The Possibilities

 The Possibilities (band)
from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Possibilities was not intended to suggest the band members possessed any particular talent but that there were always possibilities for corrections, adjustments and improvements, especially given the extent of electronic sound engineering and recording techniques. In an interview (Rolling Stone RS 157) Joel FitzP, widely regarded as the band’s leader, said literature had for hundreds if not thousands of years been doing exactly this—correcting, revising, aiming to achieve the best possible result. The band members saw themselves as exploring manifold possibilities. Ironically, the pervasive effect of auto-correction software may also be responsible for the band often—mistakenly—being referred to as The Possibles.

Joel FitzP, leader, vocals and keyboards. Josh MacPherson, guitars. Graham Harrington (formerly of Box of Swifts), vocals, keyboard bass and cajón[1]. Julie Weston, vocalist, intermittent participant.

In its original constellation The Possibilities was formed in the Porthmadog area of North Wales in the 1990s. A ‘riotous mixture’ (Joel F) of backgrounds lay behind the band, with parents being a civil engineer (Graham H), decorator and chef (Julie), and egg merchant (Joel). Josh’s mother Sally became a judge and his father a negotiator for a multinational oil company. Only Julie (see Wikipedia entry) had any directly musical background.

Development and legacy
The Possibilities prime dictum was to perform first and later to reflect (this could include study, reconfiguration, time out, and particularly lateral thinking) on what direction to take next. The music was mostly improvised, followed by or coupled with words, art and dramatic performance. When at the height of their joint career Graham H withdrew to the Orkney Islands, seeking both a change and the opportunity to write a much fuller improvised piece (which after constant transformation became the book The Interest in Going North), a spokesperson for the band let it be known one of their strongest impulses was to keep (some) ‘things modern’ at arm’s length, in particular to avoid all [the kind of experiences] that television had hitherto been able to offer. (While the so-called yellow press was all too ready to describe this or themselves as the ‘new Luddites,’ it was never technology itself that was brought into question.) Whereas in reality, the reality of everyday lives, people worked, ate, shopped, loved, or travelled (north, say), in the many dramas on television and other media there was a preponderance of dead, often mutilated bodies—there was a blatant disjunct between realities, between everyday experience and the scenes broadcast on screens. The audience for the latter is drawn in, to speculate who might have carried out the killings, and possibly why, while only rarely is any one of the bodies or their killers or pursuers in any way genuine. Graham H thus for instance reported himself ‘entirely unsurprised’ that he came across nothing of the sort when away on his sojourn north. Perceived as it was by The Impossibilities, this yawning chasm between media-created living and actual life led to the milestone creation now referred to as The Pane, not available in any purchasable or consumable form. At the height of critical success for The Pane band leader Joel FitzP also became embroiled in (a notorious murder case) what became known at the Allerton Affair, which was swiftly followed by the dissolution of the band. 

Landslide (songs)
These songs, which exist only in very fragmented form, refer to the Landslide Indictments, so called for the legal decisions made in English-speaking countries within a short period of twelve months partly as a result of the activities of Julie Weston (see entry ‘Julie Weston’) and her associates. Unofficially at least, the entire texts/lyrics are attributed to her. Sound engineers for some time puzzled over why it had proven so difficult to acquire or improve the quality of recordings of public performances of Landslide (or indeed any works) by The Possibilities. A plausible explanation for this is that recording devices were controlled and if necessary confiscated at the concert doors, ostensibly to ensure that only one good-quality recording would be made (Steven Lay, Lay Music). At the doors it was also made clear that any obvious interference with the sound—calls or whistles overlapping with the beginnings, ends, or quiet passages of songs—would see the recording of that piece scrapped and destroyed. The rationale behind this is complex and based on a quasi-spiritual belief held by Graham H, who believed the act of recording would severely lessen the experience of a performance for both the recordist (and any of the audience aware of a recording) and musicians. This position, he explained before the camera on SkyArts, was a carry-through from the more widely known notion where the use of phones and selfies—he and others now claim, in the aftermath of decades of mobile phone usage—results in the transformation of experience, often to the point where the users in later life have absolutely no recollection of what they—according to any records or diary entries they may have—saw or heard. The audience seemed for the most part to be aware of this position and respect it. Among the band’s devotees this position, or contention, became known simply as ‘the Harrington.’[2] In a further twist to this ban on or disapproval of unauthorised or amateur recordings: unbeknown to all but an innermost circle, Steven Lay did not in fact make any recordings either—again, on account of ‘the Harrington.’

