This is not a music blog. As a sentiment it’s never far from my mind, particularly when I stagger over to the laptop to bang out a couple of hundred words about records half-forgotten, or bands best left obscure. This isn’t a music blog – but it won’t hurt, just this once, if I let slip six paragraphs exploring the relationship between “Stay” by Shakespeare’s Sister, and the day I started all those fires . You won’t feel a thing; just a little prick to the skin, then it’ll all be over.
Hunter S Thompson covered the 1972 US Presidential Election for Rolling Stone magazine (sprawling and sometimes wonderfully incoherent articles, subsequently collated into book form – and for my money some of the best writing on the mechanics of power ever published). It isn’t just the zip and effrontery of the prose that makes the book such an engrossing read, nor Thompson’s uncynical affiliation to an altruistic stream of patriotism (light years removed from incumbent Richard Nixon’s car-dealer world view); his novel approach lay in not giving a fig what bridges required burning in the pursuit of his narrative. If that meant betraying confidences, ignoring the conventions of the “off-the-record” conversation, or laying into reputations with a savagery unheard of in mainstream political reportage, then so be it; his was not an inclination towards the Capitol Hill correspondent gig, and after Nixon’s re-election he would retreat to his Colorado compound for a semi-retirement of ballistics and internal organ abuse.
Guns and narcotics aside, Thompson was nothing if not provocatively tangential. In March 1972 he covered the preparations for that year’s Republican National Convention in Miami; a freak show best remembered for the bloodlust of its delegates, and a sharp increase in reported sightings of the walking dead. Thompson however stoked the sense of pre-event anticipation in a very different way:
Another depressing news item – out of Miami Beach this time – says an unnatural number of ravens have been seen in the city recently. Tourists have complained of being kept awake all night by ‘horrible croaking sounds’ outside their hotel windows. “At first there were only a few,” one local businessman explained. “But more and more keep coming. They’re building big nests in the trees along Collins Avenue. They’re killing the trees and their droppings smell like dead flesh.”
It’s a sublime manner in which to wrap up any article… but not this one. I’m far from enthusiastic about tangents, flights of fancy or non sequiturs, so I’ll finish this up with the question: can you provide an alibi? You know, from when all those fires started?