BUSHELL ON THE BLOG
May 15 I’m chatting to Jack Savoretti in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with comedian Daliso Chaponda.
May 14. I’ve just been offered a dream job doing stand-up shows in the US. My nearest and dearest immediately burst that bubble by accurately reminding me that I speak way too fast and use far too much slang to ever be understood by American audiences. Which, she points out, is just as well because if they did understand me, I’d be kicked straight out of the country for alleged thought crimes.
May 13. Crypto-currencies are crashing like Ant McPartlin after a two-week bender. Their combined value has plummeted by nearly £1trillion since November and more than a third of that drop was this month. The Terra Luna token has lost 99per cent of its value, rattling investors and sending markets into freefall. So-called stablecoins, TerraUSD and Tether, have also been knocked bandy and Bitcoin is down by more than two thirds. It’s too early to say if the bubble has burst, but not too early to point out that you’d be better off investing your savings on 6 and 3 reversed through the card at Crayford dogs.
Today’s album reviews: The Black Keys, Fozzy, Soft Cell and a rare Toyah re-issue – all in today’s Daily Express and Daily Mirror.
I’m 67 today, still working full-time, and still writing books and songs in my spare time. I could stop of course. If I retired from employment, I’d free up 70 hours a week to write more books and play more gigs, but in the current climate who’d walk away from regular wages?
May 9. Thanks to everyone who came to the book launch on Saturday. Here are just some shots from the day.
May 2. If you’re coming to my book launch in sunny south London on Saturday afternoon and want to buy any books other than the 2-Tone and New Mod ones, particularly the novels, please email firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP so we can let Caffeine Nights know. Cheers! Price guarantee: all of these books are guaranteed to cost less than a chicken breast will in a week or two.
The sooner we stop talking about take-away curries and birthday cakes and start tackling galloping inflation the happier I’ll be. Talk about re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic. I suspect many of you will, like me, be searching for an alternative to Bumbling Boris, Calamity Keir and all of the other old, stale and failing Con/Lab/Lib faces to vote for on Thursday.
May 1. Rock’s hardest working superstar, Bryan Adams is today’s Sunday Express Review cover star… and I’m talking TV with Hollies legend Bobby Elliott.
Taylor v Serrano was jaw-dropping this morning, probably the best boxing bout you'll see all year. Neither of them gave an inch.
April 30. Poor old Neil Parish says it was all a big mistake, and that he was simply Googling tractors in the Commons when he accidentally alighted on an “adult” site. Apparently tractors nowadays come in fifty shades of blue. Who knew? Even the porn was a misunderstanding. The farmer was only dancing naked around farm vehicles because his wife said he had to do something sexy to a tractor. (Insert groan here). In fairness, at least he wasn’t committing the unforgivable sin of eating cake… Parish isn’t the only one suffering though. I hear an actor was laid off yesterday after he was caught watching PMQs during a porn shoot.
April 29. Neil Parish is the horny Tory MP accused of watching porn in the House Of Commons. Friends say he had no choice – Angela Rayner was wearing trousers.
Today’s album reviews: Thunder, Bonnie Raitt, Madness and Ann Wilson, only in the Mirror and the Daily Express.
April 28. Oh dear, Keir. Sir Keir Starmer has been caught throwing stones in a glasshouse. It turns out that Labour’s hopeless leader had a lockdown party of his own, with the fragrant Angela, and then tried to deny it. What he lacks in policies, he makes up for in breath-taking hypocrisy. Starmer is the architect of his own misfortune for making such a fuss about “partygate”. Most voters are more worried about galloping inflation than about Boris being in close proximity to a cake on his birthday. The real problem with BoJo’s fake Tories is their irrational love of taxation. Johnson’s Achilles heel is his addiction to sucking on the public teat and squandering our money like a lotto winner with a week to live. But Sir K can’t target that because Labour are just as hooked. See also the NHS and the BBC…
I started an ‘Axe The Telly Tax’ campaign, calling for the abolition of the licence fee, in the late 90s. The problem isn’t the cost, it’s the legal compulsion to pay. But if we are talking value-for-money, the BBC have long been surpassed by other services. Next to no-one under thirty watches the BBC. That’s understandable – their entertainment output is largely dire, their news reporting is endlessly biased, and their drama pushes the same dreary agenda. But why then should they be compelled by law to pay a levy to fund them? The licence fee made sense when the Corporation was Britain’s only broadcaster. It makes no sense now.
