Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Highbury Working: A Beat Séance transcript

This transcript of The Highbury Working by Alan Moore* and Tim Perkins** was real hard to find. Once available via several resources, it has since vanished as sites changed their content or closed. Thankfully, the Internet Archive exists! If you have never visited it, you should. All manner of goodies are in there.

You can also find it here on the livejournal page of the person who originally transcribed the 2000 CD, which he describes as "a sort of spoken word magical deconstruction of the Highbury area of London." The album art is rich and can be studied at the site of artist John Coulth. Of the text, I've included the first entry only because I have not done any of the hard work. The content of the CD is really not my thing due to how much I generally despise any poetry, the beat scene and hippies as a reflex action, but this is an interesting work that any Alan Moore completist would appreciate.

The first track of the CD is relevant here as it was partially the inspiration for the title of this blog. The blog title's main inspiration comes from the two versions of the silly yet classic art on the noir crime novel of the same name by Carl Shannon, both of which you can see here at flickr. I'm glad I found those references as I nearly called this blog The World's Most Comfortable Chair.


The Highbury Working: A Beat Séance transcript
Visita interiora terrae rectificando invenies occultem lapidem
1: Lady, That's My Skull!

November 1997, and the cue-arm of the century jumps in its lead-out groove. The old Dutch called it 'slachtmaand', slaughter month. You wouldn't send a dog out on a night like this.

The Highbury job appeared straightforward; one more metropolitan collapsar faced with dreamtime relegation; the whole postal district bleaching out, charisma-challenged, one more municipal flatline seeking voodoo CPR. It's common nowadays. The calendar gets ready to ejaculate a string of zeros, and our map is bed-soiled in the premature congratulation. Brute thermodynamics kicks in, and the meaning bleeds away into hard vacuum. All the hot-spots cool down, mammal lights (*) smearing on the surveillance camera.

This where we come in: think of us as Rosicrucian heating engineers. We check the pressure in the song-lines, lag etheric channels, and rewire the glamour. Cowboy occultism; cash-in-hand Feng Shui. First you diagnose the area in question, read the street-plan's accidental creases, and decode the orbit-maps left there by coffee cups, then go to work. Slap up a wall of ectoplasm, standard Moon and Serpent contract. Tables tilted while you wait, manifestations are us. Money for old brimstone.

Obviously, this was before we'd seen the patient. Highbury wasn't at Death's door, it was halfway down Death's passage, hanging up its coat. An anecdote-free zone. No serial murderers, no ghosts, it didn't even merit bold type in the A to Z. You might as well be on the moon. Highbury was amnesiac, whole sections of its past were blank, a geriatric out on day-release and lost somewhere on the Victoria line, only identifiable by dental records, Iron-age crusts, a Saxon bone or two.

Originally a Roman summer garrison, the area gets a walk on in the Doomsday Book as 'Tolentone', the higher town. The sixteen hundreds find the site of one of London's designated pleasure hills, a place where Samuel Pepys could blow tobacco snots upon the cobbles. Come the nineteenth century's end, the carnival is shut down, following complaints from neighbours. One of London's sexual organs is made flaccid. All the tantric energy moves on, leaves an exhausted absence in its wake, a drained erotic void safe for the middle class. By 1892 the area's a byword for monotony, a steampunk Neasden. George and Weedon Grossmith set 'The Diary of a Nobody' within the area, with their protagonist Charles Pooter settled comfortably at Brickfield Terrace, Holloway, within the suburbs of oblivion. To make things worse, the whole place is alive with Germans. Writing in 1915 Thomas Burke sets up as an early Euro-sceptic. Quote: "The Highbury region certainly has everything germanically oppressive: mist, large women, lager and Leberwurst, a moral atmosphere of the week before last, and the physical sensation of an undigested sausage." Unquote. Highbury does not come recommended, will take hardboiled psycho-geography to penetrate.

Best start with the foundations. Subterrania gargling in the lower reaches of imagination. When we excavate the place, we excavate ourselves. The inside is the outside. These steam flooded tunnels, rising up about us. Lady, that's my skull!

Original text transcribed by: Pádraig Ó Méalóid

1 comment:

  1. Heh.. I'd been wondering about that. I've got the Highbury Working at home (I am a geek. I deal with that), and recognized the title. I wasn't sure if you had pulled from it, or if there was a common source for the two. Now I know.


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