Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Clive's Letter

On the morning of June 7th, Clive Smith's on/off manager and long-time friend Alan Lobley went to pick Clive up from his Ossett home for a final rehearsal of his Long Division set the following day. Upon arrival he found the front door ajar. Inside there was no sign of Clive, but he did find a letter beside an empty bottle of whisky, a picture or Margaret Thatcher and a song lyric.

Clive never turned up for his Long Division show. Alan brought the letter he found to Long Division and asked that it be read out to the small audience that had gathered. Clive is still missing. Alan has now asked this letter be published in the hope it will shed light on Clive's motives and whereabouts. 

Dear Clive,

Hi, it’s me, Clive! Yes, It’s you (meaning me) writing a letter to you (myself) which is you. And you are in the future but it won’t feel like that when you are there. It will feel like just another day in the present day. How wrong you are!

The date today is June 2nd and the year is 2012. Actually, it is the early hours of June 3rd. And I am going to come straight out and admit it; I have had a few ales this evening Clive. As you can likely tell from the handwriting which as you know is usually impeccable. We worked so hard on it at school, didn’t we?

The reason I am writing it is because something amazing happened today. I went to that Long Division Festival. Remember how we used to pooh pooh the youngsters and their music? How we thought anyone under 50 didn’t know about real rock and roll? Well it changed today. I saw some amazing stuff, but nothing more so than these Runabout Kids, local lads really giving it some. The crowd were lapping it up. It was like Teeside Rollerderby Disco Provincial finals in ’78. I couldn’t believe it.

It’s made me realise something. You’ve realised it too, and I feel envious that you got to go forward and act upon this grand moment of clarity whilst I’m stuck back here in 2012. But I wanted to write this letter to you so when you make it big, headlining Long Division next year, you’ll remember how far you’ve come. How high you have flown, and from such depths. I wonder how you’ll feel when it arrives in the post?

You were a star Clive, but it was a long time ago now. No-one in the Wakefield area could own a club-land stage like you. No-one. Then Billy Idol came along, and with him the whole punk explosion. The summer of ’81 will forever be blazened on your soul. It created the legend, the myth and the man. But it meant you would never again play by the rules.

That was fine when you were a young thirty something. But as the years progressed, you became bitter. The press releases would champion the fact you had 76 albums under your belt, all on different record labels. Come on Clive, it’s time to admit no-one ever signed you. Those were 76 labels you set up, and then proceeded to go bankrupt. Every one of them. We tried to make that some internal badge of honour, but it broke our hearts. Why would no-one listen to us?

It was a bad nineties of caffeine addiction and rehab and a worse early nougties of being so uninspired you couldn’t even be bothered to get addicted to something, not even for the sake of a press release. We sneered at the youth and hated their attempts at self-improvement, or hated them more when they refused to improve and just stayed the same. Our own works dipped below the basic level of acceptance for the Clive Smith label – GENIUS – and some of the albums were just ‘very good.’ These were dark times indeed.

It’s not about bravado anymore. It’s time to stop preaching about the way things should be. What had we become, Clive? That man who sits in the corner moaning about yester-year and how down on our luck we are. Dismissing everything new but – not even that – just people trying to do something new with their lives. Who are we to go around telling people how things should be, and pointing out everyone’s flaws, regardless of how plentiful they may be. You went off the rails Clive, you became everything you hated – the narrowminded, pre-punk authority figure, distributing out of date wisdom.

Well never again – that changes today. You’ll get on the tweet and on the line and do the type with the code. You’ll be humble and bright and optimistic again, like these youngsters what I seen today.

I am your biggest fan Clive, you know that. And I know over the course of this year you will have made it back to the place you belong; the word on everyone’s lips, the talk of the town, the subject of media speculation. And you’ll have done it by building bridges with these people like The Runabouts. It’s time to accept you don’t have all the answers. It’s not about being the biggest voice in the room. You can learn from them instead of boisterously telling them what to do. Then, once again, you’ll have the best voice in the room.

So here’s a checklist to see how well you’ve done. I’m sure you’ll have surpassed this and achieved things I can’t even dream of!

-         Headline Long Division Festival at The Hop
-         Get your music on the line, and set up a tweet.
-         Release a best of compilation boxset, with a track from every single album you’ve done (yes, including Thatcher Calypso Quandry.)
-         Make friends with Runabout Kids. You’ll get on like a pub on fire. Possibly record a duet, or just hang around with them and learn about haircuts and cool swear words.
-         A national 10 month tour of Working Men’s Clubs, focussing on the North East
-         Get offered the cover of NME, then turn it down.
-         Finally write that concept album about motorways, and promote it by playing a series of gigs in service stations, and on the back of lorries driving up and down the M6.

The future is bright, future Clive. I am almost sad to say goodbye. But the night is late and I think I can see the sun rising over Ossett, so it’s time for me to go. It’s been an emotional few years old pal, especially with the missus passing on, God rest her patient soul, but the best is yet to come. Don’t be scared. Don’t let the bastards get you down. Remember; dedication to an ideal, no matter how unachievable, ridiculous and fanciful it may seem, is what being Clive is all about. Life? What is it but endlessly trying to better yourself whilst no-one else gives a damn? Well we’ll show them Clive, we’ll show them all. You are Wakefield’s only future, Wakefield’s brightest sun / son.

Catch you soon old pal,


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