The Jesus Bolt: Essoldo In Lights

Jesus BoltThe Jesus Bolt: Essoldo In Lights – video premiere and the story behind the song…

plus the previous one, Permanent Record.. 

The Jesus Bolt are Hazel Winter and Gerard Starkie.  Basically, two of the best songwriters in the UK – formerly members of Blue Aeroplanes and Witness. The follow up to The Kid Got Electric album, entitled Machine Gun Nest is out in September.  Hazel also directs great videos to go with her bands key songs in which clues to the back story are enacted.

Ged Babey talks to Winter about the two new songs and their video adaptations.

A lot of the Jesus Bolt songs are about memories and shadows.

Essoldo In Lights is a curious title.  I had never heard of the Essoldo Cinema chain which was active in the UK from the 1930s to the 1970s. They were known for their luxurious interiors and high-quality projection and sound equipment. I only had Odeon and ABC’s locally.

If you listen to the song and watch the video first, you might agree that, although it’s enjoyable, you are left wanting to know more about the background or the back-story.

It’s located in what seems to be a Northern or mining town.  The late sixties, perhaps early seventies seems to be the time frame.  Cinema and childhood: Arabian Knights and Pinocchio. An usherette with a beehive and Biba blue eye-shadow. But a sinister ‘Child Catcher’ figure…  Have a listen/watch… see what you think.

If you don’t want full exposition click away now.

(Hazel Winter) I had all these memories of going to the Essoldo cinema in the 60’s and 70’s and how thrilling it was. Walking along Crossgate Moor, where we lived, down Redhill’s Lane with the view of the cathedral and the medieval city down below, then onto North Rd to The Essoldo, which was a huge gothic Mining Hall which in the 60’s had a neon flashing light saying ‘Essoldo’. It was like entering some impossibly magical fairyland.

At home we only had a little black and white TV, so seeing films on a big screen, in colour, with what then seemed like a massive sound system, was stupidly exciting.

Unless I’ve imagined it, there was a bloke who used to play the organ at the front before the show and he and his organ would sort of rise up from underground and play, wreathed in fag smoke, then slowly sink back down. There was a particular smell of smoke and popcorn and the musty smell from the chairs which had ashtrays on the back of them.

We saw all the early Walt Disney movies like Snow White and Bambi, and as the song started to come, I started writing down memories I had.

My poor big sister taking a little fish and chip queue of smaller kids to see Pinocchio, and one of the lads (who obviously had a guilty conscience) becoming hysterical when the naughty boys grew donkey ears and having to be taken to reception to have his mum phoned. My sister was endlessly cross that she never got to see Pinocchio all the way through.

She got clobbered going to illicitly watch an X rated ‘Enter The Dragon’ when she was a teenager. She got into so much trouble (we were Methodists… we didn’t do things like that).

Fifty years later she asked me to own up. She’d thought for all those years that I’d grassed on her (I hadn’t).

Jesus Bolt

Then that thing happened when you’re doing something creative, and it boots off tangentially and veers you in a direction you hadn’t expected. And I realised I kept coming back to remembering the usherette.

She was this beautiful woman who was a fixture of my childhood and early adolescence. She was murdered in 1976 walking home after the late showing. Durham is tiny so we all knew her. And we knew the bloke who did it. It wasn’t some goblin from the silver screen, some alien monster. He was just a bloke. His family ran a well-known business in town, and he’d gone to my school.

I was 14 at the time. The scariest thing I’d encountered up until that point had been Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The details of what happened to this woman were widely broadcast and they were devastating.

As the song appeared, I chatted to old friends and family in Durham and everyone remembered what had happened all those years ago but when I put Essoldo Murder in Google, nothing came up. Quite a lot of people were aware that it had been vanished off the internet. So, Starkie and I went to the reference library in Durham and searched through the old microfiche. It took hours but we found the newspaper clippings. And there she was. Her name was Angela Mawson. There was a photo of her, looking just as I remembered.

We traced her final walk from the cinema to The Sands, where she was murdered, on the outskirts of town by the old graveyard. There were only a couple of routes she could have taken It would have been well lit through the city centre, but more secluded and darker down by The Sands. She nearly made it home. The bloke who killed her ‘pretended’ to discover her body behind the graveyard wall and called the police the next morning. After he’d given a statement, the police became suspicious. The details of the assault were so atrocious he was sectioned. Apparently, he was quietly released a few years later.

 Jesus Bolt

Watch the video again and it puts a whole new, more satisfying perspective on it.

Like the Chris Broderick/Stuart Turner album And One Red Mitten, the focus of the song is on the main character not as a victim, but as someone whose life was important and visible to the children of the small town.

Essoldo in Lights is a study of childhood innocence and joy and imagination – and how everyday horror can shatter it.

Durham and its mining heritage is represented by footage shot at the recent Gala and family cine film shot by the Winter sisters late father included to remember him and warm childhood memories.

The Usherette is played by actor Megan Eliza Ley Curtis,  a great understated debut performance and the house with its sunburst orange wallpaper belonged to her grandparents.  Her mum Vic (who worked on costume/make-up/hair design) told me.

Mum died in 2012 and Dad died in February so I’m very pleased the house is being immortalised as it is, before it’s sadly sold. The mirror in the make- up scenes is my mums. She was so beautiful… everyone said she could have been a film star, but she raised four kids instead, and for Megan to have this role, is a tribute to her and all her loving care. It’s filmed from the exact spot both my parents died and I was born, which is kind of poetic. 

Hazel is such an all-round creative and brilliant film-maker. Gerard made a great child catcher!

He is a knight in shining armour in the Jesus Bolts other video for Permanent Record -also from the forthcoming album but a lighter piece – based on memories from later in Hazels life – but also where a man seems to fuck things up with deceit.

The concept for the video is (obviously) Botichelli’s The Birth of Venus (someone explained to me) … and a good excuse for Winter to fearlessly get naked and unashamed in the name of art.  (Her online male musician friends seemed to be more interested in the make and model of the guitar used to cover her modesty than the blow struck for veteran feminist freedom of expression…)

The song was inspired by…

My partner-at-the-time’s mates were running a Karaoke in a crowded pub and got me up to do a song with this woman who he was having an affair with. Which they all knew but I didn’t . The song was “ Venus” by Shocking Blue . It was decades ago so I’m serving this particular dish up cold.

and the video…

Slightly miffed at being so magnificently upstaged by the goat. Which was pregnant at the time , adding a soupçon of horror to proceedings . I spend a lot of time on my allotment on the City Farm so having an opportunity to film Starkie dressed in armour getting pulled around the site by a large pregnant goat was a bonus.

jesus Bolt

The Jesus Bolt album Machine Gun Nest is out 29 September 2023. 

Sat, 30 Sept 2023 –The Jesus Bolt album launch is at La Ruca 89 Gloucester Rd, Bristol BS7 8AS

Jesus Bolt Website

Jesus Bolt Bandcamp

All words Ged Babey except where italicized

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