Through the eyes of a child, the most innocent tales of make believe can seem terrifyingly real. THE BLACK BOOK is a collection of short musical stories, each with a twist in the tail, and has been described as a transitional cross between The Alan Parsons Project’s ‘Tales of Mystery and Imagination - Edgar Allan Poe’, Alice Cooper’s ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘Tales of the Unexpected’.
Each song is a complete story in it’s own right and yet they seamlessly link together as chapters of the mythical book. Originally the concept was for a prestige album format with the book and the CD being bought as a set, but interest has invariably moved towards the visual, with a series of short horror programmes being discussed at various times with independent film makers.
From ‘CAN’T HIDE THE FEAR’, an otherwise brave soldier’s last thoughts as he awaits execution in Japan through to ‘LADY DANCER’, a love story encompassing both sides of the grave - but which side is alive? - the stories move us through the complicated machinations of minds in turmoil.
From ‘DANNY’S FIRST KILL’ - the birth of a serial killer through a neglected and ultimately vengeful youth-hood, to ‘EYES OF A CLOWN’ which concentrates on the most terrifying of childhood images compounded by blindness, we move to the realms of nightmare territory.
Finishing with ‘THE DARK’, the eternal fear of children young and old, ‘THE BLACK BOOK’ is a haunting, paranoic album never to be forgotten. It is however, strangely comforting….but only because it is not happening to you. Yet.
TRACK / IMAGE LISTING
TRACK 1 - THE BLACK BOOK
Overall scene is of a person, subtley so as not to recognise age, being taken to bed.A story is read to him. He is then left on his own. Voices begin, pictures, images, he knows the signs, the same nightmares come back every evening to call his name and stroke his fears from within. He reaches to a shelf and takes out a book as a last resort to help him sleep. It is THE BLACK BOOK. Whichever book he reaches for, touches, forces off the shelf, the one which ends up in his hands is always THE BLACK BOOK. As his eyes grow heavier, the room colder and his body stiffer, the stories unfold, with the breeze through the unopened window allowing the pages to turn to whichever chapter is next. We see the room as he drifts into sleep, every angle of this solitary nocturnal prison, but we have all been there. We thought maybe it was just us fearing these illogical intruders but it is inherent in human nature - perhaps placed there by someone who knows better than us - perhaps because in reality, we have plenty to fear. Voices are flying around the room by now, almost physical, visible. Then we see him for the first time. He is a child trappe in a man’s body. Something has happened and he has never recovered from it. We are bout to see perhaps the chapters of his mind, of his life. Every night for twenty years they have promised him the voices would go away. They never have. He knows they never will. He places the book back on the shelf in his almost comatose state but it slides out again and finds him….
TRACK 2 - RUN LIKE I RAN
Dark, trees, park, leading from train station to flat in high rise block. Two men are walking the route together - one is in black & white, a flashback to when he was alive, the other reliving the nightmare he can’t remove from his mind. The chorus rhythm is such that it feels fast and ‘panicky’, spurts of futile attempts to outrun the spectre of the past. The tower block is plush, making him feel even more guitly because he has achieved all he ever talked about while his ghostly friend never got the chance. It was late one evening when they were walking home together and were attacked. All he had to do was stand by his friend and fight, they would probably have been fine - maybe taken a bit of a beating, but lived. But he ran. He ran and left his so called ‘best’ friend to suffer the consequences. They were to be severe. By the time the ambulance was called there was no hope. He took a beating meant for two people. Toward the end of the track the music becomes the closest we ever get to ‘hearing’ the spirit. Certain notes seem to be communicating with the man and his responses of ‘Don’t say that,’ etc. let us know that he is still being tortured for what he did. Along the path, up in the lift, opening the door, across the living room floor, all the time backing away from the unheard words, backing ever closer to the huge patio window of this 14th floor apartment. As the sight and sound becomes too much for him, and with his nerves shot, he takes just the one step too far and crashes through the plate glass, the shock knocking him backwards and over the balcony. The final instrumental chorus is seen through his eyes as he plummets past thirteen storeys of wealth and opulence, a conscienceless world he clearly never quite got the hang of………..
TRACK 3 - EYES OF A CLOWN
The tale of a man, horribly disfigured by having no eyes, who goes slowly mad as everyone runs terrified from him. The harder he tries, the more he frightens the children, ultimately hitting on the idea of dressing like a clown to become their friend. The children are then confronted with the white faced Auguste, red nose gleaming, red and black mouth grinning grotesquely up to the ruddiest of cheeks…just below the two cavernous black holes where his eyes once were. Blind to the world and their attitudes, he slowly goes insane while thinking he is playing the most wonderful game. The depressive eventually takes over as he is heard roaming the streets, confronted with barricaded doors and windows, calling for the children to come and play. His anger in explaining the situation is heard as the songs ends, “I am the clown, you’re going to laugh….” - the child in the background is heard to whimper, “Mummy take him away.”
