Scritti Politti, number 1 on my Top 4 of Best Groups in the Entire World of All Time!
Summer 1985. A friend had asked me to live in her apartment and take care of her cat while she and her boyfriend were on holiday. They would be away for a month. They lived in the center of Rotterdam, a side street of the West-Kruiskade.
I loved it. It was warm, i had friends at art school, even though i was still studying in Delft. I was going out, giving diners. And listening to the music. The boyfriend was dj’ing. Rap, hiphop. And Scritti Politti. He had just bought their new album Cupid & Psyche 85. Which i fell in love with straightaway.
I had missed their first album, Songs To Remember. I still don’t understand why. I even had a magazine, Vinyl, with an interview with them from 1982. I was busy listening to Joy Division, the Popgroup, Rip Rig & Panic, Nick Cave, Eyeless In Gaza and Tracy Thorne amongst others, ending up with Prince. Too busy to get into Scritti Politti 1982.
I finally caved in in 85. I was hooked. I loved the lyrics, the sweet voice, the music. I didn’t understand it, not everything about it, but i was sure as hell doing my best.
When summer ended, i was back at my parents house, with this new self bought album, new friends, an upcoming apartment i would start to live in 1 December 1985. Life was good.
I didn’t know then my parents would be divorced in one years time. I didn’t know then i would stop studying in Delft and start at art school in Rotterdam within a year.
A Saturday evening, 8 February, i started to draw. I had this A3 size watercolour bloc. I had divided this into 8 different small sizes with pencil stripes. I don’t remember the first two drawings i made. But i was really surprised by the final six. I remember looking at them that evening, when i had finished. I could see they were going from quite simple, me dancing in Rotterdam with a friend, to more complex and abstract. I did not really understand these drawings, nor did i understand why i had drawn them.
I made a final addition. The last verse of A Little Knowledge. Not sure when i wrote this down, it could have been the same evening, it could be the next day. I do remember the next day i made a box of thick carton with a dark grey or black paper cover, pasting some left over pieces of watercolour on them.
Here’s a verse for nothing
To the way the world will be
Now we’re apart and alone
Mustn’t be unhappy
When you remember
Lovers never lose each other
Oh, such a lot to be learned
I realized that i wanted to give these drawings away. I first gave them to one of my best friends at the time, Iris. She returned them after a month or so. A few years later i gave them to another best friend, Femke. She returned them after a month or so as well. After that i kept these drawings. For a couple of years they were standing in a cabinet in my main room. I got them out of there late 2014. They had gotten my interest once again at that time.
The next Tuesday, 11 February 1986, i found myself in a record shop Haddock. There i finally bought the album Songs To Remember. Excited i biked back home. I could hardly wait to play my new record. When the final song played, The “Sweetest Girl”, for some reason i threw the I Ching. I got number 13 Fellowship with Man with a nine on the fifth place.
Life leads the thoughtful man on a path of many windings.
Now the course is checked, now it runs straight again.
Here winged thoughts may pour freely forth in words,
There the heavy burden of knowledge must be shut away in silence.
But when two people are at one in the inmost hearts,
They shatter even the strength of iron or of bronze.
And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts,
Their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids.
I remember sitting on the ground, reading these lines in the I Ching. I remember that i honestly believed these words. But also not. I mean, what did this mean? It was not that i could call Green up and say ‘hey lets come together‘. I didn’t know the man. These words confused me terribly. I couldn’t simply set them aside, but i also couldn’t act on them.
This moment of impossibility has stayed with me for the rest of my life. I think i have mentioned it once or twice to friends, but never really confessed what it had done to me. My life of course simply went along. In the end, the drawing of these drawings, the throwing of the I Ching, became a memory. Important, not sure what i should be doing with this, but still valuable.
I went to art school. I never regretted this. Not that i could pinpoint to other people the value of this, but i felt this was an important move for me. Not smart, no. But important.
In 1994 i decided to get a job. I didn’t really like the art world. Working seemed to me the most obvious plan.
In 1995 i got online. I started to play a muse. First Micromuse, then i started playing Windsmare. I only found this helptext. I don’t think it is online anymore.
In 1997 i started working on my own website, in my free time.
Scritti Politti was still my fave band. But it had turned quiet. I did do some research on the internet, so much smaller then. I found the Archeology of the Frivolous. I e-mailed with Erika. I went to London for a scritti get together. Fun!
In 1999 Anomie and Bonhomie was released. I enjoyed the new music. But the glory days were over, i could see that.
