PETER HAMMILL:   The Future Now

Pushing Thirty

Seems the fashion's for one-liners these days,
the kind that get up everyone's nose,
so much back-slapping that the vertabrae
are fatally exposed....
Me, I'm pushing thirty, pulling sixteen,
though much of what's around me is dead.
They got so shirty when I tried to glean
the meaning from what they'd said:
"If you wanna be a viable artist when you're twenty-five
you'd better be a meat-head by the time you're twenty-one."
But now I'm pushing thirty and I'm still alive,
so tell me who, tell me who has won?

See the survivors in the upcoming acts,
they and the moguls make a regular killing -
others take it lying on their backs,
young blood is always so willing.
Me, I'm pushing thirty, that's the way it is,
too late to change my mind.
They play it dirty in the record biz
and you've got to toe the line.
If you wanna be an A & R man when the singing's done
you'd better make sure that you hedge your bets.
Me, I'm pushing thirty and still having fun,
I haven't stopped, haven't stopped that yet!

All the writers watch each other for the way to go,
follow each other like lemmings -
swear they're all waiting for Nicky Lowe
to turn out like David Hemmings...
Me, I'm pushing thirty and the steady zone,
perhaps I should retire,
but even if it all deserts me and I'm left alone
I still know that I'm fuelled by fire.
In this rubbish world you've got to keep that under the lid,
'cos they all hope it'll disappear...
but even though I'm pushing thirty,
maybe on the skids,
I still can be, I still can be
Nadir!

The Second Hand

See the old man acting like a fool,
running from the ambulance.
When he was a youngster he broke all the rules -
now he says that was just accident.
Always had the feeling he was going to die young,
so now he feels repentant;
but the judge was progressive and the jury was hung,
he got a suspended sentence.
So he ran from the future, he ran from the past,
he ran from the desert of the hour-glass
but the sea of time is a rising flood
and he's swamped by the wave.
His arms go limp by his side,
he only came for the ride,
he thought he'd hold back the tide,
Canute.

One eye on the main chance and one eye on the clock,
oh, when did his brain go?
And when does a veteran get to be a crock...
no gold at the end of this rainbow!
He always boxed clever with his shadowy hopes
but now he's in trouble with his back on the ropes
and the hands of time are bunched into fists:
he's out for the count.
The sword has sunk in the lake
and now he's watching dawn break
and now he waits for the stake,
Drakul.

This boy's a fool,
this fool's a man,
all men are ruled
by the second hand.

Trappings

He could have been so great, he could have had it all,
he had it on a plate, but he threw it at the wall.
And he can't know why, but he still said "yes"
to the easy lie and the poisoned vest...
the trappings of success.

They offered him the deal (Here's the contract)
just like an autograph (sign on the line)
no need to think or feel (advances are abstract)
or do anything but laugh (the future defined.)
He's in possession, yes he's possessed;
they had no fear, he was so impressed
by the trappings of success.

You'll see him down the clubs or at the premiere
(it's just another movie, it's just another act)
stumming in a pub, everywhere that's anywhere...
(he's a man of the people, just as long as the people
don't talk back)

on the Rio shore or the Rome express
with a Chinese whore or a Greek princess...
these are the trappings of success.

But he's got no home and he's got no friends
and the human mass repel him.
Now he's on his own and can't comprehend
did he sell out or was he celled in?

(He's a prisoner in a gilded cage.
He's a prisoner...he's all the rage.)

He's waiting for his plane and his first-class seat;
they've blown out his brains with sticky kiddies' sweets;
the limo, the coke, the celebrity guest-list,
the toady jokes and the gutter press...
the trappings of success,
these are the trappings of success.

The trappings of success,
the trap of fame;
(in) the trap...big game.

The Mousetrap (Caught In)

After all is said and done, not very much will have been either way:
I'm a chronicler of action, I'm an actor in the play.
I know the lines I have to speak,
I know that I won't ever quit, corpse, or dry,
but the performance gets so pointless
and the days just drift on by.
Every time that I go to turn the pages of the calendar
in the third act of this twenty-ninth year of the show
I'm aware of the latest leading lady and get mad at her...
it's perfunctory, but why she'll never know.

