Out Now! Love Is A Grift by Graham Wynd

Fox Spirit, Graham Wynd, International Noir, K A Laity, Noir, Noir Songs, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories



Love is a Grift by Graham Wynd
Cover and layout by S.L. Johnson Images

Sex, Death and Crime: The essentials of Noir.

How does obsession begin? For one hit man it starts with a target he just can’t kill. She leads him on a deadly spree across Europe. With every step he’s in deeper. Each crime binds them together like a vow and only death can part them. But will it be his… or hers?

Love is a Grift and the other stories in this collection offer a fresh take on a classic genre, that begins with obsession and most often ends with death.

A new collection from Graham Wynd

1. GALWAY—The Salt House
2. BRUXELLES—À la Mort Subite
3. HELSINKI—Ravintola Saari
4. DUNDEE—The Tay Bridge Bar


Short Story in a Song— The Go-Go’s “Vacation” by S W Lauden

Crime Fiction, Music, Noir Songs, post punk, punk, Punk Noir Magazine, S.W. Lauden, Short Stories, Short Story In A Song, The Go-Go's

I usually write about songs that would make a great short story, but this time I actually did it. My take on “Vacation” is included in the new anthology, MURDER-A-GO-GO’S, out this week from Down & Out Books. Having lived through the band’s meteoric rise in the 80s, I always thought of this New Wave hit in terms of the kitschy water-skiing music video that got played ad nauseam on MTV. Listening to this track with a modern crime writer’s ear, however, changed my mind about the possible meaning of the lyrics.

The first verse opens with a love sick narrator who’s reeling from a recent break up. My perception of those lyrics hadn’t changed much over the years, but things shift in the second verse. This is where our protagonist admits that she should have run after first meeting her ex. It might simply be an over-dramatization of their failed relationship, but it could also hint at something much darker. If so, it would explain why she has to “get away.” I took that theme and ran with it for my short story based on “Vacation,” which is set in a psychiatric hospital.

I really challenged myself with the structure and voice of this short story, so I hope you’ll check it out. Click to find out more about MURDER-A-GO-GO’S and my short story, “Vacation.”

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.


Jolly New Songs by TRUPA TRUPA

Euro Noir, Music, Noir, Noir Songs, Polski Noir, post punk, Punk Noir Magazine, Trupa Trupa

Jolly New Songs

Jolly New Songs by TRUPA TRUPA

‘A cracking album from this fabulous Polish Avant Rock group. Highly recommended and a great follow up to their superb 2015 album ‘Headache’. In fact, I think I like this a bit better. They have their own unique sound, but the easiest elements to nail are the psychedelic feel that permeates the overall atmosphere and occasional melodic interventions reminiscent of The Beatles. Favourite track: COFFIN. ‘ – Gavin Hellyer

Trupa Trupa

Short Story in a Song/ Noir Songs: Richard Harris—MacArthur Park by Graham Wynd

Graham Wynd, Jim Thompson, Jim Webb, K A Laity, Music, Noir, Noir Songs, Non-fiction, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Story In A Song



For some, the opening notes of ‘MacArthur Park’ provoke joy—for others panic, especially if it’s on a tinny car radio and there’s no escape for the next seven minutes. Songwriter Jimmy Webb has said many times that he’s given misleading answers to the perpetual question of just what the hell this mock epic pop song is all about.


‘My fallback position after all these years is I will tell you that I’ve told deliberately false stories to people.’


One of the reasons for his coyness on the question might be the murderous history behind it. Inspired by reading too many Jim Thompson novels (always a bad idea) after a bad break up, Webb sought to put himself into the mind of a serial killer. He chose MacArthur for its association with gruesome murders, but the more direct inspiration came from the so-called ‘trash-bag murders’ (never mind that the victims were all young men and boys) making headlines in mid-60s Los Angeles.


Instead Webb imagined a killer desperate to control an elusive woman and unable to do so, killing her. In spring—a time of renewal—he was burning ‘in love’s hot fevered iron’ as she ‘ran one step ahead’ or if she was wise, many steps. But he catches her. He keeps her ‘yellow cotton dress’ as a memento, remembers the life he squeezes out of her like the chirps of birds, ‘tender babies in your hands’—transferring the act of murder to her hands instead of his own. The old men playing checkers offers a winking nod to Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal (of course death and the crusader play chess but that doesn’t scan).


