Brian Docherty is a resident alien. He grew up in Scotland in the 1960s listening to Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon on the radio, hitched across Europe in the 1970s to an FM soundtrack, and followed the Vikings West to Vinland, that green utopia 'where everything seemed possible', only to find himself caught in 'the blizzard of history'. Woke up this Morning is an index of possibilities, a hitch-hiker's guide to cultural alienation and appropriation, from Glasgow to San Francisco and back. It is a book about real and imagined journeys to other worlds that always seem less alien than our own, a series of studies in estrangement and exile - Stanley Spencer in Cookham, Dracula in Whitby, Gauguin on Tahiti, Otis Redding sitting on the dock of the Bay. Listen carefully and somewhere on the radio-dial between the Voice of America and Radio Landlady, you can still hear the music of a place called home, where everyone 'is nostalgic for different things', and each New World can still be imagined with 'wild surmise'.
Mine were gold–laced crimson Fiorucci, matching Kate's scarlet studbright strappy stilettos. Paris awarded those in 78 for mere money. Our chorus The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes, Moira Shearer something for our parents. We were skinny & speedy in leather jackets, knew every band with a guestlist worth gracing. Our scene fell apart too soon, playing out the Country & Western song of your choice. Six months later I stepped under a taxi. Kate joined a Welsh commune; I went nowhere. I think the 80s happened to someone else. Now I'm a fat Chartered Librarian in Barnet. Kate lives in Clapham, works in Oxford St. One day I was browsing the new releases in Concerto Records; fairground mirror time. In Nutters Meatfree Zone I learned that the 80s passed Kate by in Wales then Brighton, she doesn't like Classical or the punters, feels cheated music is only a job. My career? 'Chartered – you sound like a City accountant.' I examine my brogues, her brown Hush Puppies, finger the diamond of scar tattooed on my cheek by her Parisian instep before we broke up. I found that shoe's partner behind the wardrobe, had it sealed in a fluid–filled perspex box, pass it off as Damien Hirst or Antony Serrano. After our St. Linda Special we tally the log of friends dead of drugs, AIDS or missing in action, don't kiss, walk off in different directions.
I am watching Whistle Down The Wind in Ilford Town Hall; we are translated to an ideal 1950s. I am a foreigner here among the good people of Essex. Where do the 'Home Counties' stop? In Glasgow we never knew ourselves provincial, but Second City of Empire. Tonight it is foggy enough for the real 50s. Mods vs. Rockers in Margate, Whitsun 64; first sign of aliens, then incense, bells & ragas. Bring back conscription: El Alamein veterans stranded between space cadets & the Patels. Ilford's 70s went disco–daft then Punk. In the 80s they voted for themselves. My Afghan hat does not belong here, sneer Wayne & Sharon: stupid old hippie. A station poster paraphrases James Dean for a West End Whistle translated to Dixie. We are all nostalgic for different things; I might feel more at home in this other South as long as the rifle slung across his shoulders is purely a style gesture, not a statement of fundamental belief in different as threat and your hat declares which side you're on.
Flavoured our tongues with Mexico, shots of Jose Quervo with salt & lemon, in the Hope and Anchor or Dingwalls, falling in love with the bar staff, who taught us to love Tequila Sunrise, put the Eagles on the jukebox, then The Champs, Tequila! fuelled up for Ian Dury or Dr. Feelgood in the Hope's cellar, then Dingwalls later. We downed Red Stripe stagefront, where Muddy Waters is the King of Mississippi, all he needs is that crown Queen Ida wore when she brought her Zydeco circus to town, & suddenly Eric Clapton is up on stage and ready to jam with Muddy, who turns, stares, lays down his guitar & stomps off, slamming the dressing-room door hard. Clapton looks like an art student again but the band don't care, striking up a tempo that makes Clapton sweat out some of his best blues for years, 15 minutes of glory for this audience, and tequila is downed, Red Stripes are raised, some wag shouts Slowhand to cheers all round, then too soon, he is off stage, and through the stage door. Muddy Waters emerges, kicks his chair aside, grasps the mike stand, roars out the intro to 'Mannish Boy' then the band kick in. This is the moment we have waited for since buying Muddy Waters at Newport aged 12, and after the encores are over we will storm the bar & order more tequila till we are comatose and ready for taxis.
'the reader enters a world that is personal but always worked out against a detailed social backcloth. It's a politics of everyday that comes through.'
Jim Burns, Poetry London Newsletter
'it is a pleasure to find work that has something to say and says it with wit and perspicuity.'
Vernon Scannell, Ambit
'such a generous spirit, as well as a writer of honesty, perception and sensitivity.'
'Docherty is prepared to remain an outsider on the slightly perilous margins and by so doing to keep alive the sense that the world can still be turned upside down and inside out.'
Mistress Quickly's Bed