By way of tribute to the late Jack Bruce, a special broadcast of Tony White’s short story first broadcast as part of Remote Performances in August 2014. ‘Stormbringer’ was inspired by talk of a period in Jack Bruce’s life when it seems he was entitled to be formally addressed as The Much Honoured Laird of Sanda. Voice: Tony White. Guitar: Peter Lanceley.
Tony White, explains:
In 1999 I had been invited to be part of an art project that was to take place on the remote Scottish island of Sanda, off the southern tip of the Mull of Kintyre. Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson of London Fieldworks had invited a group of artists — including composer Kaffe Matthews, writers Steve Beard, Jenni Walwin and myself — with former members of Airkraft, the then world champion stunt kite team, to collaborate and explore connections between mind and weather. The kite team would be bolting themselves to the mountain and sending up stacks of kites that dangled meteorological kit, and both Kaffe and Steve ended up using those data streams to drive their respective compositions. I was to contribute by exploring these ideas in a work of fiction and had been casting around for some sort of visionary voice with which to explore the place, but had drawn a blank. Luckily, on the boat from Campbelltown, it was mentioned in passing that a previous Laird of Sanda had been Jack Bruce. That’s Jack’s tractor that you’ll see, Dick told me, still stuck in the marsh.
Well, here was a true visionary, and musical colossus: the mighty Jack Bruce. But what, I wondered, would a rock star in self-imposed exile from the fallout of that first-generation London R&B scene on a tiny island at the gateway to the Atlantic do all day? This was the music of the Black Atlantic, after all. So how might he assuage the ‘postcolonial melancholia’ (to borrow another of Paul Gilroy’s phrases)?
In my story (which is called ‘Stormbringer’, after the Michael Moorcock novel of that name) my fictional bass player makes a cloak out of curtains and plays psychedelic games whilst pretending to be a character from a Michael Moorcock novel; and not just any character, but Elric of Melniboné, the Eternal Champion. Within hours of arriving on Sanda I found the skull of a small cetacean washed up on the rocky beach and made a ‘moon staff’ by lashing it to a tall, straight stick, then I set out to explore the island, perhaps to devise some lysergic ritual to tune in to those old Atlantic frequencies.
Strangely, the ‘moon staff’ — or its bony head, at least — became the focus of a real superstition, and turned me into a sort of Jonah. It was a wind curse! Whenever it and I appeared, the kites would come tumbling out of the sky. Don’t bring that thing near us, the kite team pleaded. By the end of the stay I was starting to believe it myself, and was relieved to return both staff and skull into a decidedly choppy sea rather than risk taking them on the already perilous boat journey back to Campbelltown.
Back on the mainland, I immediately made contact with Michael Moorcock, who very graciously granted me permission to use Elric and elements of the Eternal Champion cycle of novels in the story, and I acknowledge that support again now. Chatting about the period, Mike wondered whether it hadn’t in fact been Ginger Baker rather than Jack Bruce who was the Elric fan.
‘Stormbringer’ appeared in the Idler magazine and then was published by London Fieldworks a couple of years later, but has never been performed in full, and certainly never in Scotland. So when I returned to the Highlands this summer with London Fieldworks and Resonance 104.4fm for Remote Performances, we decided to correct that. ‘Stormbringer’ is here performed as a live reading with musical accompaniment from Peter Lanceley of the Resonance Radio Orchestra on guitar and effects, in front of a small audience gathered in a Roshven living room that looked out over the peaceful waters of the Sound of Arisaig at sunset.
‘Stormbringer’, will be broadcast on Resonance 104.4fm, 4:00pm, Tuesday 28 October 2014. Listen at 104.4fm in London, on the Radio Player app or via the Resonance 104.4fm webstream.
Update, 15 July 2021 — archive audio of the Remote Performances recording of ‘Stormbringer’ at Roshven is on the project’s Mixcloud archive. Music: Peter Lanceley, Sound recording: Sarah Nicol for Resonance FM