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Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

“Where is everyone?” I asked when after an exasperating journey on Philadelphia’s public transport system I’d finally got back to the hotel and found Crystal sitting in the hotel lobby with only Jenny Alpha and our luggage for company.

Crystal pretended to look around the hotel lobby at the scuffed velour chairs and the sticky linoleum floor. “They’re not here, that’s for sure,” she said with a smile. “In fact, they’ve all left in the camper van for Boston.”

“They left without me?” I wailed.

“It was much too cosy together on the way down and everyone complained about it,” said Crystal. “Especially Thelma. So, we’ve hired a car to share the load. The rest have gone ahead so they get a chance to settle into Boston and maybe see the sights.”

“What type of car did you get?”

“It’s some kind of Chevrolet,” said Jenny. “They call it a compact over here, but it’s plenty big enough for us and our gear. I’ll do the driving. It should be a cinch what with all American cars being automatic.”

“It’s not as if you have to change gear very often anyway when you get onto the freeway,” Crystal commented. “So, come on, Pebbles. Let’s get your equipment into the boot of the car. Or automobile trunk as they call it over here.”

“Trunk of a Chevy!” Jenny exclaimed in delight. “Now I know I’m in America!”

The drive from Philadelphia to Boston took some six or seven hours including a couple of stops at roadside diners just beside the freeway. Crystal sat with me in the back of the car while Jenny did the driving and constantly twiddled the radio dial to find a station that wasn’t either Country & Western or Top 40. And when she found a station that was at all tolerable, it was never long until the reception got so poor that she had to retune the radio to something else.

“We’ve had a stroke of luck,” said Crystal. “There’s a guy in Boston who knows our agent, Madeleine, and he’s a real fan of the band. He works at Harvard University, which I’m told is in a suburb aptly known as Cambridge.”

“I’m surprised anyone in America’s ever heard of us let alone could claim to be a fan,” I remarked.

“Well apparently he is. And what’s more this guy—Professor Simon Kurrein he’s called—has some influence in the university’s music department and he’s organised an extra gig for us at the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall which is normally reserved for classical music…”

“Do you think we’d be a good fit there? It’s not as if we’re a string quartet or whatever.”

“I don’t see why not,” Crystal said. “We’ll be at least as good a fit as we were at Mary Jane’s. We’ve got the gig because another concert’s been cancelled. A group of Persian musicians who couldn’t get their visas, I was told. So there’s an empty slot for us to fill.”

“So how did this Simon get to know about our music? And why does he think it’d appeal to classical music fans?”

“Well, it’s more likely to appeal to those who listen to Steve Reich and Terry Riley than those who enjoy Schubert and Mendelssohn, but I think it was the track Dave’s First Words that won Simon over. You might remember I used an interleaved chant in a kind of counterpoint. Simon recognised the Reich influence and wanted to hear more. So, how good is that?”

I remembered the tune very well, of course. Passing Passion, the album it came from, was the first record I recorded with Crystal Passion. In fact, it had been a big deal for all of us. Crystal had performed solo on her previous album and now, rather than Crystal Passion being the assumed name of a singer-songwriter, it had become the name of a band. And this was the band that when we went into the studio for the first of our two sessions featured me on keyboards, my sister on violin, and Jane and Jacquie on drums and bass.

We recorded just over half an hour’s worth of music, but this wasn’t nearly enough for a whole album, especially not in the early 1990s when most CDs were over 70 minutes long. By the time we went into the studio for the second session, the band’s membership had grown to include Judy Dildo and Tomiko Morishita. Crystal Passion had made the journey from solo artist to quintet and then to sextet and sound engineer in the space of just one album. And it was at about this time that Bertha joined the band as our first roadie, so including Crystal there was now already eight of us.

This was a huge change to the band’s complexion and even more so the music we were playing.

It was inevitable that an expanded band should need both a roadie and a sound engineer. Crystal had got to know Bertha through a lover who frequented a lesbian bar that she’d somehow found the time to visit while still being sexually active elsewhere. It was no surprise that Bertha agreed to work for the band when asked. She’d already been roadying for lesbian Rock groups like the Nathanael Sisters (whose sisterhood was political rather than fraternal) and Peerless Ploughwoman.

