Welcome! You have clicked on the heart of Luke's cartoon self, accessing this hidden bonus item, featuring a collection of mini-essays specially written by Luke for this website, about some of his favourite things in the world. This section, which hopefully gives an enlightening insight into what makes Canterbury's own eccentric troubadour tick, will be added to in time, so check back again soon, for more of Luke's Loves!
Morrissey (and The Smiths)
I was only nine when The Smiths broke up, so although my love affair with this most audacious and mythical of English groups began, as with so many Smiths fans before me, as a teenage love affair, it was in fact posthumous, as opposed to being infused with the heady thrill of the group being a currently omnipresent musical force at the time. It was a voyage of discovery, lovingly under gone, with an obsessive teenage hunger that it's a wistful joy for me to reminisce about now.
I discovered them, largely, through my friend at the time, Tom. Tom was more NME hugging indie fan than earnest, musically minded connoisseur, but he was literary, and he was odd, so I think looking back, that he was as good an introduction to the world of Morrissey, if not Marr, as I could have wished for.
I adored Johnny Marr. His genius, in teasing a uniquely uncanny brand of catchiness out of lush, mesmerising, jangly tapestries of guitar playing, was a rare and beautiful thing to behold. But if I had to choose, I think it's Morrissey who even more got under my skin, as a presence, a sensibility, a part of my life that, once smitten, I could barely imagine being without.
I was talking once to Adrian Bamforth (my bass player for two years), about our shared hero, and he was saying how he hardly even needs to listen to The Smiths these days, as they've become so much a part of who he is, that it's almost beyond the experience of simply putting a great record on. I wondered if indeed anything was actually beyond the experience of putting a great record on, but still, I knew what he meant. I think Morrissey is just one of those artists who, once you've let them in, do somehow become a part of you, in a way that can barely be quantified by referring back to the sum total of their work.
He is, of course, a one-off. A treasure. 'Moz bless us, everyone'.
My generally happy teenage years were interrupted by one big break-up, which hurt me deeply when I was seventeen. At the height of an intense, platonic teenage friendship with another boy of my age, he suddenly wrenched his affections away from me, in an unprecedented fit of, well, I just don't know what. He never told me. He just stopped phoning, stopped writing me letters, stopped saying hello to me; just stopped, altogether.
I bumped into this boy years later, and when I plucked up the courage to ask him what had sparked off the sudden rejection, he said, 'Oh…I just went mad back then'. He gave a dismissive chuckle, and then refused to discuss it any further. To this day, that's the best explanation I've had, of the mysterious death of my most significant teenage friendship, a friendship that remains forever charged and luminous in my memory, and the passing of which I will always mourn.
Thankfully though, by the time I lost my best friend, I had found music - in a full and wondrous sense. I had music infusing my every waking moment, colouring my every thought and feeling, so even the agony of this cruel, unusual break-up was cushioned. And more than any other artist, it was Jonathan Richman that helped.
Jonathan, I had discovered a couple of years previously, and had felt instantly that here was a kindred spirit. I'd just started writing my own songs in earnest back then, and to find an artist who so embodied some of my own most dearly held musical values; and who encountered, a bit like I sensed I soon would myself, the skepticism of audiences who mistook his heartfelt odes to life and passion for knock-about novelty ditties; to find this romantic, misunderstood troubadour from Boston, was thrilling and validating to say the least.
So for that bittersweet summer of lost friendship, it was just me, my cosy bedroom - blinds down - sunlight just peeping through, my dreams of one day being noticed for my own music…and Jonathan, Jonathan and more Jonathan on my record player.
I first got really into Woody when I was about eighteen and my friend John leant me Annie Hall. I became infatuated with this enormously distinctive world of neurotic soul searching, falling in and out of love in charming New Yorky settings, old-time jazzy music, and periodic little bursts of humour relieving the tension and confusion of angst-ridden, complicated lives. I spent the following months endlessly walking back and forth from my local Blockbusters, renting and renting and renting all the Woody I could find, until I'd seen just about everything there was to see by my new cinematic hero - this strange, witty, troubled, sentimental, endlessly insightful and stubbornly idiosyncratic New Yorker.
When Woody Allen dies, he will not be replaced. There is only one. Each and every person is of course unique in his or her own particular way, but some, I can't help thinking, are quite exceptionally unique. Woody's body of work is a rich testament to one man's deliciously personal worldview. The potency with which he communicates his anxious, confused, yet amused take on existence is, for me, a thing to be savoured, treasured, and joyously revisited time and time again.
famously said that he's not so interested in achieving immortality through
his work, but that he'd rather achieve it through not dying. This vintage
Woodyism is unavoidably shot through today with increasing poignancy, as
he's now in his seventies, but if there is only a handful of modern-day
artists destined to leave an indelible, immortal mark on their culture,
Woody has to be one of them.
