I was in this bar, three quarters of a bottle down and still holding on. The guy three stools away from me folded over and hit the floor in slow motion, like an old building being torn down or a raddled old horse that someone had taken out and shot. No-one paid much attention, and the barman looked as if he'd seen this particular movie three or four times already that week. Looking down, I noticed the shoes of our comatose friend: lizard skin, pointed toes, the kind Tom Waits would appreciate. Can't argue with a righteous pair of shoes. Baggy black suit, silver ID chain on the left wrist, and a pool of malt liquor spreading from the bottle he'd taken down with him as he fell: "SOUR JAZZ," it said on the label. "Takes The Paint Off Your Deck."

Pushing down on the bar rail I straightened up and headed over to the jukebox, stepping carefully over the inert form of the guy taking the horizontal whiskey bath. I dropped a handful of silver slugs into the machine and punched up a few selections -- Who Are The Mystery Girls?, Sick Of You, Have Love Will Travel, Carbona Not Glue. The music snaked out of the huge bass speaker and hit me right in the gut, but the face on the bar room floor slept through it all -- oblivious, maybe, or maybe with just the beginnings of a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. I picked up the bottle from beside his head and went and sat back down.

"SOUR JAZZ," said the label, "New York City." Holding it up to the light I swilled around the four or five inches left inside, then knocked it all back in one, smacking the bottom of the bottle down hard on the mahogany bar and grinning as my chest contracted and the whole of my throat lit up like a forest fire. Takes the paint off your deck? They're not just whistling Dixie...

That stuff burned a hole clear down to my stomach as the music seemed to get louder and louder, calling up the sounds of the city, of every sleazy late-night gin-joint, the smoke and the traffic fumes and the stench of the men's room at CBGB's. Maybe the barman had cranked up the jukebox so that he could hear the Stooges just that little bit better, or maybe it just seemed that way as I spread my last few crumpled notes flat on the bar and ordered up a fresh bottle of SOUR JAZZ -- straight, no chaser -- and turned round to raise a toast to my unconscious benefactor with the razor-sharp footwear.

"Here's how, buddy," I said, pouring the best part of the new bottle down my throat, then keeled straight over backwards and went out like a light.

SOUR JAZZ -- what else do you need?

-- Max Decharne