Between them The Possibilities spanned an astonishing breadth of musical interests and influences. They included not only the well-trammelled repertoires of blues, folk and rock music, but also and more unusually, popular music of broader times. Jazz and classical influences were also apparent in their performances, as were moments, if not passages of rap and avant-garde. The more contentious the latter forms were, the more interested The Possibilities would be, most particularly Joel FitzP. In particular, attentive listeners have mentioned having heard MacPherson inserting melody from Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, albeit with the timing altered, just as Graham H could find the timbre of a George Michael, Cliff Richard or even Paloma Faith in his combination of voice and microphone. While ‘Landslide’ appears to have no strict musical connection to the song of the same name by the Dixie Chicks (now Dixies), the lyric ‘and I took it down’ was heard on occasion. 

[1] A cajón (Spanish: [kaˈxon]; “box”, “crate” or “drawer”) is a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, played by slapping the front or rear faces (generally thin plywood) with the hands, fingers, or sometimes implements such as brushes, mallets, or sticks.

[2] “You mean we can’t record this?”
“No, it’s the Harrington.”

Allerton (Joel FitzP, Sefton Press, People & Places series)
Call it Tender (Palm Court, 2007)
These Are Our Lives (Stinging Fly, Ireland 2006)
Landslide, a study in the dark (Schuldt, 2002)
New Musics 5 (Vintage, 1998)
Cold Comfort (Palm Court, 1996)
New Musics 2 (Vintage, 1995)
Border Lines (Palm Court, 1994)

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Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. 

Allerton Affair
from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The facts of what became known as the Allerton affair continue to be disputed despite all court judgements having been made and appeals exhausted. Allerton was a text created and made public by the musician Joel FitzP. ‘We dipped into it from time to time,’ he told the photographer Mark Albright. All charges against Joel FitzP were dropped when there surfaced DNA evidence which it was adjudged exonerated him. He did know the murdered woman[1] and had depicted her publicly and (so it was contended) in such a way as to have cast suspicion on his person[2], but that was all. Suspicion unfortunately for him only increased when he decided to disown the text (and music, since lost or destroyed). The affair led to Joel FitzP withdrawing from public performances for almost three years, effectively ending his hitherto highly successful collaboration with members of the band The Possibilities. 