It’s his first murder and he is sentimentally attached to its memory: ‘there will be another song’ for him, another dream, another murder, but this one will remain important: ‘after all the loves of my life / You’ll still be the one.’ Cold comfort for her after he has drunk the wine while it was warm (a hint of cannibalism or at least haematophagy). For the narrator his power grows with each murderous thought: ‘I will take my life into my hands and I will use it’ seems to suggest that the lives he lusts for belong to him. By killing he ‘win[s] worship in their eyes’ and yet as he extinguishes the life his sorrow returns, for ‘I will lose it’. He has to repeat the act, vowing ‘I will have the things that I desire’ completing his rendering of the women into mere objects that he will claim.


The famous surreal chorus is the moment of his psychic break. All reality slips sideways. The grass melts. The cake (his sanity) dissolves in the rain, a repetition of the moment when he decided murder was the only way to keep her forever. The knowledge of his horrible act returns (‘I don’t think that I can take it’) and just as fiercely gets thrust away (‘Oh no!’) again and again.


The orchestration and Richard Harris’ impassioned delivery sell the morbid tale with all the trappings of romance and heartbreak (rather like the film version of Hughes’ In a Lonely Place), building sympathy for a cold-hearted killer. Or I just dreamed it.

Find out more about GRAHAM WYND here.


For Arthur Alexander : A Ballad in Blue for a Blue Balladeer by Thom Hickey

Blue Collar Noir, Music, Noir Songs, Non-fiction, Punk Noir Magazine, Thom Hickey

Some voices clutch at the heart.

Some voices echo on and on in your soul.

Some voices speak to you in the dawn’s early light.

Some voices play softly in your mind through the long and speechless night.

Some voices call your own.

Arthur Alexander had such a voice.

It’s now twenty-four years since Arthur died largely unmourned except by soul and R&B afficianados.

Yet, his songs, especially sung by him in his inimitable affecting way, will never die.

So for the ultimate blue balladeer – a ballad in blue.

A Ballad in Blue.

‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation’.

(Henry David Thoreau)

‘Now I ache, with heartbreak and pain and the hurt that I just can’t explain’

(Arthur Alexander)

Imagine you are the manager of a blue collar bar in a tough small town. You work long hours making sure everybody has a good time and that nobody’s good time winds up leaving someone else on their way to hospital.

You know who not to serve, who to share a joke with, who to warn off and who to throw out for their own good. You keep a weighted pool cue just out of sight from the floor within your reach – just in case.

You stock the jukebox and make sure that there’s old and new favourites: something that counts as a home town anthem; several that are fast and loud for the boys from the base; plenty to dance and sing along to for the girls with the faraway looks in their eyes; and, some for everyone to openly or quietly cry over.

The night, though long, passes quickly for you and you don’t realise how tired you are until the door’s been shut on the last, loud, lonely drunk.

You look around and sigh thinking of the work needed before the whole cycle starts again after you wake up in a few hours. Time to pour yourself a more than generous measure of premium whiskey and play one last song.

Only one will do. Arthur Alexander, the patron saint of stoical fortitude. I can’t go on, I can’t go on – I’ll go on.

‘In The Middle Of It All’ tells the story of a broken man surveying, with an eerie calm that almost amounts to existential detachment, the shattered ruins of his life : ‘ It looks like my life is about to fall’.

Like all the great Arthur Alexander songs – ‘You Better Move On’, ‘Anna’ and ‘Dream Girl’ – it’s the song of a grown up man; a man who has experienced joy and pain, the ecstasy and despair brought on by love and it’s loss. Though Arthur’s songs are suffused with intense feeling they are in no sense hysterical – the besetting sin of so much pop music.

The record opens with a beautiful elegaic guitar figure that seems to glisten and shimmer in the background throughout the song. It then flows on at a stately, magisterial ballad mid tempo with the swooning melody and instrumental backing acting as a cushioned support for Arthur Alexander’s deeply affecting and entrancing southern country soul voice.

Arthur’s vocal charm owes nothing to stylistic tricks rather it is founded on the ageless attraction of hearing the sound of a man’s open, if broken heart. A sound that we can all recognise when it is authentic and true. Arthur Alexander’s proud and wounded vocals once heard will echo on in your own heart.

While listening to the song it seems as if you have pulled up your bar stool next to a pleasant looking though downcast guy who with no fanfare or needy plea for sympathy tells you, if you want to hear, why it is that night after night you can find him resident at this bar and why, night after night, no matter how much he drinks he does not get drunk.

During the course of, ‘In The Middle of It All’ the drummer seems to beat out a steady purgatorial pilgrim’s tempo while Arthur’s exquisite vocal lays out the extent of his lonely and desolate emotional landscape.

His love for his girl which was, ‘Really, really real’ remains true even though the house and home their love had built together is now a reproachful ruin he occupies alone.

The place where they had been so happy, as far as he can recall, now has the rain steadily and dreadfully falling all around it. What he once thought were the certainties of love and loyalty have vanished like some cruel mirage as his world, ‘Just came down one day’.

