Readers of this blog know that I like to listen to music. Not so much the music that is pandered about these days, but rather the music of my youth—which is to say, strange music. I was into a lot of things from the late 1960’s to the early 1980’s, but for a while, in the middle there, I was heavily into progressive rock.
One of the groups I listened to quite a lot was Genesis. Foxtrot was the first album of note that I remember (because it was played on the radio), but I remember having Selling England By the Pound, and then on to Wind and Wuthering and Seconds Out, skipping The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and A Trick of the Tail. After the various breakups I also bought And Then There Were Three . . . and Duke—
And it’s last that has me wondering what sort of things are going on in my mind.
See, back in 1979 we didn’t have an Internet. No, don’t tell me we did: I know what you’re trying to say, and I’m talking about an Internet I could access without having NORAD. Chill, okay? Back to my point . . . It was difficult, at best, to get news about certain things that we today take for granted. Today if you want to know about albums and tours, you hop online and just about anything you want is at your Google-capable fingertips. Back in my day, if you wanted to get the lowdown on stuff like, say, lyrics, you had to get the album and read the liner notes, or you bought a—gasp!—magazine.
I like the Duke album a lot, though I didn’t play it as much as I could as I was going to school at the time, and most of my days and nights were caught up with working and studying. I never had the chance to see Genesis in concert, so when they were touring in support of Duke, I missed the story Phil Collins told at the start of the six-song Duke Suite: The Story of Albert.
Today I know about this story because I’ve watched, more than a few times, the recording made at the Lyceum Ballroom, London, on 7 May, 1980. It’s out on YouTube, so watch it if you have a couple of hours and you want to hear some historic music, and see the way people used to perform. I’ve even heard the Story of Albert many times as well, though I didn’t feel a connection until the other day—
The story starts out, “Albert . . . was a born loser . . .” He never did anything right, he was one of life’s failures. There was a problem, however: “Albert fell in love with a lady: The Duchess.” There were problems here, though, ‘cause “The Duchess was a domineering lady: she was into S and M.” And this led to other problems because Albert didn’t speak Spanish, so The Duchess kicked his ass out. Poor Albert.
So where is this going?
About the thirtieth time I’d heard this story, the light went on, and I was blinded by the following revelation: in my story Transporting, one of the main characters is named Albert, and he is pretty much a born loser as well. Not only that, but he meets a woman who kidnaps him and hauls his butt off to the future. That woman is used to getting her way, because she was Cytheria, also known by her title: The Duchess.
And once in the future, Albert couldn’t help but fall in love . . .
I didn’t begin writing Transporting until 1989, so ten years had passed between the time I put words to computer and the moments when The Story of Albert was being told in concert halls around the world. I never saw those concerts, nor did I even know of this story until last year.
Was there some kind of connection there, my mind somehow picking up a bit of creativity floating about that decided to impart this knowledge, and make is serve as the basis for a story that was going to consume a large part of my life for the last couple of decades? I have no idea. But now I do wonder about how it is we come up with ideas such as mine, which seemed to have been influenced by a story I’d never heard until 2012.
Or maybe . . .
It sets up an interesting scene I want to do for a story now. Since Cytheria and Albert can travel about in time, and since the dates of the Lyceum Ballroom concerts are so close to the time of their birthdays (I don’t even want to consider the coincidences there), they go back to stand in the crowd and hear the concert. And when Phil gets to telling the Story of Albert, my Albert turns to his lady love and reiterates how he was a born loser, but eventually he fell in love with The Duchess . . . and Cytheria reminds him, “But you don’t know Spanish, so I’ll have to throw you out.”
And then they’ll laugh and spend the next thirty minutes holding each other as the music plays.
Sometimes I amaze myself with these things.