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[1] details withheld at the behest of the family.
[2] The relevant text is in the public domain and is reproduced here:
The Susan Duff syndrome: lying awake at night, the thought of someone appears. The one thought burgeons into several. Your head carries the thoughts with you, off the pillow, into the shower, down the stairs to breakfast, out of the door. Susan Duff being the first, the most persistent, the most frequent, the phenomenon is named after her. 
It’s years since I saw her last—on the tennis court in her almost-white kit, walking to the base line, about to receive serve. Her walk is unremarkable. The on-court air is a film of paprika, scuffed up from the red clay, which is essentially brick dust. This playing surface used to break up easily, particu­lar­ly in summer, until dust covered tennis shorts and shoes, legs and forearms, hair, eyelashes, every­thing. I remember one club member in the shack by the courts declaring: This is no place to unwrap a sandwich. Said another: Blow your nose and it comes out pink. Pink is not accurate, but you can’t stop people saying what they say.
Her age? Fifteen? She doesn’t grow older. I must have seen her take the little path from the cabin to the road but don’t remember her on it. She comes by herself, there’s no sign of brothers or sisters, parents. She won’t leave the court, she exists only there. Her walk to the base line is on a loop, which recently has been repeating for days, I should say nights. 
Always when I went to the little club on the hill I hoped to see her. Because of her I selected my newest, brightest Slazenger balls before setting off; the thought of her had me checking my racket strings assiduously (as if I knew how to string them; I didn’t). She was a girl, older than myself, who I innocently and passionately desired. Innocently, because I would do nothing. Desired? I desired only a few words or a little time together, not much by today’s standards but for a fourteen-year-old in those days, a lot. 
Her name I knew from the competition draw pinned up in the shack, although by then she’d been knocked out. Some people never get to hold a little silver cup and she was one. So was I. But she fitted the little club on the hill. Her sandy complexion perfectly complemented the court surface. In a warm-up with her partner and opponents, the surface would rough up enough to produce that red fizz amid which her legs and ankles blended so harmoniously. Even her freckles, careful freckles, were indisting­uish­able from particles of the dust. By ‘careful’ I mean they so matched the court it was as if someone had carefully arranged them. But so what? Why return to her in the dark, the dawn, take her with me down the street, onto the platform, the train, the office? 
There were two courts. When I was fortunate enough—it activated the teenage thrill centre—to find Susan Duff also at the club (inexplicably, she was always there before me), I would as usual join three strangers, usually older, looking for a fourth to make up the numbers. Negotiating the gate that clanged so, they entered the courts as relaxed as if into their own garden. In contrast, I would be in the far more difficult position of yearning to look at Susan Duff while trying desperately to conceal the fact. Walking past her as casually as I could, I would drop the Slazengers (their brightness now embarrass­ing), or my racket would suddenly snag on the wire netting (a nigh physical impossibility, which I alone would manage), or I would tread on a lace that had grown too long (thus nudging me towards becom­ing a devotee of velcro); or the person in front would stop suddenly just as I was casually glancing aside (having resolved in all circumstances to look casual). Undone: the opportunity to take in Susan Duff’s sandy hair and careful freckles would be lost. My embarrassment at whichever of these inevitable mishaps (then major, only now trivial, after years for them to settle and fade) would cause her to smile, but not at me, it would be with her head half turned towards the net. Not once can I remember her looking my way, and not once did we play a game together.
So, once again Susan Duff has arrived in the murky flotsam of sleep and hasn’t left me all morning. She crossed the station barriers with me, rose twelve floors in the lift, and as I poke at this sushi lunch she’s there still. I wrack my brain for more details. But I only see her, as always, walking back to the base line, her whites getting dusted in that colour, about to receive serve. In my head she never serves; a point with her is never completed, let alone a game, a match. 
I remember there was also a church at the top of the hill. It had the same dark sandstone as the streets. Did Susan Duff go there, I think so. Her short hair suggested something conventional, even puritan. She could easily be imagined singing, praying. She may equally have given her soul to the Almighty, at least for the time being.
I doubt she’ll flash before me at my dying moment. That I imagine differently: without a thought of dying, most likely I’ll be in the middle of something. Someone is speaking; a van has pulled up outside; the doorbell has rung; I’m about to answer a question; but I don’t. So no final flash-by, no last run-through—more likely is a steady stream, over years, of incidents and people. By day or night, little bits at a time flashing up, like flakes off the tennis court, Susan Duff, a church on a hill. That’s where she fits in, as a glimpse, her getting dust on both legs. The surface had a fake-tan colour and may still have, a colour that managed to fit Susan Duff perfectly, and probably still would, and still does, there on the court on the hill in Allerton, as she walks back to the base line, waiting to receive serve.

Julie Weston (singer and activist)
from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For other people named Julie Weston, see Julie Weston (disambiguation) 

Julie Weston was a Canadian singer and activist whose work focused on the rights and aspirations of women.

Early life
Born in British Columbia, from where her doctor mother later took up an international post administering vaccination programmes, Julie Weston was brought up in Vancouver before later moving with her parents to Denver, Colorado. Both her mother and father, she said, were ‘highly musical.’ She would join them at the piano, sat between them on the piano stool, her feet well clear of the ground. As a young teenager she would go with brothers or sisters to concerts and to clubs, where—she remembered among several acts—she saw and heard Muddy Waters (‘the thrill when he played, unrivalled’) and (‘with her small guitar, delightful’) Mimi Farina. In Vancouver, despite their professional lives the family lived in ‘the hippy quarter’ of Kitsilano. ‘You could do what you wanted, that was what mattered.’ She (‘we knew our microphones’) and her two brothers and two sisters were regularly asked to sing to inaugurate local events.