It was through Mark that Crystal recruited our new sound engineer and in a fashion that was so typical of her. She’d come home after a gig to find her husband horizontal on the living room carpet and fucking an Irish-Japanese woman who was, of course, our future band-member. His prick was deep inside Tomiko’s arse when Crystal opened the door and he continued to fuck her while Tomiko and Crystal discussed how much the services of a qualified sound engineer would improve the sound of the Crystal Passion band. And, inevitably, she and Crystal were soon also making love together and sharing Mark’s cock as a kind of handshake to cement the deal they’d just made.

Tomiko and Bertha were only part-time band members in the sense that they were also working on other projects, but Crystal ensured they were treated as equals with the rest of us. But most significant change to the band was when Judy Dildo became a member. Although she only played on four tracks on the Passing Passion album, the presence of a rock guitar made an immediate and noticeable impact on the Crystal Passion sound. When the band consisted of Jane and Jacquie, Andrea and me, we were an electro-acoustic outfit backed by the steady metronomic beat that was the inevitable product of the passion for club music I shared with my Zimbabwean lovers. When Judy joined, we now began to sound more like a rock band. This wasn’t surprising seeing that Judy Dildo had already played lead guitar for several years in a series of women-only and mixed-sex rock groups.

It was Judy who’d sought out Crystal rather than the other way round. Although she enjoyed the company of women, both sexually and socially, she was actually more comfortable when performing with men, even when she was the only woman in the group. She strutted and postured on stage just like a male rock star. She was almost more macho than the men she performed with. The bands she’d played with had typical Rock Group names like Gog, Six Demons and Silver Payola. You’d never have thought that a rock chick covered in tattoos and with an aggressive attitude to match would be drawn to Crystal Passion’s eccentric and unclassifiable music, but like me she’d had an epiphany when she’d heard Crystal Passion playing support to Six Demons at a gig in Leeds. That was bizarre enough in itself. Who on earth would have booked Crystal Passion to play on the same bill as a death metal group whose songs weren’t remotely ambiguous or subtle and which they performed at an excruciatingly loud volume? At least when she saw Crystal Passion sing at the Leeds Pilot Cellar Club, it was in a group with the four of us backing Crystal rather than just a single naked woman on stage.

Judy sought out Crystal immediately after the gig and there and then offered her services to the band. Right from the start she was offering practical suggestions as to how to make the band’s sound more up-front and punchy and Crystal was listening intently.

We weren’t so sure about Judy. She was a very different kind of character to the rest of us. She didn’t go to night clubs like Jane, Jacquie and me. She wasn’t interested in folk music like Andrea. The music she most enjoyed had to have energy, power and an instant impact. And this proclivity had to be overlaid somehow on the groove-based rhythm and melody that we were contributing to the Crystal Passion mix.

Within a week of Judy approaching Crystal, she was a full member of the band and joined us at the disused retail unit we’d hired to rehearse the remaining few songs for the Passing Passion album. It was Judy who’s the chief author of the sound that rock critics like Polly Tarantella rate as the very best of Crystal Passion. This is ironic, of course, given that Judy Dildo is portrayed as the arch-villain in Polly’s account of the Crystal Passion tragedy. In fact, I’d say that if it hadn’t been for Judy Dildo’s impact on the band, it’s highly unlikely that Polly would ever have been attracted to Crystal Passion and her music at all.

The track that Professor Simon Kurrein most enjoyed, Dave’s First Words, isn’t one of the tracks Judy played guitar on. In fact, it consists mostly of Jane and Jacquie providing a steady beat with me adding an electronic pulse and voice samples, while Crystal intones over the top. It’s peculiarly mesmeric and nearly became a signature tune for the band. It’s almost always the first Crystal Passion tune that people ever get to hear, usually on the radio, and although it doesn’t fit well into Polly’s thesis of what the band is all about, she quotes the lyrics (in their entirety) more than once in her best-selling biography. She seems to view it as Crystal’s manifesto. And, for all I know, she may even be right.

