Saturday, 11 September 2010

Nostalgia is a dish best served cold

The Day Of The Triffids is listed in my profile's favourite books but I love The Midwich Cuckoos just as much. The film version Village of the Damned is a classic Saturday afternoon film, but the title is so crude in comparison to the quainter yet so much more sinister title of the novel. The cover illustration there bears a slight resemblence to the work of Ronald Searle, another of my favourites from the same period. The artist in question, Paul Hogarth, was a friend of Searle's I read somewhere.

The reason I mention all this is that I'm going through a fifties sci-fi phase at the moment. Well, I watched Quatermass And The Pit the other night. I'd been curious about it for as long as I can remember due to my mum going on about it, and my brother bought it me for my birthday the other month. Like the Wyndham novels it's an amazingly original idea. The most obvious heir of both Wyndham and Quatermass is Dr Who, which at its best (Tom Baker for me) shares their spookiness and brutality. Apparently they used to throw references to Bernard into episodes of Dr Who.

Anyway, The Midwich Cuckoos, if anyone out there gets the allusion in the title of the final chapter, Zellaby of Macedon, I'd be grateful if you could clue me in. It's been bugging me for years.

And now a track. No direct relationship as far as I know. Just the word cuckoo, a high level of eeriness and a description of a world turned upside down. I couldn't find out where the vocal comes from (I'm assuming it was sampled from something). And the sleeve art is yet another homage to Penguin. Actually there is a link, there's a sort of Quatermass soundtrack on Ghost Box Records. This isn't from that though.

The Advisory Circle And The Cuckoo Comes

There aren't many tracks I find unnerving. Frankie Teardrop a bit maybe, even though I know the screams are coming. But the track above is in a different class. It's the voice mainly - with its strange, tranquilized resignation, and the sound effects suggestive of some desolate aftermath. Added to the lyric's simple inversion of the seasons and it all leads inescapably to a feeling that something terrible has happened.


  1. Hi Artog,

    "Nostalgia is a dish best served cold," I could quote you on that one. Strangely, I am nostaligic of things before my time. I was actually a grunge gal (!) in my teenage years in the early/mid 90s. But I am not a bit nostalgic over that era. Gee.

    I misread the title of the book, at first glance, as The Midlands Cuckoos, associating it to Adrian Mole. Funny how the mind works sometimes.



  2. The Midland Cuckoos? I don't think the film would've worked with brummie accents. On the other hand their invasion plan might have...

    I was more late eighties/early nineties sixties influenced with gothic tendencies morphing into something a bit modish by the mid nineties. I liked Mudhoney though.

    1. I know this is years late on the answer, but I have been intrigued for years that I would even remember this strange title for a chapter "Zellaby of Macedon". I assumed, when I read something years later, that Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great's father, had a motto of "fraud before fighting" which might be related to the fact Zellaby ultimately has to earn the trust of their trust before he ultimately deals with them. Why did I answer this now? Because I randomly looked if anyone had ever answered this question from the time I read the book. This answer has always been in my mind since I read about Philip.

    2. Cheers Mike, that's a pretty satisfying suggestion. I've always assumed it must relate to either Alexander or Philip and pored over ancient and modern biographies, never turning anything up. I'm not sure how it fits in but I think the film that they're preparing to watch being about the Cyclades must be significant as well.