At the age of about twenty-one, I became infatuated with a bookshop girl. She failed to return my amorous attentions, but nevertheless, day in, day out, I would spend hours leafing through the poetry, biography, humour and art sections of the expansive shop; hoping to glean another few moments of nervous conversation with this enchanting creature, or just a few more cherished baskings in her luminous presence.
It was here that I happened upon the perfect companion to my moonstruck, romantic yearnings. A deeply sentimental, painfully honest, lovably eccentric, hopelessly lustful and huggably comforting old Englishman..
Johnny B. My darling Johnny B. No longer was I alone, standing anxiously amid the bookshelves, breathing in the now forever love-laced scent of paper and print; waiting for another bumbling, un-epic encounter with my unrequiting lover. No longer was it just me. It was me and Johnny B. He understood. He was there with me through it all.
The girl moved town, and I was forced to move my affections elsewhere, but Johnny B. is with me still, and I'll cherish him forever.
When I was eleven, I discovered 'A Bit of Fry & Laurie', and it became just about my favourite programme in the entire world.
I must have geekily learnt almost every line to every sketch, and boy, did I quote it! I realise now, of course, with a shuddering wince, that the thought of a precocious, attention-seeking little adolescent Luke regurgitating the flamboyantly verbose humorous stylings of this eminently intelligent, Oxbridgey pair of comedians is the most smack-worthy, nauseating vision conjurable. Yet there I was, gleefully paraphrasing those scripts, and haplessly attempting to apply their witty silliness and literary eloquence to my own social situations in my own little corner of Kentish secondary school life, much to the embarrassment of all around me. If you knew me then, please forgive Mr Fry and Mr Laurie, they knew not the odious atrocity they had spawned!
Like almost every other kid I knew, I'm sure I'd naturally have loved Stephen Fry for his roles in the Black Adder series alone. Black Adder however was an almost universally compulsory generational love affair, and it was 'A Bit of Fry & Laurie' which held a completely unique place in my affections. The mere presence of Stephen Fry on screen became such a delicious prospect for me, that I found myself tensing up with glee as soon as I saw him, prickling with excited anticipation, and hanging in his every word. I loved him so much.
Even this passionate level of comedy hero worship though, could not prepare me for the revelation that was to come. Ten years later, around my twenty-first birthday, my mum bought me a talking book edition of Stephen Fry's then recent book, MOAB Is My Washpot, which was the autobiography of his first twenty years. Sixteen sides of tape this was sprawled over, all read in the expressive, animated and deeply comforting voice of the author, and advertising itself as an explosive, compulsive and frank account of a troubled, extraordinary early life. Quite a prospect to a life-long fan of the great man. But how could it possibly truly deliver? Anyone who has ever idolised an artist will probably relate to my nervous anticipation as I loaded the first cassette into my player. The stakes are always high at moments like this, and the prospect of being underwhelmed by the latest offering of one's hero is palpable.
What ensued was more than I could have dreamt of. The soulful depth, hilarious wit and cathartic beauty of Stephen's candid, inimitable writing completely took my breath away. It was just the most woundingly emotional, achingly intimate autobiography I could have imagined. This book (especially the tape of the book, featuring the golden voice himself) almost instantly became a thing of such precious importance and invaluable comfort to me, that I've simply never tired of revisiting it's treasures, and I'm still hooked on it to this day.
Stephen Fry is, for me, that rare and special blend I venerate so much: - the cosy, comforting warmth of old fashioned sentimental Englishness, co-existing triumphantly with a compulsive need to shock, to challenge, to provoke, to entertain, and ultimately, despite a nationally determined sense of social awkwardness, to communicate emotionally.
One of the central pre-occupations of my life is the act of admitting to human truths. Not just the proudly held, widely celebrated ones, but the unpopular ones, the dark ones, the niggles, the fears; the weaknesses, the hates and the resentments which, unless I'm very much mistaken, plague us all.
Is it a pre-occupation? Perhaps it's more than that. I dare say it borders on an obsession, a compulsion; an addiction to the joyous, adrenalised rush of bloody well expressing something; of mentioning it; of exploding with it and then confronting it.
This trait can get you into a whole lot of bother in the messy arena of real life, so 'thank God' for the release valve that is art. I think sit-coms certainly qualify as art. A great one is as culturally enriching and personally enlightening as the most challenging symphony, or the most skilfully nuanced poem.
For me, Seinfeld virtually embodies the phrase - "it's funny because it's true", and it epitomises the wonder of everyday life, when observed unflinchingly, inquisitively and neurotically. Through it's dogged pursuit of 'pouring over the excruciating minutiae of every single daily event', it comforts, it soothes, it provokes, it informs, and it heals.
This is how I most love comedy to be - honest, confessional, character-based, endearing and authentic. Seinfeld has been there for me again and again, and I'm so grateful for it.
And lo and behold - with Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld's head writer, the great
Larry David, has taken the gloves off, flouting even more taboos, and
admitting to even more wondrously ugly, scintillating human truths. He is
a towering hero to me. He is one of my all time favourite writers of any
type, ever. He's given me so much, and I never want him to stop.