It has been a dreadful term.
Where usually I eventually adapt back to the reality of work after our adventures elsewhere, this time, the gulf between the excitement of the book launch – that mad week in London: being on the radio, playing the piano with one of my favourite pop stars, all of it, etched something into my spirit that cannot be erased, a chasm unbridgeable.
But reality is reality. Changes are not always easy to make. You have to count your blessings, and not be reckless, nor dangerously throw away hard earned privileges in a fit of hedonistic, childish yearnings to be a scribe and sybarite : you have to work, to pay the bills.
Still, it is gratifying and liberating (and amusingly subversive, actually), to have stumbled upon a fantastic little club – the Gabana Latin Lounge – in the building right next door to company headquarters, in the basement ; a whole world away and yet so close ; from classroom to dance floor in just a few anticipating minutes.
This time we invited our friends down from Tokyo – and they loved it; the naive unpretentiousness of it all; all ages practicing their salsa and moves in line formation, but then ceding the space in waves for Prince, rare groove, funk and ZZ Top – , all kinds of stuff, a velvet buzzsaw of a blender, Stevie Wonder : I shook offthe mildew of the compression chamber, the shackles of ‘education’ and just danced (like a maniac ) with friends and strangers, the pulse of the music like pomegranates splitting open to reveal the corpuscles of a beating heart : what you might call escapism : what I call life.
In the bathroom they have a bottle of Jazz.
I remember. When Yves Saint Laurent first released its monument to tense masculinity, at the end of the eighties, it was in a different bottle to the museum piece Classic Collection reliquary seen above ( expensive, now, it has been brought back and given vintage classic status; generous to leave such a scent for sweaty dancers to spruce themselves at will like that, I think – in the UK it wouldn’t last five minutes)…… The crisp, brutalist fougere that was the original incarnation – though this new version smells very similar; clarified perhaps, less fuzzy; one of the few perfumes that would make me ANGRY as a teenager : like Charlton Heston, who similarly represented some form of clench fisted manlihood I loathed and rejected from the pituitary gland to the blood, I had an actual phobia of this scent; would grimace and moan when I came into contact with it ( you can imagine I wasn’t an easy adolescent: struggling with my society/imposed inner demons), but this philistinic savage of a muscled devil – mindless, materialistic, mulleted, Miami-Viced, felt truly representative of that era’s Transatlantic politics : homophobic (oh, how it reasserted the caveman’s right to wield and smash the bonehead club); to me, as pop schismed into Indie vs Mainstream, this intrusive, and spiritually invasive, ‘aftershave’ was like an era’s bullying national anthem.
I never liked the division. The goths and indie kids just seemed ridiculous to me; wan, painfully self-conscious as they shuffled, shoe gazing at the floor in their complying death makeup and uniforms: I tried half heartedly for a while, but didn’t fit in. And yet at the Ritzy nightclub, or whatever it was called, in the center of town, under the strobe lights it was even worse; like existing only on potato crisps and Twix bars; junk,; tacky, Sharon and Tracy in their gleaming white shoes reeking of Impulse or Exclamation! : while ‘Kevin’, shirtsleeves rolled up, had doused himself, gelled backperm slip-ons; meat-market aggressive, in Johnny Hates Jazz.
I can’t possibly tell you how much I loathed this perfume. Only Tsar, Dunhill, and, later, Safari vyed for my teenage contempt – a migraine of the soul every time we mutually came into contact. It made me scream.
Smelling Jazz again the other night – where, ironically, some of those same songs were still playing, over three decades later – I realize that to the new generation, this well-regarded composition probably just smells gentlemanly, stately; with little of the action-movie wisecracking and granite-jawed thuggery I inherently associated with the perfume the second I smelled it thirty years ago. Perhaps this is because, if only in terms of ingredient quality, Jazz smells so much more expertly blended and elegant than much of the commercial, chemical dreck aimed at the young man today ( in a fight between this and Sauvage, say, I would certainly be egging on Jazz, even happily spearing the latter through the heart with a Poison-tipped bayonet to do the world a favour). As with its musical namesake, I now feel that Jazz has a looseness, a joviality, that I was too young, flinching and new, to appreciate at the time of its release :: when it felt, to a sensitive chrysalis of a gay boy, like an existential threat.
9 responses to “JAZZ by YVES SAINT LAURENT (1988)”
Ritzy, successor to the Samson and Hercules?
Was it? I like the sound of the latter much better !
Beautifully written piece, Neil, as always. Funny how context can change how we perceive a fragrance. Many of those 80s brutes are now well-deserved classics.
I know !
I mean I also have an inner brute – Azzaro, Ungaro, Kouros – but at that precise moment in time I don’t know, Jazx just summed up everything I hated. Are you a fan?
I smelled it there from the bottle, but couldn’t quite bring myself to spray any of it on….
I am a fan, Neil. I’m a sucker for many of those alpha male 80s fragrances. Not because I’m an alpha male wannabe, ha ha, but because they were so bold and risky.
Were they ?
Kouros definitely. Actually I do remember Jazz also having a new kind of clout: and the girls were going apeshit over it
My Dad no longer uses his old aftershaves and fragrances. He stored them away in a box for years. There were some real classics, including one called Nine Flags :Brazil from a long-ago company called Colton. But my favourite of the bunch was something from the late 70s called Paul Sebastian Fine Cologne. It is just so nicely blended. I think it’s still available, probably reformulated, though. A lot of his brute- force, powerhouse aftershaves I mix with walnut oil, which I use as a hair oil.
I sometimes find old fragrances at street markets here in São Paulo, things like Bandit and Femme and Tabac Blond. I don’t know if it’s the exposure to sun and heat, but any note that was once supposed to have been feminine, seems to have faded away over time and the remaining notes have become alpha male–at least to my nose. My old bottle of Femme smells like petroleum with just the slightest bit of peach. I love it!
I know all about the trouble readjusting to real life after a trip. I’m struggling too.
Where did you go ?
In my case it wasn’t just the trip itself but living this ‘writer’s life’ and then just finding myself exactly back where I was before : the realization has made me suffocate
Ps : love this walnut oil hair idea