Liz Truss and Ben Wallace are using the Ukraine tragedy to look tough ahead of a possible Tory leadership bid. “Ukraine is our war,” thundered Truss yesterday. No it isn’t. We may root for the Ukrainian people and do our bit to support them; we might also sincerely wish someone would take out Putin, but there is no public support for the all-out conflict these dopes seem intent on talking us into. It’s for NATO to make that call not ambitious/self-serving, third division grand-standing politicians. They’re playing with fire in a petrol station.
April 27. So it turns out Angela Rayner joked about using Sharon Stone style Basic Instinct antics to divert Boris’s attention – “giving the PM a flash” – weeks before her fake outrage over weekend reports that she did just that. Will all the achingly woke, bandwagon-jumping pundits (including Piers Pughe-Morgan) who backed her cynical complaints about “misogyny” now admit they got it wrong? Thought not.
April 24. I’m chatting to pop legend Kiki Dee in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with master ventriloquist Jeff Dunham.
April 23. Happy St George’s Day! Ignore the naysayers. It’s perfectly natural for the English to love our people, our country, our culture, customs, and idiosyncrasies, not to mention our increasingly threatened beliefs in liberty and freedom of expression. To love England is not to denigrate other cultures, but rather to recognize and, for one day a year, celebrate what makes ours unique – something that is accepted in every other nation in the world. We should never let them take that love away.
April 22. This week’s album reviews – Jason Aldean, Kiki Dee, Brian May and Keston Cobblers Club only in today’s Daily Express and Mirror.
April 17. I’m chatting to rock’n’roll wildcat Suzi Quatro in today’s Sunday Express, and talking TV with the irrepressible Claire Sweeney.
April 16. I’m excited to be finishing the new Gonads studio album today. It’s our best yet, hard-hitting with something to say; it also has surreal moments that make me laugh out loud. It should be out in August, and we’ll follow it with a new Live & Loud official bootleg later this year or early next.
April 15. Today’s album reviews: Father John Misty, Edgar Winter, Suzi Quatro and Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage, only in the Daily Express and Daily Mirror.
April 10. I’m chatting to Peckham’s own Matt Goss and Philadelphia’s queen of disco Kathy Sledge in today’s Sunday Express, and talking TV with JD from the Longest Johns. Here’s Matt online.
And here is Kathy.
April 8. Today’s album reviews: Papa Roach, ‘Chicken Foot’ Joe Satriani, Aerosmith & Hailey Whitters, only in the Mirror and the Daily Express, where the incredible Frederick Forsyth still thunders every Friday at 83…
April 2. I’m chatting to ten-million-album-selling country star Thomas Rhett about his Death Row show, his new album and the family he holds dear in tomorrow's Sunday Express Review.
April 1. Today's album reviews: the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Thomas Rhett, Placebo and Dublin’s own Thumper in the Daily Express and Mirror.
March 27. I’m talking to British film star Craig Fairbrass in today’s Sunday Express Review and chatting to actress Susie Blake about TV old and new. Meanwhile, over in today’s Daily Star Sunday, I’m celebrating my 777th column for that great organ; it’s also the 1605th Bushell On The Box since I started writing about TV 35years ago. Here’s the Craig Fairbrass interview online.
March 25. Today’s album reviews: Michael Bublé, Graham Day, Denise Nolan, and the Boo Radleys – all in the Daily Express and Daily Mirror. Here’s Denise…
March 23. You don’t get much magic on mainstream TV these days, but we’ve just watched a master illusionist at work. Unfortunately, he was performing his smoke and mirrors act at the Dispatch Box in the House Of Conmen. Rishi Sunak’s plan to “help families with the cost of living” was a sustained attack on our living standards. Taxes, prices and public spending are shooting up like Ant-Man in Captain America: Civil War. Unfortunately, there are no avenging superheroes around to cut all of them, and Rishi, down to size. The “Tory” government’s remorseless drip-feed of extra taxation include the NIC raise and a huge jump in company taxes. What we really need for the economy to prosper is a Chancellor like Wolverine who will use his claws to slash back our ever-expanding state. A bit of fiscal common sense. Sadly, at the moment there’s more chance of Paul Daniels rising from the grave.