When I began I had my hopes,
believed that I could be a leading light of the stage,
but now I've stunned myself to silence,
exhausted all my inner rage,
extinguished all my joy and violence,
trapped all my feelings in a cage.
Every time that I go to turn the pages of the calendar
I can see that I'm not really going anywhere;
all these years I have skirted round experience like a scavenger.
Can I really feel? I wonder if I dare?
At the end of the run, will there be anyone who cares?
And behind the actor's pose, heaven knows
if there's anyone left in there.

Energy Vampires

Hunched in the corner of the dressing-room,
trying to get back to the real...
Uh-oh, here they come, ready for their meal:

Energy Vampires, crawling out of the wall,
they want to steal my vitality,
they want to drink it all.

This guy says that he wrote all my songs,
this girl says she's had my baby -
me, I don't know them from Adam and Eve,
sometimes I really believe I'm going crazy.

"Excuse me while I suck your blood,
excuse me when I phone you,
I've got every one of your records, man,
doesn't that mean I own you?"
Oh, sure, I long ago decided to make myself an exponent
of public possession in the private obsession zone.

But now I'm serious, let's be serious, I'm not selling you my soul,
try to put it in the records but I've got to keep my life my own.
One thing I've not got a lot of is time
and it's slipping away...

I've got a life to live too.

If I could

You must be crazy to stay here,
and I'll be crazy when you go;
though there's so much I want to tell you
all the words come out too slow.
I've been locked in my problems,
you seemed prepared to wait...
now that I know I'm going to lose you
all the words come out too late.
There's no promise I can give you that you wouldn't know was fake;
though I just want to be with you, there's no show that I can make.
And in the morning, when I wake and find you dressing
I can tell that it's on your mind to go for good;
I know that all this time I've kept you guessing,
but I'd tell you if I could.

If I now said that I loved you
how would that seem in your eyes?
Oh, may my voice fall into silence
if my words turn out to be lies.
I never meant to hurt you,
even though that's what I do -
even though you might not believe this
all my words were meant for you.
There's no promise I can give you that you wouldn't know was fake;
though I just want to be with you, there's no show that I can make.
And in the evening, when we sit and watch the TV
I know that this silence just won't do me any good
and I want to beg you, beg you, beg you to believe me...
I'd tell you if I could,
I'd tell you if I could.

The Future Now

Here we are, static in the latter half
of the twentieth century
but it might as well be the Middle Ages,
there'll have to be some changes
but how they'll come about foxes me.
I want the future now,
I want to hold it in my hands;
all men equal and unbowed,
I want the promised land.

but that doesn't seem to get any closer,
and Moses has had his day...
the tablets of law are an advertising poster,
civilisation here to stay
and this is progress?
You must be joking!
Me, I'm looking for any kind of hope.
I want the future now,
I want to see it on the screen,
I want to break the bounds
that make our lives so mean.

Oh, blind, blinded, blinding hatred
of race, sex, religion, colour, country and creed,
these scream from the pages of everything I read.
You just bring me oppression and torture,
apartheid, corruption and plague;
you just bring me the rape of the planet
and joke world rights at the Hague.
Oh, someday the Millennium!
But how far is someday away?
I want the future now
I'm young, and it's my right.
I want a reason to be proud.
I want to see the light.
I want the future now,
I want to see it on the screen,
I want to break the bounds:
make life worth more than dreams.

Still In The Dark

Oh, brighter than a thousand suns,
the march towards the stars
on the wheel, on the car,
off the plane, off the planet
and on in the search.
Yes, we pray in the dark in the Sciences' church.

Upon the tree of knowledge
the fruit is bitter-sweet;
to the man in the street
all its myriad benefits Science confers
but we're still in the dark, much as we always were.

Run your mind down the Sciences;
none of them lay claim to show more than a part
but still we shout out what we know
the silence is enough to break the mortal heart.

