GARRY BUSHELL - BY GARRY JOHNSON
“The most feared critic in the business" - Ross Kemp
“The Max Miller of Fleet Street” – Roy Hudd
"The best one-liner merchant in Fleet Street" - Richard Littlejohn
Garry Bushell is Britain's best known telly critic, loved, feared and hated in equal measure because of his hard-hitting views and killer one-liners. Garry is also deeply associated with British youth cults, rock, punk and Ska bands. He has written five gripping crime novels, discovered new talent by the bucket-load, managed bands, championed working class comics and notched up a Number One hit. Clearly, there's a lot of light hidden under the tabloid Bushell...
Today his old TV column Bushell On The Box lives on as a lively three-times-a-week TV show on the Ustreme streaming channel. It started as a newspaper in the column in 1987, appearing in The Sun, the Daily Star, the People and the Daily Star Sunday. His ITV series of the same name was Number One on the Night Network, winning audience shares of up to 68 per cent. Series One was such a success, ITV ordered a second one to start immediately the first one finished, but being Gal he eventually upset ITV bosses by speaking honestly about their failings.
No-one was too surprised when New York's fabled shock jock Howard Stern anointed Garry as his "ambassador to England".
He also starred as resident TV critic on TVam, reprising the role for nine months on Channel 4's brilliant Big Breakfast and then Nuts TV.
Son of a fireman and a secretary, Garry was born and raised in South East London a stone's throw from his beloved Valley. He did his journalistic training under Paul Foot on the Socialist Worker and got spied on by MI5 (he still gets het up about the way working people are "forgotten, ignored, and condemned to slave their lives away on the hamster wheel of human existence"). After launching his own punk fanzine in 1977, Gal started his career on the rock weekly Sounds where he became known for spotting talent – everyone from the Specials to U2 via The Purple Hearts, Twisted Sister and Crass had their first review from Garry, although not everyone liked him. Boy George called him "the Bernard Manning of pop". A fine compliment!
The Eurythmics played the dirtiest trick on him, though - they set up a boxing match which left Garry slugging it out with boxing legend Lloyd Honeyghan. Honeyghan put him on his back in round one, but Garry went two rounds with him and won £5,000 for Help The Aged. "I had Lloyd worried," he says. "He thought he'd killed me."
In these heady years Gal managed hit rock band The Cockney Rejects, mainlined on Mod and 2-Tone, discovered platinum-selling glam rockers Twisted Sister and managed shock rockers The Blood. He raved about The Ruts, who included a drawing of Garry on their debut album sleeve, and is rightly known as "the Godfather of Oi". His legendary features, such as Hanoi Rocks in India and Ozzy Osbourne breaking bad in the USA, can be found in Garry's Sounds Of Glory books. He also sang – and sings - with cult punk band The Gonads (www.the-gonads.co.uk) who topped the Indie Charts with 'I Lost My Love (To A UK Sub') and reformed in 1995, recording the come-back single' Nutter' and the albums 'Back And Barking' (released June 1999) 'Schitz-oi!-phrenia' (Oct 2001) 'Old Boots, No Panties' (2006) 'Live Free, Die Free (October 2008) 'Glorious Bastards' (2009) and 'Built For Destruction' (2014). Three Greater Hits compilations have been recently released (2012, 2013 and 2015) followed by London Bawling (2016). All The Loon Stompers (2016), Dirty Metal Gonads (2018), the mini-album Give Her A Dog For Christmas (2020), Revolution Now! (2022) and No Mess, No Fuss, Just Pure Gonads (2023).
In January 1998, The Gonads toured the USA building up a huge following. Of debt collectors. Gal's other musical projects included Prole, Lord Waistrel & The Cosh Boys, the SkaNads and the Orgasm Guerillas. He was associated nefariously with the Postmen, and managed New York experimental punk band Maninblack. See the documentaries East End Babylon and Rough Cut & Ready Dubbed for a scary sight of the pre-whiskers, fast-talking, rock-writing Bush...
On Sounds, Gal wrote mostly about street rock scenes. As well as the new wave of British heavy metal, he was the first to write about 2-Tone, New Mod, punk pathetique, Casual and Oi! - arguably the most exciting and undoubtably the most misunderstood working-class youth scene of all time – and more recently developed Street Sounds magazine with Paul Hallam.
Oi! has been called all sorts of names by people who should know better but in truth it was the most honest street rock scene ever. Rough but irrepressible, Oi wore its proletarian heart on its streetwise sleeve and produced timeless classics like England Belongs To Me by Cock Sparrer and Suburban Rebels by The Business. It's legacy can be seen to this day in great streetpunk bands such as the Street Dogs, Rancid, the Bouncing Souls, Stomper 98, Perkele, the Dropkick Murphys and countless more.
