The Human Chameleon

To mark the latest low in British politics, I intend to re-watch Woody Allen’s charming 1983 mockumentary film, Zelig.


Britain’s version of Zelig is our new Grime Minister, Liz Truss, a faithless human chameleon who has shape shifted from pseudo-liberal anti-Monarchist to head of a ruthless right wing crime organisation in a seamless slither of clawing ambition.

She has wasted little time in surrounding herself with her mates in a Cabinet of dangerous sub-fascist narcissists who are fully aware of their mission. First order of business: the interests of the energy companies who fund their party, and other beneficiaries of privatisation, must be protected at all costs. Posting record profits whilst quadrupling bills deserves high-fives around the table. Item two: a party to celebrate their good fortune, with toasts and rousing cheers to mock the little people whose growing poverty is a major marker of their policy success. Hurrah! 🍻

Zelig is a 1983 American mockumentary film written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Allen and Mia Farrow. Allen plays Leonard Zelig, a nondescript enigma, who, apparently out of his desire to fit in and be liked, unwittingly takes on the characteristics of strong personalities around him. The film, presented as a documentary, recounts his period of intense celebrity in the 1920s, including analyses by contemporary intellectuals.

The film was well received by critics and was nominated for numerous awards, including the Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Costume Design.

Dribble Drabble #04

The Letter

Billy picked up the letter and kicked the door shut. He edged along the left side of the worn carpet to avoid a creaking floorboard. “Grandad!”

“In here son.”

“There’s a letter.” He handed over the brown envelope and dropped to his knees, stroking the cat to a purr.

The old man’s rheumy eyes read the contents, then searched the peeling wallpaper for meaning.

Billy read the bold header in his grandad’s lap, slowly enunciating the first three syllables. “‘Eve-ick-shun’. What does it mean?”

The old man smiled. “Do you think your mum’s offer of the spare room still stands?”

Dribble Drabble #03

The Blade

Arthur transitioned seamlessly from the dull and dusty world of accounts to the quiet of home retirement. Prudence the cat purred her approval, but Maggie was determined to fill his time with trivial domestic tasks that had until then remained happily undone.

“Enter a competition,” she had suggested, and so he did.

That was weeks ago, and now he marched steadily behind his Jaguar XV-5 mower. His inch-perfect lines and symmetrical shading would surely deliver the winning points.

Mopping his brow at the finish, Arthur glanced back; then froze at the sight of a solitary blade, waving his defeat.

Lawnmower Man
Find Tim Walker’s books on Amazon

Dribble Drabble #02

Ivory Towers

“Did the Roman Empire fall because of the selfishness and cruelty of a male European elite who lost the support of the masses?”

His eagle’s stare swept over the downturned eyes before him. No one ventured an answer.

“If the glass towers of capitalism are the modern equivalent of temples and victory arches, is history doomed to repeat itself?”

The door to the auditorium opened and a female figure stood in a shaft of light. “Professor White? I’m Lydia Hardy, your new Head of Department. Meet me in my office after this class for a long overdue staff and syllabus review.”

A drabble is a very short story, of up to 100 words.

Dribble Drabble #01

Abduction Blues

“I’ve seen things you aliens wouldn’t believe. Rush hour at Central Station. A cat puking a half-dissolved mouse. Two women fighting over the last purple jumpsuit in Aldi.”

The blob of green slime quivered towards its bound captive, giving no indication it understood.

Jeff recoiled at the stench of rotting fish as it opened its mouth, his uneventful life flashing before him.

“Zaaarg, gaarth, plonk,” it drawled.

Thirty seconds later Jeff awoke on his front lawn, staring at the night sky. A shooting star drew his gaze, just as Buster arrived to lick his face. “Look, Buster! They’re leaving.”

A drabble is a story of up to 100 words in length

Who’s Guarding the Wall?

2022 marks the 1,900th anniversary of the Emperor Hadrian’s visit to Britannia and the start of the northern frontier upgrade from earth and bank defence to stone wall. The Wall marks the fall back line beyond which no raids by Caledonian tribes would be tolerated. But more than that, it was a grand imperial statement that boasted of the might of the Roman Empire that came with a statement of intent: “You’d better get used to us as we’re here to stay.”

