Breathless – Great North Run – a soundtrack…


Distance 11 miles. Time 1 hr 50 mins 52 secs. Calories burnt 1289!!!

Words: Andy Johnson

Castle Eden Walkway is a nice place to go on a summer’s day for a stroll along the old railway track and for a coffee and a cake in the cafe at the old station.

Castle Eden walkway is not a nice place to go out in the blazing sun and attempt torun further than you ever have before. Alone. The first 5 miles to, the somewhat unimaginatively named, Station Town was a killer. Not much in the way of hills or anything but not much in the way of shelter from the midday sun either. I tried to keep my pace steady, using my wife’s Garmin gadget thingy, but had to pull back from my usual 9 minute-ish/mile pace as the heat took its toll. I seriously considered refilling my water bottle from a puddle as I realised I wasn’t going to have enough for the journey back. There’s also a lake I was tempted to dive head first into. Turned out that the return leg wasn’t quite so bad as it became more and more overcast the further along I got and even a slight breeze picked up, kicking the wind turbines into action on the hills. It is a pleasant route, if a little dull at times with long, flat stretches of nothing more than hedgerows and fields. 12 miles needed next Sunday. Might have to be a bit more creative with the route. I was in a very ploddy mode by the end but could probably have pushed it on for a couple more miles if needed so the basic training is pretty much done I reckon. Need to knock the booze on the head before these long ones though. Also probably need to get out a bit earlier although, ironically, it started to rain a bit as we ventured home which would have been ideal for this run.

Maybe I should train more in Manchester for guaranteed precipitation.

Soundtrack – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Lyre of Orpheus / Abattoir Blues & Murder Ballads.

Occasionally Australia’s Nick Cave steps out of his darkest of shadows and snatches a few more, soon-to-be devoted fans from a more mainstream audience.

He has managed to do this on several occasions over his lengthy career but still plough his own very singular furrow of folk/punk/blues/gospel. Perhaps he could be compared to Tom Waits in this respect. His clever use of Kylie Minogue for the song “Where The Wild Roses Grow” from the brilliantly morbid “Murder Ballads” album secured them both new admirers from across the board.

This album made up the final leg of my run and the juicy, bluesy, sweary stories kept my attention well and truly off the blisters for the final few miles.

I once wrote and produced a play with my students based on the song “The Curse of Millhaven” from the same album which I keep meaning to return to for a polish up/reworking. Not that Nick Cave’s work benefits from any kind of polish (or half-baked theatrical adaptation!). The Bad Seeds play and sound best when dirty, sloppy and almost as if they’re all playing different songs. They don’t quite build grooves in the traditional funky sense but can capture a vaguely discordant feel that both borrows heavily from blues riffs but sounds avant garde and experimental in equal measures. Lyre of Orpheus, both song and album present this notion excellently and also highlight the intellect and literary nature of much of Cave’s lyrics. Biblical/mythical references all add to the fire and brimstone delivery in Cave’s tales of apocalyptic love and death. “Lyre” is the mellower of the two albums released as a single package. “Abattoir Blues”, as the title would suggest, is a darker, heavier affair though not without soulful moments.

These two albums marked another moment when Cave enjoyed some mainstream success with critical acclaim for the work drawing in new fans. Strange for what amounts to a double album to do that. It’s the stories at the heart of the best of Nick Cave’s work that keep you hooked and live he is a mesmerising figure; part preacher, part pimp, part vampire, part Vic Reeves. It’s not surprising that he has also moved into writing novels and screenplays although I reckon the best is yet to come in those fields, as good as his first forays have been.

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