One measure of Garry Bushell's impact was the number of songs written about him, including 'Press Darlings' by Adam Ant, 'Hurry Up Garry' by Crass, 'SingalongaBushell' by The Exploited, 'Garry Bushell's Band Of The Week' by the Notsensibles, 'Sounds Like Sounds' by The Head and 'The Man Who Came In From The Beano' by the Angelic Upstarts. Garry gets name-checked by the Cockney Rejects in their Top 30 hit 'The Greatest Cockney Rip-Off' (and 'I Wanna Be A Star'). In 1981, a punk band even formed called Garry Bushell's Bum. Silly arses.
Garry wrote the best-selling biography of Iron Maiden, called Running Free, and a series of successful magazines, including Dance Craze: The 2-Tone Story and an Ozzy Osbourne tribute, before making his Fleet Street debut in February 1985. He worked at the Daily Mirror and the London Evening Standard before landing a staff job on The Sun editing the pop, rock and showbiz column Bizarre where he was to employ Fleet Street high-fliers including Piers Morgan, Peter Willis, RIP, and Andy Coulson. He has since apologised for hiring Piers.
In 1987, Garry had the idea of doing the Number One single 'Let It Be' by Ferry Aid which raised over £1million for the families of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster victims - with the help of Paul McCartney, Gary Moore, Michael Jackson, Mark Knopfler and scores of top pop stars... including his old mate Mickey Fitz of Streetpunk legends The Business who Gal sneaked in to the video.
Garry went on to become TV Editor and Showbusiness Editor of The Sun and Assistant Editor of the Daily Star and is currently the Review Editor of the Sunday Express; but he is best known for his hard-hitting award-winning TV column, Bushell On The Box which began in The Sun in July 1987. His combination of merciless mickey-taking and killer one-liners led Roy Hudd to describe Bushell as "the Max Miller of the press." The column spawned two books - The Best of Garry's Goofs and King Of Telly - and a Bushell On The Box board-game, manufactured by Bill 'Ken Barlow' Roache's company MAMBI.
When he wasn't reviewing the TV, Garry raged against the middle class who he said had ruined the Labour Party with their social liberalism. He sided with the British fishermen whose industry had been devastated by the EEC and opposed unfettered immigration which he said was designed to "under-cut wages" and "divide the working class." He wrote articles supporting the Smithfield meat porters fighting to preserve their market and in favour of the UDR4, blue collar comedians, Page Three girls and St George's Day, pointing out the leading role the English had in the creation of trade unionism, parliamentary democracy, representative democracy, the Common Law, and the jury system. Always anti-racist and anti-injustice, he describes himself as "a practical, patriotic anarchist".
Garry has appeared on over 2,500 TV and radio shows, ranging from Celebrity Squares to the South Bank Show. He became associated with Noel's House Party, appearing on the hit series eighteen times, but the programmes that meant the most to him were the controversial The National Alf for Channel 4, which was a heart-felt plea for English patriotism and identity, and Gagging For It, a hit one-off ITV show he hosted in 1998 featuring great working class comics like Mickey Pugh and Johnnie Casson. Proper funnymen. (For an X-rated version of this see the adult comedy video Bushell's Blue Xmas.) Al Murray has said that his Pub Landlord character was partly inspired by Garry, while Harry Hill got the idea for his TV Burp after standing in for Gal's column while GB was on holiday.
His late night TV show Bushell On The Box pulled in more than a million viewers after midnight and was supported by Garry's friends from all walks of life. Along with the expected TV and comedy mega-stars like Barbara Windsor and Bob Monkhouse, the show (shot largely in the Bushell household in Eltham, SE London) was host to the likes of Lenny McLean, Mad Frankie Fraser, Roy 'Pretty Boy' Shaw, Ray Winstone, Jamie Foreman, Lily Savage, Rhino, Chubby Brown, Jonathan Ross, Penn & Teller and Iron Maiden's Steve Harris. The Blood, The Drifters and one of X-Ray Spex played in Gal's back garden. But the most surreal sight of all was Dale Winton coming up Garry's back passage (careful!) and Gal taking the orange one out on the pull in Sidcup. The Best of Bushell On The Box was released on DVD in November 2005.
Throughout the summer of 1997, Garry was sole judge on Jonathan Ross's Big Big Talent show on ITV - the series that discovered great acts including Francine Lewis, Stephen Mulhearn, Paul Zerdin, comic Andy Leach and Steve Brookstein who was a finalist seven years before winning the first X Factor. Garry put together the Big Big Variety Shows in Blackpool and the West End which led directly to TV's hit new variety series The Big Stage (TX, July 1999). Purely as an exercise in irony, ahem, he also hosted Garry Bushell Reveals All on Men & Motors having to share a dressing room with the likes of Jo Guest and Angelique Houston. For three series. What an ordeal, eh?
The shit hit the fan in 2001 when his first novel The Face came out. Sun editor David Yelland broke his word and refused to promote the book. When The Face was subsequently serialised in The Star Yelland sacked Garry - even though HE KNEW Garry had no control over the serialisation. It was the Sun's loss. Two years later, a poll of Sun readers, organised by the paper, found that their favourite columnist was still Garry Bushell…
The Face was funny, filthy pulp fiction. Well worth a read. The sequel Two-Faced was published in July 2004. A third instalment Facedown was published by Caffeine Nights in 2014 and was described brilliantly as "fists up, pants down lads' noir". The fourth, Harder Than The Rest, came out in 2020. His book on the Rejects (Jeff Turner: Cockney Reject) was published in September 2005, followed by Dance Craze – 2-Tone On The Road and Time For Action on the 1979/80 Mod Revival.
