Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Making plans for Nigel

The John Taylor autobiography then. My girlfriend brought it into the house a month or so ago. I thought I'd pick it up and have a look out of curiosity. I'm in no way a fan of Duran Duran (save for the odd track. And not Save a Prayer, either) but I thought it'd be handy to have a laugh at, especially as he's sucking his cheeks in as much as his bandmate, Le Bon, ever did on the jacket photograph.
On first viewing I put it down pretty quickly, like it was burning hot, because, as a child, he wanted to know why his parents didn't spend an extra £600 on a nicer house on the other side of the road where he was raised. That had me screaming "Because in those days £600 was a fortune, you materialistic get!" So I put the book down and vowed not to pick it up again.
Anyway, while listening to Matthew Rudd's Q the 80s show on Sunday night I was reminded of the book when he played Duran Duran's second single, Careless Memories. So yesterday I thought I'd bestow the mighty honour of making In the Pleasure Groove by John Taylor my toilet book of choice.

Where to start? The flap on the inside cover perhaps? "In his frank, compelling autobiography John recounts the high points - hanging out with icons like Bowie, Warhol and even James Bond" Bit of a problem there, James Bond is a fictional character. Unless he means spending time with a bloke whose real name is James Bond, in which case that's not really impressive as the only famous James Bond is a fictional spy.

So because of the £600 incident I decided to skip his childhood and get to the bit where he's started playing the guitar and forming bands. To say it's been ghostwritten with a professional writer, even someone as inexpert as me can see the prose is terrible:
"Standing in front of my classmates, holding this weapon [a Telecaster copy], all the rules changed. I was no longer nerdy Nigel...I was the bomb"
"Music was moving on and we were moving with it. We were the zeitgeist"
"We retreated to the room above the toy shop and plotted our revenge"
"Inevitably the parties would meet; there were encounters at undesignated times in neutral demilitarised zones such as the dilapidated ground-floor kitchen where the washing-up never got done, and sneers and cigarette papers would be traded" Not doing the washing-up, now that's what I call rock 'n' roll.
"He [Roger Taylor, not the Queen one] is also the least moody guy I know. A nice yin to my yang."
"He was a sympathetic and encouraging producer, the midwife who would be responsible for the birth of UB40" I bet after hearing Red Red Wine he wishes he'd committed infanticide.

One of the glaring things though is that he seems the perfect encapsulation of an only child - a bit spoiled. He implores his parents, after being refused any chance of doing a BA, to let him concentrate on music for a year while he still lives in their house - while all the other new wave and punk bands he loved honed their talents in squats, seedy flats and communes. But in chapter 16, he throws all that in his parents' face when he decides to change his name from Nigel to John: "I needed to reinvent myself. Not be Mum and Dad's son" Not to be Mum and Dad's son while clearly still enjoying their hospitality. "It would take Mum years to get with the John plan" Nice. So he insisted that his mum called him John, what a slap in the face for her. And how is John any more of a rock 'n' roll name than Nigel? What about Rick or Garry or Mick? John, I ask you. The most common first name in Britain.

Anyway, I'm determined to battle on with it even though I don't think it's aimed at me. I seem to be an enthusiast for shite autobiogs - I've read Ken Bruce's (all juicy bits left out) and Richard Whiteley's (a son mysteriously appears with absolutely no reference to his mother).

Friday, 19 October 2012

Crisis? What crisis?

No matter how well photograghed this ad is...

...it'll never have the same impact as the ad that clearly inspired it:

