Jan 23. In a surprising move upmarket, I’m chatting to world-conquering mezzo-soprano Carly Paoli in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking TV with ITV’s bubbly Ria Hebden, who surely can’t be booted off Dancing On Ice tonight?? Plus my old pal, veteran rock writer Mick Wall, on the Meat Loaf he knew.

Jan 22. I’m back for a third time on the Behind The Scenes podcast, this time talking about the Angelic Upstarts, Ritchie Blackmore, Lenny McLean, comedy, the Gonads, being banned from Butlin’s and much more - here. Although sadly the Judge Dread stories were deemed to be “too blue” – outrageous! (This was recorded just before Mensi died).

Jan 21. I got a call just after 8am this morning to say that Meat Loaf had died. Another legend lost. I interviewed the great man in LA sometime around 1987 – ten years after he found global fame with Bat Out Of Hell, and about six years before he rebooted his career with Bat Out Of Hell II, so he wasn’t in the best of places. He told me that his alcoholic dad had tried to stab him with a butcher’s knife after his mum died, when he was 18. And that he believed his incredible three and a half octave voice was the result of a sports accident – he’d been hit on the head by a 12lb shot put in his second year of high school at a track and field event. He also told me that when he first met mad genius Jim Steinman, when he auditioned for a part in his musical More Than You Deserve, he sang a song called Heavy As Jesus. Steinman told him he was “as heavy as two Jesuses”, but was so blown away by his voice that he immediately rounded up 30people to come and hear him. Bat Out Of Hell was panned by the critics – NME and Rolling Stone were pretty snooty about it – but sold over 43million copies. According to Meat (real name, Marvin Lee Aday), the powerful rock opera songs even made hard-bitten Hell’s Angels weep. Meat had a tough time, he lost his voice for a while, fought legal battles with record companies and with Steinman himself, and had to declare himself bankrupt. He reinvented himself as an actor in several films including Fight Club, Wayne’s World and Roadie, and kept plugging away on the rock circuit. He was a giant of a man in every sense.

This week’s album reviews – Kiefer Sutherland, The Weeknd, Keb’ Mo’ and Years & Years, only in today’s Express and Mirror.

Jan 19. The Prime Minister said today that he “saw no evidence” of rebel Tory MPs being bullied and blackmailed. We must of course believe him, although I would point out that the very same PM also saw no evidence of parties at Number 10, even though he was at them. Boris made me laugh when he said nobody had told him the boozy “work events” broke the lockdown rules. He has my sympathy. Who knew? We can only blame the bloke in charge, the one who spelt out the rules on television – some absolute bounder called Boris Johnson.

Jan 16. I’m chatting to down-to-earth country music sensation Luke Combs in today’s Sunday Express Review, talking TV with DJ Gemma Cairney, and listening in amazement as Tony Burrows tells me how Edison Lighthouse’s Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) became an internet sensation thanks to TikTok – with more than two billion views.

Jan 14. RIP wonderful Ronnie Spector, famous for pop classics like Be My Baby, Walking In The Rain and Baby I Love You. Ronnie, from New York’s Spanish Harlem, was lead vocalist with The Ronettes – one of the greatest Sixties girl groups. Her short, hellish marriage to mad genius Phil ‘Wall Of Sound’ Spector was violent and abusive – while he was alive, she said he was “a brilliant producer, but a lousy husband”. Ronnie died on Wednesday after a short battle with cancer. She was 78. The Ronettes were inaugurated into the Rock ’N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Why did it take so long?

I’m reviewing the terrific new album from Elvis Costello & The Imposters in today’s Express and Mirror (although the cheeky subs nicked my pay-off for the headline). Also under the hammer: the latest releases from The Lumineers, Dope Lemon and Orlando Weeks.

Jan 13. Is time up for BoJo? His charisma and personability made him stand out from other politicians, but only a sozzled self-harmer could shoot himself in the foot this many times. These Downing-It Street parties are a kick in the teeth for the rest of us who weren’t even allowed to hug at funerals, go to church or drink coffee in parks under the government’s draconian pandemic rules. But they’re not the main problem. The latest hypocrisies come hard on the heels of a mountain of lies, sleaze and incompetence. Boris’s government can’t control our borders, tackle crime, curb cancel culture or even work out how the country can take full advantage of Brexit. Boris forgot he was a Tory months ago. What genuine Conservative wants to hike up taxes and lumber the public with pricey, unpopular and frankly potty eco-policies? The difference between Johnson and Thatcher is Maggie had genuine beliefs and didn’t care if she was hated. Boris believes only in Boris. He wanted to be everybody’s friend and has ended up pleasing nobody except for Carrie and the firm who made over his flat. I could be wrong but right now there’s more chance of Peppa Pig being PM next Christmas than Bozo.

Jan 9. I'm chatting to West End star and all-round nice guy Lee Mead in today's Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with Jeff Wayne of War Of The Worlds The Musical fame.

Jan 8. RIP the great Sidney Poitier, who died yesterday aged 94. You would need a book to do Sidney justice. Born in Miami to Bahaman parents, he slept rough in New York, got jailed for vagrancy and was shot during a race riot before finding fame as an actor. After working as a dishwasher and a building labourer, Poitier started his acting career on Broadway before landing his first film part in 1950. His breakout role came five years later in Blackboard Jungle. Other terrific roles followed, in films such as The Defiant One with Tony Curtis. In 1963, Poitier became the first black actor to win an Oscar. He went on to make three of his best movies in 1967: To Sir With Love, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner and the brilliant In The Heat Of The Night - Poitier played detective Virgil Tibbs up against Rod Steiger's bigoted police chief. The movie was shot despite death threats from organised racists. All that, and an affair with Diahann Carroll too... Although Poitier opened doors for black actors, paving the way for countless others, he was hurtfully criticised by some later black radicals as an Uncle Tom sell-out. Others, like Spike Lee were more generous. The film-maker said, "He was the only strong black figure I saw in the movies growing up. I am able to do what I do today because of the hell he went through."

Jan 7. We've lost another brilliant Cockney comic, the great Keith O'Keefe, one of the unsung giants of stand-up. Keith was lightning fast and a superb improviser. Something could happen to him on the way to a gig which would become a fully formed fifteen-minute routine by the time he was on stage. Keith's sad death won't trouble the BBC News, but he was far funnier than most of the dross they roll out as comedians. I'd rather be sneezed on by Djokovic than sit through Live At The Apollo. RIP Keith.

This week's album reviews: David Bowie's Toy, Yard Act, The Wombats & Edweena (formerly Ed) Banger, only in today's Daily Express and Daily Mirror.

Jan 6. I must be losing my touch. I don't appear to have made Stewart Lee's shit-list of the Top 100 people he hated in 2021. I hereby pledge to do everything in my power to get back into the Top Ten by next January. No more Mr Nice Guy!

Jan 2. I’m chatting to Claire Sweeney in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with veteran reporter and broadcaster Penny Smith.

Jan 1, 2022. Happy New Year! It’s got to be a better one, surely.


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