BUSHELL ON THE BLOG
May 10. R.I.P. Freddie Starr. Hilarious. Dangerous. Self-destructive... Freddie was all of that, but at his peak he was also a bona fide comedy genius. I knew him pretty well in the 90s. He wasn’t a particularly nice bloke as his wives and children discovered. Other acts suffered too, but never hamsters, that Sun story was fake news decades ahead of the curve. But for millions Starr was a source of huge joy and that’s how he should be remembered.
I appeared on a couple of Freddie’s TV shows and a comedy video, and interviewed him a few times. In the mid-90s he told me a shocking story about how, when Fred was a young boy, his own father Richard told him to jump off a kitchen table and he’d catch him. Freddie jumped. His dad didn’t catch him. “Never trust anyone in your life,” said his father, a Scouse bricklayer and occasional unlicenced boxer. Freddie was taken into care when he was six to save him from his father’s temper. This doesn’t excuse his behaviour in adult life, but it helps explain it. The abuse left him with a severe stammer and inner demons he controlled with Valium when he wasn’t snorting Charlie. Frederick Leslie Fowell was born in 1943 in Liverpool’s Old Swan area. His mum Hilda (née Fiehnen) was a German-Jewish immigrant who lost most of her family in the Nazi death camps. Freddie was in a rock band to start with before going solo. His memorable moments include his Mick Jagger impression at his first Royal Variety show, those perilous live interviews with Des O’Connor and of course his 1996 An Audience With which re-launched his career and traumatised me for decades.
I’VE known Danny Baker for years. He’s never been remotely racist. As soon as he realised how his tweet could be misinterpreted he deleted it and apologised. What more could he have done? The villains here are the gutless BBC suits who sacked this brilliant broadcaster without a fair hearing.
April 23. Happy St George’s Day! St George he was for England and before he killed the dragon, he drank a pint of English ale out of an English flagon. Cheers. Let me know if hear anyone celebrate – or even mention – England’s saint’s day on television. I won’t hold my breath.
April 22. Here’s a short tape of highlights from series one of my first Bushell On The Box TV series (from 1996) with some extracts from the DVD that eventually followed.
April 19. Exactly one week ago thousands of protestors descended on London. Most of them were army veterans on motorbikes. They had turned out in force in support of ‘Soldier F’, the ex-paratrooper who faces murder charges over the Bloody Sunday shootings of 47 years ago. The police figure of 22,000 doesn’t account for the 3,000 other Rolling Thunder bikers who couldn’t advance into the centre of town. When these disciplined demonstrators, many wearing the maroon berets of the Parachute Regiment, reached Westminster they turned their backs on the House of Commons...to symbolise the way our gutless politicians have metaphorically turned their backs on old soldiers like them. I was in Berlin at the time but I’m reliably told there wasn’t a word about this orderly but striking demo on the TV news. Other peaceful protests on this issue have similarly been ignored. Soldier F is one of 17 former members of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment who were investigated over the violence which left 13 people dead in Londonderry in 1972. The Paras were blamed, yet Lord Widgery’s inquiry heard that Martin McGuinness, the IRA’s commanding officer in the Bogside, admitted that he had personally fired the shot from Rossville Flats that started the carnage. Widgery cleared the Paras but it seems that once again the past is being rewritten. It would of course suit the establishment if Soldier F became a sacrificial goat and spent the rest of his life behind bars while inconvenient truths were swept under the carpet. This plan would go tits up if the demonstrations were properly reported because the vast majority of the public would side with the veterans. How can it be fair that our old soldiers are getting hung out to dry while hundreds of proven terrorists enjoy the full fruits of liberty? It isn’t justice. It’s politics.
April 14. R.I.P. Paul Raymond. The guitarist and keyboardist with much-loved London rock band UFO suffered a fatal heart attack yesterday just days after the band’s 50th anniversary tour ended. He was 73. Paul’s other half Sandra posted this message on Facebook: ‘With a desperate and broken heart, fully in tears and pains that feel like they will kill me I have to tell you that my most beautiful and beloved darling Paul Raymond has passed away today. The doctors were trying to reanimate him and with success at first but then his system shut down again and there was nothing more they could do for him.’ Paul was born in St Albans and joined UFO in 1976. He played on gems like Lights Out, Obsession, the classic 1979 double album Strangers In The Night and 1980’s No Place to Run (produced by George Martin – yes, that one). He quit in 1980 to join the Michael Schenker Group and later Pete Way’s Waysted, but rejoined UFO in 1985. His own Paul Raymond Project kept going over the years but never matched the impact of MSG. I didn’t know Paul as well as I knew Phil and Pete but he was a superb musician, cutting his teeth in jazz clubs, and he loved the anarchic humour of Spike Milligan and the Goons. Before UFO he was most notably a member of blues band Savoy Brown. My condolences to Sandra.
