BUCKS FIZZ – “My Camera Never Lies”
Tom • FT + Popular • Pop • 34 comments • 2,655 views
#498, 17th April 1982
“The Land Of Make Believe” was a good song made mysterious by its muffled production; “My Camera Never Lies” is an ordinary song with an arrangement that bristles and shines like a Swiss Army Knife. Unusually, it’s a record almost entirely carried by its backing vocals – all that jittery “ma-ca-muh-ruh-ruh” stuff which gradually takes over the whole track (to be replaced with more conventional harmonies, and children’s voices considerably creepier than the one at the end of “Make Believe”).
The result is jumpy, slightly desperate, annoying in repeated doses, but surprisingly effective. It’s like Bucks Fizz, aware their fame is running out, are trying to cram all of new wave and new pop into a single supercompressed hybrid, halfway between Devo and Dollar.
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#1: An incident: Baby
Jim and I are being very very good to each other these days, not that we aren't ordinary decent people who've lived together for fifty years in reasonable contentment. They say that sex keeps young couples together, habit the middle-aged and mutual dependence the old, but I've noticed that most marriages most of the time need some of all three. We're like most. What happened just nineteen days ago is that a coyote killed our Baby.
Baby was born in our house to a visiting cat. A friend who was temporarily homeless by her own temperamental choice (Isn't the wife always the last to know?) had brought along her pregnant part-Persian to the refuge we offered for a couple of months while she calmed down and her husband got smart. We long ago lost track of spitfire Julia and tomcat George and their pets, but Baby stayed with us because we needed her.
We hadn't known our need. We weren't pet people--all that mess, those complicated arrangements when you take a trip, the eternal responsibility. We have no children, although we always thought we wanted two when the time was right. It never was.
But that helpless Baby! That heart-stirring little actress, that perfect kitten! We bought a camera. We named her Cleo. Her baby book has a hundred snapshots, but only the first six legends use her real name. Then the big album takes over. We logged her first purr, her blue eyes' opening, her first wobbles on four limbs, her first claws.
Wildlife left our neighborhood years ago--we supposed. Hawks, owls, foxes disappeared as rabbits, rats, moles and mice left. Skunks still hang around, but they never hurt anything so far as I can see and seldom shoot their scent guns. Mocking birds imitate car alarms, not quail. All else died out or retreated to the still-undeveloped canyon a mile away. We didn't know how adaptable Mr. Coyote is and how alert. He must have observed Baby's habits for many days. I like to get up early and so did Baby. She slept in our bed. One of us would stir or stretch. She headed for the flap-covered door hole, I for a robe and the coffee pot. Our morning conversation began when she came in to tell me the news. Absolutely the best part of the day. I brushed her, she stroked me with paws and tail. Sometimes we sang duets of hum and purr.
Like any cat, Baby tried to hunt. She had to pretend that moths and butterflies and lizards and our offerings of springy toys were real feline prey. The live things were uncatchable, the artificial all too easy. But she had never had to learn much defense: she knew her territory; she had a love-hate attitude of toleration to suitors who showed up even though she was spayed; she kept dogs off by acting tough (only Jim and I knew how tough she wasn't). Although we always called her in for the night with a routine including half a sardine, we had never wanted to limit her freedom by over-protection. We saw freedom as necessary to her catness.
That morning was foggy, I smelled skunk as soon as I woke up. Maybe a skunk had bumped into another one in the mist and they'd had a fight. Skunks are nearly blind. But our Baby was sharp-eyed and should have seen the coyote. I know she would have smelled him if skunk odor hadn't outstunk all else.
I wish I knew just how that damned little wolf caught Baby. I'll never know what told me something was terribly wrong. I got to the door too late to see anything more than a coyote racing for the park with Baby's head in his mouth. Hopeless, Jim and I still had to comb the chaparral. We tried for three days before we gave up. Nothing. Nothing at all but a forsaken old couple.
#2: An incident: Junior High
"Whatever you're ashamed of makes a good story", says one of Scott Fitgerald's characters. If she's right I have plenty of material for a writing assignment, but I've never been a story-teller so we'll call this an incident. It happened long ago. What makes it seem significant is that I haven't forgotten it.
I was in seventh grade, my first year in a huge four-story school a long way from home territory, after five years of being in a school of about 150 children with one principal and eight friendly young teachers, close enough to walk home for a lunch of hot vegetable soup, cold milk in a glass and sugar cookies. I was continually in a mental fog, barely able to find my half-dozen different classrooms or the girls' lavatory. The school had a library with a librarian instead of the few story books on the windowsill of each classroom at Harland Elementary, books which a quick and diligent child could help herself to when she had finished her worksheets. Some teachers would assign projects to be carried out in part in the library; I couldn't find that library and wasn't brave enough to ask anyone where it was. I couldn't have found the lunch cafeteria if I hadn't followed the noontime stampede. Then behind everyone else, I hardly knew what food I was taking or where to put my tray to try to eat it or what to do with the change from my quarter. Though the change was important, the food wasn't. I can't remember one thing the cooks served or once having any appetite.
The class was English, I think. The assignment may have been to write a book report every two weeks, may not. I had doodled and daydreamed away my boredom through every class period. I suppose that I must have had some inkling of what was going on and managed to ignore it, but one day I woke up to hear our teacher, now nameless and faceless, say "Your notebooks are due this week. Lay them on my desk before you leave on Friday." I observed no consternation; probably I showed none. But this couldn't be happening.
I suppose that I thought of myself as a "good student." I knew that I had such a reputation, brought with some mild deserving from Harland. I had skipped two half grades. I had always raised my hand to answer questions. I didn't whisper in class. I respected property. I wrote form-perfect book reports. How could this person do anything so disreputable as fail to carry out an assignment? How much my good reputation derived from the fact that my unusual French surname of Creys was also that of my distant cousin, a respected, well-known and highly opinionated school administrator, I barely suspected at the time, but that bare suspicion was enough to make me cringe at the thought of disgrace. The only alternative was deceit.
Cowardice won what was hardly a contest--honesty defaulted. The means was simple. Another student might not get away with it but I knew I could, just as surely as I knew that I could not tell a literal lie. Somewhere I found a blank two-hole notebook. On Friday I laid it on the teacher's desk. In the after-class confusion of pupils filing out I picked it up again. On Monday the inevitable question, "Mary Louise Creys, where's your notebook?" I gave my planned answer, "I laid it on your desk Friday." There may have been more questions. I didn't know the word for it then but I invented the technique--I stone-walled. Successfully, worse luck for my moral future.
Gradually that fog lightened, though I can see little more through it now than a miserable sneaky kid, whom I recognize too clearly, too too close.