So bow down in adoration to the wonder that is man;
we have learned all we can,
we explore every frontier that straddles our way
but we're still in the dark, though we now call it day.

No, there is no answer,
there is no eternal proof,
there is no timeless truth;
though we learn to encompass yet more with the eye
we are still in the dark when it comes to the why.

We are still in the dark,
bedded down
and so we still lie.

Mediaevil

God lives in the cathedral,
or so the archbishop states,
all fealty to the Church,
all power to the state!

Gold keys to the cathedral,
they go with the bishop's cowl;
he lives a spiritual life of material wealth.
Are things so very different now?

Oh yeah
oh now:
save your prayers for the future.
Say your prayers for the future.

Oh, God's gone from the cathedral,
a different power now holds sway,
we can pack them up in the history books
but the Middle Ages won't go away.
And the answer to our prayers is a Valium by the bedside,
now we follow the pundits on TV,
now we put our faith in Science and progress
and only have sex upon our knees.

And those who are strange are still locked in asylums
and a sterile Pope proscribes the Pill
and those who are rich are still getting richer
and those who are poor still foot the bill.
And God lives in underground silos,
hanging on for Judgement day;
if we don't open our eyes pretty soon
then the Dark Ages'll be here to stay.

A Motor-Bike In Afrika

A motor-bike in Africa,
he's riding the white line,
oblivious of snakes stretched out
across the way like trip-wire,
shouting
"The road is mine!"

Tracing the line of the skeleton coast,
ghost riders from the Sud-West:
the original angels of death they seem,
six motor-bikes abreast.

Riding through the oppressive night,
now only the hardest remain.
Look at the scars of the tyre-tracks,
look to the bodies behind their backs,
look at the bastards bray
in Africa today.

The bodies of Biko and Soweto poor,
the Christian message of Dutch Reform,
the sound of the monster, the motor-bike roar,
the hate in the eyes of the uniformed Boer,
the head and the bucket, the boot and the floor...
racial torture and racial war
in Africa today.

Come in Rhodesia, South Africa, your time is up...
no protection on a motor-bike;
sooner or later the normal traffic's gonna get you.

The Cut

Everything out of order
everything too well produced
from the conjuror's hat -
let's turn on the juice
to grind the cutting plane, the blade that gives an edge,
to scale the mountain; to fail upon the mountain ledge.

Half-way up is half-way peaking
the stroboscope locks the lathe;
I look around for a switch in phase...
the disco boom stands firm, the eight-track's in, the rage
licks the present, quickly flips the future page.

Check the deck: no marked cards,
no sequentialled straight or flush...
the dice won't still the blood-line rush.
Run the star-flood night, the cut-throat blade is stropped;
race your shadow...race in case your shadow stops.

Everything so out of order
no bias on the playback head;
papers for the border - all the tape is read,
the future burns my tongue, the noise-gates all are shut,
breathe the vacuum, believe there's reason in the cut.

Incipient white noise,
the stylus barely tracks,
the air controllers feed the stereo sonic smack.

Palinurus (Castaway)

Oh, I'm looking for a white note
to consolidate the key,
like the pilot of a night boat
in a strange, uncharted sea: Palinurus,
as unsure as he can be of his direction...
hell, this section's all Greek to me.

There's so much I had to mention
but it seems to slip my mind;
still, I swear that my intentions
never left my hopes behind
like the captain who's been trapped
in the blind eye of the whirlwind...
so he turns in search of the divine.

I've got no answers either,
I've got some stories on lucky days...
the sea-lanes are crowded with people like us:
Castaways.

From soprano through to basso
my voice so strains to tell,
but I'm lost in the Sargasso
of ideas that didn't gel by a fraction,
so the action is dispelled.
Me, I've got dull reactions, protraction of doubt as well,
so it's no more abide with me,
over the side with me...
well, I know that damn well...

Oh, this hump-back of emotion,
it all seems to go so fast:
one moment prince of the ocean
and the next upon the raft.