Who is Malcolm Mooney? (What is The Language Using Us For #11)

“Who is Malcolm Mooney?” you ask.

“Reader,” explains Graham, patiently, “it does /not matter. He is only going to be/ myself, and for you slightly you/wanting to be another.”

Tell that to a curious child. “But it does matter, it does, it does, it does. And if you won’t tell me, I’m going to Google it.{{1}}”

The curious child discovers that Mooney is not, as I suspected (and thus didn’t want to Google, until last night) some 18th century folk hero alluded to in a poem by Robert Burns. This would feel “meaningless” to me. But rather, he is the lead singer of a German pop group of the 70s called Can. Which is still meaningless to the curious child, but wonderfully evocative and meaning-full for this reader.

Not that I was ever a big Can-fan. However in my early 20s I did very much worship{{2}} at the altar of Pavement and its High-Priest Steve Malkmus. Having read anything and everything I could find about Steve{{3}} I had discovered the info-nugget that allegedly, for a whole year, he had listened to Can’s Ege Bamyasi album on a daily basis.

I could relate to this, having spent a year listening (almost) everyday to Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. I of course immediately went out and bought Ege Bamyasi, which was “nice” enough{{3}}. But no Slanted.

I say all this in the full knowledge that Can’s Malcolm Mooney, and in some way my Malcolm Mooney was not W.S Graham’s man. The poem was written in the 60s, Mooney sang in the 70s. Graham was pretty hip, but he wasn’t that hip.

And yet, this is also the point (for me). Poetry allows us, in a way that prose doesn’t, to make the poem deeply and personally ours. And who cares in that process for historical accuracy. I don’t.

[[1]]This curious child would have to wait until his parents next drove into Town (if one could even call Benoni a town, it was really no more than a “dorp”) so that he could visit the library with its out of the ark Britannica, published in the same year that his grandparents got married. To think that patient forms of inquisitive dedication no longer exists makes me feel a little sad, as well as a little old.[[1]]

[[2]]I don’t use this word lightly. I remember once spending a month writing and drawing a whole chapbook’s worth of material in response to Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (or maybe it was Wowee Zowee?) which I was planning to send to Malkmus, but never did, expecting him to never look at it, or if he did, certainly never to respond. There’s a theme developing here, isn’t there?[[2]]

[[3]]I’m somewhat partial to the 4th track, Vitamin C which even has Graham-like moments (“A beautiful blows, I stay at the corner,/She is living in and out of tune”). I regret looking up the mumbled lyrics though, as the grammarian-in-me immediately bridled at that abominable syntax which he suspects was not entirely conjugated for ‘poetic effect’ by the krautrockers.[[3]]

[[3]]This being pre-Internet, so the odd article in NME, or a smeary Q Magazine photocopy sent to you from abroad by your brother, was truly pored/pawed over and valued.[[3]]

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