Yella Yella Vs Muuuurrrrrr…
‘Have you heard, Morrisey and Johnny Marr have buried the hatchet. There’s a chance they may reform the Smiths next year!’
‘…Great. Just fucking great. Kick me in the bollocks, would you? It’d save time.’
‘Seriously, what IS your problem with The Smiths?’
‘They’re…They’re just…EVIL! They spread unrighteous emoistic tendencies amongst the young via the spirit of Murrrr.. They are without Yella Yella!’
‘Sorry, what? Spirit of Murrrr..? Yalla Yalla?’
‘Yeah, man! YELLA YELLA!’
‘Explain this one to me, will you?’…….
Cairo, Egypt. 2005. I’m wandering about town after doing a couple of shows at the International Festival of Theatre. The heat and my refusal to sleep have left me in a state of delirium. It’s mid afternoon, my capacity to deal with my travelling companions is zero now and I’ve left them back at the hotel. The Belly-Dancing club I’ve made my midnight home won’t be opening for a few hours yet. I’ve picked up the name ‘Gringo Loco!’ amongst the natives and have found a simple wolf-whistle will get me a cab at anytime, but there’s nowhere to really go during the day. I’ve made a sort of girlfriend who sings showtunes after Belly Dancer has been on every night, but her faith won’t allow us to get hammered and snog like perfectly reasonable trouble-makers, so we have to spend time making polite conversation with no physical contact at all. You try and not have ‘inappropiate thoughts’ with someone who keeps bending over, sucking drinks through a straw with eyes like smouldering chocolate pools of forbidden desire whilst wearing a third of her clothes in the blazing heat. My only option is to keep well away. And think clean thoughts, chum. The local cinema is showing translations of Disney movies into Arabic.
Bored, frankly, is not the word.
Then I remember that some of the guys in the band I’ve made friends with, they play whilst the belly dancer gyrates, they gave me a list of tunes they would play to keep themselves entertained. They even got a mate to translate them into English too so I’d be able to ask for them, rather than worry that the words on the paper actually read ‘Tourist with some money. Sell him some one track CD-R for £10!’ Good guys! They even let me keep time on a table a couple of nights, and drink free. It was probably the cartoons I drew of the Belly Dancer that I gave to them that swayed the deal. If you’re wondering, imagine Red Monika. If you don’t know who Red Monika is, do yourself a favour and don’t use your girlfriend’s computer to Google her.
Yes, she really looked like that.
With a wolf whistle, mein cab did approach. After a bit of gesturing and each of us falling like a wounded dog through the other’s languages, he worked out what I was after. Oddly, he patted the front seat and said.
‘I sit here?’
‘You..music? Music…Music LIKE!?’
‘Me like music? Music GOOD! Yes!’
‘Ah..you know Yella Yella?!’
With a grin like the smile of God and his arms spread out and waving his hands, he said again:
Which scared the fuck out of me, considering he was driving a car through downtown Cairo at the time.
‘Hear..ah, Listen? Listen, yes?’
And then he started beat-boxing, and quite delibrately left a space in the beat and kept pointing at me. After a while, I worked it out, and as the beat came around, said:
I thought he was going to kill me.
He stopped the car, did the beat again and raised his hands with a hopeful look in his eyes as he did it again.
Cue that grin of God again.
And we kept doing this til we were both smiling, he pulled out a billion instruments from his dashboard and played them at once as he drove, smacking out the beat on the steering wheel, chucking some horn with strings made of God knows what my way and getting me to play, no matter what as long as it hit the beat and one of us could shout ‘YELLA YELLA!’ in time.
This must have gone on for hours, or possibly minutes. I couldn’t really tell you But I can honestly that was one of the greatest and most enlightening times of my life. I don’t know how many rules of Egyptian conduct I broke, but at the end of it, we hugged, me with tears in my eyes, Looking face to face, we both said ‘Yella Yella, man!’ I went off to buy my CDs. He flew off on his cosmic cab of righteousness. I like to think he’s still out there, spreading the love to confused tourists as I type and you read.
