Watching the dancers circle, strut and space
So conscious of each I - me - it decision,
Parody of parrotry, each time blown face
Petals the lenses of his darkened vision to
Gibber edge the images that take their place
( All part of his early evening show
Please bear with him, there's all the night to go! )
SOUND OF A DISTANT CHURCH BELL.
FIRST VOICE: And in your travails you have come across
Mobius strips, fused levels gained in vain;
When every day you have a certain sense of loss
And never one in which you seem to gain.
Frustrations press and only drugs can gloss
Over and then obliviate the pain; the one
Certainty in sensual stimuli and let the
Cursed ambitions darkly lie.
And he's learned tricks to overcome these
Of wild regrets and visions unfulfilled:
Just run them through the mind in little dramas
At alienation through exposure he was skilled to
Leave the mind page bland, the backdrop calmer,
Exhaust the threat and fret is stilled.
( So Banjo thought as he mouthed another verse )
Thought is the expedition of our universe!
PARODY OF POP SONG SUNG IN OBSCURE WAY SO LYRICS ARE UNINTELLIGIBLE - as so many are! -
ACCOMPANIED BY GUITAR AND PIANO.
SUDDENLY ENDED BY A BLEAK CHORD, THEN CLICK OF CAMERA SHUTTER.
FIRST VOICE: Back in a blink
that tilt of terraces where he was raised,
a landscape long erased from sight,
but not from vision.
GUITAR: calming, nostalgic chords.
FIRST VOICE: mother Yeoman's house at the mountain end
with a drawer full of currants and nuts;
fat cat and kettle purring by the fire,
warm flannel ready to soothe scrapes and cuts.
GUITAR: dramatic strum
FIRST VOICE: Sprinter Jones dashing, yellow eyes
flashing, out to defend his
snobby nosed, balaclavad brood.
crouched in his shed on a crop
biting off puppy tails to feed his ferrets,
Leyshon squints the poacher's moon.
SCRAPE OF PEN AND STREAM GURGLING.
FIRST VOICE down in the shadow by the slurry
_ slowed stream
old Brynmor with lordly, china blue
eyes, is writing the letters for
applicants and debtors in his
beautiful copper plate hand,
just for the entrance fee to the pub.
No saloon bar for him though
with his drips and his smells
- half his guts blown away
in the Dardanelles.
WHISTLE AND CRUMP OF EXPLODING SHELL.
SECOND VOICE : Billy, clean and comely, blond hair
parted carefully on the right,
waiting for one of his 'uncles' to call
( except on a Sunday night. )
SNATCH OF A CHOIR SINGING A WELSH HYMN.
SECOND VOICE: Joseph the grocer,
face like a sweaty ham, lurks in the
spicy gloom, greasy folds of an
apron hiding his lust like a loose
SOUND OF A TILL BELL CHANGING TO A BOXING BELL.
Bowen the boxer, cap over cauli lug,
bouncing along on the balls of his
feet, circling his shadow while his fat
wife is yapping her mole tufted jaws:
- gossip is gospel for all of the
SECOND VOICE councillor Evans, gold watch
respectable, plate holder and
deacon, - caught syphoning petrol.
Winnie the Dribblers house stank of
paraffin, Barbara had jap eyes,
Pat peed her knickers, all of the
Matthews were screamers and
FIRST VOICE in a flash all the memories pass.
SECOND VOICE: walking with Betty or maybe Beth?
down by the rancid river side.
squatting under a bridge arch
trying to hide from cold cobwebs of rain
and watching the turn of the tide.
LAP OF WATER.
SECOND VOICE - NOW WITH ECHO -
green, clean salty surge laced with elvers
and jelly fish stippled like gooseberries.
white whirling loom of a cuttlefish bone'
lazy flicker of a mud drugged sole.
then the ocean's fecundity made so absurd
by the defiant bob of a corky old turd!
he had laughed out aloud, heard the cackling
echo taken up by the seaguls subdued until then,
sparrows arrowed away and a solitary jackdaw
cocked his steel jacket head at them.
