Caught by the River


Bill Drummond | 9th December 2021

An extract from the ongoing play UNDER THE JUNCTION by Bill Drummond’s other self Tenzing Scott Brown, which takes place in real-time under Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham. With photos by Tracey Moberly and edits by Helen Coyle.

Thursday the 21st of October 2021

When you look in the mirror 
do you see yourself?
Do you see yourself 

on the TV screen?
Do you see yourself 

in the magazine?
When you see yourself 
does it make you scream?

Identity is the crisis, can’t you see?
Identity identity

When you look in the mirror
do you smash it quick?
Do you take the glass 

and slash your wrists?
Did you do it for fame? 

Did you do it in a fit?
Did you do it before 

you read about it?

Identity is the crisis, can’t you see?
Identity identity

Hey Jack, what’s going on?


Are you listening, Jack?


The Unseen Narrator:
This is another extract from Under The Junction.
It is set sometime in the Autumn months of 2021.
It is set in the canal under Spaghetti Junction.
Kray is a Signal Crayfish
Jack is a Northern Pike.

Signal Crayfish are an invasive species that arrived in the rivers, lakes, lochs and canals of these islands from America sometime in the late 1960s. This was around the time The Doors played their two nights at The Roundhouse. The Signal Crayfish brought with them a virus. A virus that became a plague that wiped out ‘our’ Noble Crayfish. The Signal Crayfish were immune to this virus. The Noble Crayfish were not. The plague ripped through ‘our’ Noble Crayfish in little more than a generation. It was a Black Death sweeping unseen through the fresh waters of these islands.  

There’s danger on the edge of town…
Ride the Highway West, Baby
Ride the Snake, Ride the Snake
To the Lake, the ancient Lake, Baby

This is The End
Beautiful friend
This is The End
My only friend, The End…

Sang Jim for all the Noble Crayfish, late in the evening of Friday the sixth of September, 1968 while he prowled the stage of The Roundhouse. At the very same moment and not more than a few hundred yards away, a Signal Crayfish crept and crawled his way along the bottom of the Regent’s Canal. 

That Signal Crayfish was heading north towards where I narrate these words in an unseen way, in the Autumn months of 2021. And if we choose, we can imagine the last surviving Noble Crayfish singing his saddest song…

Oh, it’s a long long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the Autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game

Northern Pike have lived in the rivers, lakes, lochs and canals of these islands since the end of the last ice age. 
They are the lords and masters of the only domain that they are aware of. They listen to no one and do not deem to pass comment on anything. 
This is their world.  
All other fish fear them. 
They were born to kill.
They would kill you, if they could reach you.
They are at the top of every food chain.
They are the freshwater shark…
But with mind, style and speed.
Their culture is complete.
They are accountable to nothing and no one.
Not even themselves.

Identity is something the Northern Pike have never considered.
Why should they?
Every other creature in the rivers, lakes, lochs and canals of these islands knows exactly who the Northern Pike is.
And what they can do.
And He knows that they know.

Humans hunger for identity.
It’s our biggest weakness as a species.
This hunger is something every politician, whatever the persuasion of their politics, can use to tempt and exploit us.
This hunger is something that every form of economy, from the rigid centrally planned to the wild and free market, can use to tempt and exploit us. 
Every flag that has ever fluttered in the October winds has exploited this craving.
Every football shirt
Every brand
Every religion
Has tempted this hunger
Forever and a day
A weakness that will end our domain
Hasten our decline and fall.


The Northern Pike is… 
Above all of this
Above what we mere humans suffer from as soon as we can walk let alone talk.


It is the Signal Crayfish that has swept havoc and destruction through the rivers, lakes, lochs and canals of these islands. 
And while it is sweeping this havoc and destruction, it is continually confronted by its own identity.

It asks and She asks and we ask…

I mean, who are we?
And what are we?
And why are we here?
And which purpose do we serve?
And when will we go home?
And where is our home?
And what is this plague?
Is it on all our houses?
Are we a Signal or a Noble?
Am I white but identify as black?
Am I Hun but identify as Taig?

