KID SHIRT

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

LET'S BE FRANK

In all fairness, I can't talk about creating a Psychogeographical Alt.Mythos for Yeovil without mentioning Frank Sidebottom and Timperley:



Frank's Timperley Mythos is both comforting and miraculous in it's consistency. It effortlessly achieves its (un)stated mission-statement of meta-evolving a small Cheshire town into a Mythik Hyperreal Locale where the banal and the magical are indistinguishable from each other. Julian Cope attempted a similar feat with Tamworth, but deliberately blew it out of the water (as only Copey can) in Volume Two of his autobiography. For a while, at least, it appeared that Cope favoured the Mythology of Heroic Failure over the Mythology of Banal Locale, although this seems to have been reversed with his recent interest in Psychedelic Archeology.

Still, it seems almost inevitable that Post-Jungian Mythik Leakage should lead to an accidental overlap between the Yeovil and Timperley Alt.Myths, as demonstrated by the back of the above postcard:



"Wish I was all there," says Frank, on the back of the postcard. What can he mean, I wonder? He seems to be hinting that he is afraid that he won't be able to completely materialise in our conceptual space. There is a genuine fear that he might not appear real enough.

Cope attempted a similar act in Volume One of his autobiography in the chapter entitled "Gotta get out of Yeovil", but was more successful in his cross-mythological manifestation because he had taken acid at the time. He was also able to become more real in Yeovil Alt.Mythic Space (albeit as an imaginary 'city-centre') because Dom and I had just given him a Kwalo Klobinsky DogdogdogdogdogDOG! T-Shirt. Cope, as usual blew his opportunity by reverting to Hunter S. Thompsonisms and referring to the drinkers downstairs in the Mermaid Hotel as looking like reptiles or pteradactyls. (This pub was our local at the time and I can assure you the locals looked like pteradactyls without the intervention of psychotropics) However, he redeemed himself by re-entering local mythic-space the following morning and buying a Neil Young LP in Acorn Records.

Still, Copey was too hung up on Heroic failure at that point in his life and (despite some brave attempts with the Kevin Stapleton/Whopper Earth-2 Meta-Liverpool Thing) was either unwilling or unable to put the hours in. Frank, however, kept his head down and created a remarkable body of work that was both confident and consistent enough (as all good mythologies are) to develop its own Design Conceits:



Dom once worked on a children's program where Frank was the guest and he was amazed how the guy kept in character all day and, despite the hot weather/studio lights, never once removed his 'head' or reverted to a Non-Frank voice. He even (correct me if I'm wrong, Mick) built a prop spaceship out of cardboard boxes out in the backyard when, presumably, there were props/craft-services people available to do this for him. Frank Sidebottom as Ultimate Method Actor, anyone?

Our attempted penetration of Sidebottom's own Personal Mythik Space occured when we decided to record an Acid House version of Frank's song "Space is Ace". We then went to see him play live in order to get permission to use the song, but, believe me, nothing, absolutely nothing on this planet, can prepare you for the full-on surreal carnage of a Frank Sidebottom gig (Note-books out, Fall fans: the support act was Mark 'Lard' Reilly and the Creepers). I have never seen an audience go as bonkers as this one did when Little Frank finally appeared. Not even the fact that the word 'Daz' was easily visible on the back of Little Frank's 'body' seemed to deter the audience's frenzied adoration for what was basically a cardboard box. Someone ought to write a psychology paper on Sidebottom Syndrome. One guy (an enormous rugby player-sized bloke) who dared to heckle was ritually humiliated and made to stand at the back of the stage wearing a Dunce Cap. Later, an enormous sombrero was donned along with a huge stick-on Gay Clone Moustache, and Queen songs were ruinously deconstructed. It was completely mental.

Afterwards, we hung around, visibly shaken by what we'd witnessed. Eventually we approached a docile-looking roadie type who was packing away various leads and gear, and told him of our plans to record an Acid version of "Space is Ace". Would it be possible, we wondered, to meet Mr. Sidebottom and get his blessing? The roadie smiled benignly and said he thought it would be okay if we went ahead and recorded the track, as long as we sent Frank a copy. No, we said, you don't understand...we needed to ask Frank's permission. He stopped what he was doing and said (slightly more firmly): "Nah, take it from me, lads, I'm telling you that Frank'll be fine with it..."

One of us started to say something like, "But couldn't we just speak to him for a minute..." and then the penny suddenly dropped: Ohhhhhhh, riiiiiight. Okaaaay... The 'roadie' smiled one last time and carried on picking up leads and stuff as we silently filed out. Reality was starting to leak back into the universe...

Suddenly sober, we drove back to Yeovil in complete silence that night. I handmade this Mythik Artifact a couple days later, keeping it as close to Frank's own design strategy as possible:



The circle from Timperley to Yeovil and back again was now complete.