Caught by the River

Jeb's Jukebox

14th January 2013

13. Knight of the long knives

Knight Of The Long Knives
Nyah Earth

Sioux Records

I’ve come across this record twice, each time in a very different corner of the world.

In the early 1980’s, when I lived in New York, I went often to a loft behind Fulton fish market. The woman who lived there, a writer, turned the place over to musicians on Sunday afternoons.

The room was empty except for a painting on the far wall, a huge dripping of black and orange. The windows, along one side, were always open. The room smelled of ocean disasters.

The music, which limped and thumped into being, was strictly abstract. Metal boxes full of rocks were rattled. Homemade instruments groaned. A trumpet, played through a damaged amp, barked. A woman pumped a portable organ. A melodica droned. There were steel drums, guitars, conch shells, a French horn, a violin, two basses, a battered trombone, something which resembled a cello, two ukuleles. There was much incense. There were no keys or time signatures or melodic structures. There were no harmonic guide lines. Only instinct. No seperateness. While one waltzed another marched. While one played descending fifths another circled below in thirds.

In a corner a man sold records. They were things he’d collected from junk stores. Mostly jazz, some soul, a few foreign bits thrown in. I bought my first copy of Knights Of The Long Knives from him.

My second copy I bought five years later in Brick Lane.

My Sunday mornings, when I first arrived in England, went like this: arrive at Brick Lane around six o-clock; go first to a stall that sold paperback books; search for Horace McCoy or Jim Thompson or David Goodis or Vin Packer. Next stop was Gareth who sold stolen records. All week he thieved from HMV and Virgin and on the weekend converted his thievery into cash. Next stop was a woman who sold rock cakes and tea. She constantly made cups of tea and arranged them on a table according to how many sugars they had in them. The first row had two sugars, the next had four, the next six. A tea without sugar was a special request. The rock cakes were the size of my fist. My usual purchase was a tea with two sugars and two rock cakes. To this day I’ve never had a better breakfast.

I would then spend a couple hours meandering through the boxes and stalls that lined Cheshire Street. Depending on the time of year this was done in varying shades of darkness. I found Knights Of The Long Knives in a back alley; a man had spread out a few battered items on a blanket. Among the rusty forks, ruined pots, soiled socks and other unsellables, there it lay. I asked how much he wanted and he mumbled, give us twenty p.

I gave him fifty and my extra rock cake.

Jeb Loy Nichols.