The recording of Passing Passion was enlightening and instructive for all of us. Crystal was extremely disciplined in her approach to composition. She’d taught herself to read and write music and whenever she presented us with a new song she’d already written it down in her neat handwriting on song sheets with annotations to mark where we could throw in our own individual flourishes or samples. Although she got us to rehearse each song in its entirety for hours on end, this was never a Trout Mask Replica ordeal in pursuit of perfection. Rather, it was a collaborative process in which Crystal sympathetically discussed how each song might be improved.

Nevertheless, there wasn’t that much space for improvisation in the early quintet. Although Judy Dildo boosted the sound when she joined the band and sometimes jammed almost like a jazz guitarist, the rest of us weren’t really competent to do more than play what we’d rehearsed. Even Andrea, who was a much better musician than me, didn’t have much skill at improvisation. All that came later. But there was still a sense that the music was the collaborative creation of the whole band, although Crystal could never be deemed as anything other than the songs’ composer. I had ideas about rhythm and sound collage that I’d plundered from my collection of Detroit techno compilations and Balearic mixtapes. Andrea knew stuff about East European and Arabic music as well as English and Celtic folk. Crystal threw all this into the mix and this helped give the music its distinctive sound.

Cheese was a kind of rap that Crystal half-improvised to the extent that although the rhythm and measure of each line was always the same the actual lyrics changed from one performance to the next. Unlike the lyrics of NWA and other East Coast Gangsta Rappers, Crystal’s rap didn’t contain a single profanity or swear word. Roast Peanuts was almost an instrumental which Crystal overlaid with the kind of swooping vocalese you might associate with the Cocteau Twins. Then there was the upbeat Electric City which was the most danceable track on the album and has been extensively remixed since Crystal Passion was rediscovered by DJs as diverse as Daniel Avery, Pearson Sound, Flying Lotus and Erol Alkan. The catchy chorus “There’s electricity in the Electric City” has been stretched and sampled and distorted beyond all recognition. Hidden Glory is a song which builds up like a bolero from an almost inaudible first bar to a distorted climax which I sampled from the soundtrack to the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still.

There are two stand-out tracks on which Judy Dildo performs. There’s Dusty Eyes where Judy plays a frenzied guitar solo which somehow works in counterpoint to Andrea’s violin and Crystal’s interweaving lyrics that go “I see you see me see you see them see us…” and so on. And then there’s Three Little Pigs which is broken into three sections which mirror one another but where the final section breaks into a heavy metal style rock guitar riff that in isolation could have come from a Metallica album.

There’s a lot more to the album, of course, and Polly Tarantella is effusive about every single track. But I do know that the choral singing on Lustful Lady that she attributes to Crystal was actually a sample I’d taken from an obscure 1970s Italian horror movie.

When we at last entered Boston’s outer suburbs, Jenny steered the car towards the Hotel Syracuse where the band was staying. By the time we arrived, everyone else was already getting to know the bars and tourist attractions in Boston’s town centre. Needless to say, the Syracuse was no more salubrious than any other hotel we stayed at and Crystal heard my groan of dismay at having to spend another night in a grotty American dive.

“Look, Pebbles,” she said. “We don’t have to stay here. We can drop off the gear and drive out to this Simon Kurrein’s house. I half-promised I’d visit him when we arrived and maybe he’ll let us stay the night.”

“I don’t think I’m in the mood for sex with a middle-aged man,” I said wearily.

“What?” said Crystal, who seemed genuinely startled at my interpretation of her remarks. “No, of course not. We don’t have to have sex with every man we meet and in any case I don’t think he’d even want to. He’s a university academic who’s married with adult children. I just think it’d be courteous to take the trouble to meet him in person since he’s been so helpful and that it would also be nice if you came along.”

Professor Simon Kurrein of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, lived in an almost stately home in Concord, not far from Walden Pond and the family home of Louisa May Alcott.This was a side of America I hadn’t seen before. This America was liberal, affluent and open-minded. And, reassuringly, it seemed almost European to me.

The professor couldn’t have been more delighted to see us.

