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Greetings From LA: Tim Buckley
A Look Back- Part One

By Ian Penman

“I almost had it yesterday/A song tied up my ankles/couldn’t wiggle/til you came along/Untied the song…” Was(Not Was)

For a long time the song imparted some sort of Victorian view; a muse whose gaze could be found squinting peek-a-boo though the highly polished slats of it’s Venetian blind, hoping for a glint of the dark shimmer of sex; with few exceptions the lyrical language of sexual love is dominated by the same tendencies today. A prosaic roll of imagery, centered in traditional - lazily defined - role play is emblazoned on every pop consciousness. This authorized vocabulary is offensively lightweight. Love hurts! It scalds, bites and quite often sings out of tune.

It is true that a whole new rhetoric of allusion and metaphor was born in the mid- to late-Sixties: tremors in social propriety scrambled things up a bit and everyone let their hair down. A picnic of promiscuity (or so the song goes), but the areas where and when it was possible to talk about ‘it’ remains heavily policed. Even the ‘sub’-culture brings it all down to perennial emblems in the end - swinging singles or the procreative couple imposed as model, imposed as norm. No nitty-gritty of funny business. The illusion perpetrated is one of ‘frank’ or ‘progressive’ outlook and inroads, but private dissatisfaction is still obstinately cherished.

How many of the songs are really about bodies or pleasure?

In order to gain mastery over the vexed and vulnerable plot of sexual drive, it is first necessary to apprehend it and subjugate it to the level of everyday communication, where it’s free circulation and sublimation are restricted, expunged from what is said.

Words that render it too awkwardly present in awaking discourse are erased, and without even having pronounced the word, modern prudishness is able to ensure that sex is not spoken of: it is spoken at - nudge, nudge - or buffeted around a circuit of subtle prohibitions. There is no lure for the common code; blunt splinters of restraint, or coarse splints of exaggeration which, by virtue of saying nothing, impose silence. Background censorship.

It is not a question of some grand concerted movement bent on pushing rude sex back into an obscure and inaccessible lacuna, but of a clandestine, common-sensical process that spreads it all over the surface of things, that aroused it only in order to crack a funny or score a point.

For as long as such a regime holds sway, the songs that know-tow to it express not a desire for sex, but the attempt to enter its premises, uncover its sleeping form and interrogate it in pursuit of the truth. The rest is all blabber and boast.

Enjoyment is the last thing on anyones lips.

The selfsame lips sucked in the trenchant breeze of Freud, and spat out a nigh unrecognizable dogma: the ‘hidden’ mind is messy, dank, unruly and criminally impulsive - best to leave it alone to rot, or put it in a pickling jar on your analyst shelf.

Science’s wan twilight fell over this bright Viennese dawn, it underwent severe metonymy and woke up in the stuffy darkness of a bounded(ed) volume.

It is up to the song to reinscribe trace-laden verisimilitude of desire.

And catch your breath.

And catch: the uninvited shivers of daydream, the impulse sharply registered but sharply relinquished.

(?) rude awakening!

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