Formative experiences
In her early twenties Julie accompanied a pregnant woman—’we happened to meet on the street, it was as simple as that’—to the courthouse in Denver, where a case involving the woman’s fiancé and several acquaintances saw her vindicated. This led Julie to accompany other women (‘when I saw them hurry up the courthouse steps, I knew there was trouble’) and to informally organise women to accompany other women in numbers to similar cases and soon to more overtly political lawsuits. This informal organisation took place quietly and without show (stealthily, came the accusation from opponents). It never became a movement as such. Indictments against hangers-on of the ex-President and other figures on that periphery were quickly followed by numerous central persons landing in prison, even after appeals. Pornography, prostitution and sex trafficking were all causes she took up, ‘speaking out regularly before stepping back into the shadows’ (New York Times). Besides speaking out, she sang out, fearlessly ruffling feathers at will with her lyrics, most notably in the Landslide song series. Although Julie Weston did not herself take up law in the professional sense she studied law and wrote copious notes, which her sister Rusty described as being ‘like essays, only very short, and not sweet.’[1]

[1] held by the estate of Julie Weston and not publicly available

Graham Harrington (musician)
from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Graham Harrington is a musician, occasional producer and well-known recluse, also well-known for his Celtic roots.

Graham Harrington was born in Vienna (a fact his detractors like to point to, for its associations with psychotherapy and extreme ideas, Freud, Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, etc.). The geography accompanying his birth was more or less accidental, he has been reported as saying. His parents were en route to Merseyside, first in Birkenhead, ‘then it was Calderstones,’ from where his father was to work on the ventilation system in the Mersey Tunnel. Graham H, as he was known, was an only child. In the summer the family would visit North Wales, where his father’s interest and knowledge became transferred into an obsession with the old slate mines and quarries. ‘We were shafted,’ Graham liked to say. The Welsh connections however came to have increasing importance for the musically gifted teenager, given the easy contact in the area to artists, poets, amateur drama groups, even comics and performance artists. There was a ‘rich vein,’ Graham also liked to say, unable to leave the mining imagery. The area had attracted philosophers (Bertrand Russell), naturalists (Caroline Mabey) and world-knowing travellers. Importantly, little Porthmadog had not its own bookshop but Cob Records, where in its trays and racks all music could be found. 

Career and later life
In North Wales, possibly in response to the way in which the North American musicians of The Band had withdrawn from public attention to play and record privately in a remote area, Graham and fellow local musicians formed Box of Swifts and shortly afterwards retired to ‘a very thick-walled farmhouse [in Snowdonia] where we got woken by the sheep thundering by.’ The exact location is still a matter of contention among music journalists but it is thought this was high above Porthmadog and close to the coast. Box of Swifts would descend unannounced into student gatherings in Bangor and Caernarfon—until they were expected, at which point they stopped appearing. The band had a life of some eighteen months before disbanding.[1] Taking up menial employment Graham Harrington soon afterwards joined Joel Fitzpatrick to found The Possibilities (see elsewhere). From there he ‘widened out,’ as he put it, to become the radical alternative thinker he is best known as today.