But the life of Hadrian’s Wall as a frontier barrier lasted for only another 280 years, abandoned by Rome around the year 410 – the year Rome itself was sacked by the Visigoths.

I visited Hadrian’s Wall in September 2020 and was inspired to write my own story of frontier life in the heyday of the Roman Empire, choosing the final days of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who died in the year 180 C.E. My hero is Centurion Gaius Atticianus of the VI Legion, a real figure whose name is engraved on an altar stone excavated at Whitley Castle – once the Roman fort of Epiacum. I have imagined his story and struggle to survive in the harsh Northumbrian climate. I also wanted to showcase the work of archaeologists in uncovering and breathing new life into our understanding of Roman Britain, so I settled on a dual timeline story that flips from a contemporary tale to the life of Gaius in alternating chapters.

Legion Reenactor outside a reconstructed wooden fort

Guardians at the Wall is a dual timeline historical novel set at Hadrian’s Wall in which archaeologists uncover artefacts that connect them to the life of a Roman centurion in second century Britannia.

Available to buy from Amazon worldwide in Kindle, paperback, hardback and to read on Kindle Unlimited:

GUARDIANS AT THE WALL http://mybook.to/guardiansatthewall

The Guardians at the Wall

Who Were the Guardians at the Wall?

My 2021 novel, Guardians at the Wall, is a work of fiction, inspired by an inscription on a Roman artefact discovered in 1803 at Whitley Castle in Cumbria, once the Roman fort of Epiacum. Following a visit to five Hadrian’s Wall museums located at fort sites in 2020, I became so intrigued by the work of archaeologists to uncover and piece together a narrative of how the Roman occupiers lived that I resolved to write my novel as a dual timeline with an archaeology story intertwined with the story of a Roman soldier during the occupation.

The main character in the contemporary thread is archaeology student Noah Jessop. In Noah’s presentation, he refers to three mentions he found of Centurion Gaius Atticianus. Of these three, two are fictitious and the true one is the dedication on an altar stone. In the Roman Inscriptions of Britain archives, there is an entry for an altar pedestal stone inscription, dedicated to the god Hercules. The translation reads:
‘To the god Hercules
Gaius Vitellius Atticianus
centurion of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis’

This altar stone (sketch from http://www.romaninscriptionsofbritain.org) now resides at the Higgins Art Gallery and Museum in Bedford.
From this, I’ve taken my character, Gaius Vitellius Atticianus of the VI Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis (‘the victorious, loyal and faithful Sixth Legion’), and imagined his story, including the invented burial of a payroll chest. One real event is included in the narrative; the burning down of Corbridge/Coria town in 180 or 181, thought to have been in an attack by Caledonian raiders from north of Hadrian’s Wall. 180 is also the year that Emperor Marcus Aurelius died – memorable depicted in the opening scenes of the movie, ‘Gladiator’. Two of my named Roman officers are also real, plucked from mentions in inscriptions on monuments or in surviving records, namely Legate of the VI Legion, Claudius Hieronymianus (between 190-212 C.E. – I liked the name so I placed him in office as a young political appointee, nine years earlier); and Tribune Publius Helvius Pertinax (VI Legion, 170s). Great names that deserve to live on. Further reading revealed that Pertinax retired to Rome after a long career as a provincial administrator, only to be persuaded out of retirement in the wake of the murder of Emperor Commodus by the Praetorian Guard. His short reign was the first three months of 193. He was murdered in turn and replaced by another candidate in the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors.

My story of Noah and the archaeologists is fiction, although the settings are real. Both the Vindolanda Trust and English Heritage are registered trusts under UK law, and manage functioning museums situated at the sites of part-excavated Roman ruins. English Heritage manage many sites on Hadrian’s Wall, including the fascinating Corbridge Roman Town, Housesteads (near the much-photographed Sycamore Gap), and the beautifully located Chesters fort, baths and Victorian era museum in the grounds of the Clayton family estate.

Andrew Birley at the Vindolanda dig site

The Vindolanda Trust has an ongoing archaeological dig, started in the 1930s by owner Eric Birley, and continued by his son, Robin, who in 1973 oversaw the discovery of the Vindolanda tablets. Vindolanda remains with the Birley family beyond 1970 when the Vindolanda Trust was founded, with Dr Andrew Birley as the current Chief Executive Officer. Many wonderous finds, including the tablets, can be seen in the onsite museum. Because peat contains very little oxygen, organic materials like wood, leather and textiles do not rot. They can survive for thousands of years, preserved by the stable anoxic chemistry of the soil.

