The Big Issue : Edition 458
THEBIGISSUE9–22MAY2014 13 RAZER PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND(RAZER)ANDALANATTWOOD(RICKY) Farewelling Jezebel Autumn on Auto » Helen Razer (@helenrazer) is a writer and The Big Issue’s favourite mouthy alpha-punk – with heart. “At 22, I understood humility about as well as I understood calculus. Which is to say, it was something difficult and of use only rarely.” MY MEMORY, FOR the most part, is pretty fuzzy. It’s not that I repress the past with the weight of regret. I reckon it’s more that the weight of the past gets a little too hefty to carry into the future. So, I pack it into a select number of lightweight boxes for ease of storage and find that the mildew of time nibbles at the edges. For most of us, memory sustains damage from the moment it is stacked away and the fuzz devours detail. So my memory, for the most part, is pretty fuzzy, but nothing sharpens it so much as the sure knowledge that a particular morsel of it can never be revisited. Last Wednesday, when a cherished old pal called me, one of those old storage tubs just upturned itself for scrutiny. My friend, a chap called Mikey Robins, called me to say, “Jezebel is dead” and a thousand odds-and-ends, now 20 years old, revealed themselves in my forty-something present. ‘Jezebel’ was the terrible name we gave to a man called Gerry Caulfield. Kind to a fault and risible to the end, Jez was assigned the not-entirely-enviable task of teaching two amateurs in their twenties how to make radio. He was older than us and had worked in proper, grown-up broadcasting for years. We dressed and talked like shitty little punks and he wore nothing but promotional T-shirts accrued during his professional lifetime in radio. Every weekday morning, Mikey would make a crack about Jez’s fondness for acid-wash and every weekday morning, Jez would laugh like a drain. “Talk about how shitty I look!” he’d tell us when we were still green and grappling for good material. And we’d do an entire segment called ‘Fashion with Jezebel’ where we assassinated the man’s wardrobe and gave him an imaginary mullet that was held aloft with the stale sweat of a Midnight Oil roadie and finished with glitter. Here was a man with three kids, a divorce and the stinking, unsteady business of commercial radio already behind him and two young alpha-punks pretty sure they knew everything in front of him. At 22, I understood humility about as well as I understood calculus. Which is to say, it was something difficult and of use only rarely. Jez taught me radio basics with great patience but he also taught me, by dint of example, that humility builds a good person just as surely as calculus builds bridges. Or, you know, whatever calculus does. When you’re young and mouthy and you have a public platform and a pay packet, there’s no real reason to improve as a human. I resisted all counsel in those early 1990s except that which came from Jez. I remember that he asked me how I would be spending the weekend and I said, “I’ll be working on my comic timing”. “Your timing is fine,” he said. “Why not work on a life?” Naturally, I said, “Why don’t you work on fucking off, Oprah?” and he laughed. But he persisted in telling me the most important thing in life was never work. It was always love. He took me into the booth one day and made me listen to Crowded House, a band not sufficiently punk for our radio station. Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you, he sang in perfect harmony with Neil Finn. And everywhere I went through the years, I found the same weather. There’s a suburban sunset quality to that song I once dismissed as hackneyed. But that was because I was young with neither humility nor love. If only I’d developed them a bit sooner, I might have saved myself years of running from the persistent weather of my own devising. I saw Neil Finn earlier this year and cried like the baby I had not allowed myself to be at 22. I thought of Jez and said, “Time to call the old acid-wash!” Three weeks later, Mikey called. He’s an enormous pussycat and we both cried a storm of weather. Everywhere we go, we’ll always take Jezebel. However we pack the boxes of memory, he’ll be there.