Feline Alchemy soundtrack pt.5 – this is the end, beautiful friend

When Hollywood buys the rights to the greatest dark fantasy novel ever written, Feline Alchemy, the producers will make many unforgivable mistakes with regard to the script; this is a given. I have, however, managed to provide a bullet-proof soundtrack for the ensuing motion picture. Each song is not only groovy in its own right, but also provides insight and commentary on the associated chapter. It’s kind of like opera, really, except it’s good.

Chapter 17 – Sparklehorse, Painbirds

“Spiral down those hateful dears.”

No other band’s music has such a sense of fragility about it. Beautiful songs stutter, fall over and abruptly dissolve in confusion. You get the impression that the band, essentially Mark Linkous, is never entirely convinced, always trying to second guess itself and rarely satisfied with the outcome. It acts as a kind of antidote to the brash self-assurance the music industry generally assumes by right.


Chapter 18 – The Cardigans – I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need To Be Nicer

“It’s been a long, slow collision.”

I seem to remember people found it tempting to be dismissive of The Cardigans. There was the huge success that tied-in with the video game Gran Turismo. There was Nina Persson’s beauty. These things aren’t authentic; they’re not sufficiently real in indie parlance, and so people like to get cynical. Fortunately, flawless pop is immune to cynicism. Nor is it interested in appearing authentic. Tunes, glamour and wit inevitably win the argument.


Before Chapter 19 – Echo and the Bunnymen, Rescue

“Is this the blues I’m singing?”

When modern pop music was invented in Liverpool in the 60s the shadow cast by Messrs L & M over the local bands who followed in their wake was always destined to be daunting. Echo and the Bunnymen was the band that came closest to relishing, and living up to, that challenge. Rescue is one of the band’s earliest songs and shows how they evolved fully formed, without a tousled hair out of place and with pouting lips ready for the adoring masses.


End Credits – Spacemen 3, Transparent Radiation

“Uttering words about the turning tide.”

And as the lights dim on the set of Feline Alchemy, credits rolling, we need a suitably offbeat, uplifting and elegant epic on which to finish before we all emerge blinking into the light, to face the music in the real world once again. Transparent Radiation was written by The Red Krayola, a wilfully uncommercial, idealistic, hippy collective, and was made perfect by Spacemen 3. It seems to me to be an ideal song to have playing if you ever find yourself being burned at the stake – I can picture Joan of Arc listening to this on her Walkman as the flames lick ever higher.

You Wore Blue

It’s funny about wars –

(No, you’re right. Nothing’s ever funny about wars. But you remember what my sense of humour’s like, remember how it got me into trouble even at the best of times?)

But all I mean to say is it’s funny how wars get so familiar, like family. You don’t notice it at first but, after you get up close to a few, real close, you can’t help but see how much they all resemble each other. You see the same heartache etched on every face, and betrayal. That family likeness is unnerving. Most families share blood but this one shares bloodshed. It’s rising up all around you, day-by-day. It’s like a biblical flood with no Noah in sight who’s sailing to rescue his chosen few. Well, maybe Noah does still turn up to rescue the chosen few. What would I know about that? None of my crowd was ever lucky enough, or smart enough, or just low-down cunning enough, to get counted among the chosen few.

Anyway, I guess I never had much time for the chosen few any time I met them. And they had even less time for me.

(Good judges of character, those chosen few. Am I right?)

Let’s raise another glass to the chosen few! No, I can’t remember who the other glasses were raised to, either. I gave up keeping count a long, long time ago. I guess when you own half-a-dozen bars for half your life then alcohol’s the easiest way to go. At least you know you’re getting trade rates on the disease that’ll carry you off. That’s some consolation.

(I used to wonder if I would’ve made a decent consolation prize for you. I don’t bother with that anymore. You had the war and no-one could compete with all that history and glory you went chasing after. Where did it get you in the end? No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear.)

Pause. Rick drinks, rubs his eyes.

When I get to looking back what I mostly see is you. I won’t lie. Then I see regrets. I get tired of all the regrets. They sit around like they own the place, putting their feet up on the furniture. No-one ever puts their feet on the furniture in my establishments, it’s not allowed; not in the States, not in Europe, Casablanca, Singapore. But those regrets of mine are impolite. They talk too loud and they point and stare like they’re a goddam bunch of VIPs invited along to see some circus act they’re sure is beneath them. So they spend half the time looking down their noses and half the time staring up where the tightrope walker goes wobbling along his bit of string. They’re waiting to see him fall, getting impatient and checking the time because there’s someplace else they’ve got to be, someplace more stylish.

I’ve been a tightrope walker all my life, but you already knew that. It’s not a career I’d wish on anyone. All that endless balancing tires you out. As for me, well, in my time I’ve balanced every competing demand you’d care to mention: smugglers, cops, pimps and heroes; liberty, equality and Nazis. Then, once you get too tired to keep on balancing anymore, you crash.

(I was crashing when I first met you. You wore blue, remember?)

The impact makes dents in you. It dents the better parts of you, leaves them faulty and hanging loose, exposed. They start to get callous then: your spirit, generosity, your hopes and trust. You can’t help it, no-one can. You get beaten out of shape as time goes by.

As Time Goes By…

He played it for you and sometimes, after you left, he still played it for me. And he always played it note-perfect. Tender. The patrons sighed, held hands across the tables. You’d have smiled to see them. I smiled at how little they understood. I smiled at how little you understood, too. It was an ugly smile; it got stuck in my teeth. Because no-one ever wins a war, Ilsa, not really; not even you and your heroes.

I never told anyone this but I used to picture that blue dress you wore, all red with bullet holes. And each time I pictured you like that I told him to play that goddam song. He never refused and he never once mentioned that anything was wrong, never let on that he knew. But Sam was never the same again.


This story was written in response to the speakeasy writing prompt #167 – You must include the following sentence as the LAST line in your submission: “But Sam was never the same again.”