Peter Hammill - Nadir's Big Chance 1974


The way of it is this: I was sitting in the waiting-room when I gradually became aware that I was not alone - or at least, not singular. This lasted only a moment, however, and that my alter ego, Nadir, took me over. So that I was both him in body and myself in observation. Light, a curious, desultory silence; several moments of disorienting neo-dematerialization. An ice-blue Stratocaster spinning through space; Nadir crashing his way through distorted three-chord wonders. The anarchic presence of Nadir - this loud, aggressive perpetual seventeen-year-old - has temporary through complete dominion, and I can only submit, gladly, and play his music - the beery punk songs, the weepy ballads, the soul struts. This album is, more or less, what he plays and who he is; how could I deny him his simple say? After all, with the state the world's in there's always room for another Nadir.

P.H.

  1. Nadir's Big Chance
  2. The Institute of Mental Health, Burning
  3. Open Your Eyes (The Locarno Song)
  4. Nobody's Business
  5. Been Alone So Long
  6. Pompeii
  7. Shingle Song
  8. Airport
  9. People You Were Going To
  10. Birthday Special
  11. Two Or Three Spectres


    NADIR'S BIG CHANCE

    I've been hanging around, waiting for my chance
    to tell you what I think about the music that's gone down
    to which you madly danced - frankly, you know that it stinks.
    I'm gonna scream, gonna shout, gonna play my guitar
    until your body's rigid and you see stars.
             
    Look at all the jerks in their tinsel glitter suits,
    pansying around; look at all the nerks
    in their leather platform boots, making with the heavy sound...
    I'm gonna stamp on the stardust and scream till I'm ill -
    if the guitar don't get ya, the drums will.
             
    Now's my big break - let me up on the stage,
    I'll show you what it's all about; enough of the fake,
    bang your feet in a rage, tear down the walls and let us out!
    We're more than mere morons, perpetually conned,
    so come on everybody, smash the system with the song.
             
    Smash the system with the song!

    THE INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH, BURNING

    
    
    It was the first day of July;
    no wind breathed in the sky
    when a pin-striped suit
    saw that the Institute of Mental Health was burning.
             
    He stood upon the corner
    where the sun was warmer...
    looking across the street,
    he moved the shackles on his feet
    as the Institute was burning.
             
    Flames were roaring, singing like a thunderstorm;
    smoke was pouring straight up to the sky;
    windows smashing, Gothic doors and lintels fall;
    timbers crashing and we both know why.
             
    Nobody else came by to stare;
    you see, they didn't really care.
    Can't call the fire brigade -
    none of them had been paid
    and so the Institute was burning.
             
    Throughout the city, people say it isn't pretty,
    everyone agrees, and everyone feels glad;
    doctored brains celebrate and everyone waves their chains...
    It's a pity they're all mad.
             
    The Institute of Mental Health
    spontaneously killed itself.
    Ashes to ashes
    and dust to dust:
    my chains began to rust
    as the Institute was burning, burning, burning.
    
    (Chris Judge Smith)
    

    OPEN YOUR EYES (THE LOCARNO SONG)

    I was sitting in the dance-hall,
    but my mind was far away
    so when the usherette walked over
    I didn't know quite what to say.
    I tried to look cool
    but I knew that I blew it somehow.
    Her fishnet tights took me quite by surprise...
    I had to open my eyes.
             
    I told her I was dancing
    but she didn't seem to hear;
    she asked if I wanted to learn judo,
    then she threw me out on my ear
    before I'd even had time to take a bow.
    I landed on the street, all dishevelled my disguise
    but I really opened her eyes.
             
    So if you're leaning over the balcony
    or hanging around the floor
    these are the last of the days of the Locarnos--
    there really are no more.
    And the usherette smiles,
    but she's not telling all she knows....
    But there's time in the end for us all to get wise
    if we only open our eyes.

    NOBODY'S BUSINESS

    Look out through your dark hair,
    tell me the colour of your eyes when they're cool;
    look out through the dark ages
    and tell me what's covert, transfixing you.
             
    Oh, you're nobody's business,
    oh, you're nobody's business
    and the patterns of your life
    are suddenly twisted and torn
    and gone are all the clothes that you've worn.
    Just like yesterday's papers
    you're tired and forlorn
    and you're no-one.
             
    Look back at the photos you've saved,
    dead mementoes of your modelling days;
    I look through all my cuttings of you,
    but they all seem so lost, so dead, out of phase.
             
    Oh, you're nobody's business....
             
    I think back to the girl that I knew -
    she doesn't seem so very much like you:
    she used to care about her smile and not her face...
    that's before it was her fortune and took over her soul's place.
             
    Oh, you're nobody's business....
             
    Papering yesterday's pages,
    tapering off in the storm,
    you're no-one.
    