Breakdown and recovery
Following a brief liaison with fellow musician Julie Weston (see recent entry) and occasional periods spent in the west of Canada, Graham Harrington developed an interest in the Tranquille Sanatorium. This institution in the Kamloops area of British Columbia had itself in fact closed, but it emerged that Graham was particularly interested in its physical building. This was just one in a series of obsessions, another being his adulation of the UK singer popular in the 1960s and the second half of the last century, Cliff Richard. The latter interest led to creation and the dissemination by Graham H of the text “D” (in part inspired by the song “D in love”)[2]. In its text form—of this, arguably regarded as a work of art—D was also a riposte (‘I can do this too’) to the former band member, Joel FitzP, with whom the yellow press persistently maintained he was manically in competition. Together these concerns led him to voluntarily enter and submit himself to new lines of therapy at Burnaby Grove, a radical centre for experimental psychotherapy near Vancouver. It emerged that his main motive was simply to be able to live with his obsessions, such as those for Cliff Richard—music to which Joel FitzP, when questioned, also admitted an attraction[3]—for Bobby Vee, The Five Satins, June Carter, for as many years as he liked. His public outbursts led to the discrediting of the centre and, to a large extent, its eventual closure in 2008. Despite these difficulties he managed to move back to ‘yet another life’ in Scotland. At the time these events are recounted, Graham Harrington is thought to be residing at a remote cove in the Orkneys, while ‘keeping careful watch’ over Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar. He is reportedly alive and well, although missing the presence of trees.

[1] There exist low-quality recordings of some 30 songs, occasionally obtainable via eBay and similar providers.

