Ray Shackleford lives in the ruins of the idealistic 1960s. Veteran of failed garage bands, working as a repairman of stereo equipment and tending the dying embers of his marriage, Ray dreams of bygone days and the music that almost was. When he finds the music he dreams of has been mysteriously recorded by his tape deck, Ray is drawn into the past, to revisit the histories of Hendrix, Morrison and the Beatles... along with the history of Ray Shackleford. Vividly recreating a lost era that might have been, GLIMPSES fuses the hopes and dreams in the music with a powerful vision of reality.
Winner 1994 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel
Winner 1993 Violet Crown Award for Best Novel (Austin Writer's League)
Also by Lewis Shiner on obooko: Black & White; Frontera; Deserted Cities of the Heart;
Dark Tangos; Say Goodbye; SLAM
Once upon a time there was going to be a Beatles album called Get Back. They tried to record it in January of 1969, first at Twickenham Film Studios, then in the basement of Apple Corps at 3 Savile Row. Their own overpriced 24-track dream studio wasn’t finished and they had to bring in a mobile unit. So there they were, under bright lights, using rented gear, with cameras filming every move they made.
Paul had this idea he could turn things around. He wanted to get back to the kind of material the band did in ’61 and ’62, at the Kaiserkeller in Hamburg and the Cavern Club in Liverpool. It must have seemed like another century to them, looking back. They tried to warm up with Chuck Berry standards and “One After 909,” something of John’s from when he was 17. But it was winter and snowy and cold. The sound stage echoed and the basement was cramped. It just wasn’t happening.
That summer they would try again, and this time it would work, and they would come away with Abbey Road. The tapes from the other sessions would end up with Phil Spector, who would overproduce the liv-ing Jesus out of them to make them sound alive and finally they would come out as Let It Be.
The new title pretty much says it all. Between winter and summer everything changed. Paul married Linda, John married Yoko, and Allen Klien took over Apple. By then it was too late to get back, ever again.
My father died not quite two weeks ago. I can say the words but they don’t seem to mean anything or even matter much. My mind goes blank. So I think about other things. I put Let It Be on the stereo and wonder what it would sound like if things had been different.
Music is easy. It isn’t even that important what the words say. The real meaning is in the guitars and drums, the way a record sounds. It’s a feel-ing that’s bigger than words could ever be. A guy named Paul Williams said that, or something close to it, and I believe it’s true.
I’ve been in Dallas with my mother, straightening out the VA insurance, helping her write a form letter to send out instead of a Christmas card, answering the phone, getting Dad’s name off the bank account, a million little things that can bleed you dry. Now I’m home again in Austin trying to make sense of it.
It’s November of 1988. The old man died right before Thanksgiving, a hell of a thing. He was scuba diving in Cozumel, which he was too old for, with my mother along for the ride. He used to teach anthropology at smu but since he retired all he wanted to do was dive. My wife and I flew up to Dallas to meet my mother’s plane as she came back alone, looking about a hundred years old. She had him burned down there in Mexico, brought a handful of ashes with her in a ziplock bag. Elizabeth came home that weekend and I stayed up there ten days, all I could stand. Then I drove back here in his white gmc pickup truck, my inheritance. The inside still smells like him, sweat and polyester and old Fritos.
Anyway, it’s 1988 and it was just last year that they finally released all the Beatles’ albums on cd, making a big deal out of how it was the 20th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper. It was like everybody had forgotten about the sixties until we had this nationwide fit of nostalgia. Suddenly every station on the radio has gone to some kind of oldies format, and they’re playing the same stuff over and over again that you haven’t heard in 20 years, and now you’re sick to death of “Spirit in the Sky” and “In the Year 2525” all over again. Tie-dyed T-shirts are back and bands that should never have been together in the first place have reunion tours and everybody shakes their heads over how dumb and idealistic they used to be.