March 18. This week’s album reviews – Feeder, Buster Shuffle, ArrDee and For King & Country – are in today’s Mirror and Express, and of course online.
March 16. I’ve had a huge response to that 13minute Talking Pints chat on GB News, which suggests more people watch it than official figures indicate. Channels like this are the inevitable reaction to the cultural wars that have been raging in the UK for decades over the suppression of English identity, the relentless expansion of the state (and state spending), mounting restrictions on our freedoms, and the sustained assault on working class culture. Our betters want to strip of us of our hard-won rights and our traditions; they want to control what we can say, what we can think, and even what we can laugh at – and what a hopeless mess they’ve made of that. This explains the rise of refuseniks, ranging from spiked-online to the Reform Party, via anti-lockdown protests, Laurence Fox’s Reclaim, young anarchist groups and the barely-reported legal challenges made by the English Democrats. Liberty is too important an issue to leave to politicians.
I had one disappointment with Talking Pints. With a title like that and a host like Nigel Farage, you’d expect them to have a well-stocked bar. Nope. There was one bottle of Guinness in a depleted fridge. Poor show.
March 15. I really enjoyed appearing on Talking Pints last night. Nigel Farage is a lively interviewer – I had no idea what he was going to ask – and we covered a lot of ground in 13minutes, although as always there was plenty left unsaid. It was good to see the clips from Bushell On The Box again. Maybe GB News will celebrate St George’s Day this year. I can’t imagine the BBC will.
March 14. I should be live on GB News at 7.40pm tonight chatting about my latest novel in ‘Talking Pints’ with Nigel Farage. I was expecting to get asked on back in December, but I understand producers were concerned that the two of us together would probably consume their entire month’s supply of beer.
March 13. I’m chatting to ventriloquist Nina Conti about her new dating stage show in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with my old pal comedian Terry Alderton.
March 11. Every now and then a new band come along who genuinely excite me. Step forward Liverpool’s The Mysterines. I review their album Reeling in today’s Daily Express and Daily Mirror along with new releases from Dolly Parton, Bryan Adams and Ella Henderson.
March 6. Mick Wall’s chat with Marillion singer Steve Hogarth is today’s Sunday Express Review cover piece, and I’m talking telly with Tommy Walsh.
March 4. So sad to hear that Shayne Warne has died. He wasn’t just a cricketing giant and showman, he was an irresistible force personified. Warne’s wonder ball against Mike Gatting at Old Trafford in 93 was out of this world, and his ball against Strauss in the 2005 Ashes was just as incredible. All that and Liz Hurley too… RIP.
This week’s album reviews: the Stereophonics, Marillion, John Illsley and Richard Clayderman, all in today’s Express and Mirror.
March 2. Putin’s claim to be liberating Ukraine from Nazis is laughable. Russia is a dictatorial invading force driven by blinkered aggressive nationalism and murdering innocents – you can’t get much more ‘Nazi’ than that. The courageous Ukrainian resistance are driven by patriotism, a force for good powered by love of country and people, although the more infantile parts of the British Left seem unable to make the distinction.
You can donate to the Red Cross Ukraine crisis appeal here.
Feb 27. I’m talking to Prince of Romance Richard Clayderman about his new album in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with actress Abigail Thaw.
Feb 25. This week’s album reviews: Johnny Marr, Tears For Fears, Avril Lavigne and Judy Collins – in today’s Daily Express and Daily Mirror.