Tim Walker at Arbeia replica commanding officer’s villa

I visited these places in September 2020, between Covid-19 lockdowns, and the idea for this story came to me shortly after, whilst I was blogging about my visits. I saw for myself the Gladiator drinking bowl or tankard (passed around by Gaius and his mates in chapter two and featured in miniature on the book cover) and was awe-struck by the Vindolanda tablets and the details of the inscriptions on the information cards. The whole museum is fascinating, as are the grounds. I was extremely grateful to escape the confines of my home for three glorious days in the fresh, Northumberland air. In January 2021, whilst in the midst of writing, I enjoyed watching Robson Green’s television series, Walking Hadrian’s Wall. I note that Mr Green is a Patron of the Vindolanda Trust, and his visit to meet with his ‘old mate’, Andrew Birley, was both fascinating and timely.

The novel’s title, Guardians at the Wall, came to me once I’d sketched out the plots of each timeline strand. The Roman and auxilliary soldiers stood guard at the Wall for over 200 years, but the current generation of guardians are the archaeologists, curators and historians who strive to expose the past and make it live on in public consciousness – a part of our history and cultural identity. In the novel I talk of a Combined Universities dig at Vindolanda. This is made up. There are no combined universities digs that I know of, but there are archaeology degree courses offered by Durham and Newcastle Universities, with fieldwork practicals.

Bronze Bust of the Emperor Hadrian at Segedunum Museum

The novel’s action is set at Hadrian’s Wall, one of Britain’s World Heritage sites. When finished, Hadrian’s wall stretched 117 km (73 imperial miles) from sea to sea. It stood about 5 meters (15 ft.) high and 3 meters (10 ft.) wide. The core consisted of packed earth and clay and the sides were faced with blocks of stone. There may have been intermittent platforms on top of some stretches of the wall between watchtowers and mile forts, where auxiliary sentries kept watchful eyes on the north lands. The wall was a highly visible symbol of the Roman Empire’s might and prodigious activity at the peak of its power and dominance. Now, barely 10% of Hadrian’s Wall remains in place, and its stone blocks have been pilfered over the centuries to build dry stone walls, buildings and even an entire village of over 300 dwellings called ‘Wall’.

2022 is a big anniversary year for Hadrian’s Wall, marking 1,900 years since the Emperor Hadrian ordered its construction during his visit in 122 C.E. At the time of writing, the Hadrian’s Wall Partnership Group are planning a number of events to mark the anniversary. Year-long activities based at or near Hadrian’s Wall, including online events, can be found listed at the Hadrian’s Wall Country website.

Guardians at the Wall is a 90,000 word novel available from Amazon in the following formats:

KINDLE PAPERBACK HARDBACK KINDLE UNLIMITED

The Tim Walker Story

First cover and matching t-shirt for ‘Thames Valley Tales’

Childhood provides a starting point for life, forming character, influences, beliefs and prejudices… my journey started in Hong Kong where I was born to British parents and had my primary schooling and formative years. A patchwork quilt of cultural influences on the far side of the world hardly prepared me for the shock of secondary school in Liverpool, England. Why Liverpool? It’s my mum’s home town. After taking a beating or two, I soon learned to adapt to my new surroundings, and grew to love the city, its people and football club (the red one).

At Cardinal Allen Grammar School I developed a love of learning and reading fiction, including writing the odd reflective poem. Upon leaving school with a couple of ‘A’ levels, I knew I wanted to write and jumped at the chance, when offered by a careers adviser, to become a trainee reporter for a local newspaper in Liverpool, The Woolton Mercury. Here I learned lithographic printing, layout, news reporting and feature writing, soon progressing to film reviewing and writing a music column. I researched and wrote a feature series, The History of Woolton Hall. Amongst my interview subjects were Pink Panther film actor, Bert Kwok, and The Stranglers’ bass player, Jean Jacques Burnel.

