The Stinking Rose -the epic concept album completed in 1992.
Starring Tara Newley on Vocals
Stinking Rose is a celebration of garlic in all its aspects,
from creation to myth, to death cult and even
beyond the grave. Magical music and mystical words, gathering up the
rich harvest of garlic lore into a single sublime tapestry.
Hecate, to whom garlic is dedicated, placed it on special pillars
hekatiades at three-way crossroads, on the night of a full moon.
|BACKGROUND TO THE STINKING ROSE|
were written for a female voice and in 1991 I was introduced to Tara Newley
by a friend of mine, Simon Mundey who had met her on the club scene. Simon
knew I was looking for a singer and although she had sung on his stuff,
he thought her voice might be more suited to my material. Indeed, it was;
I loved her voice from the moment I first heard it. She was an excellent
musician and obviously influenced by the music hall/showtime background
of her family, but she also listened to Joni Mitchell records and had
picked up a melancholy pop edge. To my surprise, she was intrigued by
the project and agreed to have a go.
urge sets universes in motion?
Was there some
sort of transformative groan as a beginning, or are we stuck with the
big Bang that plaintive retrospeculative coitus we are told cranked
this universe into being? Somewhere in the testicular ambitions of the
perennially dumb demiurge, everything existed as an idea, waited until
the universe contained complexity adequate to its appearance.
So, a redolence
in the senseless process that gulls us into deifying it, our herb, the
herb of the whole system, lay virtual until the process got around to
reifying it, substance derived, as the prophet writes, from mere heaven.
How that one original greedy molecule must have struggled among the jostling
prototypes in the primaeval pond until one instant of sunshine through
the murk, gestalt gave way to germination, capricious evolution gave way
to the first tenuous appearance of a skinny green wand.
semi-human creature first grubbed for the pearl at the wands root?
What slime-caked nostril flared the unfamiliar, adult aroma, traced it
to its angel-skin core? What inarticulate palate, muddied by the remnants
of bruised fruits, cantankerous seeds and half-raw half immolated flesh,
was first illuminated by a taste so resolutely complex and profound it
may have inspired the will to utter, a strangled cry from nascent muscles
that stupid glottal and the angry awestruck vowel propelled a first
gagging compliment from a pre-lapsarian gourmet.
in that first garden, the innocent paradise where even magic could not
enter, was a corner reserved for the refined essence of this mystically
attractive bulb? perhaps not, for the serpent beguiled them and
they did eat, some fruit of the not-quite earth forbidden by a jealous
patriarch, something that marked them indelibly, fruit of a curious knowledge.
What prospered under the demons hoof was a spoor so compelling,
humanitys path has always strayed unfortunately close to him. And
just as the golden age of history is the sunlight of the childs
first garden so, like childhoods buried pains, somewhere in the
shadow under the rock, Pandoras box lay quietly open.
the face of a fever or a chill. So, from the rich profusion of plants
around them, an intuitive few began to experiment, to harness the bounty
of the earth against its bale. Valerian for pain, feverfew for the ague,
lily of the valley for the weakened heart. And one herb proved a cure
for so many of natures fickle maladies, it seemed universal, a cure-all.
For strength, to cleanse the blood, to calm the stomach, or eject parasites,
to steady the pulse, to predict infertility, to tame the chill, abate
the fever. And yet the enemies of the herb (and there were many) indicted
it as a poison; it would sour the lymph, curdle the blood and if
it could rob a magnet of its powers, surely it would sap the strength
from a human soul.
lies the kernel of the age-old war between the natural as a cure, and
the technologies of intervention we have come to believe in as medicine.
If the old woman of the village knew her herbs, she was taught by the
devil, and must be burned as a witch. Meanwhile the mountebank armed with
leech and forceps grew fat on the blood of her erstwhile patients.
retreat is never absolute. Our urbanity is ruptured by dark dreams of
magic. Demons still unsettle our civility the vampires creeps under
our window, blood singing under the murderers moon. Only natures
noxious deterrent will keep him at bay, soothe us to sleep in safety.
And what of
our shambling hominid? From grubbing scavenger to pyramid builder is a
leap as great as that from the original universe of heat to the grand
tapestry of the elements. The upright ape learned the use of tools, and
weapons: from atom to Adam, the proto-murderer with an asss jawbone.
master: for the slaves who laboured under the relentless African sun to
realise , reluctantly, the grand schemes of their megalomaniacal masters,
each day of toil was a day nearer to undocumented death, building the
monstrous tombs of the elite the birth of civilization founded
on the death of its builders. What gave them the strength to endure? The
answer lies in the records of the pyramid builders, who tell us that when
supplies of the strength-giving clove ran out the slaves, braving the
admonitions of their masters, went on strike. Here is the root integral
to the megalith, the golden mean, vegetally patient, binding the great
and small. And here too, the beginnings of collective action, the humble
bound in aromatic brotherhood to the clause of the clove.
corridors are dank and doom-laden. In every corner lurks a monster or
a saint, and little light to tell one from the other. Like the good plague
doctor, elevated for his cures yet excoriated for his prophecies. His
secrets (and he had many secrets) came from the ancients, and pointed
to the future. How to defend oneself against the plague? Consider
the potion given to brave Ulysses to guard him from Circes charms,
a gift from Hecate she who helps from afar; and passed from hero
to hero, hero to villain, to turn up in the hands of scavengers in the
charnel houses of the Black Death, thieves who claimed their noxious pickle
kept them safe from infection, free to rob the scabrous cadavers of the
unfortunate, unburied dead. How to clear times mists and truly see?
Let the good doctor speak:
de nuict secret estude,
goal is to liberate the soul from its dark meat, free the imagination
to take its place in the true, symbolic universe. Mathematics does not
rule the stars, it merely measures, tells us how distant they are from
us, but we need not obey their defeated calibrations. For the pyramid
builders, the herb was the symbol of the cosmos, and of our relationship
to it; the layers of skin represented the spheres of heaven, the cloves
the planets clustered around the sun. and who is to say that they were
wrong? Now, as history makes its excuses and leaves, we look forward and
outward, forward from the detritus of our grandiloquent mistakes, outward
from our ravaged planet. Somewhere in the careless drift of stars, a new
paradise may await our new-found innocence, natures new haven nestling
in the great gargantuan imperious arms of the universe. Look upwards;
there, the elongated body of the universal person bends slightly forwards,
the world at its feet, savouring the aroma . . .
Noel Rooney ©1993
Illustrations by Theresa Pateman © 1993