Feb 24. Why has Putin invaded Ukraine? Because he thinks he can get away with it. Partly this is due to the weakness of the West. From the Kremlin’s point of view, Biden looks feeble, the EU is gutless and divided, and Britain is apparently more interested in “party-gate” and minority concerns than the real enemy, inflation, as Boris blunders from one cock-up to another. Save the world? We can’t even close our porous borders! And now our security services get lessons on wokeness from a dripping wet, unelected, over-promoted, civil servant. It’s pitiful. My heart goes out to the Ukrainians who find themselves in a hellish nightmare. They are a brave people and I expect they will resist Putin’s unprovoked assault as stubbornly and heroically as the Russians resisted the German 6th Army at Stalingrad. Let’s hope so. If they roll over, and our so far laughable sanctions have no effect, what is to stop the Russians rolling on to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and even the old East Germany to “reclaim” the old Soviet empire? It’s Sudetenland all over again. Was Putin emboldened by Chinese President Xi? After all, if he can annex Ukraine what’s to stop Red China grabbing Taiwan? Is that on the cards next? These free sovereign people need UN protection from puffed-up dictators, but with Russia and China on the security council you know that won’t happen. Unlike the Chinese, the West never seems to learn the lessons of history. We need to wake up fast. Our birthright, and all the freedoms we cherish, could be taken away from us in the blink of a tin-pot tyrant’s eye.
Feb 23. Sad to hear we’ve lost David Banks, a former Daily Mirror editor rightly described as larger-than-life. On my very first Fleet Street shift, I spent an hour or three with Dave, Nick Ferrari and David Hancock in The Printer’s Pie wondering how on earth could anyone keep pace with such giant characters. Happy days. RIP David, RIP Fleet Street.
Feb 22. I’m talking to Foxy on his Deal Radio show, about the Gonads, my wild left-wing teens and more, and playing some of my favourite songs. It’s on Mixcloud for the rest of the week. Tracks include classics from the Clash, the Rejects, the Interrupters, the kings of UK pop reggae and a couple of classy, cough, Gonads ditties.
Feb 20. Alien alert! I’m chatting to Jeff Wayne about The War Of The Worlds musical, in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with Maisie Adam. Bushell On The Box on why launderette sex won’t wash for EastEnders, the pox of TV re-makes, C4 comedy crime caper The Curse, This Is Going To Hurt, & much more is in today’s Daily Star Sunday.
Feb 18. This week’s music reviews: Pink Floyd’s P.U.L.S.E. and new albums from the Chords UK, Stone Foundation & Sea Power; all in today’s Daily Mirror and Daily Express. Sea Power were once British Sea Power but dropped the ‘British’ perhaps to drum up publicity. The trendy Left never seem to realise that equating patriotism with nationalism is politically juvenile and counter-productive on every level.
Feb 16. R.I.P. P J O’Rourke. The great American humourist has died aged 74. Best known for best-selling books like Parliament Of Whores and Holidays In Hell, libertarian Patrick single-handedly blew up the fashionable assumption that satirists had to be leftwing. He hated communism and thought most liberals were deluded. (O’Rourke’s review of Hillary Clinton’s It Takes A Village included the line, ‘It takes a village idiot’.) For him, satirists existed to tell uncomfortable truths and defend liberty. He famously said, “We’re the ones switching on the kitchen lights and watching the cockroaches scamper.” PJ was the foreign affairs desk chief for Rolling Stone magazine. He also wrote sketches for Saturday Night Live and a spoof of a high school yearbook for National Lampoon that inspired the cult classic comedy film, Animal House. Born in Ohio, the son of a car salesman, he once said “My own family was poor when I was a kid, though I didn’t know it – I just thought we were broke.”
It’s a fallacy that comedy has to be left-wing. Many of the best British comedians were/are right of centre, think of Les Dawson, Bob Monkhouse, Kenneth Williams and Kenny Everett. If the BBC truly want diversity, they should remember that – and give Simon Evans his own show (he’s currently on Headliners on GB News). British humourists like the late Michael Wharton, Frank Johnson and Alan Coren might not have had O’Rourke’s rock’n’roll credentials or Tom Wolfe’s standing but their writing had more laughs and insight than the stage acts of fashionable, posh lefties like Marcus Brigstocke and Rachel Parris. Many of those identifying as comedians today have the ‘right’ left-wing views without the ability to entertain mass audiences. Jim Davidson, one of our most talented comedians, was always an out-and-out Tory, which is why he gets so much stick. I’m not sure about Max Miller (“the pure gold of the Music Hall), but even the uniquely brilliant Spike Milligan, an indisputable comedy genius and a Young Communist League member in his youth, became increasingly conservative with age. P.S. Comedy controversialist Bernard Manning once spoke to me with affection about Labour PM Harold Wilson, a funny man in his own right; Bernard also loved Nye Bevan for his oratory, but Churchill was his great political hero.