After a couple of years I went to Pontypridd in South Wales to study at the Polytechnic/University of Wales where I was elected editor of the student news magazine, LEEK, before graduating with a BA Honours degree in Communication Studies (that included practical in scriptwriting and film production). For my film practical, I wrote, cast and directed a short film, Sam Shovel and the Case of the Missing Taxidermist, receiving an ‘A’ grade. I was selected to direct and co-script the Polytechnic’s entry in the 1985 Fuji Student Film Competition. Based on a Susan Hill short story, Only the Natives came fourth out of a field of 12 national film courses.

After this, I gravitated to London and got a job as Assistant Circulation and Promotions Manager with the South London Press Group, based in Streatham. This was the start of a ten-year stint in the newspaper publishing industry, broken only by nine months at Bristol Business School where I attained a post-graduate diploma in Marketing. The diploma won me an upgrade to Marketing Executive in the Group Marketing Department of United Provincial Newspapers Limited (later United News and Media) and a desk overlooking the River Thames in the shiny black tower, Ludgate House, next to Blackfriars Bridge. Here, my creative skills were adapted to meet commercial objectives in market research, advertising sales support and product development for regional newspaper titles.

Tim in VSO t-shirt at Victoria Falls

Faced with the sell-off of group titles, I jumped before I was pushed and resigned in the mid-90s to do voluntary work with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) in Zambia, working in educational book publishing development.  This involved organising and delivering training and support to local publishers, setting up and running the Zambia Book Fair.

Soon after, I set up and managed my own publishing, marketing and management company based in Lusaka, Zambia. I ‘lived the dream’ by launching, publishing and editing a magazine (Construction News) and newspaper (Business & Leisure News) in Zambia between 1999-2005. I also did company newsletters and helped run team building courses. My daughter, Cathy, was born in Lusaka in 2003, to mother Karen. They now live in Bordeaux, France, and I maintain a good, if distant, relationship with them.

Tim as Trustee of Men’s Matters charity, winners of Windsor & Maidenhead Council Voluntary Sector Team of the Year Award in 2017

In 2005 I took up the position of General Manager for a mineral exploration company, GeoQuest Limited based in Lusaka. After three years (that included a 3 month stint in the Democratic Republic of Congo), I joined Atlas Copco, as Lusaka Branch Manager. This was unexpectedly cut short after barely a year by the calamitous effect of the global recession on the company and the Zambian economy. As Chairman of Lusaka Rugby Club, I helped steer the club to a national league and cup double in 2008, also hosting a Rugby World Cup qualifier between Zambia and Morocco.

I returned to the UK in 2009 and now live a less hectic life near Windsor in Berkshire where I write creative fiction and help out with a local charity, Men’s Matters. I think you’ll agree, I’ve led a varied life, living on three continents, with enough material to write a memoir. I’m writing up short memories as they come to me and thinking about how to join them together.

Prompted by health setbacks in 2015, I did an online creative writing course and started to write short stories, then longer historical fiction. By the end of 2021, I’d written and self-published a five-book historical fiction history-meets-legend series, A Light in the Dark Ages; two books of short stories (Thames Valley Tales, Postcards from London); a dual timeline historical novel, Guardians at the Wall; a three-book children’s series co-written with my daughter, Cathy (The Adventures of Charly Holmes, Charly & the Superheroes, Charly in Space); a dystopian thriller novel (Devil Gate Dawn) and a collection of poems and short fiction (Perverse). I recently published A Light in the Dark Ages series in two hardback volumes, bringing my total number of titles to 15. Early 2022 finds me writing the sequel to Devil Gate Dawn, Devil Gate Day.

Now aged 60, I’m a chronically ill home-based author and charity volunteer, managing my medication-fuelled days at a steady pace. How many more books do I have in me? Who knows… I’m taking it one at a time.

Tim’s Author Page

Featured
Tim Walker at Vindolanda, 2020

This blog post is a summary of Tim Walker’s self-published book titles from 2015 to date. He currently has fifteen titles available in e-book, print-on-demand paperback and hardback formats. Available from Amazon in Kindle (all titles) and Kindle Unlimited (all titles except A Light in the Dark Ages series); and from draft2digital.com in Apple i-books; Nook; Kobo and other online stores (A Light in the Dark Ages series only).