Hey Jack, how come you never say anything?
We been sharing this same stretch of water under the Junction for as long as you and I have been alive. 
We are the one constant. 
But never a word from you 
Not even a nod. 
What is your problem?


The Unseen Narrator:

Kray is crawling about on the bottom of the canal.
Jack is motionless just under the surface of the canal, close to the bank.
To the unsuspecting passer-by, Kray would look like a small lobster. From the tip of his claws to the end of his tail he is no more than six inches long.
To the unsuspecting passer by, Jack would look like the most splendid fish they had ever seen. From the tip of his upturned snout to the end of his tail he measures just over thirty inches long.

Kray’s great-grandparents were as American as apple pie and the Empire State and of course Jim, singing This is The End my only friend, The End at The Roundhouse on the evening of the sixth of September 1968. A gig that I, The Unseen Narrator, did not go to, but which two of my friends did go to. Friends who then spent much of our Bible study class at Saint Ninian’s Church on the Sunday morning of the eighth of September 1968, telling me all about. Telling me how Jim sang This is The End, Beautiful friend with all the lights turned off. As for Kray, whoever his great-grandparents might have been, he has a working-class Brummie accent. If Kray were to be played by an actor he would be played by Gus Khan.

Although Jack’s forefathers have lived in these waters since the last ice age, no one has ever heard him or his forefathers utter one word, but…
All assume that if Jack were to speak, he would speak in the most refined and entitled way that a resident of these islands could speak.
Nothing less. 
If Jack were to be played by an actor he would be played by the late Alan Rickman.

*                *                *

On the Monday morning of the 22nd of August 1977, a van carrying a band were heading North on the M6 motorway. They were traveling from London to Liverpool. This was four days after Elvis Presley’s body had been entombed in the Forest Hill Cemetery, Memphis, but forty-two days before the same body was moved to the Mausoleum in Graceland where it still lies today, waiting. 

In the band in the van travelling from London to Liverpool was a woman called Lora Logic who played the saxophone. She played it wild and free. And in the band in the van was also a woman called Poly Styrene who wrote the words and sang the songs. And while they were crossing over Spaghetti Junction, and Kray’s great-grandfather was crawling his way under the Junction for the first time, wondering who and what he was and where he belonged and how he should speak and he saw Jack’s great-grandfather for the first time, the woman called Poly Styrene was looking out the window of the van, across the city of Birmingham. 
And as she was staring out at the sprawling city of Birmingham wondering who lived there, and where did they come from – she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the van window. 
And she wondered again who she was? 
And where she was going? 
And where she came from? 
And why?
And why does it matter? 

Now, there are aspects of the paragraph above that I have made up using the poetic licence clause. I was not in the van with the band heading North. Thus I would not know these things with any sort of certainty. I was in Liverpool sitting in O’Halligan’s Parlour making my pot of tea last an afternoon while looking out of the window when I caught a glimpse of my reflection and was wondering who I was and where I was going and where I came from and why. 

Later that Monday, the band in the van crossing Spaghetti Junction played at a club in Liverpool called Eric’s. I might not have been at The Roundhouse on Friday the seventh of September 1968 but I was in Eric’s on the evening of Monday the 22nd of August 1977. And I heard Poly Styrene sing these words to me…

I am a cliché you’ve seen before
I am a cliché that lives next door
I am a cliché, you know what I mean
I am a cliché, pink is obscene

And I knew then that my white male gaze had never seen anybody like this Poly Styrene before. She was not like Ari Up or Siouxsie Sioux or even our Jayne. This was something far darker and deeper and more confused. This was not just dressing up with a bit of attitude for seasoning.  

But all that was several life times ago.
Or at least several life times in the life cycle of a Signal Crayfish now living under the Junction. 