TRACK 4 - CAN’T HIDE THE FEAR
Sweltering early morning heat, desert, Japanese soldiers all very fit, very healthy. In stark contrast, English POW, hardly able to stand, being led out with his life flashing before him as he is taken to the executioner. All thoughts seemed noble at the start; he was fighting with every ounce of courage he had for freedom and the lives of his fellow countrymen, regardless of the price he had to pay for he was very prepared to die for the cause. Those thoughts, however, somehow seem to vanish when face to face with death. Suddenly the noble cause seems a self-denial. He has stopped caring about democracy and now wants only his life. The sentiment shifts subtley from “On my knees beneath some foreign sky, underneath you’ll always hear me cry freedom” to “Underneath some dark and foreign sky, on my knees you’ll always hear me cry…” The reality of death brings with it sobriety…. (N.B. More than one music professional has likened this track to Peter Gabriel.)
TRACK 5 - LADY DANCER
A simple tale. She is a beautiful skater. He watches her every day through the winter forest as she skates on the frozen lake in the morning air. He is besotted, but she is just a spirit. An echo of a previous existence he has stumbled upon, heart first, and cannot now imagine life without. As she cannot see or hear him, he realises the only way for them to be together is to pass to her side. He watches her glide, feels her presence and tastes her in the air as she passes through him - he makes the ultimate decision and tries to take his own life. Nothing happens. He is still where he has always been. Then he understands - she is not dead, he is. It is only his love for her which has tied him to the physical world for so long. He would give up everything for her, including life itself, but can’t.
TRACK 6 - BACK & ON
A video passage from the end of side 1 through to the beginning of side 2. In CD terms, it would be a change of direction, a shift into a new themed section. We are reversing back up the main road we have just taken in our literary ‘journey’, each of the stories having taken place in a side street off that road. We see flashes of them all through the car/camera window we have created. As we reach the top of the road, the wheel is slammed round and we race off helplessly in another direction, sidestreet/stories beckoning….
TRACK 7 - PRELUDE
This is the track which introduces Danny to us, on his way to a party. As the rock guitar starts, the door is being opened to him. He has come alone. Something they weren’t expecting. They were all looking forward to meeting this girl he has told them about and was meant to be bringing. Danny had never had a girl before. They couldn’t wait to see what sort of weirdo would date him. He enters the party, dazed. Music, drugs, dancing. The room is swirling in opposite tempo to his head. He is obviously worried about something. Then, voices start calling to him. He hears his loved one in a distant echo and the voices close in…”Where’s the little lady then? I don’t believe you. You been telling porkies. You’re weird Danny, you need help…” Danny is shown the door and he hurries home….
TRACK 8 - DANNY’S FIRST KILL
The girl is on the floor. Most of this is in flashback now. He is too upset. He tried repeatedly to talk to her nicely in the park, but she wouldn’t listen. He calmly told her that he had promised the guys at college that he would bring his ‘girlfriend’ to the party if only they would invite him. He had been watching her for weeks. He forced her to go home with him, threatening her and she had realised she was dealing with someone quite dangerous. She waited until she could threaten him back, grabbed a knife in his flat and told him that her boyfriend was on his way to help her. Danny lashed out. The reality of rejection was nothing compared to the thought that she had been ‘unfaithful’ to him. She had fallen. Many years ago, Danny’s religious mother had told him that if he was truly sorry for something, everything would be all right. Realsing what he had done, now began the hardest job - to apologise so much that she would come back to life.
TRACK 8 - FIRES KEEP BURNING
The atheist in his coffin shortly after dying wondering why it is that he still feels as though he is conscious. There is no after life, no God, no reincarnation. He has lived each day as though it were his last and never allowed a conscience to stand in the way of anything he wanted. Ancient superstitions would not stand in his way. The voice telling him he was wrong seems kindly at first but as the marching troops are heard, it begins to dawn on him that Satan and his cohorts are on their way to ‘collect’. Is it too late to change? He feels physically present and so decides to make a break for it. He crashes through the coffin lid….
TRACK 9 - THE CHASE
….leaps from his own grave and runs into a forest. He is dressed in a somewhat confusing, medieval manner and Satan and the troops seem to be approaching in horse drawn coaches. He is able to run at astonishing speed and the track is the chase through the dense wood land - Satan and the soldiers always appearing to be one step ahead of him as he runs wherever he feels there may be sanctuary. In the distance we see a mansion. He leaps the bushes at the edge of the land, coaches and horses crashing through almost immediately after him, somehow knowing that if he can reach the house he will be safe. It is not a church but is somewhere he recognises - perhaps his own house, his own ‘church’ - he just reaches it in time and slams the door behind him.
TRACK 10 - THE DARK
We hear the footsteps of the prowling Satan on the gravel outside but the man is now safe. He hears a whispered ‘goodnight’ and follows the voice. When he reaches the bedroom he is looking at himself being put to bed. We are then privy to his real fears - the hand under the bed, the face on the wall, the murderer outside your door moving the door handle etc….all very scarey to this man/boy who has never quite understood why the dark is to be feared. Now he knows - it is because the Black Book is real. Nightmares really do exist but only if the child inside is allowed to dominate. The only part of yourself which will always be helpless. Will the demons get you eventually though? Isn’t it better then to be brave now and strike pre-emptively? Your decision, but the truth is that underneath the bed, in the cupboard, at the back of the wardrobe, there are hundreds of pairs of eyes watching, waiting. You can’t see them because they are only open when yours are closed. But they’re there. And they are going to get you.
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