    BEEN ALONE SO LONG

    Been alone so long
    that I've forgotten what it's like
    to feel somebody next to me
    and hear her breathing peacefully
    when I wake up at night.
             
    Been alone so long
    that I've forgotten what to say -
    if I meet somebody who
    might easily resemble you
    I smile, but look away...
    I look away.
             
    Been alone so long
    that I've forgotten what to do:
    how to make the whole thing right
    and how to help if she's uptight
    and when to run and when to fight...
    how to make her stay the night -
    that's if I ever knew.
             
    Been alone so long
    that I've forgotten what it's like
    to feel somebody next to me
    and hear her breathing peacefully
    when I wake up at night,
    wake up at night
    
    (Chris Judge Smith)

    POMPEII

    The golden dream, the seat of all decorum,
    a satellite to match the light of Rome;
    its silver children chatter in the Forum,
    the bath-house, and the brothels, and their homes
    about the latest fashions for their clothes.
    Across the Tyrrhenian Sea comes drifting
    a song that none of them have ever known.
             
    The golden dream that holds back all the hours
    for the ladies in their Dionysian rites,
    blonde heads all garlanded with flowers,
    wine and love and laughter through the night
    in constant masque and pageant, constant flight.
    The ground below them whispers in a murmur
    of passion which is hotter yet than white.
             
    The golden dream, the city of all cities,
    its towers piercing into azure sky,
    whose hand is dealt, regardless of all pity,
    condemned to martyrdom, but not to die.
    Two lovers look up from their hidden bower.
    The wine has stood too long and it turns sour.
             
    I see the tall and bending of your streets
    but now they echo only leather tourist feet
    and waking, ashen, grey-blue blinding death
    your sudden winding-sheet.

    SHINGLE SONG

    You can see in the last light that's graced as dawn
    that there's nothing in my heart but pain
    as I stand, facing sea, knowing that you're gone...
    all the elements rage to explain
    that I should really be on my way
    but there is something
    which ensures I must stay.
             
    Beneath the roar of the seething surf,
    beneath the caterwaul of scattered call wind
    thoughts and gestures unspoken, unheard
    and now the dance of rapture begins
    as the waves rush along across the beach -
    like you, like your love
    forever out of reach.
             
    Look at the sky, but it's empty now;
    look at the sea, it holds nothing but despair.
    I raise my eyes, but my head stays bowed...
    I look to my side, but you're not there.
    And I can't get you out of my mind,
    no, no, no, no, I just can't get you from my mind.

    AIRPORT

    I stand on the tallest building
    and stare down at the grey runway
    and the tail-smoke of the Boeing jet
    that's taking you so far away.
             
    Believe me, I don't want you to leave me;
    look in my eyes and you'll see them
    filled with pain.
    Imagine just how sad I'll be
    in some future day when I turn
    and no longer see your face.
    All I can now cry is goodbye, love, goodbye.
             
    In a week, in a month, in a year,
    in a lifetime how I'll feel none can tell.
    All I know is now you're going
    there's really no-one here to help.
             
    Believe me....
             
    Already it's too late, you're through the boarding-gate
    and walking on the tarmac.
    Already you are free, already you've left me
    and cannot bear to look back, can you?
             
    A brief taxi on the runway,
    then up into the stilling night sky;
    and I'm standing on the observation tower,
    my eyes too dimmed by distance to cry.
             
    Believe me....
             
    All I can now do is walk away alone,
    without you.
    

    PEOPLE YOU WERE GOING TO

    
    
    
    Your father has just left your mother,
    gone off to live with his latest lover;
    she sits there, just staring.
    So you get back to your own flat
    because the atmosphere in there
    is so bad you can't bear it.
    And the people you were going to America with
    just left on the dawn plane
    without you,
    without you.
             
    The people in the downstairs flat
    are no longer there now because they left
    the gas tap on, they're all dead.
    So you've no-one left to talk to,
    you just lie there in melancholy,
    half-naked on your unmade bed.
    And the people you were going to Africa with
    just left on the Southern Star
    without you,
    without you.
             
    Yes, the haze that's been forming round your window-panes
    is now protracted and poisoned
    and you cannot feel a portion of the world outside.
             
    Can you imagine the way you'd feel
    if all these things had happened to you
    and the doctor says you're dying?
    That is the way that I feel now
    on finding that your love belongs
    to someone else and not I.
    My chance of heaven has just blown away
    upon a passing cloud and there is nothing that I can do
    without you.
             
    The people you were going to
    have left, gone far away
    and you're lonely.

    BIRTHDAY SPECIAL

    I've got something to say,
    and it ain't the usual sort of sob-story
    that you hear every day.
    I've got something to ask,
    and I know that now's the time,
    now all the rooms of the party are dark.
    Proffer me the candy,
    yes, I understand is fine;
    blow another candle out
    and throw another line....
    Birthday girl, I've got something for you,
    there's ice in the cauldron, look out now;
    birthday girl, here comes a special
    like Hansel and Gretel never had.
             