“So you must be Pebbles,” he said proffering a hand, although I could see that he was wondering whether he should also kiss me on the cheek. In those days, not so many English or Americans were as touchy-feely as they are today.

He led us into a living room that was large enough to host one of our gigs and introduced us to his wife, Alexandra, who was sitting at the console of what at the time was a very high-spec beige PC. Simon Kurrein and his wife were both academic sophisticates whose clothes seemed almost casual at first glance, but with closer scrutiny could only be very expensive. I wondered how it was that university teachers could be so affluent. Although they were both at least as old as my parents, they dressed and acted like a much younger couple. Crystal was perfectly relaxed in her inexpensive Liberty print dress (of which she did not divest herself on this occasion), but I felt very much the slattern in my jeans and tee-shirt. I even kept on my woolly hat in the probably misplaced fear that the professor would disapprove of my shaved head.

“How’s America treating you so far, my dears?” Simon asked after we’d settled down in the plush leather armchairs and were both offered a glass of what he claimed was a very modest red wine.

Crystal gave the couple a reassuring account of our stay so far in which she made no reference whatsoever of our difficulties or the disappointing audience reaction to our shows, but laced it with amusing anecdotes and fulsome praise for the other band members. All the while, Simon and Alexandra nodded sagely and made the occasional encouraging remark. I glanced around their living room at the many books and neatly arranged records (both CDs and vinyl) of which the majority were classical and modern jazz. I glimpsed a Fela Kuti album sleeve besides those for Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, but most records featured the names of pianists, violinists, string quartets and orchestras I’d never heard of playing the music either of composers I’d also never heard of or those, like Brahms, Purcell, Schumann and Paderewski, whose names were familiar but their music wasn’t. I felt very much the ignoramus in this company, but I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if Crystal were to start discussing the relative virtues of symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich and Arnold Bax.

“And did you know that you’re now famous in America?” said Alexandra with an amused smile, holding a wine glass poised in her left hand. “There was something about Crystal Passion on national television.”

“Famous?” Crystal said. “I knew there was an article written about us in the New York Post, but I didn’t know anything was broadcast about us on television.”

“Well, I imagine it’s mostly thanks to that newspaper article and a scurrilous radio campaign from one of those forthright and opinionated Christian Radio disc jockeys,” Simon said. “You were mentioned in a discussion on a cable television talk show.”

Crystal sighed. “I didn’t know about any of that. I didn’t know the band was the subject of any radio coverage whatsoever. And I didn’t know that anything was said about us on American television. Please, Simon, tell us what you know.”

Neither Simon nor Alexandra knew much about what was actually said on Samuel Hedrick’s radio show Voice of Reason. They were no more likely to listen to the rants of a right-wing radio pundit than a listener to such a radio show would the music of Crystal Passion. Or indeed anything that wasn’t reassuringly safe and familiar. Which would exclude them from getting to hear pretty much everything in Simon’s extensive record collection. But the couple knew that Hedrick’s tirade had been negative, vituperative, ill-informed and inflammatory. What else could it be?

Similarly, they’d have only known for sure what was broadcast on The Daytime Show with its regular presenter Peter Pilton, if they’d chosen to tune into CBS at three o’clock in the afternoon Eastern Standard Time, which, of course, as a professional working couple who more often watched their television programmes on PBS, they were never likely to do. But the fact that it was daytime television and that the only two likely reference points were the stated opinions of the New York Post and Samuel Hedrick, Simon and Alexandra more or less knew that it wouldn’t have given Crystal Passion a fair and balanced hearing. So, although neither they nor anyone they knew had actually listened to the broadcast they were confident that it had presented Crystal Passion in the worst possible light. And Simon Kurrein, who’d been exposed to a lot of radical and determinedly uncommercial music and theatre, was under no illusion as to what the Crystal Passion band might be like as a performing entity and how that might be construed by the media. In truth nothing we did was remotely as radical as what came out of Andy Warhol’s Factory in the 1960s. Nor was it as revolutionary as anything propounded by Ken Kesey, William Burroughs or Timothy Leary. But considering the outrage that a group of English yobs like the Sex Pistols could generate; or the voyeuristic fascination with a pop singer like Madonna; or the ability of the media in both Britain and America to demonise almost anyone: it was unlikely that Crystal Passion would ever be reported as anything other than dangerous, mad and subversive. And despite Polly Tarantella’s efforts to make it seem otherwise, incitement to revolution had never been Crystal’s intention.