VAGUE POP SONG, PIANO AND GUITAR AGAIN.
FIRST VOICE: he croaked the last note remembering that
taste of rejection, bitter as fear.
'Too near the mike, mun!' the pianist
hissed as they bowed to feeble applause.
SMATTERING OF CLAPPING.
FIRST VOICE - OVER TO BEGIN WITH -
Love once confessed is easily outwitted;
But poets fail who dwell too much on that,
They must remain devoted, be committed
To sacrifice for fancy and not fact.
Though fancy fashions life, it is admitted
And facts are false in that they are 'exact'.
( to such early evening melancholy Banjo's prone.
it was the period when he felt the most alone! )
Can passion be dispatched by mentioned words
That conjure up an image of the past?
Time will twist the truth to show its innards.
Compacts composed on thighs will rarely last
As crystal hearts are broken into shards
That gash the ego deeper than a glass.
To live you must enjoy a little pain:
Learn not to catch your breath upon a name.
Banjo now takes solo on the stage
Mixing echoes of lost innocence with
Cold plucked dread of coming age.
All of it so puzzling,
Little of it so planned!
( meanwhile he sang a ditty sotto
voice to please the band )
THIRD VOICE -WELSH AND MID ATLANTIC.
beneath a chunky yellow moon
on such a perfect velvet night.
the sprawl of Orion on our left,
the hiss of the steelworks on our right.
And Sunday always a frustrating one
with the sex ridden press and packet peas.
And she would never take her drawers down
further than her knees.
QUIET SNIGGERING FROM THE BAND.
rolled on his back on brittle
springs of heather, quoting
Juvenal's lines on a good wet lay.
lips pursed in disgust she was
plying his handkerchief
wondering if they would catch
the 'Top Twenty' that day?
FIRST VOICE: Number finished he surveys the filling hall
with the smile of a cherub, but the
eyes of a troll.
GUITAR - single echoing chord -
THIRD VOICE Time for the band break when the
Local talent sought the spotlight,
Eager for the chance of fame.
CLINK OF GLASSES, TALK.
FIRST VOICE: Banjo sips his whisky and enjoys the game
Philosophizes on how nicety of
Calculation had replaced real thought:
Keep the style fluid and the power intact!
THIRD VOICE: On stage another puppet flogged the
Promise in his pants.
Bored women grinned and turned their backs.
As shadows of past sordid deeds will
Turn the purest thought to dross,
He saw her bearing through the crowd
Her hips spread not by child but sloth.
Then stalled above him with bursting
Slacks and blouse with legs and mouth akimbo.
WOMAN'S VOICE: 'You've been ignoring me all night!'
FIRST VOICE: He saw again sweat yellowed sheets and
Pillows glazed with mucus.
And she was coming on strong again:
Numbing his ear with a saucepan lid bra,
Bruising his ribs with an iron clad girdle.
'I'm not that drunk this time!' He said
And left her with the grinning bandsmen at
To ponder the graffiti changes in the bog:
Like fossil traces show they once had lived.
But now the 'was here' and the names of slags
And comical advice
Were cancelled out by homo codes and
Boot boy brags.
It seemed to Banjo, this new writing on the wall,
Revealed the coming of another Reich!
He returned warily, then cheered to see the
Drummer chatting up the forced draught job
And they had refilled his glass!
THIRD VOICE: Ah water of life.
If you could only remain as holy and not
Just fuel up the bloody melancholy.
GUITAR - sad echoing chords.
FIRST VOICE: Band reassembled bashing out a beat.
Then the crooner cried 'She was nobody's child,'
But only the bodies as they swayed
Betrayed desire, despair and real alienation.
Banjo then took up the tune and played
Each chord to echo more than last as his
Mind filtered in again to days that were long past.
SECOND VOICE: after the first school warm with colours and
music and singing, they were
marched to that barracks over the hill.
Now no time left for learning just a
breaking of will! and a headmaster
ranting on duty and truth with white hair
sprouting out of his ears like stuffing
coming loose, as he wiped his mouth
with the back of his hand - yet still reached
the front row and further with spit.
THIRD VOICE; ( caught flashing one day in a town nearby, but
got off with a plea about 'prostrate problems' )
here a bunch of idle time servers, pensioned
off from life, with no courage for their vices
only passion for their spites.
FIRST VOICE: he had gained their smug mugged praise
puking out the facts and apt quotations that
were thought an 'education' and yet somehow
failed to pass from school boy swot to an
next came the college and the cramming of
the isms and the schisms from crabby texts
and the format of the 'answers' they had sought.
following entwined parasites through what
once was living thought.
THIRD VOICE: he loved the parties and the sport, with
these he had no quarrel, and study now he
could devote to classy girls without those
And learned a lot from one such stoat
- no resting on his laurels - for those
with world enough and time to know the
joys, not revel in the sorrows.
FIRST VOICE: by the second year he had assumed the
proper attitude and joined the right societies
from brass necks coined the platitudes that
kept the populace in its place, while making
sure it showed a proper gratitude.
in the last year - grown quite cynical -
his methodology was clinical:
living with an influential 'Phaedra'
and the one essential truth:
only at the fount of knowledge
will you find eternal youth!
THIRD VOICE: flushed in the rays of his ascending star;
knowing how to handle her and learning
how to finger a guitar.
WOMAN'S LAUGHTER. FUMBLING GUITAR CHORDS.
We have now reached the half way point in this discourse.
As you will have discerned, it is a complex, but not really successful
play for radio.
It started as a narrative poem written over a weekend and was
published under the title 'Dai Banjo and his Star Wagon' around
1980. People either seem to like or hate it; but the people I respect
a lot liked it for the most part, so on it goes.........
The idea being to show how the protagonist, Dave Williams, fails
to communicate through his work, art, philosophy and sex and ends up
disappearing into his own mysticism - the fate of many a talented
The text is further complicated by the verse form which starts as
ottava rima and then becomes looser until it ends single images
as the night progresses. This is meant to reflect the 'progress' of
There are more subjective concepts as well .e.g. 'Byronic' as this
is the verse form perfected by Byron. 'Jangoed' as Dave was a great
admirer of the jazz guitarist, Jango Rhinehart. 'Sartian' as he thought
a great deal along the existentialist lines of Albert Camus and J.P.
There are some of the tropes of Dylan Thomas as well, as the
play is intended as the opposite of 'Milkwood' in having an urban
setting and at night, yet the Welsh character is similar everywhere.
It had a successful performance in the 'Swansea Festival of Literature',
with the aid of two local groups and I played First Voice.
So................read on if you have the patience?
NOCTURNE FOR A JAZZ GUITAR cont.
FIRST VOICE: then, as with every picaro,
it was time to leave the scene,
with some skills and a scroll to take
back to his valley: still festering serene.
( of relatives I make no mention, but
can only say: he was an orphan raised
by kind and caring aunts since
seeing the light of day, )
now back as a graduate he must be
introduced to nice girls: bovine breeders
and/or chapel sharpened shrews where the
mortgage first mentality prevails amidst the
teachers and the preachers that are the
curse of Wales!
SOUND OF HYMN SINGING. CHURCH BELLS, TILL BELLS.
grown used to challenge and sensation
he scrabbled round the spoil heaps and
leaching cinders of lost hopes in vain,
trying to find the real world again.
until standing on a blackened rock
looking toward the smoking glower of a far town,
a trick of light and cloud perspective caught
- framed in a lattice work of cranes -
the glitter blue and silver of the sea.
THIRD VOICE: once tipped that wink of wanderlust
to follow was the only thing to do!
he packed at once and got the bus to
Swansea and signed on as D.H.U.
( deck hand unskilled )
a lowly member of the crew.
no teaching ticket for him, instead
he sailed aboard a tanker heading
light ship for Port Said.
SOUND OF SHIP'S ENGINES AND THE SEA.
FIRST VOICE: pounding out past Ushant,
slugging round Cape Finisterre, then came
grim St Vincent and all the while he was
reeling from the mal de mer.
On then ever eastward through the
Gates of Hercules sped our salt water imposter,
now a troubadour of the seas.
GUITAR AND CONCERTINA PLAYING SEA SHANTY.
FIRST VOICE: Tears now fill Banjo's eyes, so all the
Harbor lights and hurricanes are blurred
Into the one........so further sea nostalgia we
Will have to skip - he only ever made one trip! -
But there he found the tunes to
Whistle in the dark, and
There he learned to tell the
Player from the part.
SOUNDS OF SEA FADING AWAY.
THIRD VOICE: a year or maybe later
he landed far from broke
on a jetty in the Medway, quite near
the legendary 'Smoke'.
took a bed sit up in Camden
near the green of Regent's Park.
got a job as plumber's mate
on a council block estate.
SOUND OF HEAVY TRAFFIC.
living there to take his pick of
the chicks fresh form the sticks
looking for their break against the
city's sneering sophistry.
( few knew the rules to win the game
and make the cheque mate or the name.)
THIRD VOICE: anchored on an easy job
swinging on a tide of fancy.
FIRST VOICE: Dulcet dawns to wake undreaming
Wrapt in woman scented sheets in those
Tick-tocked, sleep-sighed, fridge-purred flats
Far from the toiling deep, the watch bell dint,
The bobbing compass bubble.
No rough shake this to rub up
Nipples with his early morning stubble!
WOMAN GIGGLING SOFTLY.
And so it was all summer brief,
Until autumn's amber chill brought its
Dead leaves down to sour the
Wellsprings of his being.
THIRD VOICE: the current girl was London Welsh,
torn between hiraeth and Hampstead camp:
Beardsley on her bedroom walls,
love spoons in her kitchen,
above the fireplace, a miners' lamp.
FIRST VOICE : She was into the theatah
Providing slides for that myopia
Wrapping all her foibles in flannel:
Musicals and Dylantopia!
THIRD VOICE: And suddenly he longed to see the
Purple loom of gaunt hills pride.
Places and not people were his
Image of the countryside.
That very night he chuckled through her
Simulated gasps and sighs and
When questioned on the cause of humour
For once he truly said: she was a better
Actress on the stage than she was
In the bed!
He sat upright and watched the mirror
Bloat his flaccid frame and faded tan.
The tensed his arms for their comforting swell.
'You really love yourself, you Narcissus!'
' He loved an image, not himself.' said he.
'Well custom's made it what I say!' she snarled.
'And custom's made a coward
Out of me!' he thought.
Next morning he departed
Singing as he went.
Glad to leave these people so effete
That those you join you still had to beat!
SNATCH OF ETON BOATING SONG. SOUND OF TRAFFIC.
CHILD'S VOICE: Hitching along the acrid concrete ways,
Mind filled with school mitching days
when rebels for the sun they trod the
powdered sand and sea spun pebbles.
boiled black winkles on drift wood fires.
cracked their kelp whips,
yelped their war cries through the
slithered echoes of the
booming Mumbles caves.
FIRST VOICE: clear days, green ways, mirrored in the waves.
WAVES BREAKING GENTLY ON A SHORE.
THIRD VOICE: Time for a pause, remainder of this was brass.
He sipped at a another glass of scotch.
Noticed a new barmaid: own teeth,
Straight back and longer legs than norma.
But........ inclined to podge around the kness,
Not much rhythm in her hips.........could
He be growing impotent or just hard to please?
FIRST VOICE: He watched in constant fascination as the
Dancers warped their fashion in a way
To fit and fuse the time.
'Great Pan is dead,' he chuckled to himself
Across Corinthian Gulfs waned with
Consumptive cough your lungs into the gutter
Hunchback flay your hump for dog food for
It still howls the moon above the noise of that
Machine that makes you run the faster from
GUITAR IN FRENZIED CHORDS WITH DEEP ECHO.
THIRD VOICE: Last number of this set: a smooch,
'Fool on the Hill' reminding him of a
Sad eyed semi-whore picked up from the
She lived on Town Hill, up near the top.
Her partner working permanent nights to
Spend his days in the betting shop.
She sang in bed, eyes lightly
Closed upon a distant dream.
He'd joined in a duet on love in May
Until she pumped his breath away.
FIRST VOICE: Final break time for the band and
His last chance to prowl, he settled by
The senior barmaid: a strategic post.
'The score now on the new girl:
Married, single or better still divorced?'
WOMAN'S VOICE: 'Not your sort, Banjo bach!'
They were all his sort!
He went to her and did his spiel of
Mimicking the acts.
She laughed and chatted with a
Western lilt .............he
Spun around in some alarm when a
Firm hand gripped his upper arm.
THIRD VOICE: A pretty face, no make up, clear eyes.
WOMAN'S VOICE (CULTURED) I've come, you see.
THIRD VOICE: 'Hullo,' he said, revealing no surprise.
'That's great, so glad you made it.'
Trying to recall her name?
She'd come alone, he took the hint.
Sorry, time to go and do his final stint.
This line up isn't bad, but if she stayed,
There was a place where real
Jazz was played.
FIRST VOICE: So night draws on and
Staggers to a close.
Drunken girls grow shrilly tired.
Shyer males more sullen and morose.
That saddest time when even
Whispered hopes grow goarse.
BAND PLAYING ANTHEM.
THIRD VOICE: Ignoring band and bouncers leers,
She helped him to the car with
All his gear.
CAR DOOR CLOSES, ENGINE STARTS.
THIRD VOICE -OVER - Headlights drew his eyes his eyes dry as
He blinked and shook the club smoke off
Trembling like a dog.
She eased him: thigh to knee as
Fancy was turned to certainty.
DOOR OPENS ON JAZZ TRIO : PIANO, BASS AND DRUMS.
FIRST VOICE: Linked by the leads they
Entered the noise bulged room.
A pianist was clinking out cliches
Applauded by the uninitiated, but
Base and drum were swinging clear
Rhythms realized and stated.
Banjo sat in to play his part having
Earned the bread to indulge the art.
He found the notes that would define and
Not consume the dream .
Delighting in the glow, the bass and drum
Rang out the no more of the gods now
Dead, the not yet of the gods to come.
Again, again, the guitar lead sounded the
The seas that broke in mirrored shards
Along the iron reefs of grief.
Snatched leaves vein perfect from the air
To crumple them as bitter dust.
Gave glimpses of the answers to the
Questions none dared ask by
Tearing off the made up mask:
To be is to be mortal
GUITAR IN CLASHING CLIMAX.
Dullards stirred uneasily at this, for it
Made sham of all they valued in the price
That had been paid for them.
He spun one final thread or truth, then
Pulled the easy slip of syncopation:
Wear light armour; be nimble in retreat.
Make sure the symbol on your shield is
Men are just men, not brothers, and only
He is free who does not have to
Check the chains on others.
THIRD VOICE: Her face came back to focus,
He thought he saw some understanding.
Now music was just another noise in
He finished and they packed and left.
FIRST VOICE: She took the wheel.
He liked the certainty of that.
SOUND OF CAR JOURNEY.
The car lights limed elegant arches,
Squat, black stacks and toppled bricks of
Former industry, long past.
WOMAN'S VOICE; 'More like ruined monasteries,' she mused,
'Than citadels of earthly hope.'
THIRD VOICE: 'Perhaps the sulphur in the air,' he laughed,
'Gave them some religious bent, and
Anyway all subject people renounce life.'
FIRST VOICE: Now the new road cuts through the valley
Like a knife, no eddies in its enfilade
Estates for legends to lie and germinate.
THIRD VOICE: 'Keep moving so they know they are alive!'
WOMAN'S VOICE: 'I don't know when you're serious or not!'
THIRD VOICE: 'Serious? That guise of swine!'
WOMAN'S VOICE: 'Define a swine?'
THIRD VOICE 'Those who believe they must exist and
Ensure others think the same.
Yet the bane of priest and king is
Knowledge that a man is free.'
WOMAN: 'Studied at philosophy, I see.'
THIRD VOICE: ' The mirror's smashed that once
Revealed the rising class.'
WOMAN: 'My field's psychology, you know.'
THIRD VOICE: 'We function, but are more than just a
WOMAN: 'I seek you where you cannot hide!'
THIRD VOICE: 'Those seeking certainty are those
WOMAN: 'You beginning to sound like a
THIRD VOICE: 'Composed from bingo cards.
Be careful, I've been circumcised!'
CAR ENGINE STOPS, A FAINT BREEZE.
FIRST VOICE: They watched the dying moon
Paring the landscape's bones.
WOMAN, VERY SOFTLY: 'I hate the sun on plastic,
Greenery through glass and
Grasping hands that cup the
Fountains of the past.'
FIRST VOICE: Her eyes had closed. A warning
Glimmer dimmed the stars:
This night was nearing death.
She slept, he crept, guitar in hand,
Out of their pool of breath.
SNICK OF CAR DOOR CLOSING.
THIRD VOICE: Loping with long strides down a slope
Feeling the ferns dry crackle on his thighs
Breathing deep of their primeval scent.
Tracking the bank of a pobbled stream
To a grove that glowed in resinous gleam.
His eyes reflect the flower decked girls
Adance with flute and tambourine.
He stops and laughs:
Each dawn holds out a better day
When we recall the happy past.
He sits beneath the templed trees and
Tunes the sweat out of the strings:
Each chord a link with slavery removed.
He reads the cypher of the stars and sings
GUITAR ECHOING LIKE A LYRE.
SECOND VOICE IN A SINGING CHANT.
question why the old men threaten
what they fear most.
you young minds escaping yet
the grin skull.
watch the puppets flopping prone
before the dais of the dark, the
image on the shrouded throne.
young eyes piercing the brood hood.
old bones are honed to scalpels to
castrate the growing reason.
mystic flesh made fresh with tears to
revive the needed fears.
young hearts beat truer than a
young hopes innocent of fear numb!
ENDS WITH SINGLE ECHOING CHORD.
FIRST VOICE: the east rim brims with light.
WOMAN'S VOICE: steel shod boots crush flowers back
into their dew.
THIRD VOICE: junkies stir to a weather cock's crow.
FIRST VOICE: the zealot's knife bars the throat of his child.
WOMAN: rain pellets its life into the river's chemical
THIRD VOICE: night workers reveal they are more than
bollacks for their machines.
FIRST VOICE: vipers settle their rat scabbed scales.
SECOND VOICE: eye lids stuck with sperm and mascara the
whore snores on.
CHILD'S VOICE Banjo completes his morning song as he
Sights the sunrise through a cloven hoof:
'Time and temple can't retain his dream:
No coda can contain the truth!'
So..........................Banjo becomes a victim of his own mystique
like Heidegger. And no, he never smoked or imbibed any dope except
Some times the text is enigmatic, ambiguous even in an attempt to
catch the flavour of his talk and the images of his music. And it
could be said that his attitude towards women is cynical here. Yet in
fact he was a real romantic like many existentialists and his quotes
from Camus and Sartre were often a cover for a fierce love of people
Many could tell you what a brilliant teacher and generous soul he was
and what a difference he made to their lives. I am very proud he saw
me as a friend and still grieve his early death.
So..............you are entitled to think 'Nocturne' pretentious and
too subjective; but it needs reading a few times before the narrative
unfolding jells with the 'times past' consciousness of the narrators.
There is nothing else quite like it in Anglo/Welsh literature - which
is just as well, mayhap! - and I see it as a sort of documentary of
the 70's and the way we thought then before the clubs were totally
overwhelmed with greed and consumerism and drug culture got its