    There's parrots in the pantry
    and there's lizards in the loo;
    there's bloaters in the bathroom
    and this party is a zoo;
    I'm sitting in the kitchen
    trying hard to talk to you
    Birthday girl....
             
    I just wanted to say
    that I'd like to make this the happiest of all your birthdays
    and if that means turning the key
    then I'll turn it with you and there'll be no doubt
    about the way I agree,
    Birthday girl....
    

    TWO OR THREE SPECTRES

    "Sod the music," said the man in the suit,
    "I understand profit and without that, it's no use.
    Why don't you go away and write commercial songs;
    come back in three years, that shouldn't be too long..."
    He's a joker and an acrobat,
    a record exec. in a Mayfair flat
    with Altec speakers wall to wall,
    a Radford and a Revox and through it all he plays
    strictly nowhere Muzak.
             
    "Hey, listen, baby, this band's got a lot of soul...
    if we can beat that out of them I see a disc of gold!
    Give them an image, maybe glitter, maybe sex,
    maybe outrage, maybe elegance -
    how about as nervous wrecks?"
    Signs up the product at two percent,
    justified by vinyl shortage and the increased rent
    on the yacht he has to hire to make his pitch at Midem
    and all the press receptions for his business friends
    who spill their Taittinger upon the floor
    while the band sip English lager just outside the door.
             
    Treble, alto, bass clefs on the page,
    crotchets, quavers, minims all the rage
    but you'll never find a pound note in the score -
    it's there when it's strictly merchandise,
    through all the propagated lies about what the whole thing's for.
    He'll make you a star, he'll make you so famous
    that all you desire is to be left nameless,
    drained of all you felt you had to offer at the start.
             
    Not without blame, either, are the gentlemen of the press:
    you can talk about the state of music,
    they will write about your dress.
    Play them the new album, they will say it's great (or not) -
    when the articles come out, they're all about
    how many dogs you've got.
    God to keep the human interest high,
    and the hacks are only too willing to comply,
    pander to the ego, build up frail men as gods -
    but somewhere in the process, the prime purpose is forgotten.
             
    Groupies offer their bodies, the hangers-on their coke;
    it's all very jolly - what a joke!
    Fellini creatures cluster round the dressing-room,
    the heavenly bodies all got to have their moons.
    In the cult of the superman the music plays a supporting role
    and far more important is the shape of his nose,
    the size of his codpiece and the cut of his clothes...
    soul and feeling always take second place
    to the bump and grind of a Fender bass.
    Frankly, most musicians bore me - but not as much as those
    who chase the glory to bask in reflected light,
    making the man much more important
    than his arpeggios and mordants,
    when it's the other way that's right.
             
    On the values by which this world makes its heroes
    then the best violinist ever was Nero,
    because he had the most Press
    and his fire gimmick was simply the best.
             
    We got the live thing too,
    the Human Zoo:
    Ten thousand arms are raised, just like the Hitler Youth -
    ten thousand peace signs mark the entry of the sax.
    Ten thousand peace signs,
    but they're different from the back.
    
    
    The way of it is this: I was sitting in the waiting-room when I gradually became aware that I was not alone -- or at least, not singular. This lasted only a moment, however, and then my alter ego, Nadir, took me over, so that I was both him in body and myself in observation. Light; a curious desultory silence; several moments of disorienting neo-dematerialisation. An ice-blue Stratocaster spinning through space; Nadir crashing his way through distorted three-chord wonders. The anarchic presence of Nadir--this loud, aggressive perpetual sixteen-year old--has temporary though complete dominion, and I can only submit, gladly, and play his music--the beefy punk songs, the weepy ballad, the soul struts. This album is, more or less, what he plays and who he is; how could I deny his simply say? After all, with the state the world's in there's always room for another Nadir. P.H. ----------------------------- Nadir's Big Chance * Open Your Eyes * Pompeii * Airport * Nobody's Business * People You Were Going To * Birthday Special * Shingle Song * Two or Three Spectres (Peter Hammill) * The Institute of Mental Health, Burning (Hammill/Smith) * Been Alone So Long (Smith) Recorded at Rockfield, 1-7 Dec. 1974. At the desk: The Meringue Mixed at Trident, 10-13 Dec. 1974. At the desk: The Stone PETER HAMMILL/RIKKI NADIR: guitars, pianos, bass, vox HUGH BANTON: bass, keyboards GUY EVANS: drums DAVID JAXON: saxes + flutes Gordianisation : Troeller Truck 'n' hump : Buonuomo Cover : Dino M'Brela PRODUCED BY PETER HAMMILL


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