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.