Richey Edwards, chief lyric writer for Manic Street Preachers, was a genius. I am thinking about him right now for the same reason I do every December. On 21 December 1994, Richey played his last gig with the group, and so ended an era. So we saw the demise of the most important rock band Britain had seen in many years. On the very cusp of world domination. At the top of their craft. Well, where else can you go but down when you're at the top?
I was there that night, at London's Astoria. I recorded the gig for posterity, just as I had several Manics gigs before, on a portable tape recorder. I didn't know this would be Richey's last gig and that within four months he would disappear, never to be seen again.
But as one fire ended, another began. I returned home that night to an answerphone message telling me that my first nephew had been born. And on the subject of babies...
I'm unsure now, but it's likely that the Manic Street Preachers song "Little Baby Nothing", from their debut album Generation Terrorists
was what introduced me to the "charms" of Traci Lords. Shortly thereafter I first saw some of her work, but only snippets buried among other scenes on "Best Of" tapes borrowed from my boss at the comic shop where I worked. Of the seemingly thousands of Traci Lords films out there, a great majority are actually compilation videos that contain scenes from her films. To add further confusion, many of these videos are known by more than one name: issue 1 (1990) of the UK Traci fanzine Norma K
says, "Talk Dirty to Me 3
has three other titles", and it goes on to list them as Trials of Traci
, Sensual Mermaid
, and Irresistible Siren
But let's go way back for a minute and think about my earliest exposure to pornography. I think I was about 12 years old. It's difficult to be sure now that so many years have passed. Some neighbours of my parents came to visit and they had a Betamax tape with them. I didn't know what was on the tape, but I seem to recall that we kids were ushered out of the lounge so it could be viewed. Later I was told it was a horror film, and I had no reason to disbelieve that. At a later date, though, probably during the school holidays, these neighbours' kid found this horror tape; it was labelled "Blood on Satan's Claw". Sounds like a horror movie, and it is a horror movie (known as Satan's Skin
in the US). But what was on the tape turned out to be my first exposure to porn.
I don't recall anything about that film now. Through the years that followed, though, I (as many young men do) acquired various porn videos from various sources. A few of them are now long gone, unfortunately. But I can't quite bring myself to trash what I still have on tape, even though they sit in the cellar, virtually unloved, waiting for me to transfer them to disc. The quality is so poor, though, that it seems pointless putting them on to DVD. So titles such as Sex Boat
, 19 and Nasty
, Mr John Makes Candles at Home
look set to lay there until the end of time. Okay, that last title doesn't actually exist; it's what my supplier wrote on the label to hide the fact that it was porn. "Mr John" is of course John Holmes, but I don't remember why the reference to candles. This same chap had about 30 three-hour videos of porn. I mean, he was quite the collector.
I remember one time when he came back from the States, one of his suitcases got lost, and it was the case full of all the porn he'd picked up there. This was back in the days when porn was literally outlawed in the UK -- about 1992. There was no legal hardcore porn back then. All you could get was badly cut versions of hardcore or terrible simulated stuff. He called me up; he was in a terrible state. He'd had to leave his key with airport officials, just in case they needed to do a random routine check of his baggage when it finally arrived. I stayed at his house with him, his dog, cats, and a couple of other pet things that rhyme with cats but I won't write down because Red can't bear even to see the word. We waited until about 11 o'clock, playing video games and watching his pirate copy of the extras from the Alien
laser disc. And finally the suitcase arrived, unopened, no questions asked.
A couple of years later, and I was working in London as the manager of a betting shop near the Holloway Road. One morning when I was alone in the shop one of my punters came in. He was probably in his mid-50s but looked a bit older. Typical old-school London bloke. "Oi," he said. "You like blue movies?" Despite trying to be a professional businessman, what could I say? "Yeah, course," that's what. He produced a couple of tapes from his pockets. "You want these for a tenner?" So I bought them blind, little knowing that one of them would contain my first full-length Traci Lords film (although she is only in it for a couple of scenes, I think): Black Throat
. It's a film in which Rosco, "a typical white guy", sets off to find Madame Mambo, an expert in fellatio. What follows is "an odyssey of sexual rendezvous". It's a good movie!
Porn flicks these days are not really as good as those old ones, are they? Don't we all feel that way? Indeed, this is part of the tale told in Boogie Nights
. Video saved the industry undoubtedly. Made it bigger than ever. But despite the huge budgets bestowed upon porn these days, they still look pretty cheap compared to the movies that were shot on film. And with very few exceptions -- Jenna Jameson, for example -- surely there aren't the same sort of stars out there these days. I guess, though, it's horses for courses, and people will be nostalgic for what they first encountered, much as they do for music and (non-porn) films and actors.
Certainly, it's true to say that I am not extremely well versed in modern "blue movies". Some of what I've seen is pretty good, though, so maybe someone out there reading this can point to to the true classics of 21st-century porn cinema -- the stuff that a whole generation will look back on and say, "Y'know, that's where my idea of love comes from"...
Labels: cinema, manic street preachers, richey edwards