FEATURE: Suicide Notes… The Spoken Word of Christopher Brett Bailey – My Inspiration | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Christopher Brett Bailey is a writer and performer who brings his show Suicide Notes to Northern Stage on Tuesday 2nd October. The show is different-every-night performance of poems and short stories drawn from Christopher’s most recent collection, published by Oberon Books earlier this year; a linguistic kaleidoscope of caustic cartoons, crackpot prophesies and demented erotica.

Christopher veers between potty-mouthed poet and a standup comedian from hell, delivering a one-night-only collection of tall tales and true stories, pitch-black jokes and fork-tongued poetry as a way of exploring, with blisteringly dark humour and moments of unexpected candour and beauty, the subject of death; a recurring spectre in all of Christopher’s work. You can read our full preview here, and the creative talent also shared some of his inspirations here…

If there were a Mount Rushmore in my skull these would be the first two heads…

Ken Campbell
As I write this to you I am farting into an easyJet chair, zooming from one country to another in order to attend a day-long celebration of Ken Campbell’s life and “work”. As I write this to you it is exactly ten years to the day since Ken Campbell died. And so far a week has not gone by where I haven’t thought of him.
For those of you who don’t know the name Ken Campbell you can click HERETHEREEVERYWHERE.
And if you’re around in a couple Sundays you can listen to this excellent doc about him on the I-PLAYER.
For those too lazy to click here’s my ham-tongued prece…
KC was a “director”, “writer” and “actor” whose fearless and joyful work spanned the traditional categories of “theatre” , “comedy” and “performance art”.
The reason for my snarky air quotes is that when attempting to describe people as startlingly unique as this, mere words begin to seem inadequate.
Ken Campbell was an outlier in experimental theatre – he went further than the rest of us probably ever will, did it first, did it better and most crucially of all: had more FUN.
The instigator of such feats as the Worlds Longest Play (24hrs, no interval), underwater string quartets, pidgin-English Shakespeare translations, a sci fi play with the audience freighted around on hovercraft… the list goes on and on…
In his universe if something sounded impossible that made it worth doing, and if something sounded made up that’s because life is something you make up as you go along, and why settle for your life being a “good story” when with a little elbow grease it could become an “astonishing tale”?
Not only was he a spreader of merriment and chaos like no other, he was also the BIGGEST character I have ever met, far bigger than any fictional character he ever toned himself down to play.
The populariser of such concepts as nasal sex (cunnisneezus) and Jamais Vu (the opposite of Deja Vu… in which you arrive home to your house of a decade and greet your husband of twenty years only to think “where the hell am I? And who is this stranger?”) and a great de-mystifier of stage acting (“simply stand with your weight on your upstage leg and you will appear confident”)… It was impossible not to laugh in his presence but to call him a comedian would be reductive. That would be like calling a tornado “the weather”. Cause the laughter KC evoked wasn’t just yuks, but an embodiment of the absurdity of existence itself … he saw that absurdity, stared it down with open eyes. He saw that absurdity and raised it.

Alice Cooper
I think I was 8 years old and it was definitely a Friday night. I was at my buddy Brent Nash’s place and we were staying up late to watch a videocassette: something called Wayne’s World. Brent had goaded his dad into renting it from blockbuster cause he’d heard it was “funny”. My idea of “funny” at the time mostly meant slurping the last inch of milk from a cereal bowl as loudly as possible to make a rude bodily noise (And any honest analysis of my writing needs to acknowledge that that is essentially still what I am up to…) so I didn’t know what Brent’s version of “funny” meant I was in for. For those that don’t know – in case you were born before 1960 or after the year 2000 – Wayne’s World is a buddy comedy about loveable teenage metalheads in suburban nowhere USA. Now Brent and I were several years away from teenagerdom and our suburban nowhere was Canadian not American, but why split hairs… by the end of this “funny” movie we wouldn’t just like Wayne and Garth… we would be Wayne and Garth.

The high point of Wayne’s World is the scene where our goofball avatars win tickets to see Alice Cooper in concert. Smash cut to a rock concert sequence…
Alice (a middle aged man) comes strutting out of the mouth of a giant neon skull, a sinewy ghost in black leather, swatting his crotch with a riding crop. Guitars wail and bass roars and Alice sings “well I ain’t evil…” but, well, ya know, it looks like evil might be exactly what he is. And I have to guess that “well I ain’t evil” is something the devil herself would say all the time… Guitars wail some more, the crowd swoons, bass roars, Alice mentions Frankenstein and it’s all over way too soon.
That 50 second clip is all the exposure I needed to become a lifelong music obsessive and a student of (if not always a fan of) rock n roll. I also think it might be the first moment that I realised I wanted to be a stage performer and it’s as far back as I can trace my exposure to anything in pop culture related to “horror” and so it may have been the beginning of my attraction to topics others consider “morbid”. 

HERE’S the clip.

I later learned that Alice Cooper was originally a band called Alice Cooper fronted by the singer who would eventually be named Alice Cooper and tour as a solo act under that name. Alice the solo act has his charms but the original band is where its at. The original Alice Cooper were a surrealist performance troupe, a vaudeville act, an experimental rock band and a teen rebellion hit machine all rolled into one… if you only know “School’s Out” you should definitely dig deeper. Why not start HERE, with this clip of them creeping up the psychedelic scene in the early ‘70s…

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