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

I'm Jimmy Sirrel of Meadow Lane and The Gorbals

I went with my girlfriend and her dad to the Nottingham Playhouse on Saturday to watch a play about Notts County. Quite odd for a fan of Nottingham Forest* and two fans of Chelsea FC to go and watch a play about Notts County, do you think? Well, not really. Diary of a Football Nobody is a play by William Ivory (commissioned to celebrate 150 years of Notts County not wining anything) which is based on the book Steak...Diana Ross by former County midfielder David McVay and it's about much more than Notts County.
David isn't your average footballer, he left school with three A Levels and likes to listen to Nick Drake LPs when he's alone in his bedroom. That's when he's not alone in his bedroom 'having a wank' because as McVay points out "having a wank's a bit like scoring a goal - there's no such thing as a bad one". McVay wrestles with why he chose a football career over going to university. It's clearly something his grandfather can't understand. We know this because three generations of McVay's family live in the same council house in the Clifton area of Nottingham, which isn't a situation you'd imagine one of today's dynamic young players having to contemplate. But however much of a tortured young man McVay is he still falls into the same trappings of being a professional footballer as most others, like drinking copious amounts of Shipstone's bitter on nights off and 'backscuttling' anything that moves down some of Nottingham city centre's darkest alleys. In stark contrast to today, some of the players - including McVay - have to supplememt their income by selling eggs around Nottingham suburbs. Which includes 'backscuttling' a housewife who doesn't have the funds to pay. Can you imagine Frank Lampard selling eggs? No, thought not (although I can imagine Wayne Rooney doing it).

The performances here are comically brilliant. Perry Fitzpatrick is outstanding as McVay, Eric Richard is superb as the incomprehensible Glaswegian nutcase manager Jimmy Sirrel (he attempts to see off some Manchester United fans trying to invade the County dressing room with a corn scalpel). Those two are the only actors with only one part to play. The rest of the cast play multiple parts including an excellent Rupert Hill playing Don Masson (when every English league team had an armoury of Scottish enforcers to pick from) and Sophia Di Martino who also has to play supporting roles of various County players.
The scenery is cleverly done with projections in a Roy of the Rovers comic style providing the atmosphere. Something which comes to the fore whenever we're confronted with the unseen but not unfelt presence of giant County centre half Brian Stubbs who makes his non-entrance with a giant shadow and with the opening riff of Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water playing.
So, not just for County fans. It's a play about life, family and where you're from. And I'm proud to say I'm from Notts. Diary of a Football Nobody deserves to be up there with the greatest works of art about football like Gregory's Girl, Fever Pitch, The Damned United novel and Another Sunday and Sweet FA. Which are, of course, about football but much more besides. And anyway, who wouldn't love a play that opens with a photo montage of Nottingham in the 70s with Yours is No Disgrace by Yes playing over the top? Heaven for me, that.

*Notts County fans are like Scotland fans: it sticks in their craw that the hate they feel for their biggest rivals isn't reciprocated. Forest view their biggest rivals as Derby County closely followed by Leicester City and any team from Sheffield. Notts County are generally viewed by Forest fans as a team your old men support. They're the Dad's Army of football fans, and the team will forever be the bridesmaid of Nottingham football. I work with County fans and one always has to shout "Goo-in dahn!" whenever he sees me along with a finger pointing down gesture, no matter how many games Forest have gone unbeaten. The County fans attitude to Forest is summed up in one of the best lines of the play, after a local derby played at Forest's City Ground in March 1974: "And we do 'em, nil-nil!"

Monday, 8 October 2012


The Jimmy Savile thing then. I must say that I'm hugely disappointed:

Disappointed that this man used to come into our homes of a Thursday and Saturday night and, as a child, I was sold on him being an eccentric man who was indescribably wealthy who made people's dreams come true and did loads of good works for charity. And that was it.

Disappointed that his colleagues and acquaintances of his knew of rumours of his alleged deviency but did nothing to address the situation.

Disappointed that there may be loads of other people who use their standing in the entertainment world as licence to do the same thing or similar.

Disappointed that people whom I previously respected and thought would have stood up for themselves putting their career before reporting sexual harrasment in the workplace.

Disappointed that The Sun are - quite rightly - expressing their horror at underage sex, and then over the page there's an opinion piece by a Page 3 girl called Peta about why people are wrong to call for Page 3 to be dropped.

Sorry, Coldplay but we live in a horrible world.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