In February 2007, after five years at the People, Garry took a break from TV reviewing to write film scripts for the punk movie 'Join The Rejects... Get Yourself Killed'. He started reviewing TV again in May 2007 in the Daily Star Sunday. The lasting legacy of Bushell On The Box can be seen to this day in every red-top newspaper. They all run inferior rip-off versions of Garry's column that copy each and every element he introduced to it, from Garry's Goofs to Hot & Rot. Some even steal his Random Irritations and Small Joys Of TV. The worst offender was Jon Wise's short-lived column in the People which would have been a carbon copy if it hadn't been for Wise's complete lack of wit, insight and attitude. You know what they say about imitation…
As well as writing the funniest telly page ever, Garry has written for The Modern Review, Top Gear, Kerrang, The Stage, Auto-Express, Classic Rock, Mojo MENSA magazine, and even Cass Pennant – Bushell contributed a chapter to Cass's book 'Congratulations You Have Just Met The ICF'. He has appeared in panto twice and had knives chucked at him by Freddie Starr. He was also Vice President of the late Dave Lee's children's charity Happy Holidays which sent sick kids on dream holidays. What next? Well he hosted Proper Comedians last summer and is threatening to do more stand-up.
In between all this, Gal has managed to father five children (Julie, Dan, Robert, Jenna and Ciara). He lives with his second wife Tania, aka new country singer Leah McCaffrey in Kent, in a house with a working bar, six tellies and a punked-up bust of Churchill. He is hated by the middle-class media but says he wears their disdain "as a badge of honour." He'll always be too real for them.
Garry ain't perfect - who is? - but I have known him for over thirty years and he has never changed. He's one of yer own, a proper person. Shame about Charlton though, eh?
© Garry Johnson January 2002; updated January 2024
Bushell On The Box (ITV series)
An Audience with Freddie Starr
An Audience with Bob Monkhouse
Noel’s House Party
The Generation Game
Pot Of Gold
The Big Big Talent Show (resident judge)
Garry Bushell Reveals All (Granada)
The South Bank Show
Des O’Connor Tonight
All Rise For Julian Clary
Operation Good Guys
Central Weekend Live
Jerry Springer UK
An Audience with Joe Pasquale
An Audience with Brian Conley
The James Whale Radio Show
Hale & Pace.
The National Alf (Channel 4)
Bushell On The Box segment (The Big Breakfast and Nuts TV)
Drop The Celebrity (ITV)
I'm Famous & Frightened (Living)
The Weakest Link Celebrity Special (BBC1, twice)
100 Worst Britons (C4)
Public Opinion (BBC1)
Today With Des & Mel (ITV)
Stupid Punts (BBC2)
Top 20 Rock Deaths (Sky One)
The Two-Tone Story (C4)
Greatest TV Moments (Five)
The TV They Tried To Ban (C4)
the Banned Season (C4)
UK Music Hall Of Fame (C4)
An Audience With Al Murray (ITV)
50 Questions of Political Correctness (Sky One)
Most Shameful TV Moments (Five)
Big Brother's Big Mouth (E4)
Scoop (C4) The Mint (ITV)
The Real Football Factories (Bravo)
Showbiz Blackjack (Challenge)
You Can't Fire Me I'm Famous (BBC1)
100% English (C4)
Extra Tonight (ITV)
Sky Poker (Sky)
TV's Toughest Men
Resident critic Nuts TV (November '07 – April 08)
It's Not What You Know
The One Show
Britain's Best Celebrity Dish
Celebrity Party Poker
The Enemy Within (C4)
The Execution of Gary Glitter (C4) Farage
Top Of The Pops: Secrets & Scandals
Mark Dolan Tonight. Only Fools & Horses: Secrets & Scandals
Bushell On The Box 2024 (Ustreme)
HOOLIES, 79: THE SKA REVIVAL, 79: THE MOD REVIVAL, SOUNDS OF GLORY: THE PUNK & SKA YEARS, SOUNDS OF GLORY: ROCKING ALL OVER THE WORLD, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARRY BUSHELL, BUSHELL ON THE RAMPAGE. 1001 REASONS WHY EASTENDERS IS ‘PONY’
The Face, Two-Faced, Facedown, Facedown, All Or Nothing, Harder Than The Rest, Hell Bent
The Gonads: Back & Barking. The Gonads: All The Loonstompers. The Gonads: Revolution Now!
Download: Federales (The Gonads). The Full English (The Garry Bushell Experience). So Glad To Be Alive (The SkaNads).
CARRY ON OI! Various Artists,
THE BEERDROP EXPLODES Various Artists,
SKA FOR HEROES Various Artists