But I’ve not met many Yellaists since, most tend to be Joe Strummer fans, since he made reference to the phrase on one of his Mescaleros albums. It’s hard to quantify, I think. It’s the spirit of the mad and joyous. The righteous who know it’ll be better one day, as long as we forge forward with love. Yella Yella is making the best of who we are, who we’re with, regardless of what we’ve got. The world weary happy laugh that empathises when your mates fall down and you’re there to pick them up. Pissing on a branch of Natwest in the middle night seems to bring forth Yellaness. As do giggly blondes. The smell of spliff at festivals, too.
Things/Bands/People that seem to eptiomise ‘Yella Yella’:
The Pogues, Primal Scream, Leftfield, Bob Marley, Oasis, Oliver Reed, John Lydon, Richard Harris, Hunter S. Thompson, Steve Jones, The Clash/Mescarleros, The Happy Mondays, The Chemical Brothers, Lee Perry, The Pipettes. Johnny Cash on the album ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’, Lester Bangs, The Jam but NOT From The Jam, The comic ‘Kill Your Boyfriend’. Pretty much anything by Garth Ennis, but especially Dicks and Preacher. Jimmy Cliff, The Donnas, Bernard Black, Joy Division, The Faces, The Mighty Boosh, Iggy Pop, The Big Lebowski may be the eptiome of Yellaism. Him or Sir Keef of Richards. The last scene in the film ‘Coffee & Cigarettes’ defines Yella Yella perfectly.
And then there’s ‘Murrr..’
Songs in the key of Murrr. Worse, Life in the key of Murrr.. Pessimism confused with realism. A state of utter depression that many overeducated teenagers and people in their early 20s grow into. Goths are obviously the likeliest candidates, though not always. It’s that point where Marvin The Paranoid Android starts to make sense as a potential role model. Everything is probably shit in the world of Murr. It’s a place I’ve been where not only are some things a bit grim, but EVERYTHING is a turd in the mouth just waiting to happen. And it’s a lot easier to live, hoping for nothing. As Sophie Ellis-Bextor once sung: ‘A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed.’ Murr…ists tend to hold themselves like a cross between Kevin The Teenager and Lurch from The Addams Family.
A smug ‘I told you so’ when things go wrong,. Misery as a lifestyle choice. And this is what Murr…is. It’s all life viewed with Richey Manic circa ‘The Holy Bible’ writing the script, Marvin The Paranoid Android as narrator and Morrisey as Greek chorus. It sees hope as a stupid idea for the naive and new friends as someone else you’ll have get around to watching die one day. The Murr..point is that there is no point.
Yella is not, I think, about pretending to be happy when you’re not. It’s having the bollocks to try and fight through that misery, to be sitting on that park bench with a can and a fag with a dirty smile in your eye when all common sense says you should lie down and die now. It’s Simon Pegg walking on a broken ankle at the end of ‘Run, Fatboy, Run.’ It’s about trying to build up the good memories. Knowing you’re going to die one day, and having as much as a laugh, spreading as much joy, talking as much bollocks, finding as many people you can hug, quite possibly thinking watching The Pipettes singing Christmas Carols is a great thing.
The hunting of as many astounding, humourous and heartbreaking experiences as is possible to have in one life.
So stop reading now, ring a mate, go to the pub, go to a cafe, go to the park. Give them a hug and take your masks off. Listen to what your voice sounds like without pretension. You might like it.
Yella FUCKING YELLA!
The Filthy Orphan.
WARNING: Embracing of Yella Yella may lead to: saying ‘man’ a lot at the end of sentences, honest conversations, drinking alcohol from cans, listening to music without any guitars being played, sex with consenting adults, public enjoyment, laughing out loud, crying with joy at the luck you have by having great friends, people in authority may seem slighly foolish, not taking television or newspapers seriously and general ‘loosening up’ of self. You may find yourself not caring if people agree with every word you say. Hats may be bought. The ability to walk around like you have a stick rammed up your bum may diminish greatly. As may the likelihood of taking yourself seriously. Some hugging may ensue.