January 2006, there was strange news on the Yahoo group, then then current hangout for scritti fans. A gig? Double G and the Traitorous Three? Sorry? Green hadn’t played life for 25 years. I was assuming this was over and done with.
It turned out it was true. Blurry clips and images appeared afterwards. I asked in the group if there were any other Dutch people interested in going if there was a new gig announced. Marco and Ernst replied. And yes, 5 February 2006, The Luminaire was the next date. The three of us decided to go all out and fly up to London and back the next day early in the morning. No sleeping arrangements required.
I was nervous. I had never imagined i would actually meet Green. He was a firm resident of my imagination, an object of my fantasy, but that was it.
I never talked to him. I went two times more, one time in Amsterdam, another time in London once more, in the Scala. In Amsterdam me, Marco and Ernst ended up eating with the band and quite a few other fans after the gig. I remember talking with another fan, she said he was nice and all, but i couldn’t bring myself to talking. I didn’t know what to say. It felt so awkward. So i kept silent.
Apart from my talk with his girlfriend. She was nice. She asked me if i wanted to have my photo taken. Not sure about that, but she called him anyway.
I was sort of happy with this photo. It seemed to make it all real. A bit.
Over the next years i did keep up with Scritti. Marco, Ernst and myself had set up a website, bibbly-o-tek.com. John, from the United States, who had his own website with many scritti clips, had joined us.
I did stop working on my own website, lfs.nl. It was sitting there completely quiet. For eight years. It was hard to stop working, but i felt empty. Nothing came up, nothing i wanted to make, to express. I missed it. But it grew quiet in me over the years. Until it had almost disappeared from my mind.
I don’t know why i stopped making presents. It just sort of faded away. I’m glad i’m back. Source: Hey, October 13, 2014
I honestly didn’t know then that two weeks later i would be starting a new website, this one, on ellenpronk.com. A domain i had since 2010, which i initially wanted to use for work. But never finished a design for. In these two weeks i made the templates for wordpress, installed it, wrote an about page and made a new post, Hello World.
Since then i settled into a steady rhythm. In the first year i made several presents, but these have faded away. In May or June i started to sing songs i like, or love. In September i started to make video clips. I started to write posts about things that are important to me. Food. The world. My dreams. My wishes.
And yes, in one post i wrote about my drawings. The ones i had made almost thirty years before. I wanted to give these to Green. I was determined.
So yes, i was feeling a bit nervous when news about a new gig for 5 February 2016 was announced towards the end of 2015. Money was getting an issue then, so i had to be smart. I picked the cheapest way to travel, the bus, and the cheapest way to stay, via airbnb. I had my red dress, which i had bought the end of 2014 and never worn before. I had my black shoes with the zippers. I had my red nail polish Ecorce Sanguine from Chanel. I was ready!
I wrote about this evening here, on this website, in the post called Scritti Politti – Roundhouse, London – 5 February 2016. I was hesitant, waiting almost the entire evening. In the end i gave my drawings to him. I think he was a bit surprised. I also gave my e-mail address to him. And i mentioned that i had this website.
Now, eight months later, i still feel gloriously happy that i managed to do this. I know this is a very personal feeling, nobody else feels anything from this event. The world keeps on turning. Nothing changes. But still, this was something i had thought about ten years before, and i had decided then that it wasn’t something i could do. I had talked about this with friends, they advised me not to, and i went along with them. I kept it all hidden.
So yes, i gave away my drawings. Only three days before it was thirty years ago since i had made them, 8 February 1986 – 5 February 2016. And i still feel happy when i think about this. It is a very personal gift, i do know that. I’m not sure what Green thinks of them, but that is not my business anymore. These drawings are out there. Not in my possession anymore.
So yes, Scritti Politti is the best band in the entire world! Of all time! Absolute!
My life is better because of them. I know of course, in the end, it was all me. Me and my life. My choices. My dreams. My craziness. But we are all influenced by the people around us. Near and far. There are many other people and people’s work which had an impact on me. I picked Green as my main mentor. He didn’t know! He simply lived his own life, unaware of my action. There was love, yes. But looking back on it from this distance, it feels more like infatuation. I never dreamed of having sex with him, honestly. That was another part of me.
This part of my life, this part i had made myself, i truly love it.
Thank you Green, for being there.
Cupid & Psyche ’85
Early 90’s singles
Anomie and Bonhomie
Small official site: scritti.net
Scritti Politti Facebook page: Scritti Politti – Share The Love
Quiet blog about Scritti: bibbly-o-tek.com (yes, i’m one of the maintainers)
The Scritti Politti Workshop, old website with loads of articles and photos
Archeology of the Frivolous