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Friday, July 24, 2020

The Well House Laurie Anderson portal

This morning I was in a Well House near Tockholes in Darwen Moor. It’s reputed by some to be based on an ancient spring that nearly a millennia ago was part of a direct pilgrimage trail to Whalley Abbey. The Well House of today is around 250 years old, like the rest of the remains of Hollinshead Hall, which are mostly little more than stone pillars and foundations. The Well House though is intact, more or less, and the ancient lion from which the holy water of God poured forth, is still recognisable, if a little deteriorated. Incredibly, and luckily, the normally padlocked old wooden door was open. 

Sitting in the calm of a friends’ music room I am journeying once again to that Well House, ancient sanctuary, where, like among the remnants of a mill house near Tintagel in south Cornwall we visited in 2018, one can commune with the past, both long distant and not so far removed. Just like yesterday, standing outside the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Grassington,in the Yorkshire Dales, bathed in the spectral calm of summer dampness, there are many ways to channel ethereal beauty. Such as via Laurie Anderson's album ‘Mr Heartbreak’. Listening to this record now is like reliving an LSD trip. I am in 1984 again, the year of its birth.

‘Kokoku’, ‘Blue Lagoon’; impossibly transcendent; beauty beyond.... Was this how I found an inner path, inner calm, when there was nothing, when, as another album of 1984 almost had it, “instead of doing some good in the world, I’d burned every bridge I’d crossed”? Laurie Anderson went from ‘Oh Superman’ gimmicks, and a five record album entitled ‘The United States’, to almost mainstream, by way of aural hypnosis; electronica in the service of simple, gorgeous beauty. Perhaps there always was a “party in my head” that really never did stop, as David Byrne had it a little earlier. And Mr Heartbreak is merely a portal; a way to open the sanctuary door to the wellhead, to that place, as another contemporary album had it, ‘Across the Bridge Where Angels Dwell’. 

As Laurie Anderson sang, ‘It’s Sharkey’s Day today....On top of Old Smokey all covered in snow, that’s where I wanna, that’s where I’m gonna, that’s where I’m gonna go.’

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