Feb 13. I’m chatting to soul sensation Candi Staton about her soap opera of a life in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with Jay Aston. (I finished writing the Candi feature in A&E on Wednesday, fired by her sense of humour and eternal optimism in the face of whatever life throws at you).
Feb 11. New albums from Slash, Joss Stone, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Foxes all reviewed in today’s Daily Mirror and Daily Express.
Feb 10. If I’d known I’d be sped into hospital yesterday, I wouldn’t have watched This Is Going To Hurt the night before… I’d woken up with a lump the size of a honeydew melon on my left side. We still don’t know what caused it, but mercifully it’s not life-threatening. Odds are alien impregnation are shortening. Thanks to all the dedicated, hard-pressed staff at Queen Mary’s urgent care and A&E at the PRUH.
Feb 7. Nadine Dorries wants new laws to stop Jimmy Carr and others making jokes she finds offensive. Yes, Big Sister wants to tell us what we can laugh at. The culture secretary told the BBC that Carr’s gags were “abhorrent and they shouldn’t be on TV”. They weren’t on TV, Nads, they were on Netflix. Carr’s thought-crime was a Holocaust joke. He said no one talks about all the gypsies killed in the Holocaust “because no one ever wants to talk about the positives”. Sick? Shocking? Tasteless? Yes, all of that. But it’s no sicker, more shocking and or more tasteless than most of Frankie Boyle’s material which is broadcast on, let’s see, yes that’s right, the BBC. And in fairness to Jimmy, he clearly warns viewers at the start of his often hilarious His Dark Materials that the show contains “terrible things”. He also lays into bigots with zeal. Here’s what puzzles me though, how does Nutty Nads intend to police adult comedy on TV and subscription streaming services? Will she set-up a government joke committee full of humourless bores with a checklist of subjects Guardian-reading folk or obscure pressure groups might possibly take offence at? Or will they just react pompously every time a gag is taken out of context by po-faced rolling news spin doctors with too much air time to fill? Will they ban all holocaust-related jokes? Because there are a couple of good Jewish ones and Ricky Gervais and Larry David have written classics. Bernard Manning once told a Jewish audience, “I shouldn’t really make fun of Jews. After all, my dad died in Auschwitz… he fell out of a watchtower.” They laughed, would Nadine? We’ve had Labour councils banning blue collar comedians from council-owned venues like two-bob totalitarians for decades. Now the Tories want to control comedy too; it just underlines how little there is between them. But if we ban jokes like these, surely it follows that The Producers with Springtime For Hitler would have to be cancelled. And what about Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler – My Part In His Downfall? The censors might decree that war itself is no laughing matter. But of course it is. As the son of a fireman, I grew up realising that the way people in tough jobs cope with death and horror is to joke about it. It keeps you sane. Comedy is tragedy plus time. If a comedian upsets you, don’t watch them or buy their books or any product they endorse. That’s your right. But in a free society you have no right not to be offended. Stay out of comedy, Nads. It’s not your business.
Feb 6. A pleasure to chat to Paul Young for today’s Sunday Express Review. A lovely down to earth man, with a great talent. Who else remembers him from the Q-Tips?
You can read my chat with Paul here.
Feb 4. This week’s album reviews: Bastille, The Divine Comedy, jazz legend Bob James and the deeply unsettling Korn… in the Mirror and the Express as usual.
Feb 3. Four of Boris Johnson’s aides have quit today. A worry for him, yes, but think of the leaving parties!
Good point in today’s Daily Telegraph business comment from Ben Wright, who writes that the Chancellor is raising taxes to pay for rebates to help with the cost-of-living crisis caused in part by tax hikes… (and the government splashing our cash around like a lotto winner). Nuts, yes, but few people seem to question it.
