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Barracuda - Heart

When I was fifteen, I was skiing in Aviemore, which was always something of a kamikaze affair, as my mates and I used to hurtle down the slopes pell mell, wiping out all over the place like pheasants at a posh shoot, and doing our best to cause as much mischief to other innocent skiers while we were at it. The army used to bring groups of soldiers to the slopes, bizarrely always dressed in full-length tradition leaf-green and forest-brown camouflage overalls, to learn the sport. They'd be standing in the typical ski-class lines, ten or so deep at right angle to the slope, while the Norwegian, ski-instructors (for some reason they were always Norwegian) would strut their lesson before them. Our game was to hurtle down on them from the left and right, as close to the top novice skier as possible, so as to knock them over, and cause the dominoed collapse of the whole group. We found hilarious and exciting. The instructor would occasionally give chase, but would only be able to catch one of us, who would adopt as broad a Glaswegian accent as we could muster so as to be unintelligible to him, but mainly they wouldn't bother as to escort us to some form of authority would mean deserting the class for too long. Eventually they got wise and curtailed our activities by taking our ski passes and threatening to ban us from the slopes altogether.

As a resort, Aviemore was in itself a bit kamikaze in character. If the weather was good, ie sunny, then the slopes were bad, too icy with much of the snow having melted, leaving threatening rocks protruding like shark fins, or lurking out of sight like barracudas. If the weather was bad, perversely, the snow tended to be good, but you had to contend with freezing, blizzard conditions and bad visibility.

On one such occasion I found myself sharing a "T" bar with a guy who offered me a cigarette. I declined, and then, to my amazement, still holding onto his ski-poles and the fag packet with one hand, with the other he casually flipped the cigarette into his mouth, then, with the same hand, took out a box of matches from his anorak pocket, extracted a match, lit the match and then lit his cigarette, sheltering the match in his palm, still all with the same hand! And this was in a blizzard! I was agog! When later I began smoking, I worked hard at the flip and the one-hand light, and finally mastered it, at the cost of umpteen painful burns in my right palm. I could do it in a pub, or a sheltered corridor - sad sack that I am - but blizzards were probably beyond me. And then I saw Circus Archaos (see immediately previous posts) and hung up my spurs.

They had a performer, a young English guy, who was primarily a juggler, but also did all kinds of quirky things with cards, boxes, small jugs of water, anything, and performed magic, making odd objects disappear right in front of you, like a shoe or a unicycle or both. But his best trick was the supreme diploma level extension of the one-hand light. With his right hand he would take a cigarette from it's packet, toss the packet into his left, then put his right hand, with the cigarette, behind his back and from there ie the low left side of his hip, flip the cigarette into his mouth. He'd then do the same thing with a match, lighting it from the box, flipping the box into his left hand while passing the right with the lit match behind him before flipping it into his mouth. Next he'd light the cigarette, both the fag and the lit match now in his mouth, without using his hands. He'd then take a long drag from the cigarette, spit out the match, and nonchalantly stroll from the ring.

In 1976, American rock band Heart toured Europe as support for Nazareth. They particularly liked the Scottish rockers' version of Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight" , and, when the following year they got angry with their record label for pedalling the untruth that group members and sisters Nancy and Ann Wilson were lovers, lifted the guitar riff for their angry riposte, "Barracuda". In contrast to Joni Mitchell, Nazareth weren't pleased when they heard that they had been copied. Which is understandable, seeing that, unlike Mitchell, they weren't getting any royalties.

"You lying so low in the weeds

I bet you gonna ambush me

you'd have me down, down, down, down on my knees

now wouldn't you, barracuda?............

....if the real thing don't do the trick

you better make up something quick

you gonna burn, burn, burn, burn, burn it to the wick

oh, barra barracuda, yeah........."


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