I first heard Nightporter whilst listening to the Top 40 on Radio 1 one Sunday evening. It was sandwiched incongruously between Supertramp and Dionne Warwick. The elegant simplicity and lack of clutter in the sound created space in my head. Everything else seemed clattering and brash by comparison; it was uniquely at odds with the world.
I went into town the following Saturday with my mate, and bought the single. It was already slipping away from the chart and had been remaindered. My copy still has the faint, felt-tipped x on the cover that indicated it had been marked down.
After town we went up the hill that lay behind where we lived. We were at an age where we still attempted to enjoy the things that had made us happy as children, but somehow they were no longer satisfying. Although we had been friends since childhood, increasingly we irritated each other. My mate abruptly decided he was going home. I recall him walking off, stopping, turning round and looking back at me, silhouetted against the grey, lowering sky. In the twilight I couldn’t see his expression. He turned again and walked away.
At home later, I played the record. The sound expanded to fill the room; the world outside receded. The dolorous piano notes were like stones dropped singly into a still pool, rippling melancholy, loneliness and languor. I studied the cover. A photograph rendered in charcoal and silver depicted a figure sitting in half light by a window. I imagined this to be the Nightporter, alone, marking time.
As an adult I have realised that the song is more nuanced; that solitude is used as a foil for completeness; that the Nightporter’s yearning and ennui in the quiet town where life gives in is matched with sensuality so intense it is voluptuous – the lovers cocooned in the width of a room that can hold so much pleasure inside; the rain temporarily keeping the world at bay; the indulgence all the more acute because it is so fleeting.
Nightporters slip away.