It’s a tough job being Prime Minister, a bit like walking through a mine shaft in front of a group of tipsy Klingons. One wrong move and there’s claret everywhere. But how much of Boris’s mess is down to him? Elected with a huge majority, BoJo had the mandate to liberate the country from red tape, restrictions and high taxation. Instead, he’s chosen to lumber us with unpopular, illogical and eye-wateringly expensive green policies, yet more taxes, and inflation. And yes we can blame him for that because it’s been caused by the government printing money, imposing green levies, fixing energy prices, closing down coal-burning power stations, and refusing to develop our own vast energy resources. We’re sitting on a treasure chest of gas and shale and these twerps ignore it to import the bulk of our energy from abroad. On top of that, the Tories seem up for another war – despite having run down the budget for the armed forces for years, just like Labour did…
There is increasingly little real difference between the parties. Whoever we vote for, the same class run the country, inflicting policies of their choosing on the rest of us. They’re the new bourgeoisie, these enforcers of the new snobbery, the new proprieties. They’re drawn from the senior ranks of the civil service, academia, corporate management, bureaucracies, the media, and all establishment political parties. They effectively rule the roost across the entire (formerly) free world, and believe that their convictions are the only ones that matters; that there’s a “right” way to think about everything from economics to ecology via lockdowns, race, the trans issue, “low traffic neighborhoods” and even what we’re allowed to tell jokes about. They’re like a secular priesthood. Dare to disagree with the new orthodoxy and you become a heretic to be cancelled, a non-person or worse. I’ve already heard the Canadian truck-drivers absurdly referred to as “fascists”. But it’s our self-appointed betters who serve the world elite.
Capitalism has changed, but not quite in the way Karl Marx predicted. We’re ruled by a global super-rich – Big Tech, Big Pharma, multinational corporations, media giants. Their interests are defended and their prejudices are enforced by this secular equivalent of the priesthood who see themselves as liberals, even leftists, but who are effectively destroying our rights as they shape and control the political narrative. Meanwhile, the mega-rich keep getting richer, and, across the globe, the poor get shafted. What to do? Only people power can make a difference but the old politics have failed. We need fresh thinking and real solutions to turn the tide, expand freedom and slash back the tentacles of state meddling. Orwell’s Winston Smith believed, ‘if there is hope, it must lie in the proles’. Time to wake the sleeping giant.
Jan 30. Trigger Happy TV’s Dom Joly tells me about his dangerous travels in today’s Sunday Express Review, and I’m talking TV with actor Bill Ward.
Jan 28. This week’s album reviews: Jethro Tull, The Eels, The Temptations and “Liverpool’s answer to Billy Bragg” Jamie Webster – in the usual places.
Why are the BBC so reluctant to show us footage of the Canadian Freedom Convoy? It’s huge! Miles long and tens of thousands strong. And it’s popular, with people turning out in sub-zero temperatures to cheer the drivers on. As ever, BBC suits don’t like reporting protests they don’t agree with.
Jan 27. A few days ago, Boris’s future looked about as healthy as that corpse at the Irish post office. But his enemies have overplayed their hand. Sending the cops in to investigate Downing Street parties is a step too far, and will probably have the opposite effect to the one Starmer, elitist Remoaners and the BBC are hoping for. Especially when a) the cops have given up on policing actual crimes and b) there are a lot of bigger things we should be concentrating on, like say, energy prices, inflation and the situation in the Ukraine (caused by the West constantly, and dumbly, poking the Russian bear). We all know Boris is a chancer and we know he’s prone to porky pies. But his mistake wasn’t to have a birthday cake, but to try and impose suicidal green policies on us – without a mandate. Johnson could still turn all this around, simply by remembering he’s a Tory. Cut taxes, cut back reckless State spending and expansion and cut out the eco-lunacy and totalitarian meddling in our lives.
Lynne Truss chartered a private jet to fly to Australia at a cost to the tax-payers of £500,000. How can she justify that level of spending? 99.9per cent of the Aussie public wouldn’t know Truss from a koala’s tush.
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.