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Thursday, 27 May 2010

~Kitten Wine~ #8: 'Barnoon Hill'

'Barnoon Hill' by Pacific

Her name was Amy.
I never found out her second name, nor much else about her, yet, like Proust's petit-madeleine dipped in linden tea, just the sound of her name transports me back to time of innocence when EVERY night seemed like some entrancing experience. In truth I only knew her for a few hours but somehow I can visualise almost every second of the time I spent with her.

It was a Saturday in very early 1989. My friends, Douglas and Sharon, were going to a party in Glasgow and asked me to come along. Sharon had just started working for Tennent’s Live (when the Tennent’s brewery used to sponsor live concerts) and she had been invited to a works get-together to break the ice. They picked me up from work and we drove to Sharon's house so I could get showered and changed.
Earlier in the day, at lunchtime, I had gone along to the local record shop with the intention of buying 'The Hairstyle Of The Devil' by Momus which Steve Wright had (bizarrely) been championing on his radio show.

The single was in amongst a pile of Creation 7" singles all of which came in generic sleeves and all of which cost a paltry 99 pence. So, I took the Momus single, a single by The Weather Prophets called 'Hollow Heart', and one I hadn't heard of, 'Barnoon Hill' by a band called Pacific. I had the three singles with me as we headed to Glasgow, not expecting to get them played of course, more as a badge of look-at-me-cool!
The place where the 'party' was to take place was in some ancient monstrosity of late 19th century Glaswegian architecture, which had now been renovated into student flats; big, draughty, full of ghosts and overlooking a section of the Clyde.
The party was hardly a swinging affair; dull, office-worker types sat around talking arse as they listened to Simple Minds, U2, Hipsway and Hue & Cry. Not good!

Then I saw her......

Breton shirt, unkempt black shoulder-length hair and an insouciant air about her. Trouble was she looked a little know, like REALLY maybe (gulp!) THIRTY!! In a moment of unexpected bravery I began speaking to her....her name was Amy, and as soon as I looked into her impenetrably dark eyes, I was lost. She had one of those posh, West-End-Of-Glasgow sing-song accents and every word she uttered hit me like a stolen kiss. It seemed she lived in the flat and had her own room there. We got on really well, like we'd known each other for ages. With the party loosening up she grabbed a bottle of Bacardi Gold and led me to her room. It was like walking into a blast furnace of patchouli and incense. Her window looked directly onto the Clyde and we sat there looking at the people walking by. She had one of those old-fashioned record players with the arm that allowed you to stack 6 or 7 singles on it at a time.
As the alcohol loosened our inhibitions she opened up the large window and showed me the scaffolding that was wrapped around the building. We could actually step out onto the scaffolding as a platform had been created just under her window sill. In a moment predating that awful Rod Stewart record 'The Motown Song', you know, the one about going on the roof and listening to The Miracles echo through the alley down below, we put some records on the player and stepped out onto the ledge. She had chosen three to go along with the three I had brought with me. She chose 'Cattle And Cane' by The Go-Betweens,

'Christine' by Siouxsie And The Banshees and 'A Forest' by The Cure, all of which made the first record of mine to be played, the Momus single, sound very slight indeed, but it's a song I love dearly and looking over the cold Glasgow cityscape as it ran parallel to the Clyde, it sounded glacial. The Weather Prophet's single played itself out in an unimposing fashion, a good track if a little unmemorable.

Amy smoked Gitanes unfiltered cigarettes which stank and looked like joints. She lit one for me and I tried to inhale it, but it was like breathing in a house-brick. I immediately felt giddy; the nicotine rush ripping straight through my head. The stylus clicked onto 'Barnoon Hill', the single by Pacific of which I knew nothing......

A single keyboard note, a run of a squidgy-sounding synthesizer rhythm track and then a girl speaking in Japanese. My head was spinning (not a good thing when you're up some scaffolding), I looked at the neon lights reflected in the mirror surface of the Clyde as they merged with the blanket of stars than glimmered above us.......a strummy 12-string guitar so gossamer light it barely registers and then the real vocals begin. A voice so ‘clipped English’ it made Neil Tennant sound like Arthur Mullard; think of Jagger's unbearable hoary Southern drawl on 'Exile On Main Street' and this was the polar opposite. Lyrical references to dreams, memories and blankets of deep snow followed and I allowed myself to become lost as the cellos took over. The cars below all had windscreens that resembled trays of diamonds....."As the dark side of happiness grows".....I extended my arms, crucifix style, soaking in the moment. Amy smiled at me, a smile so warm and dazzling that something inside me broke, I almost felt like jumping.....angel trumpets on the track now lifting me to a higher state; alcohol, very high tar smoke and the cold night air mixing with the sweetest smile and the perfect soundtrack....a needle-gun etching a memory on my soul....the chorus; "It's all going down now// And such secrets I can't hide// You're treading dirty water// You lose strength down deep inside" can a song so poignant and so mournful sound so uplifting? Then a girl's voice cut through the haze....I thought it was Amy and almost slipped in shock..."Talk to me// Talk but don't leave me"...but it was on the record....the chorus returns, sweet trumpets float on the ether and the song comes to an end. I stood there with a film of frost clinging to my jacket, a huge grin and a fire burning somewhere inside me.
We climbed back into the room and swigged some more Bacardi.

The rest of the night played out in subdued conversation and drowsy laughter.
In the morning we both played it cool, not letting on that we had shared a moment. We didn't swap numbers...I reckoned that if she was keen she'd ask Sharon for my number, and if I still felt the same way next weekend, I'd ask Sharon for Amy's number. But fate, and two pretty blonde girls called Gail and Louise, were waiting like snipers to gun me down and take my life in a totally different direction just a few days later.....and Amy became just another memory.

Some 20 odd years later as I listen again to 'Barnoon Hill' I realise I can't ever listen to it without thinking about her and that night on the scaffolding....

More tea, Marcel?


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