Genres covered:-

Historical Fiction
Short Stories
Thriller/dystopian novel
Children’s books
Poems and flash fiction

Published in June 2021, Guardians at the Wall is a gripping dual timeline historical novel set at Hadrian’s Wall.  Archaeologists uncover artefacts that connect them to the life and battles of a Roman centurion in second century Britannia.

Now available in:-

HARDBACK

PAPERBACK

KINDLE

KINDLE UNLIMITED

WATCH THE GUARDIANS AT THE WALL PROMO VIDEO HERE

A LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES book series (see below) now has a new BOOK SERIES page on Amazon and is also now available in two HARDBACK VOLUMES!

Lose yourself in the mists of post-Roman Britain with A Light in the Dark Ages book series. Follow the link to visit the Amazon book page and download all five novels for less than £9 / $14 on Kindle.

Visit my AUTHOR PAGE on Amazon to view all my books and read the blurbs and reviews before deciding.

…or try being PERVERSE, with this 2020 collection of Lockdown short prose and verse.

Get the e-book for just 99c/p  HERE or the paperback for just £$4.99 HERE

KIDS STUCK AT HOME, BORED?

Then dive into the Adventures of Charly Holmes three-book series, for readers aged 9-14.

Lose yourself in the fictional world of schoolgirl detective, Charly Holmes – get drawn into her adventures and find out if she will succeed in overcoming whatever problem, issue or overbearing adult that stands in her way!

Take advantage of my low prices on all three books in the Charly Holmes: Girl Detective book series (readers aged 9+).

The Adventures of Charly Holmes now has a book series page on Amazon! HERE

Book 1: The Adventures of Charly Holmes

Book 2: Charly & The Superheroes

Book 3: Charly in Space

GUARDIANS AT THE WALL is Tim’s latest book, a historical dual timeline novel, published in June 2021.

A group of archaeology students in northern England scrape at the soil near Hadrian’s Wall, once a barrier that divided Roman Britannia from wild Caledonian tribes.
Twenty-year-old Noah makes an intriguing find, but hasn’t anticipated becoming the object of desire in a developing love triangle in the isolated academic community at Vindolanda. He is living his best life, but must learn to prioritise in a race against time to solve an astounding ancient riddle, and an artefact theft, as he comes to realise his future career prospects depend on it.
In the same place, 1,800 years earlier, Commander of the Watch, Centurion Gaius Atticianus, hungover and unaware of the bloody conflicts that will soon challenge him, is rattled by the hoot of an owl, a bad omen.
These are the protagonists whose lives brush together in the alternating strands of this dual timeline historical novel, one trying to get himself noticed and the other trying to stay intact as he approaches retirement.
How will the breathless battles fought by a Roman officer influence the fortunes of a twenty-first century archaeology dirt rat? Can naive Noah, distracted by his gaming mates and the attentions of two very different women, work out who to trust? BUY HERE

A LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES SERIES

This book series presents an imagined history of life in Britain in the Fifth and early Sixth Centuries – the period after the Roman evacuation around the year 410 AD. This is the Dark Ages, a time of myths and legends that builds to the greatest legend of all – King Arthur.  ORDER BOOK SERIES HERE

Abandoned – Book one in the series, starts in Britain in 410 AD – the final year of Roman occupation of their most northerly province. Bishop Guithelin undertakes a perilous journey to a neighbouring country to plead with a noble prince to come and save his ailing country. An epic adventure ensues involving the rivalry of local chiefs and the efforts of a determined group to instil order and resist invaders. The abandonment of Britannia by the Romans was a time of opportunity for some, and great anguish and suffering for others as the island underwent a slow and painful adjustment to self-rule. Now also available here on Apple i-books; Kobo; Nook (Barnes & Noble) and others HERE

Ambrosius: Last of the Romans – Book two in the series, starts with the return to Britannia in 440 AD of Ambrosius Aurelianus, son of murdered King Constantine. He has come to avenge his father’s death at the hands of cruel tyrant, Vortigern, who has seized control of the island and employ Saxons in his mercenary army. But who is the master and who the puppet? Ambrosius finds that the influence of Rome is fast becoming a distant memory as Britannia reverts to its Celtic tribal roots, and rivalries surface as chiefs choose their side in an ensuing civil war. i-book, kobo, nook HERE