They all know me

Do you know what I've really enjoyed on telly just lately? Citizen Khan. I know it's fashionable to knock it but it's a sitcom that ticks the biggest box that all sitcoms should tick: it's got jokes in it. Proper gags. If you like your 'comedy' unfunny then maybe I suggest you stick to your Thick Of Its and your Russell Howard's Good News.
When the first episode was shown there was an outcry that it was anti-Islam. You often wonder if the people doing the complaining were actually watching the programme. Instead of being anti-Islam, Citizen Khan pokes fun at a certain section of the Muslim community. And I was always taught that you can't laugh at anyone until you can laugh at yourself.
Take the character of Mr Khan, the self-styled 'community leader' (the creation of Adil Ray), he's in the great tradition of sitcom characters like Captain Mainwaring or Basil Fawlty in that his pomposity is pricked at any given opportunity by those surrounding him whom he looks down on. I'm not a Muslim, from Birmingham or Asian but I just know that people like Mr Khan really do exist, or that girls in make-up, tight clothing and the hijab exist, or that Anglo Saxons who convert to Islam exist.
I get the feeling that the people who initially complained about Citizen Khan are the kind of people who only think of Muslims in a negative way. Perhaps by sticking with Citizen Khan they would have had their opinion changed. Hopefully.
Anyway, the series has ended now, with an average 3m viewers for the first run. A second series has been commissioned, so perhaps the people who just like a laugh have won.

Monday, 24 September 2012

40 Minutes: The Outcasts

For some reason this documentary popped into my head today. I can vaguely remember watching some of it on its original broadcast (shot in summer 1984, screened in February 1985. I was 14 in Feb 1985) but I would imagine that either bedtime encroached (I had a paper round to get up for) or one of my parents perhaps thought it was a bit racy and I was ordered to bed. What really got my appetite flowing for it though was when Johnny Vaughan talked about on a TV show about TV a few years ago. And now some complete and utter genius has put the whole thing on You Tube.
The Outcasts tells the story of a group of bikers (like Hell's Angels but not allowed to call themselves Hell's Angels) in Great Yarmouth. They're led by a guy called Tramp, or Bobby to his mum (pictured below). Tramp likes his bikers to be rough and ready, but not too rough and ready. He doesn't allow anyone to claim the dole if they're capable of working. And if you are capable of working then he'll find you employment at The Outcasts' burger van. The burger van is there to raise money for the club and help pay fines and for solicitors. Indeed, fines and court appearances seem to be an occupational hazard for the gang. Apart from the burger van, the other un-rough-and-ready aspect to The Outcasts is that they have their own cheque book held at Lloyds Bank.

Not just anybody can join The Outcasts though, no sir! First you go through a period of 'hanging about' as your introduction to the gang. Then you have to go through different ceremonies and initiations before you're fully accepted and receive your 'Top Rocker', 'Bottom Rocker' and are allowed the club tattoo.
Tramp even goes so far as to inform the local police inspector when they're having a party. "Watch what yer doin" the inspector tells Tramp down the phone. "Oh, we will" Tramp replies, before adding "There'll be no messin' around wi' wood". This refers to a previous party when gang member Wulf was killed in a freak non-motorcycling accident. One of the gang is a qualified embalmer so did the honours for the funeral. The embalming process presented difficulties as half of Wulf's head was missing. Oh dear.
What I love about this is that it's a snapshot in time (check out the Squezy washing-up liquid bottle and old Heineken tins). I mean, you don't see proper grebos anymore. And I mean proper grebos, with chromed German helmets and a general air of muckiness. The last time I saw any Hell's Angels was a few years ago when me and my sister went to see Hayseed Dixie at a local festival. The St. Ledger chapter of Doncaster Hell's Angels were out in force there but everything was just a bit too clean. They had haircuts. Not right. Take it from me, there are men who attend heavy metal festivals these days wearing make-up. Bloody make-up! Can you imagine wearing a man wearing make-up in front of Tramp? No, it doesn't bear thinking about.
Anyway, keep watching because this edition of 40 Minutes will be discussed on Did You See..? (remember that? Ludovic Kennedy? Ben Elton: "Did You See..? Yes, I bloody well did see, thank you") and there's footage of a youthful Dougie Donnelly presenting the World Indoor Bowls Championships for afters. Terry Sullivan of Wales won in 1985, if you're interested. Before he went on to be in Brookside.

So, please watch 40 Minutes: The Outcasts, you won't regret it. But I'll warn you, watching this will make you want to join The Outcasts, they're that likeable.