I didn’t get to hear Samuel Hedrick’s pillorying of Crystal Passion, though it was repeated in different contexts over the next few weeks and became steadily more inflammatory. I’ve seen the transcripts that Polly managed to uncover in her research. As they were written from memory, no one can be certain that they are Samuel Hedrick’s words, but having since heard the rants of other reactionary American radio presenters like Rush Limbaugh I have no reason to doubt their veracity. And vicious and bizarre in equal measure they are too.

I guess I half agree with Polly’s view that Samuel Hedrick had put Crystal Passion on trial and that the outcome was decided in advance, as this seems to be precisely what the purpose of such rants are, whether directed at politicians or musicians or even doctors and social workers. When we were touring America, the right wing media was only beginning to get its teeth into Bill Clinton, but it’s actually much worse these days than it was then. You’d think President Obama and Nancy Pelosi were devil-worshippers if you believed half of what they say. But I don’t suppose Crystal Passion got it worse than any other musician who’s outraged conservative opinion.

I also didn’t see the broadcast of The Daytime Show that discussed Crystal Passion until after Polly had published her biography. I’d always assumed it was the kind of thing you see these days on Fox News, where obnoxious presenters bully and shout down anyone whose opinions they disagree with and compete with one another to be the loudest and least reasonable. But back in the early 1990s, Fox News didn’t exist and the general tendency was for discussion shows to be conservative with a decidedly small ‘c’. So, although Polly quotes a lot from the radio discussion, I don’t think it was as insanely vituperative as a similar discussion would be these days on a show presented by Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly or Glenn Beck.

Nowadays, when there’s a discussion on television it’s posted on YouTube within minutes. In the 90s, the only way such a discussion could survive was if someone bothered to video-tape it. But Polly Tarantella’s research almost inevitably came up with an instance of someone in the United States who’d thought it worthwhile to record that particular edition of The Daytime Show. The elderly woman who did so was much less interested in Crystal Passion and her legacy than she was in a cloying interview with a romantic novelist. And so, thanks to Polly Tarantella, two decades after the event I’ve actually got to see the interview she claims was more or less Crystal Passion’s death warrant.

I don’t think I’d go along with that, although the discussion wasn’t especially sympathetic towards Crystal. Peter Pilton was one of those silver-haired, chisel-jawed, ever-smiling television presenters that are more often seen in America than in Britain. Inevitably he had that half-indulgent ‘what are kids going to get up to next’ attitude towards the story, although he’d at least got Crystal Passion’s name right, even if his two guests gave the band names such as Bristol Fashion, Crystal and the Passions, Chrissie Passion, and Chrysler Passage. It was obvious that neither of these apparent experts knew anything about the band at all.

The two guests were predictable in terms of both who they were and what they had to say. There was the conservative Christian, Bob Farrow, who reminded me of televangelists like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart. To an American viewer, I guess, he might seem reasonable and sane, but to me he was swivel-eyed and entirely obnoxious. He was the sort of man I was very glad my father hadn’t been. The other guest, Jeff Barrett, was a Rock Critic of some kind, though it was never mentioned what he actually did other than appear on programmes like this. He was another kind of stereotype; the sort of Rock personality even then virtually extinct in Europe. His hair was long, blond and bouffant and he resembled an extra from a glam metal band like Mötley Crüe or Bon Jovi. He dressed in a mixture of leather and denim and had an annoying habit of saying words like ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ as if the quotation marks were still very much in place.