*                *                *

And just before Jack yet again does not respond to Kray’s provocations, a young man enters the stage. The Young Man is on the far side of the canal bank – the dark side. The Young Man notices Jack just under the surface of the dank and murky waters of the canal. 
Using his phone The Young Man takes a photo of Jack.
At which moment Jack flicks his tail and he is off.
Jack has no need to have his photograph taken or be admired by a Young Man.
Kray crawls on.
And it is now that two other characters enter into this extract from Under The Junction.
The Near Wall and The Dark Wall.
The Near Wall and The Dark Wall have no knowledge of the world under the surface of The Canal. They have never heard of Kray or even Jack.
They only know it is them that hold up The Junction.
The Near Wall is on the West bank of The Canal.
The Dark Wall in on the East side of The Canal.
Neither can function without the other.
They are each other’s eyes and ears.
They think in ways that only walls can.
They live to be torn down and built up again.
The afterlife of a Wall lasts longer than the afterlife of almost all of Mankind’s other vanities.
Before Man thought to build temples or castles or even homes, he built walls to keep other Men out.
Walls define Men.
Men define Walls. 
Walls are Man’s ultimate weakness.
Gates are Man’s second ultimate weakness.

Photo by The Young Man

The Near Wall:
They are back.

The Dark Wall:

The Near Wall:
The Young Man and The Old Man.

The Dark Wall:
What are they doing?

The Near Wall:
The Old Man is painting you again.

The Dark Wall:
With the same words?

The Near Wall:
Almost the same words but different words.

The Dark Wall:
How many words?

The Near Wall:
He is still painting on you.

The Unseen Narrator:
The Near Wall and The Dark Wall fall silent.
They listen to the distant roar of the traffic on the Motorway above them.
They have been here for almost fifty years holding up the Motorway above them.
But The Canal between them has been here for almost two hundred years.
The Canal has seen it all but knows nothing.
Or maybe it knows everything but is just not saying.

The Dark Wall:
Has The Old Man finished painting his words on me yet?

The Near Wall:
He has.

The Dark Wall:
And the words are?

The Near Wall:

The Dark Wall:
But that is what he wrote before.

The Near Wall:
No, before he wrote WHITE SAVIOUR COMPLEX.

The Dark Wall:
But what does WHITE MALE GAZE mean?

The Near Wall:
What do any of his words mean?

The Unseen Narrator:
The Near Wall and The Dark Wall fall silent.
The Lady with the Camera takes a photograph of The Dark Wall with the words WHITE MALE GAZE on it.
The Young Man and The Old Man make their way back through the dead and dying Giant Hogweed. 
The Old Man notices two varieties of Mushrooms growing amongst the dead and dying Hogweed. He takes out his handheld device and takes a snap of them, as humans do.
They squeeze through the fence.
They walk on out from under the Junction.
And through the rain. 
And along the Lichfield Road towards Aston Station.
And other lives…

Jack the Northern Pike has returned to his place by the dark side of the canal.
Kray the Signal Crayfish begins to crawl towards the light…

Bind me tie me
Chain me to The Wall 

I wanna be a slave
To you all
Oh bondage up yours
Oh bondage no more

The End

Post Script:
Some weeks later as late Autumn had tipped into early Winter, The Lady with a Camera, The Young Man and The Old Man returned to Spaghetti Junction. The Old Man painted a crude illustration of Jack the Northern Pike on The Dark Wall. 
And The Lady with a Camera took a photograph of him standing buy the crude illustration.
And then The Old Man painted over the crude illustration. 
And early the next morning just as the light was returning to the sky, they returned to Spaghetti Junction. 
And The Old Man painted a crude illustration of Kray the Signal Crayfish on The Dark Wall. 
And The Lady with a Camera took a photograph of it.
And The Old Man knew he would return to his place under the Junction to paint a crude illustration of Poly Styrene wearing her American Army Helmet.
The Old Man cannot stop himself.

Further Information:
Alimentation are now making available for sale all the remaining copies of the books WHITE SAVIOUR COMPLEX and WHITE MALE GAZE by Tenzing Scott Brown.

Lyrics taken from: 
Identity by X-Ray Spex
The End by The Doors
September Song by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson
I’m A Cliché by X-Ray Spex
Oh Bondage by X-Ray Spex