And you have to love any TV show that puts this over the opening titles, don't you?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Half baked

I've never been what you'd call a devotee of The Great British Bake Off; I've dipped in and out. I think that might have something to do with the show's title - if it's a 'bake off' then surely that means two people going head-to-head to create one dish and the one which is the best will be determined the winner. I suppose The Great British Baking Tournament wouldn't really work. And what's 'great' about it? Anyway, looking for something to watch on the iPlayer yesterday I thought I'd give this week's episode a go (I have seen previous episodes in this series but shift work means I've not seen them all).
Let's look at the remaining contestants:
  • Brendan - looks like he could play a quiet priest in Father Ted. Good at baking.
  • Cathryn - good-looking, and she knows it.
  • Danny - a woman with a man's name. Looks like someone whose face you can't quite place. Would probably think nothing of spending £50 on a Cath Kidston tea caddy.
  • James - Ugh. Has a line in jumpers which make it look like he still wishes it was the austerity fifties.
  • John - clearly failed the audition for The Feeling.
  • Ryan - ALWAYS looks stressed. Doesn't appear to be enjoying himself much.
  • Sarah-Jane - vicar's wife. Looks scatty. Probably likes cats. Always crying.
The judges are Mary Berry (my mum had a book of hers in the 1970s. She looked ancient then so how old is she now?) and this git called Paul Hollywood. He has perfectly tufted hair covered in gunk and looks like he buys his jeans from Lidl.
The general consensus seems to be that it's 'nice television'. It isn't. Have you seen the way they look at Paul Hollywood when he disses something they've made? My mum used to do competition baking and let me tell you, those women would stab each other in the back if it meant that they turned out a better coffee and walnut cake than their competitors. For example, take Cathryn, plays the ditsy card but if looks could kill then Paul Hollywood would have been lying comatose on the floor of that marquee when he slagged off her opening gambit of sponge puddings this week. And she clearly wasn't amused when Sarah-Jane showed her how to knead her strudel pastry which then landed on the floor. Cathryn laughed it off but she wasn't fooling anyone - she wanted to kill.
One of the dishes they had to make this was queen of puddings. According to Mary Berry "it's a favourite in British families". Really? Because I've never heard of it. It's custard (with breadcrumbs in it. Ergh!) with jam on top and meringue on top of that. Sounds revolting. Now, get this, they had to make their own jam. In two hours. When my mum used to make jam it was like a military operation involving a huge pan, bags and bags of sugar and a lot of dicking around with a saucer. These fools want people to knock out not only jam but also a pudding in two hours. I'm not surprised Ryan always looks like he wants to go home. Anyway, Brendan won that. As you'd expect. He'll win.
Next up was a strudel. Now this show is called The Great British Bake Off. Strudel's German, isn't it? so that gave the cue to Mel and Sue to start speaking in German which I didn't understand (I left school before I was 18). Pretty annoying. To me strudel contains apple, and, at a push, mixed berries. These idiots were putting cheese in their strudels. I wouldn't want to eat that. Why do they mess around with things? Cheese is savoury, strudel is sweet. Fact. Anyway, John tried to slice his finger off, which meant he was sent to hospital. Because of that no star baker was announced this week as it was decided it was unfair to judge everyone's strudels when they weren't all present (spoiler alert! Oops, too late. Sorry). What an anti-climax.
What amazes me though is the way the viewer judges it as serious. They're all on Twitter on a Tuesday night, sofalizing, laughing at someone's latest mishap. Just remember this: it's a baking competition.
Right, I'll be looking at Gareth Malone's choir thing next. That's supposed to be 'nice television' as well, isn't it? I won't hold out much hope as Malone gives me the creeps. And why the obsession with choirs. If he decided to set up a heavy metal band then perhaps he'd go up in my estimation. I just bet I don't like it.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Cook off

Look at those two. Just look. Do you know who they are? If you live in the UK and have a television licence then you bloody well should because they're never off the telly. Every time I switch on do I have to put up with those two buffoons leering out of the screen. I have to get out of bed every other week at 4am to go to work. Yesterday I flicked on the telly at 4:10am to check the news headlines on Ceefax (yeah, get me, I'm not what you'd call an 'early adopter') and these two berks were bloody on. At 4:10am! Groo.To make matters worse the whole thing was being signed. Now, I love the fact that programmes get signed for the deaf to enjoy stuff too, but if I was deaf and I knew the BBC were signing the Hairy Bikers' own particular brand of garbage I think I'd be writing a stiff letter to Points of View. Or the Daily Mail at least.
They're not even proper hairy bikers. Hairy bikers I've encountered in the past would eat raw dog and drink petrol.
I mean, what are they for? Does anyone actually make the stuff they churn out? No, they don't. Well, I don't. I can make a meal out of a bag of pilau rice, some sausages, a tin of Sainsbury's mushy peas and a three day-old Warburton's You think I'm joking don't you? If Si and Dave (I hate myself for knowing their names. And I hate them for the incredibly matey way they've shortened their names) show me how to make tasty meals out of some out-of-date bacon, a tin of ravioli, a jar of red cabbage and some lasagne sheets then I'm all eyes and ears.