The song seems to summon up this heart and soul assaulting rain as the strings swell and the chorus of backing singers join Arthur in his examination of regret and loss. You can feel the southern heat and humidity of Alabama where the song was recorded in every breath of Arthur’s vocal and in every beat of the music.

The wonderful piano playing provides arpeggios of insistent pain and a sense that, in this vale of tears, no shield of love or faith can ever be proof against the truth that a love which seemed so sure can, in an instant, crumble into mere dust.

Arthur Alexander’s singing throughout this song is filled with an aching tenderness as he caresses each word into bruised breath and life. It is as if by singing with such scrupulous care he can somehow make whole his shattered heart or at least prevent it’s final destruction. His singing remains controlled and conversational even as it grows in the depth of pain it examines.

Perhaps this is because the song, for this singer, even in such a situation is not a resentful scream but rather a tragic lullaby that tries despite all his trials to shore up a ruined life.

There is no escape from the realisation that all of us must sooner or later confront the inevitability of death, loss and failure. For as the roman poet Virgil and Arthur Alexander knew living a clear eyed life involves coming to terms with the terrible truth that there are tears in things, ‘Sunt lacrimae rerum’.

If you want someone to hold your hand when this truth becomes real in your own life it’s hard to think of a better soul companion than Arthur Alexander.

‘In The Middle of It All’ is one of those rare songs that seems to live on in the silence after it has finished and after the record arm has returned to its cradle. Sometimes for me that silence feels like the silence between two sobs.

Forty years ago David Bowie in ‘Young Americans’ uttered an anguished plea: ‘Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down and cry’. Well David, wherever you are tonight, here it is. It has always worked for me.

Notes, credits and further listening:

It seems that Arthur Alexander recorded ‘In The Middle Of It All’ four times in his life. The version discussed above is the second 1962 version.

Arthur Alexander recorded some 120 songs during his recording career for a variety of labels. His initial career featuring many of the songs he will always be remembered for began at Dot Records and includes some of the premier recording at Rick Hall’s FAME studio in Muscle Shoals.

From 1965 he recorded for Sound Stage 7, a Monument subsidiary and in 1971 he recorded a lone album for Warner Brothers. In 1975, out of the blue, he recorded the marvellously fluid and typically affecting single, ‘Everyday I Have To Cry’ which incredibly made the US top 50.

Finally and most poignantly of all he recorded the lovely low key, Lonely Just Like Me’ album issued by Elektra in 1993 some three months prior to his death. This was later reissued by Hacktone Records with the addition of live performances and also with some hotel room demos which have some of the 3am in the morning, death on the horizon mood, shared with the New York Demos recorded by Buddy Holly prior to his untimely demise.

The ever alert Ace Records have issued two essential compilations covering the Dot and Monument Years. The other albums have also been reissued.

A welcome tribute collection, ‘Adios Amigo’ came out under the Razor and Tie imprint and features Nick Lowe’s tender cover of, ‘In The Middle Of It All’ (indeed Lowe’s career in this millennium might be seen as the largely successful attempt to pare his songwriting and recording style to their essentials in emulation of Arthur Alexander).

A relatively small investment will furnish you with the heartbreakingly magnificent catalogue of one of the greatest singers and songwriters in any genre and you will surely find that the songs and performances will become treasured fixtures in your life.

They were certainly a fixture in the life of John Lennon who had clearly listened closely to Arthur Alexander as evidenced in The Beatles cover of, ‘Anna’. The way that the famously acerbic Lennon could bring a wounded tenderness and discretion to ballad performances also betrays Artur’s influence.

John Lennon kept a jukebox filled with his favourite records to fortify him against the madness of the world that had grown up around him: prominent on his own immortal selection were records by Arthur Alexander.

Arthur Alexander was born in Sheffield Alabama in May 1940 and died in June 1993 in Nashville. He was only 53 years old. Despite recording several classic songs and having some of these covered by The Beatles (Anna) and The Rolling Stones (You Better Move On) he never really made much money from his songs.

Sadly, he was also prey to alcohol and mental health problems. Disillusioned and depressed he was for many years largely estranged from the music business and spent long spells working as a janitor and school bus driver.

There is a heartfelt biography by Richard Younger, ‘Get A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues: The Arthur Alexander Story’ published by the University of Alabama.

Arthur Alexander might be said to be the epitome of the, ‘Country Soul’ style of music. The movement as a whole is warmly evoked and intelligently discussed in Barney Hoskyn’s book, ‘Say It One Time For The Broken Hearted: Country Soul In The American South’ (Fontana/Bloomsbury).

Musicians growing up in a deeply segregated society were nevertheless heir to musical traditions that, principally through the medium of radio, effortlessly crossed the racial divide. Mucians and singers recognised great songs whether they were played on country or ‘Race’ music stations.

The constellation of wonderful musicians and songwriters who worked at Stax, FAME and Muscle Shoals studios were artistic freedom riders shattering barriers within the sanctuary of the recording studio even if they had to step carefully once they emerged into the heavy heat of the Southern mainstreet.

Booker T and The MG’s, Dan Penn, Chips Moman, Spooner Oldham and their brothers and sisters in rhythm made records that were recognisably southern and spoke eloquently of the lives shared by black and white alike.

There is a website ‘The annotated Arthur Alexander’ which is a very valuable resource for anyone seriously interested in delving further into Arthur’s recording career.

(First appeared at THE IMMORTAL JUKEBOX.)

thomBio: Thom Hickey one of the blessed 50s baby boomer generation, was born in London into an Irish family and formally educated at catholic schools and Cambridge University.  More importantly he was informally educated by the BBC, The Observer, The New Statesman and The New Yorker.  His music professors were radio giants Charlie Gillett, John Peel and Emperor Rosko. The print columns of Richard Williams, Ian MacDonald and Tony Russell were religiously read and annotated.

Further intensive study was conducted at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Hope and Anchor, the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott’s and the Rainbow. Many investment portfolios were foresworn in favour of sourcing recorded treasures from the hallowed halls of HMV, Colletts, Tower and Virgin Records and mail order outfits galore.

He has a continuing belief that you can never watch too many Westerns or Ken Burns documentaries, read enough biographies about Samuel Beckett or Buster Keaton and that there is always just one more Bob Dylan bootleg he needs.

To finance his obsessions he has worked in financial recruitment, as a charity campaigner and been a senior investigator into complaints about the NHS.  He now lives deep in the Surrey woods with his beautiful wife, graceful daughter and inspirational son.

Short Story in a Song/ Noir Songs: Randy Newman’s In Germany Before The War by Paul D. Brazill

Euro Noir, Films, Music, Noir, Noir Songs, Paul D. Brazill, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Story In A Song

For many years, Randy Newman meant very little to me although he had always been in my peripheral vision.

I knew Alan Price’s version of ‘Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear’ from when I was a kid and I was aware of ‘Short People’ but he was someone on the horizon; a writer of novelty songs. Of no interest to someone who grew up on glam rock and punk, then.

However, at some point in the eighties, during one of my longest periods of unemployment, I borrowed Nina Simone’s ‘Baltimore’ from the public library thinking that her voice could transform shit into shinola no matter what the song was. It was a ragged and occasionally brilliant album but the, (Newman penned), song ‘Baltimore’ impressed.

Some time after that, I visited the town’s premier second-hand record shop ‘The Other Record Shop’ where Newman’s ‘Little Criminals’ was always in the fifty pence section. The cover didn’t appeal but I bought it anyway.

A classic album, of course, but the strongest impact was from this one song. Lush strings, plaintive piano,  an aching nostalgic feeling. I loved it though I played it without really listening. So, I played it again. And listened.

In Germany Before The War

There was a man who owned a store

In nineteen hundred thirty-four

In Düsseldorf …’

Lovely sepia images. Snapshots and memories of somewhere that you’ve never been.

And more:

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea ..’

A sad, sense of yearning. But then something changes :

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray

Reflected in his glasses

As he watches her…’

The nostalgic melody starts to seem sinister. The lovely strings are like malignant clouds spreading across the sky. The river seems dark and dangerous .The plaintive piano seems to be stalking.

No, you think. It can’t be.

But then:

We lie beneath the autumn sky

My little golden girl and I

And she lies very still’

And you know it IS.

It chilled me more than any song had before. And maybe even since.

In Germany Before The War, it turns out, was inspired by the classic 1931 Fritz Lang film M, which featured Peter Lorre as a serial child killer.

This in turn was inspired by Peter Kürten who was known as the Düsseldorf Ripper, the Vampire of Düsseldorf or the Monster of Düsseldorf and was executed in July 1931 after confessing to nine murders.

Here are the lyrics:

In Germany Before The War

There was a man who owned a store

In nineteen hundred thirty-four

In Düsseldorf

And every night at fine-o-nine

He’d cross the park down to the Rhine

And he’d sit there by the shore

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray

Reflected in his glasses

As he watches her

A little girl has lost her way

With hair of gold and eyes of gray

I’m looking at the river

But I’m thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

Thinking of the sea

We lie beneath the autumn sky

My little golden girl and I

And she lies very still

This post first appeared at Jedidiah Ayres’ Hardboiled Wonderland as part of his NARRATIVE MUSIC series.