Uther’s Destiny – Book three in the series. In the year 467 AD Britannia is in shock at the murder of charismatic High King, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and looks to his brother and successor, Uther, to continue his work in leading the resistance to barbarian invaders. Uther’s destiny as a warrior king seems set until his world is turned on its head when his burning desire to possess the beautiful Ygerne leads to conflict. Could the fate of his kingdom hang in the balance as a consequence? i-book, kobo, nook HERE

Arthur Dux Bellorum is the fourth book in the series and follows on from Uther’s Destiny. A youthful Arthur must flee for his life from his older sister, Morgana, who seizes Uther’s crown for her son, Mordred. Arthur moves north, through a fractured landscape of tribal conflict and invasion, rallying followers to his cause. As he matures into a leader of battles – a dux bellorum – he learns the lessons needed to survive and inspire his followers, until the day he can challenge Mordred for the throne. Also in ibooks, Kobo, Nook and others HERE

Arthur Rex Brittonum is book five in the series.  It charts the second half of Arthur’s life. Now a married man with two children, he is crowned King of Britannia by the northern chiefs, but must now convince their southern counterparts to join his army and oppose the creeping colonisation of the Anglo-Saxons. From a stunning victory at Badon Hill, he is taunted by his nephew, Mordred, who draws him into a deadly winner-takes-all battle at Camlann. Also available on ibooks, Kobo, Nook HERE

LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES VIDEO

Devil Gate Dawn – is a near-future dystopian thriller set in 2026, predicting turbulent life in post-Brexit Britain and Trump America. Retired railwayman George is the unlikely hero of this tense thriller in which he forms a vigilante group who try to solve a deadly terrorist cyber plot, and is unwittingly drawn into a daring rescue attempt for kidnapped Head of Government, King Charles III.

promotional video produced by Andrew Rendell HERE

Postcards from London – The city of London is the star of this collection of fifteen engaging human dramas. London’s long and complex history almost defies imagination, but the author has conjured citizens from many familiar eras, and some yet to be imagined. Turn over these picture postcards to explore his city through a collage of human dramas told in a range of genres. See the tumult of these imagined lives spotlighted at moments in London’s past, present and, who knows, perhaps its future. Published in September 2017.

Thames Valley Tales – 15 contemporary short stories, set along the River Thames, that draw on the rich history and folklore of the flowing heart of England. Stories set in Oxford; Henley; Marlow; Maidenhead; Windsor; Colnbrook; Runnymede and London. First published in 2015, updated in 2017.

The Adventures of Charly Holmes – Follow the adventures of a curious 12-year-old schoolgirl, as she uncovers an alien dogs’ conspiracy, investigates the legend of the Loch Ness Monster and goes on an eventful trip to London Zoo. For children aged 9+ and parents. Co-written by Tim Walker and his daughter, Cathy.

Charly In Space – Inquisitive schoolgirl, Charly Holmes, goes on a school trip to the European Space Agency in France. Somehow, she manages to stowaway on a rocket to the International Space Station! Follow her adventures in space, and her encounter with alien dogs!

Charly & The Superheroes – Charly’s second adventure sees her going to Hollywood to watch a superhero movie being made. But a real-life disaster strikes and she must use her initiative to assist four superheroes to save the day!

Kept Alive by my Irritability

I recently awoke on a warm summer morning with an idea buzzing in my head. Call it the curse, or gift, of a writer. I reached for my phone and began tapping an email to self on re-connecting with the music of Manchester band, Magazine. I’d recently bought the re-mastered CD of a long-lost album from my youth, The Correct Use of Soap. Once I’d got my initial thoughts down, I performed my morning ablutions and a bit later roughed it up into this expanded article on early musical memories. We were once the young men Ian Curtis’s sang about, and I was a youth in Liverpool in the late 70s and early 80s.