[2] As this account will show, I have been graded. I am a D. Now convinced anything of significance will involve a D, I shall capitalise the Ds, to Draw attention to them. What follows Does Demand a certain amount of Devotion, to the task, of reading. 
Onwards. I arrived with Lucero at that pretty granite house, some say cottage, and whomp: in no time she and Jorge were taking the steep path oh it was a steep Atlantic coast path and Down we scrambled to the ruins where great waves crashed and sprayed, where she and he vanished to Do the Deed. It took Lucero only hours to Dump me and be charmed by him, my rival, at the house with its great pines in the corner of the field, a rural idyll, the remote stone cottage where he hung out, kept logs in a pile and chickens in a coop and bottles of brandy in shadowy cupboards, in other words lived—a schemer who came out from a darkness: Jorge de la Peña, lover of masks and masquerades, his mind full of skulls, smoky cemeteries and ghost riders in the night.
That’s it, apart from the backstories, the Details, bags of them to be shovelled in, if you’d just be so kind as to hold open the tops of the bags, you shouldn’t need gloves but that’s up to you.
Young Lucero wanted Jorge; she Didn’t me. She loathed the brogues, the neckscarf. Jorge wasn’t everything to her, she said, but I was nothing, and could piss off. What can I say, what add? A Description of her appearance would be highly Distracting but for the fact she was Drop Dead gorgeous, as they say in the tabloids, which is where I aim leaving it, that blonde hair, the blue eyes, the envy of many a cornflower, the perfect skin.
I’ve got gloves in the shed if you need them. Pigskin.
Her counterpoint in this Drama, the scheming Jorge, lover of pretences and foreign coins that could be passed off as local currency, seduced Lucero by the water. He was frequently by the water with her. The morning after our arrival—Day two out of the three-and-a-bit Days I’m reporting on—seeing an old tyre washed up among the seaweed, he rolled it into the sea, only a few yards from the grand hotel with its decorative balconies and those yuccas which had been looking rather sad. By the time Lucero showed up he was (still dressed) standing on the tyre as it floated, pretending to have trouble balancing, extracting the maximum in comedy until her head was turned, her gaze riveted, until the sandals of her imagination were kicked off into the bushes. 
Only a handful of years later he would have splashed and fallen, for his alcoholic Decline was swift. She knew nothing of that, nothing of Jorge’s Death, the trips to the hospital and the whores who loved him. 
Meanwhile I was already well on my way to becoming a D—more through continuous assessment than a simple exam, a single error. D, fourth in line, alphabetically speaking. That’s enough capitals, I’m Dropping them henceforth.
There are more bags under the sink. Here’s a tip: rub both sides at the top and the plastic will separate better.
On day zero I had brought Lucero with me. On a cultural note, the era of hitchhiking, flower wearing and apples in barrels was all but over—but hitchhiking was still just about feasible. And so we stood on a roadside in the rain in Normandy. It rained without a break in Normandy. Everyone should spend an evening in the rain in Normandy. Day or night, it can rain a lot in Normandy. Eventually we came to Rennes. At a roundabout in the same rain on the outskirts we lay inside these giant concrete pipes and slept. On day zero on the outskirts of Rennes it rained and rained. We lay close. Come dawn I was anxious to move away from those giant concrete pipes. Lucero however wanted us to stay in longer. As I crawled out into the rain she was mad at me, as north Americans say. Or as Cliff Richard once sang. I wouldn’t bet on it but Don’t Be Mad At Me may be on the flipside of Please Don’t Tease. Will his music ever be re-instated and does that matter, yes.
I heard Lucero later went to live on a farm, remote as this house, in Wales, mid Wales.
Otherwise, I learned. Jorge was a living instruction manual on how to seduce: live quite remotely, keep logs in a pile and chickens in a coop and bottles of brandy in shadowy cupboards, but despite all the material details still make it feel as if he/you had arrived from nowhere, been parachuted in, with no baggage, no background. Make a stew, get out the brandy. Make a papier-mâché mask, paint it, it doesn’t have to be great, hang it on the wall. Wait. Someone will show up. Hand the arrivals endless opportunities to be curious. Stand astride an old tyre in the sea. On dry land, take a curiosity out your pocket and fabricate a fine tale about its origins. A fossil, say, though a piece of fluff will do. Go home, get out another bottle, make a fire, stare into it, nod at the mask, laugh a little. Show off your chicken coop as soon as eggs are laid. 
Day three. Time already to return with Lucero through Normandy and across the Channel, as had been the plan all along: that college of art and design awaits her. The return journey; in tears over leaving Jorge and she hates my guts. Missed the famous roundabout through looking the wrong way. Missed any swallows that might have swooped overhead, over the fields. 
I arrived with a pig, and what a chancho he turned out to be. No wonder I stormed off to the beach. Ah, Jorge. Jorge was dancing on a rubber tyre, the pig said I wonder why he’s doing that, I said because it’s fun, No said the pig, he wants something.
Chancho followed everywhere, down the slope on a summer evening, to the sunset over the water. Jorge sat a way off and then I sat with Jorge and then we sneaked round the back of the ruin and round a ledge to where, behind this wall and truth be told, I was happy to yield it was that simple. Afterwards we looked through a hole in the wall and the pig was right there, only looking in entirely the wrong direction as was typical, he shot out of those pipes the other morning when we could have relaxed but he didn’t relax he always had to be doing, but what he did was irrelevant, like himself, irrelevant. When Jorge lit a fire in the hearth and it was lovely the chancho said He’s doing it for a reason because it isn’t cold we don’t need to burn anything, typical chancho, no wonder he sleeps alone, only on our way back through Normandy we didn’t quite. The cold in the barn we stopped at, god, we had to keep close to stay alive and then he got all interested, interested in himself really, my self was still back with Jorge and the cock and the chickens, there was something to crow about. What marks in love would you give me, he asked at daybreak, straw in his hair. Whatever’s lowest, I said. D he said. He started singing D in Love which he said was an old Cliff Richard song. The B-side of something but not Please Don’t Tease. Fine I said. Do not follow me, I said, from here on I’ll be walking by myself. Chancho. 
* Don’t Be Mad At Me © Tepper-Bennett 1960, B-side of A Voice in the Wilderness
* D in Love © Tepper-Bennett 1960, B-side of I Love You

[3] This music—Graham H said in the 50th anniversary jubilee edition of the New Musical Express—was impelled as if into the great hush down a remote North Wales valley of his teenage years. ‘Into that vast awesome space would go the spangled tones of a shiny-stringed red Fender guitar, while the bass sounded so softly as to be barely audible, then in came the voice, warm and true: Cliff. Behind the radical shifts of The Possibilities lay such figures, worthy of our respect for all time.’

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  • John Saul is the author of the collections of short fiction Call It Tender, The Most Serene Republic, and As Rivers Flow, as well as the novels Heron and Quin and Seventeen. With stories appearing in publications throughout the UK and internationally, he has had work in Dalkey Archive's Best European Fiction 2018 anthology and Best British Short Stories 2016. He lives in west London.

  • Postcards depicting the "Telephonoscope," an imagined future device following the invention of the telephone and film. From Public Domain Review.