Neither of them knew anything about Crystal Passion and there was nothing in the discussion that would enlighten a viewer who might genuinely want to find out. The pictures they showed were of all-girl rock groups that I’d never heard of before such as Red Abyss, Fabulous Disaster and Jack Off Jill. Bob Farrow had a lot to say about the sinfulness of homosexuality, the decadent lyrics of rock songs and the bad example rock musicians were setting kids by taking drugs and foreswearing Jesus. Jeff Barrett had a lot to say about American rock music and how chicks had found a welcome niche for themselves within its embrace. He heaped praise on a bunch of American Rock groups that I don’t much like, such as Kiss, Poison and W.A.S.P. He mentioned very briefly such British pop groups as Talk Talk, Stone Roses and U2, and quite clearly thought we were nothing more than a Chick Rock group that took our clothes off on stage to give the guys a thrill.

Even though Crystal Passion came out of the programme apparently either an emissary of Satan on the one hand or trivial to the point of utter irrelevance on the other, I don’t really go along with the rage expressed by Polly who describes it as “crowning Crystal Passion with thorns”, “stripping Crystal Passion of all dignity” or “acting as both judge and jury to damn for eternity the most significant musical revolution since Bruce Springsteen or the Beatles”. The discussion show might have been an unfair representation and it certainly wasn’t going to win us many friends amongst American conservatives, but the true damage had already been done. And that was to bring to the attention of an intolerant vindictive American community a band who in its opinion could only be infuriating, irritating and maybe even immoral. I don’t believe it was really Crystal Passion per se that was the object of criticism, but what a British all-girl band represented and the sexualised fantasy of cultural subversion that it invoked. And the more they found about Crystal’s habitual nudity, her open marriage, the sexual preference of most of the band and the defiantly non-commercial music, the more Crystal Passion would be feared and despised.

Nevertheless, I most definitely did not feel like the member of a reprobate satanic lesbian cult while Crystal and I were being entertained by Simon and Alexandra. Indeed, I don’t think I’d ever felt more like a lady. This was an evening soiree of sophisticated discussion, a very filling Mexican dinner prepared by the Kurreins’ cook, and an entertaining impromptu solo performance by Crystal on, of all things, a lute. It was most peculiar to hear her song Mustard Birds played on a mediaeval string instrument with its very contemporary references to the Big Bang and Cosmic Inflation. Crystal played several of her own songs, including Dave’s First Words, Travelling Light and Muscle Mary Magdalene, but she accompanied Alexandra, who had a classically trained singing voice, on a selection of more familiar songs such as Norwegian Wood, Tears of a Clown and I’m a Believer. It’s unlikely that either John Lennon or Stevie Wonder, let alone Neil Diamond, ever expected their songs to be performed in such a way.

I was quite relieved that Crystal kept her clothes on all evening and that towards the end neither Alexandra nor Simon suggested that we should join them in bed. There are occasions when sex is best reserved for the person most close to you and in my case that was Crystal: as it had been from the moment I first cast eyes on her. Although I knew her love was spread equally between so many, the love she expressed to me never felt any less passionate, intense or genuine.

The bed in which we slept that night was probably the most comfortable and luxurious I’d ever slept in until that time. The sheets felt just right against my skin and smelt so fresh and unsullied. The mattress was firm but not too hard. And it was spacious enough for both Crystal and I to make love without the risk of falling off the edge and onto the floor. We were both naked and writhing and cuddling and fisting and snuggling as the mood took us.

“You know, Pebbles,” said Crystal, as she ran her tongue over the blue stubble of my pate. “Much as I love your shaved head, I do miss your beautiful bright yellow hair.”

“It was very short,” I reminded her. “Shaving it off wasn’t such a big deal.”

“It was longer when we first met,” Crystal remarked. “Not as long as mine, but well over your ears…”

“And it was streaked red and blue,” I said, with a whimsical laugh. “Don’t fret, Crystal, I won’t keep my head shaved forever. But it’s good on a tour. I don’t ever have to get it styled. Maintaining it is just a question of scraping off the stubble with a razor. You’ll soon see it long again.”

But that, alas, was a promise that I could never fulfil.

I could have stayed in the Kurreins’ bed all day, but, as Crystal made sure I remembered, we had a gig to perform at the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall. And this was the gig Crystal enjoyed the most on our tour even though the venue was less than half full and that by a somewhat mixed and rather bemused crowd of students and people two or three times our age.