How did the Greater Manchester area (yes, I know Salford is a city, Macclesfield and Stockport towns, each with their own identities) spawn so many soulful lyricists, backed up by searing post-industrial-wasteland self-taught rock musicians? We’d all grown up with 60s and 70s rock, pop and soul music ringing in our ears, but somehow the raw energy of Rock, the ragged anarchy of Punk Rock, seemed more appropriate to the task of observing, describing and reflecting life in a grim urban landscape. I’m talking about the front men of Magazine, Joy Division and the Smiths – Devoto, Curtis and Morrissey. I saw them all in concerts where I connected with their music, reflected on the power of youth to challenge, the sour lot of the working class, how to build hope out of urban decay, and how to be alone in a crowd. Add to this the notion that emerging young adults see the world around them with a clarity and purity of thought as yet unpolluted by the capitalist dogma that has created the consumer bubble in which we are trapped. I think my nostalgia for the punk and new wave bands of my youth is a recognition that the ideas conveyed through music helped with my orientation and gave me a sense of identity and location. I’m talking about roots. We all come from somewhere and home for me was Liverpool, where I had the freedom to meet up with my mates, jump on a bus and go into town to see bands at Erics Club, and others that followed, like the State, where I saw Howard Devoto and his band just after he left Magazine. He still performed some of the old classics – Shot by both sides, Philadelphia and Song from under the floorboards. A man made old and wise before his time by his sharp wit and trademark receding hairline. It’s his introspective, almost paranoid lyrics that I’ve recently rediscovered:
I am angry I am ill and I’m as ugly as sin, my irritability keeps me alive and kicking. The opening lines to A Song from Under the Floorboards – a track on Magazine’s third album, The Correct Use of Soap. I’m putting it on my funeral playlist, along with Decades by Joy Division (see below). Don’t be alarmed – I’m not ready to check out just yet.


This was in the early 80s and I was already a veteran of over 50 gigs. In my early 20s, perhaps a year or two younger than my onstage heroes, I also had a swagger and surety that I knew something, that the World and all its riches were waiting to be discovered. Armed with notebook and biro, I scribbled impressions to later be forged into pithy gig reviews for my music column in a local community news magazine. I interviewed the Stranglers at Brady’s in 1980 and chatted with Andy McClusky at a Psychedelic Furs gig.
By pure chance (or fate?) I had been the wide-eyed junior reporter in BBC Radio Merseyside’s studio on the morning of Tuesday 9th December 1980 when the breaking story that cleared the decks was the news that John Lennon had been shot in New York. I heard the news that day, oh boy. Janice Long, later Radio 1 and TOTP presenter, then Studio Assistant, was detailed to look after me. Yeah, I’ve had a mug of tea made for me by Cheggers’ sister. A truly surreal morning. Alan Jackson and Roger Phillips were true pros, conductors at the heart of a city waking up to shocking news, pulling together a reverential and sentimental wave of music and sound bites, a collage that portrayed an outpouring of grief over the fate of Liverpool’s best loved son (sorry Paul). I wince every time I hear Imagine – it was played to death that week. I’ve got a good face for memories.
The Beatles’ rock n roll legacy were the northern new wave bands I now spent my meagre wages going to see and buying their records. Echo and the Bunnymen were new on the block, my new favourite band in the fickle world of pop music, and I adopted their look with dark crombie overcoat, drainpipe black jeans and baseball boots. In those days my wild frizzy red mop of hair grew out in an unkempt afro. No gel required.


But back to my gig memories. In 1978 I made a good choice to go and see the north’s answer to the Pistols – the Buzzcocks. I’d bought their Spiral Scratch EP (with ‘Boredom’ on it – scan pictured) co-written by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, in his pre-Magazine days. Devoto had left the band by the time of the Buzzcock’s ’78 UK tour. The speed of delivery and energy were there, but the Buzzcocks had better-formed songs than the Pistols. I’d heard their support band, Joy Division, on the late night John Peel radio show, and was intrigued. But I was simply blown away. Joy Division’s set was mesmerising, and once I’d seen Ian Curtis’s manic butterfly dance to She’s lost Control, I was hooked. It was a performance that can only be compared to footage of Jim Morrison fronting the Doors, although this was no imitation. Like Morrison, he was a driven poet with a vision to share. Curtis was locked in his own world of pain, but his thoughtful, introspective lyrics painted graphic visual images of suffering, set against a bleak landscape, but tinted with hope, defiance and resilience. In reality, he was suffering with a debilitating condition – epilepsy, treated with mood-altering medication. Add to this a self-destructive ménage à trois that he couldn’t resolve, he reached overload and took his own life on the eve of what was to be the band’s first US tour in 1980. A poet and philosopher, his legacy survives in a huge global following for Joy Division’s slim body of work forty years on. I saw them three times, the third one of their last gigs in April 1980 at the Russell Club/Factory in Manchester. Dead souls, Atrocity Exhibition, Decades and LWTUA stood out. I don’t mind admitting my eyes welled up with tears when I read Paul Morley’s obituary of Ian Curtis in the NME.
But let’s get back to the lyrics of these three great Northern poets/lyricists that are still inspiring new generations of young people. To hear today’s students singing along to Morrisey’s lyrics at a Smiths tribute band gig in 2020 was a pleasant surprise. So, now to some favourite lyrics and links to YouTube:

Philadelphia by Magazine (extract):
Buddha’s in the fireplace
The truth’s in drugs from outer space
Maybe it’s right to be nervous now
Everything’d be just fine
If I had the right pastime
I’d’ve been Raskolnikov
But Mother Nature ripped me off
In Philadelphia
I’m sure that I felt healthier
Maybe it’s right to be nervous now…

Where have I seen you before?
‘Same place you saw me, I expect
I’ve got a good face for memories’
In Philadelphia
I’m sure that I felt healthier
Maybe it’s right to be nervous now…
Lyrics: Howard Devoto – great guitar riffs from John McGeogh
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dBLEA2o3Gc

Decades by Joy Division (extract)
Here are the young men, the weight on their shoulders
Here are the young men, well where have they been?
We knocked on the doors of Hell’s darker chamber
Pushed to the limit, we dragged ourselves in
Watched from the wings as the scenes were replaying
We saw ourselves now as we never had seen
Portrayal of the trauma and degeneration
The sorrows we suffered and never were free
Where have they been?

Weary inside, now our heart’s lost forever
Can’t replace the fear, or the thrill of the chase
Each ritual showed up the door for our wanderings
Open then shut, then slammed in our face
Where have they been?
Lyrics by Ian Curtis – an eerie foretelling of his fate? The track has a funereal feel and a timeless, compelling beauty…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n272UVfsciM

What difference does it make? By The Smiths.
All men have secrets and here is mine
So let it be known
For we have been through hell and high tide
I can surely rely on you
And yet you start to recoil
Heavy words are so lightly thrown
But still I’d leap in front of a flying bullet for you

So, what difference does it make?
So, what difference does it make?
It makes none
But now you have gone
And you must be looking very old tonight

The devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole and I lied, and why?
Because you asked me to!
But now you make me feel so ashamed
Because I’ve only got two hands
But I’m still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

But no more apologies
No more, no more apologies
Oh, I’m too tired
I’m so sick and tired
And I’m feeling very sick and ill today
But I’m still fond of you,
Oh, my sacred one…
Lyrics by Morrissey
Impossible to pick a definitive example of Morrissey’s lyrics, given his wide body of work, but I’ve gone for an early hit and personal favourite, What difference does it make? I stood three feet from Johnny Marr as he played the jingly-jangly riff to this immortal classic when they supported the Sisters of Mercy at an impromptu University of London SU gig in 1983. My mate was from Manchester and had already ‘discovered’ the Smiths in early ’83, and we were familiar with their early singles Hand in Glove, its brilliant b-side Still Ill, and This Charming Man. I remember them slowing the tempo with Reel Around the Fountain – still a favourite from the first album. It’s time that the tale was told.

One of many great nights seeing raw emerging talent on tiny stages, belting out future hits. Snapshots in time, but music destined to be not only for their contemporary generation but future ones as well. Thank you Devoto, Curtis and Morrissey for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us through such inspiring and memorable songs.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbOx8TyvUmI

These songs, these lyrics, these memories have formed the soundtrack to my life. I followed my own muse and became the editor of the student magazine at the Polytechnic of Wales (now University of Glamorgan) in South Wales in the early 80s, reporting on such gigs as New Order, the band re-born from the ashes of Joy Division, in January 1983, when they first played Blue Monday to an audience at Cardiff Uni JSU. Musical taste evolves and I carried my love of now, happening live music forward with me on my journey through life, but occasionally pausing to listen to early loves and influences from the great days of my youth.
Viva music, viva la vida.

Checkout my books here: https://timwalkerwrites.co.uk