In the middle of everything in 2016, the year had one other personal resonance for me. For it marked the 20th anniversary of one of the most significant personal projects of my daft little existence on Earth. A music LP called Outrider.
No, I’m not going to publish it all here. It is still, in the end, formative, youthful stuff. But for the first time, I am going to share its opening piece, as a vulnerable glimpse at the netherworld before Momo:tempo. There’s a modest pocket universe of work that lead me the long way round to crawling out of the wilderness clutching The Golden Age of Exploration uncertainly. But perhaps one of the most key turning points in my unrealistic, uncommercial, deeply unqualified development as a musical creative was this work – written around a character who came stridently out of the wilderness to proclaim wonderous, fearsome new things.
“BEHOLD, THE OUTRIDER COMES…”
From the depths of my own personal faith, back in my twenties, I became intrigued by the character of John The Baptist. Earthly cousin of Jesus, and described by no less than him as ‘the greatest of all prophets”. Yet he was, it could be said, a bit of a character.
Uncompromising. Forthright. Condemnatory. Insectivorous. JtheB gathered followers proclaiming ‘the imminent coming of the Lord’ – but it may partly have been due to his courageous-seeming self possetion at a time of deep religious tradition and humiliating political occupation among Palestine’s Jews. He took himself off into the desert to shake off the entrapments of his society, to search the face of God and live off whatever God brought to him, far away from convenience stores.
Sensible traditionalists tend not to do this. Not if they don’t want their head on a plate at society parties, they don’t.
What intrigued me, lazily searching the face of God myself at the time, was how it takes people like Johnny to make a difference. He was an old school biblical prophet in that he lived out his message rather like an artist – he demonstrated a radical remonstration to ‘the chosen people’, demanding they wake up and live more fully. More connected to the values of their supposed identity. He was odd, unselfconciously, to be heard. And was consistent with what he said in what he did. But to polite traditional society in the Israel of the gospels, this old school propheteering was apparently just too radical when it lept off the page.
Yet as a radical, as an unorthodox oddball, he baptised crowds of people hungry for a promise of something new to come, some dawning empowerment in a fearsome age of feeling stuck. Until one day, his messiah himself appeared to turn up, saying words to the effect of: “Loving your work, cuz – now do me.”
Is it any wonder that anyone said: “Mad as a locust cake”? Or similarly: “And come off it, Jeez’, you’re as bad, with all that messianic crowd baiting – you’re a chippy’s son from the arse end of Naz, mate. We’d rather like Yahweh to do better than that.”
Who’d go into politics.
“DON’T CHALLENGE OUR CUSTOMS WITH THE WILD THINGS YOU SAY…”
Through Outrider, I wondered, put simply, if those seeking a new dawn today were to be like John. Preparing the way for a returning king. Going ahead to sound the horn and clear the road. Ruffling a few feathers. Wearing a few animal skins.
Today I would say I still wonder. Though not about always choosing fake fur. Whether we believe in a coming messiah or a dawning new age of possibilities, there is together at least something to be learned in 2016 from those who live in the light of a light still over the hill, and will not let any darkness put it out in their minds.
Twenty years after I finished it, this opening piece from Outrider, The Prophets Fall Silent, still moves me to an early sense of wonder I felt in exploring life through music. Even when it’s either my own light or just me generally that’s over the hill. It addesses the big silent gap between the old testament and the new – four centuries of the chosen people supposedly hearing nothing from the mouth of God… until some crazy person emerged on the shimmering horizon and managed to get written into history.
I never got written into history. But I learned first hand in following years that it is possible to survive and crawl back out of the desert having found yourself lost in the wilderness, and that your soul may be oddly enriched when you emerge. I also know that it takes a persecuitably rare person to pursue righteousness at any cost. I haven’t discovered how to do that.
This original mix from the album is simply a little mastered for clarity but otherwise as I recorded it aged 25. No sequencing, no computers, just my first ever project recorded on the then to me sonic wonder of an 8-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, plus a drum machine and a couple of synths. No wonder I never conquered the charts. Though I did perform the last movement of this live on many occasions. Which just goes to show that some people just won’t listen to reason.
Rather hope you weirdly enjoy listening to this.
Honey-glazed insect, anyone?