Talking of cookery shows it gave me great pleasure to see that Something for the Weekend's coming to an end. Well, sort of pleasure; it's a show I love to hate (as those who follow me on Twitter will know, no Sunday morning is complete without me spraffing off on #SFTW). That oaf Tim Lovejoy really grates with me. He's always quacking on about the 'manly' pursuits he's been up to that week. These pursuits usually involve snowboarding or drinking cocktails. He should have been with me at work yesterday morning  -we'll see what sort of man he is if he had to pull a tonne of frozen julienne (!) carrots off the back of a trailer with an incredibly slippery floor at 5:15am. And don't even get me started on his co-prezzener, Louise Redknapp. She is to TV-presenting (or "presentin'" as she would say) what Joseph Stalin was to human rights.

Anyway, what I did enjoy on telly over the last week was the Depeche Mode documentary, or, if you will, 'rockumentary' (ho ho!), 101. What a great snapshot of the late 80s that was - lawyers with ponytails, brick mobile phones, demi waves, Dave Gahan before he found out how incredibly moreish The H is and snow washed denim. It begs the questions a) was Andy Fletcher the Bez of DM and b) whatever happened to Alan Wilder?
Oh, have this, it's Friday (I have a cousin who is a dead ringer for Martin Gore, yes, really and there's a lovely shot near the end of this of a middle-aged woman blowing up a beach ball. Bizarrely):

Friday, 10 February 2012

The Only Way is Essex

Hey, guess what? I'm still alive! Hurrah! Sorry I've not done much on here but I've been busy. You know, like really busy. You would not believe how busy I've been. I've been so busy I'm off the Busyometer scale. Yeah, you know really, really busy. I've been busy doing all sorts of stuff. Busy hating Harry Redknapp takes up a lot of my time at the moment. But I've taken time out of hating Harry Redknapp to do this. You lucky bastards.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, David Essex. I'm young enough to remember a time when David Essex wasn't famous. He's always been there. Whether winking at the camera on Top of the Pops or hosting his own TV show or having a sitcom written for him. I quite like him. I like him so much I went to see him in his musical All the Fun of the Fair last week with members of the family. It's not the best musical you'll ever see but it's a diverting couple of hours and live entertainment's always better than staying in watching the telly, isn't it?
Looking at the programme I was reminded what a great talent his is. Essex gets the sole writing credit on all but one of the songs in the show - and it's one of those jukebox musicals where the songs are already known to you. It has to be said there were quite a few hits in there so he's clearly not just a pretty face. Take Rock On for instance; that is a great record. It still sounds fresh nearly forty years later, in fact the opening bass chords are quite scary (it has to be said that some of the songs are shoehorned in to the musical: "Do you know what, Jonny? We're gonna make you a star!" Cue the song).
But what I admire most about Essex is his film Stardust. I love that film. The thing is that he can actually act as well as write and sing all of the songs. I first saw Stardust when I recorded on to video a late night showing when I must have been about 14. The thing that struck me most at the time was the scene where he goes to bed with a pair of buxom twins. For a 14 year-old that was just the most mind-blowing thing I'd ever seen (although having read Hammer of the Gods and Motley Crue's books, bedding a pair of twins sounds like tea at Grandma's). It's still a film I love though, as I love a lot of films of that era like Slade in Flame. It's the age-old story of boy wants to be rock star, becomes rock star, gets into the 'H', gets his head together in the country, overdoses live on TV. If you've never seen it please do, especially as Paul Nicholas gets kicked out the band, Peter Duncan's in it, Dave Edmunds tries to act and Keith Moon plays himself. And the title song played over the closing credits is just magnificent. Look at this; Stardust with That'll Be the Day is less than seven of your English pounds on Amazon.
Anyway, I like David Essex (as do an awful lot of ladies of a pretty wide age range) and can do an impression of him. Yeah.

Go on, knock yourself out, it's Friday: