Boom Hiss Crackle
I first met Si when I was 16. I was singing in public for the first time and nervous as hell; dry throat, twitching lip and the shaking like jelly hooked up to a tens machine. I had squeezed myself into a spotty wiggle-dress because I had been told to make an effort by the event organiser. ‘No baggy jeans and hoodies. This is going to be a class night so turn up like you mean it or go home.’ I felt like the bicep of an over-pumped bodybuilder on heavy steroids. It was hard enough to breathe as it was without the added compressed pressure of the engineered underwear holding me prisoner. I felt hot and awkward but the urge to sing was so strong I just had to get through. This wouldn’t change for my entire ‘career’ as a vocalist (until I found rum, but that’s another tale for another time!) I have always been conflicted. Being and introverted extrovert has plenty of downsides…
He was part of a very small audience mainly consisting of parents and family friends of the performers. I got up and sang an acapella version of Neil Young’s ‘After the Goldrush.’ I stepped onto the dark stage and heard the click of the spot. It’s still one of the sweetest sounds there is; it means that it’s beginning, that communication between performer and listener is about to happen, that energy will be so charged with unspoken understanding that it transcends everything else. It seeps into the cells of all present and affects your very being. It feels like that picture of Tesla sitting in his chair and reading whilst harnessing the natural force of electricity, that beatific juxtaposition of calm and the boom, hiss, crackle of energy charge, like the first few seconds when needle hits vinyl. I understood this as a listener. There had been plenty of time when I’d lost sense of time and the limitedness of form listening to music. My headphones were part of my body and I did virtually nothing without them on and when they were off, I would concentrate and conjure up the music in my head. Everything else would be drowned out by the music in the silence. Now, here I was about to be an active creator, my first time in public and, beyond the stage-fright, the excitement was all champagne and storms. I felt alive.
I opened my mouth and choked. Not quite the start I’d hoped for! I must have looked like a bunny in headlights. I flushed red and panicked. Mrs B, my beautiful French teacher who was sitting in the second row whispered, ‘you can do it. Start again.’ I took a breath. Then it came, I sang. After a few seconds the nerves disappeared like a magician’s assistant in a box and all was beautiful. I looked into the audience. There was Mrs. B teary-eyed and smiling. I had moved her. Maybe I could do this as an artist? And there he was behind her; a pair of the most luminous blue eyes I’d ever seen trapped between the tops of the audiences heads and the rim of his NY cap. I think I fell in love right there and then.
After the show people started mingling and I made for the door. I’ve never been great with small-talk. Besides, it was a fabulous night and I felt amazing. It was definitely time to take the long way home listening to Ella under the moonlight. Si was blocking my escape route. He introduced himself and said that he was Dj-ing and producing, would I like to catch a set and after record something in a studio? I couldn’t believe what was happening. This kind of stuff didn’t happen to me; it happened to skinny dancers called Seraphine who had already done 10 years of performance and had an agent, not depressive introverted girls who don’t relate to the world. I couldn’t stumble through the yeses fast enough. His eyes, his eyes were sunlight on the sea; it was like being on the north circular, circumnavigating smoggy, foggy London but not on a drab, grey day. No, it was like the tarmac after a spring torrent when the road looks like a winding river, mercury and glistening in new born sunshine; all the hardness and toxicity disappearing and becoming a ribbon of light. How could I not love him? Life was so dark and all of a sudden there he was; all illumination wrapped in music.
‘Ah, you’ve met.’ It was Hamida. She was a year older and quite unpleasant. She kissed him and I think the cracking of my own heart was audible. He gave me his number and told me he was playing in at a bar near by that weekend and that I should come down to set a date for the session. I smiled not knowing how I was going to manage it. My parents were strict and disinterested, the worst combination. In the end, I stole some money from my mum’s bag and snuck out... It was to be the first night of thousands we would spend together. My innate knew. Then, a sinking sadness struck. My innate also knew that it would end. The light on the road, whilst there, was briefly covering the hard toxicity of the tar that lay inflexible and destructive underneath. Immediately, I knew how important he would be in my life and immediately I could feel the sharp edges of the grief which bled somewhere where the future met the present. I knew that it was over already but that resisting it was futile. It was finished before it had begun and would never love like that again.