MARCH 15. How can you tell if a politician is lying? Their lips are moving. That old joke has become a grim reality. How can any of us ever trust a word our ‘leaders’ say again after this last week in Westminster? It’s worse than just a shambles – we’re witnessing a revolt by the establishment against the people. All major parties promised they would respect the result of the 2016 Referendum. Instead they have deliberately undermined it. If that vote was a revolution then we’re living through the counter-revolution as Britain’s ‘liberal’ elite demonstrate their contempt for democracy on behalf of the ruling class – corporations, banks, the civil service, the BBC, most of the mass media, most of the judiciary and both Houses of Parliament. MPs haven’t just treated the electorate with contempt, though. As well as throwing out ‘No Deal’ this week, they also blocked the Norway option for Britain to join the European Free Trade Association which effectively means it’s Hotel California time. We’ll never leave (I take no pleasure in reminding you that I predicted this in 2016). The Norway route would have liberated us from most EU laws, and the tentacles of the European Court of Justice; it would have allowed the UK to trade within the internal market and also to make our own trade deals with the rest of the world. If May had gone down that route to begin with we wouldn’t be in this mess now. She is the worst Prime Minister in living memory, which is saying something. As we have clearly been disenfranchised by these scheming, condescending twerps, we urgently need a radical new party to represent those of us who believe in home rule and democracy. I suspect most people are sick of being patronised by these creeps. In the meantime you could always sign this petition.
*IF you’re as disgusted as I am about the prosecution of Soldier F you should sign this petition too.
Feb 24. Just a quick heads up, my TV column is published in today’s Sunday Express as well as the Daily Star Sunday. Twice the exposure, double the joy. I hope to be back here soon with cast-iron book news, so please watch this space.
Feb 22. Sorry to hear that Peter Tork has pegged it. He was the bass-player with the Monkees, the only manufactured band I ever cherished. Tork was the oldest of the four, but when he auditioned the first thing the producers asked him was “Do you mind playing the dummy?” The TV series was inspired by the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night and York was picked as the Ringo Starr style loveable nitwit of the outfit (who were quickly nicknamed “the Prefab Four”). Peter was a talented all-round musician and played keyboards and guitar as well as bass. The Monkees’ TV series won an Emmy, and the band’s string of high-quality hits speak for themselves: ‘I’m A Believer’, ‘Daydream Believer’, ‘Last Train To Clarksville’, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’... pure bliss. Some claim the latter bears an unduly similarity to my own band’s ‘SE7 Dole Day’ suggesting that the Monkees might have travelled through time to pinch the tune, but I couldn’t possibly comment. In all, Tork, Nesmith, Jones and Dolenz sold a staggering 75million records worldwide. Pick the bones out of that.
Feb 21. Why have our new political alliance chosen to call themselves the Independent Group? It’s an odd name for people who actively want to derail British independence. The Brexit car-crash and the curse of anti-Semitism show why a new party is needed, but this bunch of obscure Blairites and the Tory defectors set to follow won’t deliver the radical, free-thinking solutions the country needs.
Feb 13. The best radio show of all time is Desert Island Discs, according to a Radio Times “panel of industry experts”. Really? It’s a terrific format but doesn’t your enjoyment of that show vary from guest to guest? For me the greatest ever radio programme would be a toss-up between Hancock’s Half Hour and Round The Horne, although you could make a solid case for The Goons being the Beeb’s most influential comedy. I loved radio comedies as a kid, wonderful shows like I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again and The Clitheroe Kid. Vintage radio could transport you to other worlds (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy), introduce you to cracking new bands (the John Peel show) and leave you in stitches (all of the above).
Some brilliant folk have been stranded on Desert Island Discs of course. But how on earth do they pick their eight favourite tracks? Mine change every day. At the moment Springsteen’s Jungleland would get in, another day it’d probably be Badlands, Thunder Road or The Promised Land. The Clash would have to be there of course, but would it be Complete Control, White Man In Hammersmith Palais or London Calling? And how could you choose between Marvin Gaye, Smokey, Dylan, Bowie, the Stones, the Beatles, Floyd, the Kinks, The Jam, The Who, and the Damned? It wouldn’t be true to my youth without Elvis, Johnny Cash, Slade, Desmond Dekker, Judge Dread and Marty Robbins? It’d be totally wrong to leave out Rose Tattoo, Cock Sparrer, Madness, Maiden, Lizzy, Sabbath, UFO and the Rejects. Or Chas & Dave. Or Lionel Bart. Or Max Romeo. Or The Four Tops. Or Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry... And it’d be bonkers to blank Teenage Kicks or Walrus of Love Barry White... see what I mean? If they caught me on an off-day I might do a Danny Baker and pack it with ditties like Charlie Drake’s Mr Custer, Tommy Cooper’s Don’t Jump Off The Roof Dad, Pluto Shervington’s Dat or even Lee Marvin’s Wand’rin Star. My reputation would be in tatters. The Beeb won’t ever ask me, as I am officially a non-person to them for the heinous crime of questioning the licence fee, and I’m actually glad of that. I couldn’t choose. And if you’re honest, you couldn’t either.