Heavy Metal - Guy Clark
When Circus Archaos arrived at Highbury Fields and talked us through the show, we were excited by what was to come but also immediately worried by what might be left of it once the Council health and safety officers had their way. The show included clowns with chain-saws sawing off chunks of corrugated sheets worn like sandwich boards, a motor cycle driving through the audience and noisy smoke bombs going off beneath the stacked seating amongst other varied paraphernalia. We mentioned this to the wonderful Pierrot Bidon, Archaos's director and he smiled and said, "Don't worry, I'll deal with them, just leave them to me. Get them all here at 11 am tomorrow."
We did and the next day two Islington Council Health and Safety officers turned up plus a Council Licencing Officer and a representative from the fire brigade. This was the eighties so all four were besuited, slightly overweight men in their early fifties who over their suits wore the standard yellow fluorescent jacket. Pierrot, also dressed in a suit for the occasion, welcomed them, and announced that he would go through the technical aspects of the show in the main performance tent so they could see how it worked, apologising briefly for the fact that some performers would be practising their act. The performers in question were a pair of young acrobats, both very romantically dashing and spangly in their circus stage gear. The girl was very slender, so much so that her extremely well developed bust was all the more noticeable, a fact that we could see wasn't missed by the visitors. Early on in Pierrot's exposition, while undertaking a particularly standing impressive double somersault, her bikini style top came off, but the pair carried on with their routine. The sight of the four inspectors unable to take their eyes of the young woman as her breasts arpeggioed with the law of gravity can only be compared to a field of rabbits caught in a Land Rover's headlights. Meanwhile, in his think French accent, Pierrot was calmly running through the catalogue of unlicenceable events that were to take place in the show: "the motorcyclist will drive up through the seats of the audience, here, then turn left between these two rows, here, don't worry, he is a very good driver, then we will 'ave a little fire, here, by this aisle which will put out with a bucket of water by a clown, then here we will have the bomb which will make a big noise but is perfectly safe, and don't worry, when the clowns juggle with the chain-saws, here, we will have switched them so that they no longer 'ave a chain in them, here, and will be totally 'armless......" and so on.
When he finished with a gentle "I trust this completely meets with your approval" none of the four distracted inspectors had taken notice of anything he had said, and, still seemingly in a collective trance, concurred. As his assistant led them back to the reception area to treat them to croissants and café au lait prior to their departure, before he turned to follow them Pierrot called out to the acrobats "Antoine, Sofie, merci. c'était parfait."
The duo's nightly performance did indeed feature the same "accident", but with a packed 200 strong audience it was far more plausible that they should "go on with the show" regardless.
When I asked him later how he knew the trick would work, Pierrot shrugged and said "It always does. These officers are the same everywhere, England, Germany, France, they are all the same."
This wonderful song about heavy goods vehicles by Guy Clark was made famous when covered by Johnny Cash, but this, the original, is by far the best version.
".....But you know she's mighty unforgiving so you got to pay attention you know a D-10 can be the death of you but I get her all fired up and I can feel it in my soul you know it's hard to tell who's driving who
and I can move Alaska all the way to Beirut I can bulldoze a beeline from here to Peru I can push the rocky mountains into the sea you know heavy metal don't mean rock and roll to me
But you know I'm like a modern day mule skinner - I'm driving ten thousand mules so I got to
say a little prayer every day. Lord, just let me get her turned around without falling down this mountain 'cause you know the boss don't like me treating his D-10 that way
I don't know why I like to drive 'em like I do you know it ain't nothing but a hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds of steel. could be the money, babe, could be the power could be I love the way it feels
could be I love the way it feels could be I love the way it feels
could be I love the way it feels."
As my friend Martin said when we put on Guy Clark at the Union Chapel in London, "he's not a singer, he's a poet!"