This concert was one that not even a viewer of The Daytime Show with Peter Pilton could describe as a rock concert. Jeff Barrett would have been very disappointed and probably at least as bewildered as our audience. Although Crystal appeared naked as always (which raised no objection or comment), Judy Dildo was relatively subdued. She dressed in a baggy tee-shirt and corduroy trousers that made her look nothing like a rock chick. This is evidence (that Polly Tarantella disregards) for the case that Judy was more than willing to make compromises in her appearance and musical style when she believed it served the greater interest of the Crystal Passion band. Although I was always more comfortable on electric rather than acoustic keyboards, there was a glorious Steinway Concert Grand piano at the venue which I self-consciously tinkled on for a couple of songs. But it was Crystal, Andrea and Philippa who put the piano to best use and gave Crystal Passion’s music an almost classical timbre. In fact, like Judy, I also played a rather lesser role in this concert. This was a venue better suited to acoustic than electric or electronic music, but Crystal with her experience of being a singer-songwriter restructured her compositions for the venue’s ambience.

Although it was the best presented and most sympathetically received concert on our tour, it probably wasn’t the kind of gig most suited to the Crystal Passion band. The audience were polite and responsive, but scarcely enthusiastic. And the compositions they most enjoyed were precisely those with the least potential for commercial success and, it has to be said, the least likely to appeal to Polly Tarantella and the rock critics that have so successfully revitalised her legacy. The audience politely requested an encore, but I got the impression that it was for form’s sake rather than from a genuine desire to hear more. Crystal closed with a solo rendition of The Sage and Stupid Sluts that despite its title (which Crystal didn’t announce) is a tricky composition with an alternating 10/4 and 5/4 rhythm and abstruse lyrics that don’t make at all clear that it’s a celebration of the right a woman has to be sexually promiscuous if she should so wish (or, at least, that’s how both Polly and I interpret it).  I wonder whether the applause wouldn’t have been rather more subdued if the more senior members of the audience had known the song’s title.

Crystal was very satisfied with how the concert went and grateful to Simon for having made it possible. Judy was less happy, but she made no comment other than a dismissive remark about having to wear such crappy clothes to keep Crystal happy. She tugged off the corduroy trousers as soon as we left the stage and pulled on a short leather skirt. And of course she wore nothing under her baggy tee-shirt.

Polly’s account of the actual concert is rather perfunctory: possibly because she views classical and acoustic music as peripheral to the main thrust of her epic tale of Crystal Passion’s revolution in popular culture. But she praises Professor Simon Kurrein’s achievement in booking a concert at Harvard as being a life-saver for Crystal after all the negative publicity the tour had so far attracted. Although I was also grateful for everything that Simon had done, I don’t think any of us at the time put it into such a context. After all, if Simon hadn’t told us about the discussion on The Daytime Show with Peter Pilton, none of us would have known about it and, in any case, at the time we thought it was more amusing than worrying. There’d always been a long tradition of newspaper, television and radio totally misunderstanding popular culture and of finding the worst possible light in which to present it. We probably felt we’d got away relatively lightly compared to the furore that accompanied the rise of Acid House and the ongoing persecution of rave culture in the UK.

I’m fairly certain that no one in the audience knew much about Crystal Passion other than what was hurriedly put together in the publicity material which confusingly described our music as ‘avant-folk’ and our live concerts as ‘lively and deceptively chaotic’. The poster advertising the gig featured a print of Jacopo Tintoretto’s Women Playing Music which might have been strictly correct (especially since the women are all naked) but a 16th Century painting was more likely to remind an English audience of the Renaissance club in Derby than whatever it was that Crystal Passion represented.

“I don’t know what we’d have done without you, Simon,” said Crystal after the concert just before we drove back to the Hotel Syracuse for what couldn’t possibly be such a good night’s sleep for either Crystal or me.

“It was my pleasure,” he said. “I just hope I can be of help if you should ever need it again.”

 

 

Chapter Four

Chapter Six