Paul Rooney – Lost High Street

• “Lost High Street” original music video. Thanks to Owd Scrat Records.

9.8 “All-time classic Post-Punk from England”

From his album “Futile Exorcise” released in April, 2017.

As always, I’m very much looking forward to discovering how the Festive 50 pans out; the annual poll of John Peel / Dandelion Radio listeners songs of the year will be unveiled from midnight, taking up the first 5 hours of Christmas day. I’ll make a fun prediction that Alain Chamois will take the coveted # 1 slot. We’ll see!

This he did last year under his real name of Paul Rooney, when his epic “Lost High Street” was voted as the best song of 2017.

First commissioned 9 years previously, ‘Lost High Street’ emerged as a video installation at The Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, between June and July of 2008.

The piece draws on his experiences as an art student in Edinburgh in 1987, and the video was shot at that time.

I was just a kid, nearly 22.
Neither good nor bad, just a kid like you.
And now I’m lost, no fixed abode.
Just rolling down the lost Lothian Road.

So sings Aileen, the tour guide. Set on one of Edinburgh’s famous open-top buses and created using a hand-held video camera, Rooney casts himself as a tourist listening to and commenting upon Aileen’s tales of the city.

The pub, on our right, Defoe used to drink there, Aileen tells us, he was a secret agent for the empire. That’s why he became a writer, he learnt to observe and report through spying, then got a taste for the treason of art: betraying with its immaculate deception.

A blue blazer was hanging outside this other pub, it’s there, to the right, but Percy Shelley never went inside. He couldn’t have, he was underage. If tears could build a stairway, and memories create a lane, we would walk right up to heaven, and bring him home again.

In the film, Rooney is trapped on the bus with the tour guide in a continuous loop, and a sense of frustration is apparent. Throughout, Aileen sings twisted excerpts from Hank Williams’s ‘Lost Highway’, lending itself to the ‘Lost High Street’ title, which gets us to the crux of the story, as Rooney explains: ‘It’s a moral song, about a young guy who makes mistakes in his youth and is condemned to travel the road forever.

And my dream, in my coma, is of the tourist bus endlessly going round this capital city – which is probably the capital of the EUR, going by that massive castle over there – my coma dream looping forever like an Alesis drum machine. Until the power is turned off. But then I realise that’s all rather silly. Silly. How can you know if you are in a dream? Only at the moment of waking, I would guess.

Am I about to wake up?

No. Still here.

Paul acknowledges his debt to Irish avant-garde writer Samuel Beckett: “In his work, we see an abject, existential state – things are so extreme they become absurd. I think in a similar way I create quite masochistic characters in horrible situations.

You can find this masterpiece at Bandcamp.

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