Friday, July 10, 2015
A Tube Strike, a Doctor, and a Disco Murder
I forgot to mention yesterday the most challenging part of our Bleeding London outing -- the tube strike! Yes, the tube workers went on strike Wednesday afternoon and shut down underground transport throughout London. They were striking because they're upset about plans to make the tube a 24-hour service like the New York subway system. They don't like the pay provisions and say it's going to "upset their work-life balance."
What upset my work-life balance was having to pay £45 for a taxi back from City Hall on Wednesday night. (That's about $70.) Yes, we could have joined the hordes waiting for buses and figured out bus routes back to West Hampstead, but it would have taken forever.
Fortunately, the strike has now ended. Yesterday we stayed home entirely, thus avoiding the rest of it.
I have had a few minor accomplishments this week. A few weeks ago I scheduled an appointment with the city to come and collect our hazardous waste -- those ancient, leaky bottles of pesticide I found while cleaning out our gardening shed. Yesterday they came, so that's gone.
I also went to the doctor about a little dry spot on my forehead that's been bugging me for a while. As I suspected, it's a solar keratosis, a little pre-cancer of a type my dad gets all the time. I'm pale and I grew up in Florida -- so this is not a surprise! I got a prescription for a cream to put on it twice a day for two months (!) until it's gone. I wish I could just have it frozen off, which is what my dad does in the states, but I guess the NHS doesn't do that here.
Finally, I finished that book about the history of disco, "Turn the Beat Around" by Peter Shapiro. It was interesting in its descriptions of the relationship between disco and earlier, funkier soul and R&B music, and later electronica. We think of disco as a glitzy, lip glossy, finite period -- Donna Summer and the Bee Gees and "Saturday Night Fever" and the Village People -- but that was really just the peak of the most commercialized, mainstream segment of disco music.
My one complaint about the book is that it contained a lot of inside baseball, so to speak. Sentences like this one about Arthur Russell, an experimental musician, and his trip to a club in the mid-'70s to hear a DJ named Nicky Siano: ""After his disco baptism, Russell immediately connected the dots between Hamilton Bohannon and the minimalism of Steve Reich, between a marathon DJ set and the sustained, subtly shifting harmonic clusters of Phill Niblock."
Until that moment, the book had never mentioned Steve Reich or Phill Niblock -- indeed, Niblock never comes up again, and Reich only once -- and it mentioned Bohannon only in passing. I have no idea who these people are. So occasionally I'd come across sentences like that and they would leave me totally blank.
All this got me thinking about an absurd urban myth from my childhood. Do you remember the song "Love Rollercoaster" by the Ohio Players? Did you ever hear the story about the "scream" that can be heard in the song? I was 9 years old when it was a hit in early 1976, and some kids who lived down the street told me that the background "scream" came from a woman who was murdered in the music studio while the song was recorded. Apparently this was a huge, nationwide rumor, and it took on ridiculous dimensions. The album cover featured a model covered in honey, and one version of the rumor had it that she had been permanently disfigured by scalding-hot honey during the photo shoot, and came to the music studio threatening to sue, only to be stabbed to death by the band's manager!
I love stuff like this.
Anyway, I don't think I ever truly believed that the scream came from a murdered woman, but it tainted the song with a creepy edge. To this day it's what I think of whenever I hear "Love Rollercoaster." Which, admittedly, isn't often.
(Top photo: A guy in our neighborhood packing garden trimmings into a rented van. Bottom: A geranium in our garden on a rainy day.)